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Friday, May 30, 2008

An Interview with Paul Kilduff

As previewed in this post a few weeks ago, I'm delighted to welcome Irish author Paul Kilduff to my blog today. Paul is visiting as part of a Virtual Book Tour (VBT) to launch his new book, Ruinair, a tongue-in-cheek account of his experiences travelling round Europe with low-cost airlines. Without further ado, let's get down to the questions and answers...

1) Is this your first book, Paul?

No, I have written four financial thrillers previously for Hodder Headline in London. Ruinair is my first work of non fiction and is published in Ireland.

2) How long have you been writing and what started you off?

I began writing in 1998 - what started me was when I read a financial thriller where the author got a large advance and I knew I could write a book at least as good as his.

3) How would you describe the writing that you're doing?

It's vaguely funny travel writing at present, full of informative content, fast paced, lots of variety, topical stuff, with amusing anecdotes and some insights.

4) Who is your target audience? Who influenced you?

Passengers of the Irish low fares airline Ruinair and its CEO, Mick O'Leary! And all those who love travel writing and having a go at large corporations.

I was influenced by Bill Bryson, Pete McCarthy, Tim Moore, Don George, Simon Calder, Alain de Botton and many good guide books and maps over the years.

5) Is your fiction writing autobiographical at all?

My fiction features the work environments, places, cities, people, scams and scandals I had encountered in real life when I lived and worked in the City of London.

6) What are your biggest challenges as a writer?

Converting from writing fiction to non fiction was a big challenge. Also balancing a writing career as well as holding down a day job in a US investment bank.

7) Do you write every day, and how do you begin and end the process?

No, I work every day until I can retire! I write on weekends, holidays, Christmas, Easter, time off, and on my sick days off work!

8) What aspects of your writing do you enjoy most?

I enjoy the creativity, of producing an end product and seeing it on book shelves in shops, such as being the No. 1 non-fiction bestseller in Ireland right now. I enjoy being taken for slap up meals by my agent and editor in Dublin's top restaurants, and I enjoy PR work where I meet some of Ireland top radio personalities!

9) What is your book about and what inspired it?

My book is about travelling around Europe on a cheap Irish low fares airline called Ruinair and seeing the good and bad of a most amazing continent - all for a 1 cent fare!

10) What sets this book apart from what you've written in the past?

I think this current work of fiction is much more populist than my former financial thrillers. also I think non fiction is easier to write than draining your imagination for fiction.

11) How long did the whole process take, beginning to end?

I was abandoned by Ruinair in Malaga, Spain for 10 hours in August 2004, I began the book in 2005, finished it in 2006, sold it in 2007, and it was published in Feb 2008.

12) Did you begin writing for the love of it, or did you always aim to become published?

It was always my aim to have my books published - I really believe that's the main aim of any writing - I want to share my half-decent writing with as many people as possible.

13) What's your most significant achievement so far?

I think seeing the book enter the Irish non fiction bestseller list at no 1 and stay there for the past 7 weeks since publication has been fantastic.

14) Where do you get your ideas? Do you build characters and events slowly or do they come to you in a flash?

My ideas for travel books come to me when I am on the road - I have to travel and fly frequently to get my observational and literary powers humming.

15) What's next for you?

Next up is the sequel to Ruinair - this will be a book about travelling on low fares airlines to the 12 countries of Eastern Europe - the book is called 'Ruinairski', due Feb 09.

16) Do you have any advice for other budding authors out there?

I would say read all the books you can in your chosen genre, write often, read books on 'how to write', attend writing classes and workshops, persevere, be realistic, enjoy...

17) Finally, as we're conducting this interview online, I wondered if you could tell me what are your three favourite websites, and why?

1. www.ryanair.com
A great site for low fares travel on a friendly flexible Irish airline run by a shy retiring chief executive named Michael O'Leary. 'I'm probably just an obnoxious little bollocks. Who cares? The purpose is not to be loved. The purpose is to have the passengers on board.'

