Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Monday, April 30, 2007

New Promotional Opportunity

A new website offering to help promote authors to UK publishers is launching shortly - and they are offering members of my forum the opportunity to join for free during the launch period.

The site is called OnlyOneChapter.com, and is all about "discovering and promoting new writing talent". According to the team behind the site, OnlyOneChapter.com already has numerous publishers supporting it, and is designed:
- to promote potential authors and their manuscripts in the form of only one chapter
- for publishers to discover new talent online
- for publishers and authors to promote new releases

The launch opportunity is only open to a limited number of people. If you would like to promote your work to UK publishers, you are asked to send the following by email: first chapter (max 4,000 words, double spaced, Roman 12pt); brief (i.e. blurb) - max. 100 words; synopsis - max. 2,000 words; and a mini-biography and photo. All of these should be in Microsoft Word (.doc) format. For more information, and to find the email address to submit your work, please visit this topic on my forum. Already some questions from members about the new site have been answered here.

Obviously at this stage it is difficult to know how successful this new site is likely to prove, but as there is no charge for submitting your work, it has to be worth looking into. Incidentally, the team behind OnlyOneChapter.com say that they have no objection to people submitting chapters that are already on view elsewhere on the web.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

More About WritersFM

Doh! I've just discovered that some of the info I provided here yesterday about Internet radio station WritersFM is incorrect, or at least out of date.

The good news is that you DON'T always have to download podcasts before you can play them. The latest interviews on the WritersFM podcasts page can be streamed directly from the website. Just click on the interview you want to hear from the list near the top of the page (headed 'Liveplay - Stream Our Recent Interviews'), and away you go.

As well as the new interview with me, the following interviews can be streamed from the WritersFM podcasts page: biographer Lucinda Hawksley, top copywriter Joe Vitale, former British politician turned broadcaster Edwina Currie, and US writing guru Randy Ingermanson (creator of the 'Snowflake Method' of plotting).

Other interviews are listed further down the podcasts page. You will need to download and unzip these before you can play them, as I described previously.

The other good news is that you shouldn't need a broadband/DSL Internet connection to listen to the streamed interviews. A good dial-up connection should be OK, though obviously the quality will be better with broadband.

Happy listening!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

My New Interview on WritersFM

I've just been interviewed by Karl Moore for the Internet radio station WritersFM. It was my second interview for them. The earlier interview was actually the very first one on the station, and there were one or two issues with the recording quality. We did the new interview via the Internet telephony service Skype, and it came out very well indeed.

If you've already heard my earlier interview on WritersFM, don't worry. In the new interview Karl asks a completely different set of questions. So you'll hear me talking about my new courses 'How to Win Contests' and 'Essential English for Writers' (which is due to be published soon). Plus I offer some advice on writing a book, and the best way to start making money from freelance writing.

Karl asked how I advertise my writing services, and what my most unusual writing jobs ever were (hear him go into subdued hysterics as I talk about this!). The interview also touched on a few more personal topics, including other careers I might like to have pursued if I hadn't become a writer (I don't think you'll guess the first one in particular). The whole thing is interspersed with some excellent music.

You can catch my interview on WritersFM's normal rotation, or download it as a separate podcast. It's about an hour long. Even in its zipped form the podcast is over 50 MB in size, so it's best if you have a broadband connection. Listening to WritersFM also requires broadband.

Finally, just a reminder that WritersFM is always on the lookout for more writers to interview. You don't have to be famous, just have enjoyed some success in the writing field, e.g. a book published or a script performed. If you're interested, send Karl an e-mail at karl-at-myhelphub.com (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Tell him a bit about yourself and your publishing history. If he feels you would make a suitable interviewee, he will get back to you to arrange a time. Interviews can take place over the phone, on Skype or in person, so it doesn't matter where in the world you live.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Beating Writer's Block

One question that arises regularly on my forum is how to combat writer's block. Recently a new member asked about this, so here's a revised and expanded version of my reply.

First of all, if you're 'blocked' on a particular writing project, sometimes the best thing you can do is leave it for a while. Work on something else instead, or do something completely different. With longer projects especially, it's easy to get to a point where you can't see the wood for the trees, and sometimes you need to take a step back to view your project with a sense of perspective. Often then you will see a way forward that might not have been apparent before.

