Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Review: Blast Those Blocks

Writer's Block is a problem that affects most writers from time to time - at worst it can even end a writer's career. So I was very interested to receive a review copy of a new e-book, Blast Those Blocks, which promises a solution to this age-old problem.

Blast Those Blocks is written - or perhaps in the circumstances I should say compiled - by freelance writer and photographer Mary Attard. At 74 pages it is quite substantial for an e-book. The main part consists of 20 articles by 20 different authors on techniques for beating the dreaded block and coming up with fresh ideas for writing projects.

Some of the articles are quite short and don't really say much more than go for a walk or write freely about any topic (both perfectly reasonable strategies, by the way). The longer articles, however, are generally more original and informative. I particularly enjoyed Jenna Glatzer's article titled "How to Outgrow 'Write What You Know'". We've all heard the old advice that you should "write what you know", but Jenna has a neat little exercise for going beyond this and broadening your writing horizons.

If you are currently suffering from writer's block, or it's a regular problem for you, the advice in this manual should help get you writing again. There aren't any miracle cures here, but lots of practical exercises and strategies you can try to get your creative juices flowing once more.

One small criticism is that I would like to have heard more from Mary Attard herself in this book. Mary admits that she is a regular sufferer from writer's block, so it would have been good if she had told us which techniques she had personally found most useful in "blasting" her own blocks. Still, she has performed a valuable service in gathering all these articles together in one place.

You can order Blast Those Blocks by clicking here or on any of the other links in this review. It's also worth noting that Mary is currently offering five additional bonus items with every order, including The Freelance Writing Marketing Plan, described as "an intensive, self-guided workbook to help you jumpstart your freelance career, market your skills, and get more clients".

Finally, as I'm talking about writer's block, I must mention that my publishers, WCCL, have a product called the Writer's Block CD which is designed to address this problem as well. It is actually an audio CD that uses the power of binaural beats to stimulate the production of alpha waves, the brain frequency typically associated with creativity. You can read my earlier review of the Writer's Block CD here, or click here to go straight through to the sales site.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My Greek Holiday

You may have noticed that earlier this month there was a two-week gap between postings on this blog. That's because Jayne and I were away on our annual fortnight's holiday to Greece.

We went to a resort called Stoupa. This is not on a Greek island, but in the South Pelopennese, in an area called the Mani Peninsula. The preceding link will take you to a Wikipedia article about the Mani. The map isn't great, but at least you'll see where in Greece it is!

As you'll gather, Jayne and I are both big fans of Greece and go there whenever we can. As well as the climate, we love the landscape, the people, and - not least - the food and drink. If you've only ever been to so-called Greek restaurants in Britain, I guarantee you'll be amazed by the wide range of dishes on offer in real Greek tavernas. They include many vegetarian specialities, as well as a huge variety of meat and fish dishes. Not only that, almost every taverna sells its own 'open' wine, typically for around 4 euros a litre. In Stoupa, all the wines we drank (and we drank a lot!) were delightful.

Of course, it helps a lot that you're sitting at a table overlooking the sea, watching the sun setting majestically on the horizon, just a few tree branches or a grapevine overhead, the smell of eucalyptus in the air, and the gentle buzz of crickets in the background...

About the only bad thing about the holiday was coming back to two weeks' backlog of post and e-mails. So far, about all I've been doing since getting back home is going through them! So if you've written to me in the last few weeks and still haven't had a reply, don't worry, I'm sure I'll get to you soon!

Anyway, if you'd like to see a few pictures taken during my Stoupa holiday, please do click on the picture below. I recommend that you then click on Slideshow, or if you prefer you can simply click on any photo to see the full-sized version.

Stoupa 2006
Sep 22, 2006 - 10 Photos

Incidentally, this display was created using Picasa, the new (and free) photo album service from Google. Picasa automatically finds all the photographs on your PC and organises them into albums for you. And - as you can see - the latest cool feature allows you to publish your albums to the web for others to enjoy. If you'd like more info about Picasa, just click here and click on the banner that appears.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Word on Behalf of my Sponsors...

As you may know, both this blog and my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com are sponsored by WCCL, who publish my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

In view of WCCL's generosity, I thought I would highlight two new products that they have just released. Neither of these is directly concerned with writing, but both are of wide general interest. As I do a range of writing work for WCCL, I have had the opportunity to preview both of these products. I can therefore confirm that they fully meet the very high quality standard buyers have come to expect from WCCL publications.

Identity theft is said to be the world's fastest growing crime. WCCL's brand new Anti-Identity-Theft product is a complete kit designed to greatly reduce the risk of you falling a victim to it.

At its core is a manual explaining the risks of identity theft and how to reduce them (written by my colleagues Suzie and Mark Harris, by the way). In addition, you get a copy of WCCL's brand new Anti-Identity-Theft software. This works by secretly protecting all of your private information, as you use your PC.

The software kills adware (programs that make your PC display advertising and in some cases report back to their masters on what you are doing). It also removes tracking cookies, deletes temporary files, and empties your Recycle Bin. It protects critical data such as your credit card details, mother's maiden name, and full address - and stops Internet thieves, hackers and even nosy family members from accessing your private information.