2. www.airlinequality.com
An extensive site about airlines and airports. Before I travel anywhere on any airline, I can check out what other flyers experienced and advise.

3. www.paulkilduff.com
I built my own site myself, using FrontPage. It's basic but full of content and often updated, and readers of both my fiction and non-fiction like it.

Many thanks to Paul for visiting my blog on his VBT, and for taking the trouble to answer these questions in forthright and entertaining style! If you have any further questions or comments for Paul, please feel free to post them here.

If you're inspired to try to follow Paul's example, dare I mention it, my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days will help you get a book of your own completed in the shortest possible time. And my publishers, WCCL, also produce an excellent introductory guide to travel writing, written by my colleague Mel McIntyre.

For more information about Ruinair, clicking through here will take you to the publisher's sales page. I have also included an image link to the book at Amazon.co.uk below. Note that if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see this.


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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Free Short Story Contest

I thought some of you might be interested in this free short story contest, which is sponsored by the DIY self-publishing company Wordclay.

They are actually running two parallel contests, one for a single short story and the other for a short story collection. To enter the latter, you have to have enough short stories to fill the pages of a 48-page book. The maximum length for a single story is 5,000 words.

There are some good prizes on offer for a free contest, including $500 for the winner in each category and $250 for the runner-up. There are also prizes of publication in book form by the sponsors for the other short-listed entries. You do have to register at the site before you can enter, but there is no obligation to buy anything. The closing date is 11.59 pm ET on 31 May 2008 (i.e. before 1 June 2008), so you have about a week to get your story (or stories) in. Once again, here is a link for further details.

Good luck if you decide to enter this contest!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guest Post: Readers are Doomed!

I'm pleased to welcome another guest blogger today, Nigel Edwards from Letsgetpublished.com.

As you'll see from his article below, Nigel has some strong views about what the future holds for readers - and, by extension, writers. I'll let you read what he has to say, then give my personal response to his comments.

Readers are Doomed to Extinction!

That's a bald statement to read, isn't it? As it stands I imagine many, if not most writers would call it a ridiculous notion - but is it? Let me explain my thinking.

Ask this question: why is the written word so popular? The answer is that books provide the medium for people to indulge in their fantasies. They bring us escape from the drudgery and indifference of modern living, and have done so for a long, long time. Stories have entertained us for thousands of years, though only comparatively recently has the written word replaced the narrator. Imagine in pre-history a camp-fire was lit, and around it huddled a hunting party, squatting by its glowing warmth to hear their leader recount the time when he single-handedly bested a wild and enraged boar? That was perhaps the beginning of an oral tradition that was long appreciated, and indeed still is in some dwindling corners of the world; but this is the important point: where in modern society are the oral story-tellers now? What happened to that tradition? It's virtually gone. Why?

Once upon a time, someone figured out a way to capture thoughts and ideas in a physical medium and, to cut a long story short, invented writing. At first it was crude and limited, but over time it grew in sophistication until it came to a point where you didn't specifically need a story-teller with a great memory and a good voice; all you needed was to have someone write the words, thereby replacing the memory, and someone to read them - and remember, reading can be done silently. At first, as we know, the art of reading and writing was rare, and only a few had the skill. The old story-teller still had his place, perhaps as the reader of narrative, but by the time we come to the present day his presence is virtually nil, made redundant by education which spread the ability to read and write far and wide. When the general populace finally reached the point where the majority could read, I can imagine that there would still have been many people who remembered the enjoyment of the camp-fire and preferred to be read to, rather than read for themselves; but gradually their number declined, and with the advent of mass book production they all but disappeared.

And it's going to happen again. Sort of.

Who reads for pleasure today? According to many reports that I have come across the number of people actually reading books for pure enjoyment is on the decline. The reason is new technology. As the introduction of writing resulted in the death of oral tradition, so will the presence of new, more exiting methods of communication replace the book. It's a spreading canker. Take the cinema. A really good writer can construct a story that is gripping and thrilling, and can compete well with the cinema, except on one front - the reader has to interact with the story, become involved with it, and this requires the active use of their brain. You actually have to do some mental work to get the best out of a book. Now compare that with the cinema. What does it take to simply sit in a seat and let the mesmeric film envelope you. There's no need to read thousands of words to imagine the final confrontation at the OK Corral - there it is in glorious colour and surround sound, dished up for your gratification for the price of a ticket.