Personally I find that I come up with some of my best writing ideas while mowing the lawn (we do have quite a large garden, admittedly!). Other things that might help include going for a long walk, taking a shower, going for a swim, playing squash or tennis, doing some gardening, working on your car or bike, doing some DIY, and so on. Perhaps the best sort of activities are those that keep your body active but don't require all your mental resources.

Another tip for beating writer's block would be to plan all your writing projects in advance. Break each project into small steps and set yourself deadlines for completing each one. Writing a full-length book or screenplay can appear daunting when viewed in its entirety, but if you break the task into a number of smaller steps, it suddenly looks a lot more achievable.

If you simply sit down to write a 100,000 word novel, for example, it's hardly surprising if the sheer scale of the task causes you to experience writer's block. Divide this into 100 steps of 1,000 words each, however, or even 200 of 500 words, and the task appears a lot more do-able. It's then just a matter of completing one step after another, until eventually the book is finished.

Dare I mention it, my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days includes my unique five-step method for outlining and writing any book. This has been applied by many hundreds of purchasers to complete fiction and non-fiction books of their own...

Finally, it's worth mentioning that my publishers and sponsors WCCL produce an audio CD which is designed to help writers combat writer's block. It uses the power of 'binaural beats' to encourage the brain to resonate with the frequencies most commonly associated with the creative state. You have to listen to it through headphones to get the full benefit of the binaural effect.

I'd understand if you're a little bit sceptical about this, but it is based on proven scientific principles, and WCCL have received many testimonials from people who have found the CD helpful. I reviewed the Writer's Block CD on my blog a while ago. You can read my review by clicking here if you wish.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Herding Cats

Here in the English Midlands, it's a damp, grey Monday morning. It may not be damp and grey where you are, but it's still Monday, so I thought you might appreciate a spot of light relief. Here's a video I was sent the other day, therefore. It cracked me up when I first saw it...



If you're getting this blog by email, you may need to visit www.mywritingblog.com to view the video.

Incidentally, I first heard the expression 'herding cats' some years ago when I was doing some work for Wolverhampton University Business School. The job involved adapting business course material for delivery over the Internet. At one point the manager in charge of the project expressed his frustration that he wasn't getting as much co-operation as he might have hoped: "Getting university lecturers to do anything together is like trying to herd cats," he sighed.

As a cat owner myself, I knew immediately what he meant!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Have You Discovered Internet Radio Yet?

In the last year or two I've become a big fan of Internet radio. I even bought a separate Internet radio receiver, so I that can listen to my favourite stations from around the world anywhere in the house via our wireless broadband network.

So I very much enjoyed reading the article by Miranda Sawyer about Internet radio in last Sunday's Observer newspaper. You can view the article by clicking on this link, but you may need to register (which is free) before you can read all the content.

In her article Miranda explains that she has been listening to Internet radio virtually non-stop for the previous week, and she begins entertainingly by listing some of the weirder offerings she discovered...

Over the past seven days, I've checked out Sahaja Yoga Radio (ooble-booble happy hippie sounds); Mouseworld Radio ('The Disney Vacation Station', a housework fave); A Fistful of Soundtracks (tunes from films and TV, surprisingly listenable); Sirens of Song (only plays music made by women, for gender-sensitive ears) and Radio DavidByrne.com (sample track: Jimmy Durante singing 'It's My Nose's birthday').
Sorry I've not hyperlinked these, but you should be able to find the stations easily enough via search engines if you're interested. Miranda recommends Live365.com as a great resource for discovering Internet radio stations that appeal to you, though she warns that there is a lot of advertising to wade through on the site.

The article also lists some of Miranda's favourite Internet radio stations, and one of these I was pleased to see is a favourite of mine as well. Radio Paradise broadcasts from Paradise, California, and describes its style as eclectic rock radio. You'll hear current and older tracks from both well known and obscure artists here. The emphasis is on soft rock, but every so often the station throws in a bit of jazz or even classical. I've discovered a number of bands and artists I like through listening to Radio Paradise - Porcupine Tree, Mostly Autumn, Hooverphonic and Riverside, to name a few - and it has jump-started me into buying modern music again.

