Tuesday, 17 March 2015

And now, a quick word from one of our editors

I was checking the The Economist's iconic style guide and read the intro for fun (as nerds do). They quote this reader's letter:

SIR—At times just one sentence in The Economist can give us hours of enjoyment, such as “Yet German diplomats in Belgrade failed to persuade their government that it was wrong to think that the threat of international recognition of Croatia and Slovenia would itself deter Serbia.”
During my many years as a reader of your newspaper, I have distilled two lessons about the use of our language. Firstly, it is usually easier to write a double negative than it is to interpret it. Secondly, unless the description of an event which is considered to be not without consequence includes a double or higher-order negative, then it cannot be disproven that the writer has neglected to eliminate other interpretations of the event which are not satisfactory in light of other possibly not unrelated events which might not have occurred at all.
For these reasons, I have not neglected your timely reminder that I ought not to let my subscription lapse. It certainly cannot be said that I am an unhappy reader.

And then there's Mark Twain's take on writing and style:
Mark Twain described how a good writer treats sentences: “At times he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it won't be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torch-light procession.”
Enjoy and keep writing (and revising)!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Wordsmack in demand - find the radio and TV interviews here

The Wordsmack team has been featured on radio and TV in the last month, and we can't get enough of chatting about our incredible authors, and how our controversial city, Johannesburg, is fast becoming the new base camp for science fiction writing.

We have more exciting events coming up - so stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook.

Firstly, our authors Abi Godsell, Mico Pisanti and our director Louise Cosgrave, were on Radio Today. You can listen to the podcast here. We talked about Johannesburg as a location for sci-fi writing and about how young writers have a very fatalistic, yet practical outlook on the future.

Louise was also on Kyknet. Talking about ebooks and speculative fiction in her best Afrikaans. She chatted about Wordsmack Publishers and why we focus on African speculative fiction. She also touched on the future of reading: is the physical book dead or will we always have a soft spot for the ancient technology of paper?

You can watch the broadcast here.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Is there still money in books?

Thanks to the democratisation of publishing - through self-publishing on Amazon and Kobo and similar platforms - readers are buying more books, for less. So the profits are spread around a bit more than they used to be. As a writer, however, is it a worthwhile investment to spend your time writing? Prolific writer and editor Nerine Dorman weighs in:

Is there still money in books?

Yes... And no. Yes, if you can tap into a market that has great demand, for instance ghostwriting celebrity biographies or penning the next big thing in self help since Deepak Chopra. There's no accounting for readers' tastes – just look at the runaway success of Twilight, The Hunger Games or the Fifty Shades books. The problem is, that once a book is trending in traditional publishing, you're going to see dozens, if not hundreds of other, similar books in the genre, all trying to cash in on what's hot. 

Some may be more successful than others. Others will fade into obscurity without making any impact whatsoever. But the market will be flooded, and reader saturation will mean that the knock-offs may meet with a lukewarm reception.

Certain genres are perennial moneymakers, like romance, which will have as many sub-genres as you can throw a stick at, be it medical romances, LGBTI, paranormal, erotica, BDSM... The list is endless, and its titles ephemeral. Just go look at the best-sellers on Amazon. Depending on readers' whims, different subgenres will do better than others from time to time. Career-focused authors will push aside their personal preferences and write to spec, and a good portion of them will see a decent income. Granted, the ladies I've spoken to treat this like any nine-to-five job, and they work hard, sometimes releasing a book every two to three months. They endlessly self-promote on blog tours and attend conventions. It's hard work.

Nowadays it's easier than ever before to get your book published, but in many ways it's never been more difficult to get your voice heard. Book reviewers are bombarded with daily requests, often from self-published authors who don't have access to professionals for editing, formatting and design – and in many instances it shows. That said, some of the bigger houses are also guilty of letting through mediocre titles purely because the authors are proven sellers. 

Readers have nearly unlimited choices, but the trick is of course to find the golden wheat among the chaff. And there's a lot of chaff.