Do you see where this is leading, yet?

Take television. You don't need to go to the cinema to see and hear the movie; today it gets piped directly into your home. Press the button and there it is. You can record it, or buy the DVD, and play it over and over without having to exercise your interpretive powers one little bit. Then there are computers. You don't even need a television any more; just download the feature or film you want onto your laptop or desktop, or even your mobile phone! Entertainment wherever you go, and no more need to cart cumbersome volumes to your deckchair on the beach. Just pick up the phone and enjoy.

What this means is that the reader, the one thing over which no author has any control, no longer needs to read to get their pleasure. And if they don't need to, they won't. It's because they- we - are lazy. We always look for the easiest way to do something, and if we can get our thrills passively, why should we bother with getting them in any other way? The story-teller died out because he was old-fashioned, because people either had to go to him, or wait until he came to them; and people today are taking the next step, which is to discount the written word in favour of the instant gratification of immediate explosions of light and sound pulsed almost directly into their brains. You might say that technology has become the new story-teller. Could it be that we are coming full circle?

Not convinced?

The demographics for reading are changing. The days when our children all enjoyed the delight of a bedtime story are disappearing. How many youngsters now will pick up a book when there is the alternative of television, computer games, and the internet? Here's a bold prediction for you: within my lifetime the average age of a regular reader will rise to 60. Within 100 years the number of books being sold will drop to a point where the supermarkets don't even bother to stock them. Within 200 years the only people to read for pleasure will be the few remaining authors themselves, devouring each others' words in sad, cannibalistic indulgence. Let me know if I was wrong! ;)

So, not only the end for readers, but authors too in the general sense. Only those who can successfully adopt the skills needed to produce stories for translation into multi-sensual experiences will be able to make their way to public acclaim, and reap the rewards thereby associated. Why bother writing the intermediate step of a book when you can go straight for the final product? It's a corporate world we live in, and the money that is its blood will demand economies to maximise profit. The old fashioned, traditional writer of words for pleasure will become redundant, and virtually extinct.

Of course, I could be wrong...

Nigel Edwards, founder of Let's Get Published (http://www.letsgetpublished.com ) and author of PRISM - EXILES (http://www.lulu.com/nigeledwards - http://www.angrywildlegends.com ).

Thanks for a thought-provoking piece, Nigel. I largely agree with the points made above, although I think it will be a while yet before books become a thing of the past. Yes, people increasingly want their entertainment in multimedia formats. But equally, you only have to look around any beach or swimming pool on a hot summer's day to see that books still have something going for them. And it's still the case that popular films and TV series are spun-off into book form.

But Nigel is definitely right about one thing - writers today need to become (multi)media savvy. Even 'literary' authors can longer afford to focus exclusively on producing fine prose, when in many cases it is the potential for a book to be adapted into a variety of media that determines whether or not publishing it will be viable.

Anyway, those are Nigel's thoughts, and my responses. What do YOU think? Feel free to post any comments below!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Novelty Book Contest Results

A big thank-you to everyone who entered my Win a Nick Daws Novelty Book contest.

I studied the entries over the weekend. It wasn't easy but, with a bit of help from Jayne, I've made my choices. The winner of 365 Ways to Wreak Revenge was Beverley, with the entry below:

I would love to win a copy of "365 Ways to Wreak Revenge" please. I live in a small cul-de-sac and for about a year now, my neighbours and I have been playing an unofficial version of "Needful Things" (think Stephen King) but without the blood and gore. I am losing miserably, and desperately need some hints to push me back in front. I thought I was in the undisputable lead when I turned my neighbour's satellite dish around, but was quickly overtaken by someone filling my water feature with bubble mixture. I have a clean path now, but no ideas for wreaking revenge!