And, of course, there is WritersFM, WCCL's Internet radio station for writers. There's a growing range of in-depth interviews with writers on the station, including top copywriter Joe Vitale, former British politician turned broadcaster Edwina Currie, US writing guru Randy Ingermanson, and many others (including myself, of course!). Do tune in if you haven't already. You can also download the interviews separately as podcasts if you like.

You don't need expensive software to listen to Internet radio. Windows Media Player (bundled free with most versions of Microsoft Windows) or the free RealPlayer will do just fine, though you will need a broadband Internet connection in most cases. So why not read Miranda Sawyer's article, check out a few Internet radio stations, and join the growing band of Internet radio aficionados!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adobe Digital Editions - a Cautionary Tale

I buy a lot of e-books, mainly in the fields of writing and Internet marketing, but also for research purposes. In general I find e-books are good value for money, and I like the fact that I can get my hands on my purchase immediately.

Well, usually. Recently I purchased an e-book to help with background research on a book I'm currently working on. The e-book came from a company called Ebook Impressions and it was listed as being available in "Adobe Reader" format. I assumed from this that it would be in the standard PDF format, which can of course be opened in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program.

I was wrong, however. When I first attempted to download my purchase, all I got was a small file called ebx.etd. My computer couldn't open this, and I had no idea what it was.

Checking on the FAQ pages of the Ebook Impressions website, I read the following advice about this problem: "This typically indicates that you did not install Adobe Reader before you attempted to download your e-book."

Well, I did have Adobe Reader, but I knew it wasn't the most recent version. So, deciding that this could be the problem, I went to the Adobe website and downloaded version 8 of Adobe Reader, the most recent available. Then I tried downloading my e-book again.

More seemed to happen this time. The Adobe Digital Editions web page opened and invited me to install and launch its Digital Editions software. I didn't appear to have any choice, so I went ahead. After a few moments another web page opened with a black background, showing thumbnails of all the PDF files on my computer. All very interesting, but there was still no sign of the e-book I had ordered.

So I decided the time had come to contact Ebook Impressions' helpdesk. Here's the reply I received: "I am sorry you are having difficulties. Adobe Reader released their new version 8 and sometimes this affects our Adobe Reader ebooks. The best thing to do is uninstall Adobe v8 and install the older version Adobe v7, use the link below and select 'select version' - XP. Click 'Continue' and you should then see v7.0.9 download this version." And the appropriate link was provided.

As you may imagine I was getting a bit fed up by now, but I duly uninstalled Adobe v8 and attempted to install v7.0.9 instead. Unfortunately my computer wasn't having any of it. Each time I attempted to download the older version of the program, the installation process failed half-way through. I decided I had better cut my losses and reinstall v8, but now I had the same problem with this - for whatever reason, it now appeared impossible to install ANY version of Adobe Reader on my computer.

To cut a long story short, after a week without any means of reading PDF files, by persistence and scouring the Internet for help, I eventually managed to reinstall Adobe Reader Version 8. It works fine, but I STILL can't download my e-book. So I have given up, and asked Ebook Impressions for a refund.

Anyway, I thought I would share this sad tale with you. I'm not blaming Ebook Impressions especially, but it appears that Adobe Digital Editions is a new technology that simply cannot be relied upon to deliver on its promises. I think that e-bookstores using this platform should make it quite clear that this is how their e-books are delivered (or not). Ebook Impressions and other e-bookstores I have seen simply quote "Adobe Reader", which suggested to me (and I'm sure many other potential customers) that buyers would receive an ordinary PDF file that they could open in Adobe Acrobat Reader without any hassles.

So I would say, if you're thinking of buying an e-book and the store quotes "Adobe Reader" format, check if they mean Adobe Digital Editions, and if they do be very wary. Eventually, perhaps, this technology will be perfected and deliver untold benefits for readers and publishers, but right now in many cases it simply doesn't work.