Authors who can carve out a niche for themselves, and keep at it while providing a quality product, can make a living wage, but it is a full-time job – and they are very much in the minority. For most it's a case of selling anywhere between zero to a dozen copies of a book a month, and for money to trickle in. The long and short of it is: don't quit your day job any time soon. If you want to make money, write for genres that popular, but don't hold your breath that you're going to be an overnight success. Don't try to copy what the successful authors are doing, but be aware of the elements of storycraft that strike a mark with readers. There are no guarantees in this industry, because sometimes even clearly derivative works end up being a bestseller.

What do you think? What has been your experience? 

See the list of books Nerine's had published here including the book Wordsmack Publishers published, The Guardian's Wyrd.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Babies, Lusaka and eBooks.

We've been very quiet of late. So quiet, in fact, that you'd think we've been off giving birth and moving countries.

But that's exactly what we've been doing! Louise gave birth to a lovely baby boy, Nicholas, and Leani moved to Lusaka, Zambia. However, this doesn't mean we haven't been working hard on the next installments of Idea War, The Folds and ... is that a Ripmender sequel I see emerging? 

We've also been approached by some amazing writers with big plans for their books and careers seeking tips and advice, sometimes hugs. Leani met with a true inspiration: Makhiba Mollo - a business woman with a helluva story to tell. In fact, watch this space. This lady is going places. We've also seen our share of the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of manuscript submissions.

Remember: if you're sending your manuscript to publishers, make sure you've had it read by people who owe you nothing and can offer constructive criticism. Join a writer's circle, submit short stories to magazines (there are some great local publications) and foster those connections. This way you can get valuable advice on your writing. You may only have one shot for your work to be seen by a publisher, make sure it's perfect.

Our Young Adult books: Idea War: Volume 1, The Ripmender and children's book The Guardian's Wyrd are now also available on Obami, the award-winning, social learning management system. Tell your teacher-friends. And it's for free!

Future bookworm in the making.
Leani's inner grammar-Nazi is going to have to be purged.

Stay tuned fellow readers and writers, there's some exciting news around the corner!