And the winner of 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work was Holly with this entry:

There is a need to have fun, especially at work - after all, job satisfaction is the name of the game. And of course the battle of the plebs versus the rabble must continue. Paper clips and rubber band battles, or chase me round the table tennis table with a rubber stamp, don't quite seem up to the task these days, and even the wrap the colleague up in parcel tape and leave him in a wheelie bin prank is running a bit tame - we're in need of some craftier, zanier ideas to vie one side of the office against the other. For this reason I should like to win 365 Ways to Have Fun at Work. For as they say, laughter is the best medicine.

Many congratulations to Beverley and Holly. I will be in touch with Beverley via the email address she left. Holly, I'd be grateful if you could send me your postal address via my homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk, so that I can mail your prize to you.

Commiserations to those who were unsuccessful this time. There were some deserving cases among the entries submitted, and I had to remind myself that the rules asked for the most amusing reason for wanting the books, and not necessarily for those who needed them the most! Even so, there were some good entries that just missed out - see the comments on my original post for all the entries - and I'm only sorry I didn't have more copies of the books to give away...

Finally, just a quick reminder that my course on How to Win Consumer Contests is currently available at a discount price, and should give you a winning edge in any similar competitions in future!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

A New Reason to be an Amazon Reviewer

I've just found out a good reason for reviewing products at the Amazon online store - you may receive an invitation to join their new Amazon Vine program and get books, DVDs and so on free of charge. Here's the first paragraph of an email I got from them this morning...

As one of our most valued customer reviewers, we would like to offer you a special invitation to join an exciting new Amazon program called Amazon Vine. As a member of this exclusive community, you will have access to pre-release and new products across various Amazon categories, and the opportunity to be among the very first to review them. There is no cost to you to participate or to receive Vine products. We are simply asking for your time in writing reviews for the products you select from the program.

The email goes on to explain that members of Amazon Vine receive a monthly newsletter listing items that are available for review. You simply choose the items you want, and they are sent to you free.

I was quite surprised to receive this invitation, as I've only ever reviewed about a dozen items on
Amazon.co.uk (and no, they're not my own books!). But I've bought quite a lot of stuff from them over the years, and am also an affiliate of theirs, so maybe that had some influence too.

I understand that the Amazon Vine program also operates in the US, though I'm not sure about other areas such as France and Germany.

I tend to review items on Amazon I have strong feelings about, perhaps where I disagree with other reviewers and want to 'set the record straight'. Of course, you don't get paid for reviewing on Amazon, but there is nothing to stop you adapting your reviews and publishing them on your blog or website if you wish (which, again, I have done on occasion).

Anyway, I'm grateful to Amazon for offering me this opportunity, and look forward to receiving my first list of free items available for review soon!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Guest Post: All About WEbook

I'm pleased to introduce a guest post today from Melissa Jones, Content Manager of WEbook.com and author of the WEbook blog.

For those who don't know, WEbook is a community writing, editing and publishing project. It aims to use the power of the internet to bring writers together and get them to pool their talents in collaborative writing ventures.

I'm convinced that projects such as WEbook are going to become very big indeed in the years ahead, as new ways of working together creatively with the aid of the net are explored and developed. WEbook offers any writer the opportunity to get involved and see for themselves how online collaboration can work in practice. But perhaps I'd better move aside and let Melissa explain more...

WEbook: The People's Publisher - by Melissa Jones

It's no secret that the traditional publishing industry is - how can I put this? - a bit behind the times.

Every year, a handful of editors select a handful of books and, through massive marketing and PR, attempt to turn them into blockbusters. How they decide which books to promote heavily is largely guess-work; as William Strachan, editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers said in a 2007 New York Times article, "Nobody has the key." That same article points out that, while publishers use the internet to market to their readers, "information rarely flows the other way - from readers back to the editors."