And in case anyone is wondering, my courses such as Quick Cash Writing and other WCCL publications are delivered in good old plain PDF format, not Digital Editions!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Review: The Cheat's Guide to Instant Genius

The Cheat's Guide to Instant Genius is a brand new product released by my publishers, WCCL. It's supplied on CD, and at its heart is a 147-page e-book in the universal PDF format.

Instant Genius, as I'll call it from now on, is essentially a comprehensive self-development guide. As it says in the introduction, "It shows you how to act, think and behave like a genius, giving you techniques and tips on accessing your creativity, improving your memory, accelerating your reading speed, and increasing your overall brain power."

As a psychology graduate and someone with a life-long interest in self development, I found the range of advice and techniques in this guide fascinating. Some of the techniques, e.g. those in the memory chapter, were familiar to me, but many others were new. I was especially intrigued by the chapter on NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), with its advice on how to create instant rapport with anyone, and the following chapter titled "The Persuasion Equation", which sets out some devilishly clever methods for getting other people to see things your way. There are some powerful techniques here that you should definitely be aware of, not only to use yourself, but in case they are ever used against you.

As writers, of course, we want to know how to boost our creativity and our facility with words, and Instant Genius covers these areas as well. There is also a section about Speed Reading, which provides a complete step-by-step guide to mastering this skill. The manual also covers mind mapping, a system of note-making that combines right- and left-brain skills. I regularly use mind mapping for planning writing projects, so can vouch personally for the effectiveness of this method.

Apart from the main course manual, you also get a wide range of bonus items, including free mind-mapping software, bluffer's guides to Shakespeare, Classical Music and the Great Writers, an inspirational audio meditation session, and many more.

Are there any drawbacks to Instant Genius? Well, it would have been nice if the table of contents at the front of the manual had included page numbers, preferably with hyperlinks to the sections concerned. As it is, navigating around the manual can be a bit frustrating at times. Also, I would like to have seen a few more illustrations, especially in the mind mapping section. The effectiveness of mind maps depends to a large extent on their visual impact, so it seems a little odd not to see any reproduced in the chapter concerned.

Still, these are relatively minor quibbles. There are masses of material here to set you on the road to "instant genius", and it is of course easy to follow up any topic that interests you by reference to the Internet (you can, for example, easily find full-colour examples of mind maps just by entering the term in a search engine). References to further information are also provided from within the manual.

Instant Genius is currently available at a discounted launch price - for more info, just click on any of the links in this review. Before you do, however, I'd like to make my own very special offer to you. Buy Instant Genius via one of my links, and I will also throw in an additional bonus item of my own. This is "Secrets of Improving Your Memory", an in-depth report I wrote for another publisher a year or two ago, which features several powerful (and little-known) memory-boosting techniques. Just email your receipt for Instant Genius to me at genius-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ mark). I will verify your order and send you my report, normally within 24 hours.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Cat Tales Wanted!

Here's an interesting opportunity for any other cat lovers among you. The US-based Wildside Press, which also publishes Fantasy Magazine and Weird Tales, is launching a new magazine called Cat Tales. They are seeking fantasy and suspense stories of 500 to 5,000 words involving cats.

In their guidelines they say: "Cats must be portrayed in a positive light. No talking cats -- yes, this is a firm rule. Payment is 3 cents/word for First North American Serial Rights. Submissions go to: Wildside Press, Attn: Cat Tales editor, 9710 Traville Gateway Dr. #234, Rockville MD 20850, USA."

I can't see anything on the website regarding whether they accept electronic submissions, but if you wish you could always try sending them a query via their Contact Us page.

Good luck if you decide to submit a story to this market. Incidentally, the picture above shows my cat Ronnie.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Lowest Ever Price for WhiteSmoke

I thought some readers might be interested to know that WhiteSmoke's writing software is currently available at the lowest-ever price. They have deducted $20 from the original price of all versions. But not only that, they are giving an additional 25% discount as well.

The standard edition of the software costs $79.95. Deducting $20 gives $59.95. If you then deduct 25% from that you end up with a final price of just $44.95, or around 23 UK pounds. That is definitely the lowest price WhiteSmoke has ever been offered for, and they have recently added some additional features to the software as well.