You can read more about WCCL's Anti-Identity-Theft package here and take advantage of the current low introductory price. In my view, this comprehensive (and very reasonably priced) kit is something every computer user today should have.

WCCL's other brand new product I would like to highlight here is their manual Stop Smoking in 28 Days (written by Marvin G. Power). As an ex-smoker myself, I can testify to how hard giving up can be. However, if this downloadable manual had been around at the time I was trying to quit, I'm sure I would have succeeded in a lot fewer attempts!

Stop Smoking in 28 Days is crammed with up-to-the-minute advice and information on how to finally wave goodbye to the evil weed. It starts by setting out a wide range of reasons why you should quit, including some very scary statistics about the risks to your health (and it's not just cancer - did you know smokers are much more likely to lose their eyesight due to macular degeneration as they grow older?). It then goes on to recommend a range of methods to help you give up - from little-known but powerful psychological techniques through to stop-smoking medications - including a brand new drug even your doctor may not have heard of yet!

I'll admit I have strong personal reasons for wanting to help and encourage people to give up smoking. My partner, Jayne, lost both her parents and her brother (at the ridiculously early age of 42) to smoking-related diseases. Thankfully, although she was brought up in a household of heavy smokers, Jayne doesn't smoke herself.

So please, if you are a smoker and you want to give up - or even if you don't want to (yet) - consider buying Stop Smoking in 28 Days. It WILL help you quit. With a bit of luck, you will then be around for a lot longer, and able to go on enjoying the royalties from sales of your books rather than merely passing them on to your descendants!

Alan Cash Book Signing

Earlier this year I posted an item on this blog about The Janus Effect, the first novel published by my old friend and fellow writer, Alan Cash. The Janus Effect is a fast-moving science fiction novel with echoes of The Matrix. You can read my full review of the book here.

Well, Alan has just told me that he is conducting a signing of The Janus Effect this Saturday (23 September). The event takes place at the New Street branch of Waterstones bookshop in Birmingham, England, from 12 noon till 4 pm. If you live anywhere in the vicinity of Birmingham, here's your chance to meet Alan IRL (in real life) and have your copy of The Janus Effect signed by the author! If you have any queries about the signing, or indeed the book, feel free to e-mail Alan at trachodog-at-yahoo.co.uk (please convert the -at- above to the usual @ sign).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New international literary management group seeks clients

Streamline International Literary Management is a new organisation launched by Lin Treadgold and Jillanne Nehls, both of whom also happen to be moderators on my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com.

Streamline offer a range of services to new authors, including evaluation of their work, professional editing, and assistance in marketing their work to publishers. Here's a step-by-step description of their service, as set out on the Streamline website.

* Contact us for a free, no obligation evaluation of your manuscript. Your request will be answered within 3 days.

* Once the author has been accepted, the work will be professionally edited not only for grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but also for all of the important story dynamics (characterization, dialogue strength, point of view, plot strength, etc.) that makes a good story inviting to agents and publishable.

* While the author is inserting revisions, the query and
synopsis will be perfected. These are your most important
sales tools, and they must shine.

* After the perfecting process, a list of agents/publishers will be sent to you with names and addresses for submission. This list consists of only reputable agencies/publishers that we know won't charge our clients extra fees. Our contacts are thoroughly researched and added weekly.

Although the above seems to refer mainly to novels, Streamline say they are also happy to consider other literary forms, including short stories and non-fiction.

For more information about Streamline International Literary Management, see their website at www.streamlinewords.com. Contact emails can be found on this page of their site. I have come to know Lin and Jillanne well through their involvement with MWC, so I am happy to vouch that they are both honest and genuine people with a real commitment to helping new authors - not simply (like certain other folk I can think of) trying to make a fast buck out of aspiring writers.

Finally, you might like to note that till 1 January 2007 Streamline are offering a generous 10 per cent discount on their normal terms to members of www.mywriterscircle.com - so don't forget to mention if you are a member when applying so that you can claim your discount. And if you're not a member of my forum, remember that you can join for free at any time!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

New Online Word Processor

Writely is the new, free online word processor from Google. You can read all about it and sign up for an account if you like at www.writely.com.

Why would you want an online word processor? Well, here are some of the advantages:

* You can work on documents from any computer with an Internet connection, even those that don't have a word processor program installed.

* Your work is automatically backed up on Google's own servers.

* It's easy to collaborate with other people. You can set who else is allowed to edit your document. It's even possible for two (or more) people to be working on it at the same time.

* Writely is compatible with Microsoft Word. You can upload Word documents to Writely and edit them online, then download them back to your PC when convenient.

* Writely documents can easily be posted to your blog.

If you travel around a lot and work on a number of different computers, it seems to me that Writely could be an invaluable resource. It could also be very useful if you write with one or more collaborators.

Anyway, why not pay a visit to the Writely website and take the tour? And if you have any thoughts about Writely and its applications for writers, do leave a comment on this post, or on my forum at this thread which originally alerted me to this service.