Leani & Louise

Thursday, 29 May 2014

GeekSNACK: A Free Short Story from The Guardian's Wyrd world

The Party (A Guardian’s Wyrd short story)
by Nerine Dorman
Also available on bookly via Mxit
“This is a very bad idea,” I told Rowan as we plodded up Andrews Road. The Hill from Hell I liked to call it. My calf muscles were screaming.
There was enough moonlight for me to see Rowan’s grimace. “This party means a lot to me,” he said.
“I don’t care,” I said. “And I don’t see why you’re invited to parties all of a sudden.”
My friend was the class geek, the one who was the butt end of all the pranks and teasing whenever I wasn’t there to look out for him.
“Angela invited me,” he said.
“Are you sure?” Knowing Rowan, he had made all of this up. Angela Fourie was the most popular girl in our grade. Everyone except for me seemed to be obsessed with her. Okay, she was kinda cute, but she wasn’t my kinda cute.
“She sent me a Facebook invite.”
“Does your mother know you’re on Facebook?”
“Shut up.”
“The only thing that’s saving you is that Oryxis and your mom believing you’re sleeping over at my house,” I said. “If they hear that we sneaked out ...”
“You sound like Oryxis now, blah, blah-blah-blah.” Rowan made little talking hand movements. “We’re just going for a little while.”
I growled at him but bit my tongue. Besides, I needed my breath for the last stretch of road before we got to the security gate. If Rowan’s claim that he had an invite (of course I hadn’t received one) wasn’t all a pile of dog poo, then we’d be allowed in past those hallowed gates to Tierboskloof. If not ... Well, we could go back to my place and play console games or something.
I waited next to Rowan while he sweet-talked the security guard at the gate. My mom had brought me here a few years ago when she was visiting a friend, and then they hadn’t had all the security. I allowed myself to relax a little. Rowan would be safe enough.
As his Guardian, I had to look out for him, just like Oryxis made sure nothing happened to Persia, Rowan’s mum. They were royalty in exile, from the magical kingdom of Sunthyst, and how I had gotten myself tangled in their lives was definitely another story for another time. (That’s if you wanted to cue The Neverending Story.)
But Angela confirmed that we were on the guest list, the security guard buzzed us through, and we followed the avenue up until we reached our destination. We could hardly miss it. The music was pounding doef-doef. Yay, my favourite. Not. I was already cringing and wishing I’d brought my earplugs by the time Rowan rang the doorbell. Squeals of laughter sounded from the other side.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked him.
“Sorry?” he said, cupping his ear to me.
Whether he genuinely couldn’t hear me or if he was just joking, I decided to ignore him. My night had been ruined, in any case. I could only ride it out until the bitter end.
Fay opened the door and blinked at us with heavily made-up eyes, and my heart did a little jig. Okay, Fay was my kinda cute. My mouth went dry but that was okay, Rowan did all the talking and got us inside.
Oh. My. God. Fay.
Things were looking up. Definitely. Just about everyone from our class was here, and then some. I didn’t recognise some of the older skate punk guys who were hanging out on the balcony smoking cigarettes and trying to look cool.
“Now what, wise guy?” I asked Rowan.
He shrugged and pointed to the kitchen. Drinks, I suppose. Angela’s parents were loaded, so they could afford to let their daughter throw big house parties. Not an adult in sight ...
Loads of fun, but things could also go horribly wrong if we weren’t careful.
Rowan, of course, was completely oblivious to all the dynamics around him – all the more reason for me to look out for him.
Everyone was helping themselves to fruit punch in the kitchen, and I made Rowan dilute his with more orange juice before we headed out to the balcony. From the smell of things there was already way too much vodka in the punch.
It was like we had some anti-cool device strapped to us. The kids sort of shuffled out of our way so that we clearly stood on our own – outcasts. We might as well have that tattooed on our foreheads.
“Happy now?” I scowled at my friend.
Rowan sipped at his drink and tried not to grimace. He obviously wasn’t used to hard tack, for all the times he bragged about sneaking beers from Oryxis’s stock. The stuff tasted pretty vile, so I took small sips. I didn’t want to get drunk. Not here.
Just as I feared we’d be standing around with nothing to do the entire night, I heard it in a brief lull between dance tracks: one of the most beautiful sounds in the world – a softly played classical guitar. The mystery musician was sitting on another patio to our right, screened by a thick stand of wild banana.
The next track started up and I grabbed Rowan’s sleeve. “C’mon, we’re not going to stand about like a pair of lost farts in a perfume factory.”
I didn’t give Rowan a chance to argue and all but dragged him with me down a small flight of steps into the garden then around the vegetation to where a girl was sitting cross-legged on a pile of cushions. It was Fay, and she had a nylon-string guitar clasped to her chest.
“Hey,” she said.
“You’re not going to get heard over the music.” I gestured behind us.
“It’s fine. It’s still better than being out there with all the posers.”
Rowan made to go into the room behind Fay.
“It wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” she told him.
He froze. “Why?”
“Angela’s in there with Tom.”
Rowan tried and failed to hide his disappointment. I hid my smile behind my hand.
“Yeah, I know. Sucks. She asked me to keep chips out front.”
“That’s just twisted,” I said.
Fay gave a little shrug and played a trill of notes. “It beats getting hassled by boys out there. Mike’s been trying to make me do shooters.” She stuck out her tongue.
“Mike’s an idiot,” I told her and sat down next to her. “Whose guitar is that?”
“Angela’s brother’s. He’s gone overseas. I always play it when I visit.”
“You’re anti-social.” I smiled at her.
“So are you.”
Well, that was one way of chatting up a girl.
As it turned out, Fay and I shared a bunch of similar favourite bands and we took turns showing each other different songs on the guitar. I hadn’t even known to speak to her at school, but thanks to the party, we were good. Fay and Jay – it had a nice ring to it. We had a laugh about that. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice that Rowan had wandered off. The first we heard of any drama was when the music got turned off and there was shouting.
“Where’s your friend?” Fay asked me.
I swore, and my “Spidey” senses as I called it were tingling – I knew on a gut-deep level that whoever was responsible for the disturbance, it was Rowan. He was in trouble.
“Crap, crap, crap!” I muttered under my breath as I rushed through the bedroom behind us and into the house. Fay and I had been so busy talking music we hadn’t even noticed when Angela and Tom had finished whatever it was that they’d been doing. Not that I cared.
My main concern now was saving Rowan from getting beaten up. That kid couldn’t hit a fly if his life depended on it, and it wasn’t difficult imagining a dozen scenarios varying in degree of horror – Rowan with a black eye; Rowan with his front tooth knocked out; Rowan with a broken hand ...
All these scenes ended the same way: Jay having to “please explain” to Persia, who could possibly literally fry me with whatever weird magic she kept up her sleeve. If she knew we were even here ...
There was a circle of kids out front in the driveway, and for a moment I thought the boy sprawled on the ground was Rowan. But it wasn’t.
Mike lay there, moaning. Big-ass bully Mike, who was at least a head taller and twice as large as Rowan. I couldn’t help but gape, as surprised as Rowan, who stood there over him rubbing at the knuckles of his right hand.
“Angela’s dating Tom, you douche,” Rowan spat. “When she says she’s not interested in seeing you anymore, she means it.”
Some of Mike’s friends, eyed up Rowan and were muttering among each other, and it was at that moment that I figured it would be a good idea if we went back to my place to play console games. Less chance of Rowan causing any trouble.
“I’ll see you on Monday,” I told Fay.
She gave me a knowing smile and melted back into the house, clearly uninterested in what was going on out here. Well, there went my chances of having something with a girl tonight. Plus she’d been sending out all the right signals.
I sighed and ploughed through the crowd and grabbed Rowan by the elbow. “C’mon, mate, we gotta chuck.”
He glared at me but didn’t bitch, thank goodness.
I cast one look behind me, but Mike’s friends were too busy helping him up off the ground.
Then I groused at Rowan, “What did you go and do that for?”
Rowan’s grin was devilish. “That was payback.”
“Dude, seriously, what would you have done if his friends had piled into you? You were outnumbered.”
“You’re here now.”
“Dude.” I shook my head. Had he honestly thought I’d haul his ass out of the fire? No. He was right. I would. Even if I got hurt.
Running footsteps from behind had us spin around. I tensed then relaxed. It was only Angela coming up the driveway.
She was breathless and grabbed both of Rowan’s hands in her own. “Thank you! I can’t believe Mike was such an idiot.”
Then she kissed him. Full on the lips.
Before either of us could respond, Angela dashed down the driveway again, leaving us reeling.
“What was that?” I asked in disbelief – Rowan, getting lucky with the girls?