Just to remind you, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help its users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, and then suggesting corrections and possible improvements. If you missed it, you can read my full review of WhiteSmoke's software here. For further details and to order, just click on the banner below. I don't know how long this promotion will run but it is definitely a limited time only, so don't leave it too long to order if you are interested.

NEW ADDITION - 19 APRIL 2007 - I have just heard from WhiteSmoke that this offer is ending on Monday 23 April, so there are only a few days left if you wish to take advantage of this lowest ever price.

Whitesmoke all-in-one solution

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Strange Choice of Prize Winner...

I don't often venture into literary criticism on this blog. However, the recent choice of The Island by Victoria Hislop (see below) as Waterstone's Newcomer of the Year in the Galaxy British Book Awards left me both surprised and depressed.



I took this book on holiday to Greece with me last year with high expectations. The book is set in Crete and tells the story of the tiny island of Spinalonga, a now-deserted former leper colony. It sounded an intriguing tale, and as a lover of Greece and its islands myself, the setting was an added bonus for me.

However, I found it one of the worst written books I had read for many a year. Ms Hislop's prose style is flat and dull, and the dialogue is especially leaden. Characters regularly deliver slab-like paragraphs of exposition in the least life-like manner imaginable. And the writing is often lazy. For example, near the start of the book the narrator and her parents go to a Greek restaurant and order the most predictable dishes you could pick: moussaka, stifado, kalamari, needless to say accompanied by a bottle of retsina. There was a golden opportunity here to bring the scene to life by describing some of the many more interesting and unusual Greek specialities, but instead - as throughout the book - the author was content to take the easy option.

What I found hardest to take about The Island, though, was the constant switching of viewpoints from one character to another. This is something every new fiction writer is taught to avoid, and for good reason - it confuses the reader and makes it almost impossible to identify and empathise with any of the characters. Almost every modern novel is written in scenes portrayed through the eyes (and other senses) of a single viewpoint character. If you are going to ignore this convention, as Ms Hislop has, you need to understand clearly what you are doing and why. I am not at all convinced that this was the case with The Island.

I do think that Victoria Hislop, a travel writer by profession, has uncovered a fascinating story here, and as social history it is certainly worth documenting. It is just a shame that she does not have the writing skills to turn it into a decent novel. What depresses me is that The Island was given this plaudit despite being poorly written - presumably because it was an interesting story, and the author and her husband are already well known in the literary world. Meanwhile, other much better written novels by authors with lower public profiles are shamefully ignored.

Anyway, excuse my rant. I have nothing against book awards, but I do think that above all else they should recognise and reward good writing. When a book such as The Island gets feted despite all its shortcomings, it seems to me unfair on the many 'unknown' authors who could have benefited hugely from the publicity generated by this award, not to mention the many readers (myself included) who may buy this book on the back of all the hype and feel short-changed by it.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Research Buddies

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, sooner or later you are going to need the help of an expert to answer questions arising in your book. The subject might be anything from aromatherapy to witchcraft, working as a bartender to nuclear monitoring.

Well, Allie on my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com has kindly collated a list of forum members who are willing to assist other members with queries on their specialisms. All the subjects above are covered, and many more.

If you click on this link it will take you straight to the topic concerned. As you will see, the subjects are listed in alphabetical order, with the names of forum members who can advise on each subject beside them.

To get in touch with any member on the list, search for their profile by clicking on the Members tab near the top of the screen. Some members have listed their email addresses here, but if they have not you can still send them a personal message (PM) via the forum. Note that you will need to be a forum member and logged in to do this, however.

In addition, I hope you will consider submitting your own areas of specialist knowledge to be added to the list. Just add a reply with the relevant info to the Research Buddies topic.

And if you're still not a member of my forum, I hope this new feature may give you the extra incentive you need to join. It's quick, it's easy, and it's free. Just click on Register near the top of the forum homepage, and follow the on-screen instructions.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Free Sideline Moneymaking Opportunity

OK, this isn't writing related, but I wanted to give you a quick "heads up" about a new sideline earning opportunity you might be interested in. It's free to join, Internet based, and would be suitable for any writer who regularly makes use of the Internet.