Enter WEbook.com, the people's publisher. Founded by Itai Kohavi, author of two novels and a children's book, WEbook is based on a radically different model, bringing together the best elements of social networking, crowd-sourcing, and web technology to change the way books are written and published. At WEbook, essentially, the readers are the editors.

So what can you do at WEbook?

  • Read and Review. WEbook has hundreds of active projects, including collections of articles on everything from the first year of teaching to the first sexual experience. Find a project you're interested in, and read and give feedback to others' work.
  • Write. Contribute a new story, poem, or article to an existing project. Or, if you have a book idea of your own, start a new project. You'll be able to decide whether you want to write your book by yourself, get feedback from other WEbookers, or invite your friends to contribute.
  • Connect. Project forums allow you to brainstorm about your ideas, solicit research or other assistance, or just chat about writing. You can also connect with other writers on the site-wide forums, and by joining a group.
  • Get Published. When a book is completed, it can be submitted for publication. WEbook isn't about choices made by one or two folks behind their desks. Instead, the entire WEbook community votes on which books are worthy. WEbook will consider the highest-rated books for publication, and authors get a 50% share of profits from book sales.

While community votes will ultimately determine what goes to press, we're particularly excited about a few projects that are creating a lot of buzz, both on and off the site. Ex-Pat Journal chronicles the adventures of WEbookers in Thailand, Korea, Costa Rica, France, Cambodia, Nigeria, and - wait for it - Canada. 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do is the ultimate guide to guydom, covering cooking a steak to fighting a bear. And Nano Stories challenges writers to create a dramatic arc in 500 words or less.

For a low-pressure entry point to the site, try Haiku Life Stories or The Writing Salon. If you feel like settling in for a good read, you'll be pleased to find quite a few brave souls writing novels on WEbook. I recommend checking out The Open, a tale of vengeance and golf; A Case of Judgment, which puts a modern spin on a classic horror tale; and In the Wake of the Enchantress, a historical novel set in the early days of World War I.

WEbook recently published its first book, Pandora, a romantic thriller written by 34 writers, editors, and other contributors - including me! (once you buy the book, flip to chapters 17 and 26 to read my contribution). If you want to check out the first few chapters for free you can read them here or text the word "webook" to phone number 41411 on your mobile and read them on your very own web-enabled phone. WEbook launched to the public in mid-April. Since then, the number of active projects has grown at a feverish pace, with more new work added every day.

We'll be opening our first voting cycle in the coming months. For now, drop by the site to read, give feedback, and write, and to connect with a fast-growing network of like-minded folks out to revolutionize the publishing world.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Welcoming Paul Kilduff

I'm pleased to reveal that Mywritingblog.com has been chosen as one of the venues on a virtual book tour by the Irish author Paul Kilduff to mark the launch of his new book Ruinair. Here's some info provided by the literary agency which is organizing the tour.

Paul Kilduff is excited to bring his first nonfiction work, entitled Ruinair, on a virtual book tour. Paul's book is a witty travelogue which sees him get his own back on the airline that overcharged him and significantly delayed him on a flight from Malaga to Dublin:

'Stung by a ten hour delay and a E300 fare to Spain on his native "low-fares" airline, Dubliner Paul Kilduff plots revenge - to fly to every country in Europe for the same total outlay, suffering every low-fares airline indignity. Armed with no more than 10kg of carry-on baggage, he endures 6.00am departures, Six Nations-style boarding scrums, lengthy bus excursions, terminal anxiety and cabin crew who deliver famed customer service.'

This book will have you laughing out loud at Kilduff's sharp wit and the hilarious accounts of his misadventures. Anyone who has ever flown with a low-budget airline and has lived to tell the tale will identify with Paul's experiences.

Ruinair has enjoyed the position of bestselling nonfiction title in Ireland during its first seven weeks of publication and has received wide critical acclaim. Paul is also the author of four fiction novels, the most recent of which is The Headhunter. He will be happy to discuss all aspects of his work, both past and present, on the day - in particular, the transition from fiction to nonfiction writing. He is also happy to talk about his travel writing or to lend writing tips and inspiration to any aspiring authors out there."