Rowan just smiled and touched his fingers to his mouth. “I don’t know, but her lips tasted like cherries.”
Did you like this short story? Buy The Guardian's Wyrd for more. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Early praise for The Guardian’s Wyrd

The Guardian’s Wyrd, a fantasy adventure book set in Hout Bay, has received five star praise ahead of its release today.

The book, written by the prolific writer and editor Nerine Dorman, is available from online stores today and is the story of Jay September, a mixed-race boy from Hout Bay who follows his friend Rowan into the deadly politics of the magical realm of Sunthyst.

Reviewers have called it ‘a lovely, sometimes harrowing, sometimes heartbreaking tale’.

The book is a story of friendship, of magic and best of all: an adventure that will get your kids excited about reading again.

But, here’s more about the book:

Sometimes having a fairytale prince as a best friend can be a real pain.

Jay didn't realise that sticking up for Rowan, the gangly new kid at school, would plunge him into the dangers and politics of the magical realm of Sunthyst. But if anyone is up for the challenge it's Jay September. With his trusty dog, Shadow, at his side, he braves the watcher in the dark that guards the tunnels between the worlds, and undertakes a dangerous quest to rescue the prince.

It's a race against time – can he sneak Prince Rowan away from under King Lessian's nose and bring him safely back home – all before the prince's sixteenth birthday? Or is Rowan's mother, the exiled Queen Persia, secretly trying to hold onto her power by denying her son his birthright?

Jay is ready for anything, except, perhaps, the suffocating darkness of the tunnels. And that howling …

If you’d like to interview the author, or find out more about the book, please don’t hesitate to contact Leani from Wordsmack Publishers at 0834614494 or leani@word-smack.com

You can buy the book by clicking here.
See some of the reviews here.