The opportunity in question is AGLOCO. This company is actually reviving a concept that at one time was extremely popular and successful, but became a victim of the dotcom crash.

Back in 1998, an eternity in Internet terms, a company called AllAdvantage came up with the revolutionary idea of sharing advertising revenue with viewers, on the theory that creating a huge viewer base would attract more advertising. The business released a small "viewbar" downloaded by members which showed ads in the corner of your monitor. They paid you around 20 cents for every hour you had the bar open, and a few cents for every hour surfed by anyone you referred. Unfortunately the dotcom crash meant the company only lasted about a year, although they still managed to pay all outstanding commission.

Now, from the ashes of AllAdvantage, comes AGLOCO. This time, some of the original AllAdvantage founders have joined with Stanford MBAs and are doing things differently to avoid making the same mistakes as in the past. The new viewbar will not be paying a flat fee per hour, but will give members a share of all income the viewbar generates. This income will derive from fees and commissions paid by advertisers.

The viewbar software is currently in final testing, with plans to launch in the next week or so. It will be released to AGLOCO members on a first come, first served basis, according to the date you signed up to be a member - so the sooner you sign up, the sooner you will be able to download the viewbar and start accumulating online hours.

Considering it's free and could generate a significant income for no more than having a few ads displayed on your screen, I would definitely recommend taking a look at AGLOCO. You can find out more by clicking on any of the links in this post. In addition, you can read an in-depth report on the business model and projected earning levels by clicking here.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

More Opportunities with Survival Books

My former publishers, Survival Books, are seeking more writers for their new series of "Culture Wise" books. They are currently looking for people to write titles about the following countries:

Mexico
Thailand
Scotland
Sweden
Russia
Cuba
Belgium
Korea

Survival Books are a thriving, London-based, independent publishing house. They publish in-depth handbooks for people who will be moving to the country concerned to work or to retire. They do not publish travel guides.

Ideally they want authors who live and work in the country concerned, but if you have lived in one of the countries above recently and know it well, it would be worth applying also.

Survival Books pay their authors at a set rate per 1,000 words, not by royalties. Rates are negotiable, but reasonable for the amount of work involved.

If you are interested, please drop the publisher, Peter Read, a line at peterread-at-survivalbooks.net (change the -at- to the usual @ mark). Please mention that you heard about this opportunity via Nick Daws' writing blog.

NEW ADDITION - 19 APRIL 2007 - Peter has just told me that all these vacancies have now been filled, so no further applications are required. More opportunities will be posted later this year.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Win a Codd Bottle!

As a bit of Easter fun - and to help promote my new course on how to win competitions - my publisher Karl Moore has just launched a new contest on his blog.

It's a chance to win a codd bottle - and if you don't know what that is, you need to watch his recent video blog on the origin of the term "codswallop" at the URL below:

http://www.karlblog.com/blog/2007/04/friday-factoid-video-codswallop.html

Full details of the contest are in Karl's next blog post, or here is a direct link:

http://www.karlblog.com/blog/2007/04/my-happy-easter-competition.html

To win the contest, you have to complete a slogan provided by Karl. Naturally, people who have bought my new course will be at a considerable advantage here!

The closing date is Monday April 9.

Good luck!

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter!

Just wanted to wish all the readers of my blog a happy and peaceful Easter holiday. Here in England the weather is set fair, so I'm looking forward to spending a little time away from my PC enjoying some unaccustomed fresh air and sunshine!

Of course, the holiday period can be a good opportunity to get some writing done as well, so if that figures in your plans for the next few days, I do hope the muse is with you.

If you're looking for inspiration, support or feedback on your writing, don't forget that my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com will be open throughout the holiday period. There's always plenty going on here, from writing games and challenges to in-depth poetry criticism on our brand new Poetry Masterclass board. And, of course, there's The Coffee Shop, where you can while away a few minutes pondering non-writing-related topics whilst drinking virtual coffee and eating imaginary donuts!