My blog will be hosting Paul on Friday 30 May 2008. Full details will be posted nearer the time - but in case you want to know more about the book before then, I've included links to the title at Amazon.co.uk below.



If you live elsewhere in the world, you may prefer to order the book from Paul's publishers Gill & Macmillan, which you can do by clicking on this link.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers

That's the title of a very useful article I discovered recently on the massive Job Profiles website.

It lists 50 open source (i.e. free!) resources that may be relevant to writers, including word processors, grammar checkers, personal organizers, and many other handy tools.

For each resource, the author - Christina Laun - provides a paragraph of description and a link to the relevant website. Here's an example from the list:

wikidPad: This tool is a wiki-style notepad that allows users to to quickly and easily jot down their ideas and notes. Perhaps one of the best features of it is that it allows you to easily cross-reference information, helping you more easily draw plot points and facts together.

There are some great resources in this list, including a number I hadn't seen before and will be checking out in the coming weeks. And, of course, you can't beat the price!

Take a look at 50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers for yourself. I'll be surprised if there isn't something in it to interest you.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Book Proposal Secrets - $10 Discount

A while ago in this post I mentioned Book Proposal Secrets, the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers.

Book Proposal Secrets takes you step by step through everything you need to know to create a book proposal that will knock the socks off a potential publisher.

I've had some good feedback from those of you who have bought Book Proposal Secrets, but one comment that came back to me was that some of you felt that at $47 it was a bit pricey. I'm not sure I agree with that actually, as if it enables you to get just one book contract from a publisher, it will have paid for itself many times over.

But even so, I appreciate that $47 isn't just small change. So I've found a 'back door' way to get readers of this blog an extra $10 discount.

Just click on any of the links to Book Proposal Secrets in this post and you will be taken to a special, unadvertised order page, where you can get Book Proposal Secrets for just $37 (that's just over 19 UK pounds for those of you on this side of the pond).

This is perfectly legal and legitimate, but I don't know how long the special price will be available - so if you're interested in buying Book Proposal Secrets, I strongly recommend you don't wait too long. If the link doesn't work, I'm sorry, but it means the offer will have been pulled by WCCL.

By the way, if you want to see the full sales page for Book Proposal Secrets you can do so by clicking here, but DON'T order via this page or you will be charged the full 47 bucks. Use the special links in this post.

And finally, the links in this post will take you to the standard credit/debit card order page, but if you'd prefer to pay by Paypal - and still get the $10 discount - please use this special Paypal link.

Happy proposal writing!

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

I'm on Twitter!

Well, I've taken the plunge and joined Twitter. My Twitter ID is nickdaws and you can visit my Twitter profile page here.

For those who don't know, I should explain that Twitter is a mini-blogging/social networking service. Once you have joined - which is free - you can post short updates or 'Tweets' of up to 140 characters. Updates are displayed on your profile page and instantly delivered to any other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them (your 'followers').

I'm obviously very new to Twitter and still finding my way around. One thing I am clear on, though, is that I intend to use Twitter as an extension of this blog. So anyone who signs up to follow me will be automatically notified every time I make a new post here, by courtesy of the free Twitterfeed service.

In addition, I plan to use Twitter to publish short items that don't really justify a complete blog post, e.g. useful websites I've discovered or other people's blog posts that I think are worth a look. I might also use Twitter when I have some important news to pass on and don't have time to create a blog post.

In the spirit of Twitter - which is meant to answer the question 'What are you doing now?' - I will publish some personal updates as well, but I don't intend to overdo this. So don't expect to see many updates from me along the lines of, 'I'm going to the shops now'! Simply, I hope that people who find my blog of interest will get extra value by signing up to follow me on Twitter.

Finally, if you have a blog and are wondering whether to sign up with Twitter too, I highly recommend reading this post and this one on Darren Rowse's excellent Problogger blog. This is really what made me realise that it was time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon! But, of course, you don't need to be a blogger already to join Twitter.

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