Bear in mind too that we have a writers chat room at www.mywriterschat.com, where you can 'chat' online with other writers. The chat room will also be open throughout Easter, so do drop in if you have a spare moment. Of course, as it operates in real time there is no knowing who will be around at any particular time, so if the room is empty when you first arrive, try again a bit later. You can also advertise on the forum that you will be visiting the chat room at a particular time (don't forget to include your time zone!), and invite other writers to join you then.

Finally, do check out Write Street, the writing portal of my publishers WCCL. As well as listing all of WCCL's products and services for writers, Write Street also includes articles about writing, a writing quote of the day, recommended books about writing, and much more. There''s even a list of the latest posts on my forum and an extract from my latest blog post. It's definitely well worth keeping an eye on!

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Review: Book Backup

Book Backup is the latest new product for writers to be released by my publishers WCCL. As the name suggests, it's the first ever backup program specifically designed by and for writers.

I have to admit to a special interest in this software, as it was developed by WCCL from my original suggestion! As a full-time professional freelance writer I'm well aware of the importance of backing up my work, but I'm simply not as conscientious about it as I ought to be. So what I wanted - no, what I needed - was some software to make the whole process as painless as possible for me.

Well, it took a few months, but I'm delighted to say that WCCL exceeded my expectations. In Book Backup you have a powerful and versatile piece of software that is easy to operate and can be left to run automatically at set intervals (or you can run it manually any time you like). Naturally, you can choose which files are backed up, and if you wish set a number of different backup routines to run at different times and intervals (for example, you might want to run backups for your novel in progress twice a day, but a backup for other projects you aren't currently working on only once a week).

Of course, backup software has to have somewhere to back up files to. The beauty of Book Backup is that it will work with almost any storage medium you like: USB key, external hard disk, partitioned drive, and so on. It can also back up to any remote location by FTP or email. One example: Book Backup works seamlessly with Google's Gmail. Anyone can open a free Gmail account, which includes nearly 3GB of free storage space - more than enough to house a large library full of document files. But if by chance you don't want to use your Gmail account for this purpose, buyers of Book Backup also receive from WCCL a free FTP account for life with a still-substantial 1GB of storage.

It's a good idea to back up your work to a remote location, in case your computer and any attached backup devices are stolen, catch fire, or suffer some other calamity. However, backing up a lot of files by email or FTP can be very time consuming. So Book Backup has the facility to compress your backup files so that they take up much less space. It is, of course, easy to expand them again if you need to recover the saved files.

Naturally, Book Backup is simplicity itself to use. A detailed instruction manual is included with the software (though to be honest it is all pretty intuitive), and there is 24/7 support from WCCL's dedicated customer service website at www.myhelphub.com.

Book Backup has many other features as well, so if you are interested I urge you to click through to WCCL's sales page and read about them. One other thing I should clarify, though. Although designed primarily for writers, Book Backup will back up other sorts of file as well, including spreadsheets, database files, multimedia, and so on.

Finally, the best news is that WCCL have set the price of Book Backup to be affordable for any writer. It's currently on offer at just $19.95. That's around 9.95 UK pounds, or 14.95 Euros. In my view that's a very low price indeed for potentially saving six months' hard work going down the drain!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Could You Be a Radio Host?

My publishers, WCCL, who already run several online radio stations including WritersFM, are setting up a brand new radio site online - and they're looking for a host.

They say: "If you've got a sharp wit and a knack for banter, and would be interested in wasting a little time all in the name of good fun, then why not get in touch?"

There's no fee, unfortunately, but it should be an interesting and enjoyable part-time project to be involved with (and, of course, it would make an impressive addition to your CV/resume). You can be based anywhere in the world, as radio interviews are normally conducted by phone or VOIP.

My colleague Karl Moore is heading up this project. If you're interested, drop him a line at karl-at-myhelphub.com (change the -at- for the usual @ sign) and tell him a bit about yourself. Karl will share further details of the project with you directly.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Still More Writing Blogs!

After my post last week several people got in touch to tell me about their own writing blogs and websites, so here are a few more to add to your Favorites list...

Canadian author Melody Rhodes (who also writes under the names Melody Marsden and Athlyn Green) wrote to tell me about her blog at http://writeandearnaliving.blogspot.com/.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in the business side of freelance writing. Melody has posted some fascinating articles, including 'Reprints and why you should sell them' and 'More ways to earn writing income'. In a recent post she takes a look at 'Article writing schemes and scams'. Here's what she has to say about certain job sites where authors are invited to bid for work:

If you've visited job boards for freelancers, you will have no doubt noticed postings that seek article writers. These often will offer ridiculously low pay rates and, in return, will demand flawless grammar and spelling. Often, you'll read: "spelling mistakes won't be tolerated." You'll be required to insert keywords and will need to research and produce articles that usually run around 500-700 words.

The real insult is that pay rates may be $3.50 per article, $2.00, or, in the worst nightmare of a scenario, $1.00 per. I recently saw an advertisement where the poster stated that he was only willing to pay $1.00 per 500 words or $1.00 per page and that only those who were serious needed to apply. To top off the lunacy, he wanted 10-20 articles produced daily! What an article mill!

I have to say I've seen even lower rates than this on offer at some freelance job sites. Clearly this is not the way to build a decent income as a freelance writer!

Another blogger I heard from after my previous post was the India-based Noel Gama. I've already mentioned Noel in this blog, as he took up the opportunity with Survival Books I mentioned a few months ago and is currently writing books for them about living and working in India.

Anyway, Noel has a blog devoted to business-to-business copywriting at http://b2blogging.blogspot.com/. Again, this is informative and highly readable. Here's a short recent post which showcases Noel's writing skills very well:
The Internet's fastest growing graveyard has an estimated 200 tombstones - dead blogs, called "Ghost Blogs!"

Blogging, having peaked in October 2006, when 100,000 new blogs were being created each day, is now on a precipitous slide, predicted by Gartner research to level out at 100 million. Other analysts predict a low of 30 million.

What started as perhaps the best tool for self-expression and publishing on the Internet, may be dying for the simple reason that their authors have run out of things to say. Others may neither have the time nor the inclination to write anymore. And as usual, the trendy crowd may have moved on to posting home videos on YouTube or to social networking on sites like MySpace where the response from other users is way faster.

But here lies the opportunity for serious bloggers who can post good content. It will be easier to be 'heard' over the now diminishing 'noise.'

Remember the hit song, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going?"

Long live the blog!

Couldn't agree with you more, Noel!

Incidentally, Noel also has a website at http://www.noelgama.com/.

Finally, my partner, Jayne, wouldn't forgive me if I didn't mention her writing website at http://www.writing-resources.info/. This site is packed with valuable resources for writers (including my courses, naturally!). It's also currently sporting a dazzling array of Easter decorations!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Another WCCL Giveaway!

In recent posts on my blog I've talked about two "giveaways" from my publishers, WCCL. The first is their Great Writers Giveaway, where you get an alleged $4,000 worth of writing-related e-books, software, interviews and so on, just for signing up to the free Smart Writers newsletter. And the other is WCCL's free motivational software, which is simply available as a free download.

Well, I've just found out that WCCL are offering a third big giveaway as well. This time it's their Self Growth Giveaway. Just for signing up for their free Self-Development newsletter - from which you can of course unsubscribe at any time - you can take your pick from what WCCL claim is over $4,500 worth of self-development tools.

There are some great products here, and you can choose which you want (or take them all). Just go the Self Growth Giveaway site and check out the beautiful ad-free relaxation screensavers, the advanced memory course, the free "mind mapping" software, the two-hour motivational coaching video, and lots more. You also get your choice of two free hypnosis downloads from Instant-Hypnosis.com.

I know it's easy to be cynical about offers of this nature, but this really is a genuine opportunity to help yourself to some great self-development tools and subscribe to an interesting e-mail newsletter. Obviously, WCCL hope that after taking advantage of this introductory offer you will become a regular client for their self-development e-books and products, but there is no obligation on you to make any purchases whatsoever.

Anyway, do take a look at what's on offer on the Self Growth Giveaway site, and (if you haven't already) check out my other posts about the Great Writers Giveaway and free motivational software as well.

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