Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Jeff Phelps Interview on WritersFM

Thought you might like to know that a new interview has been added to WCCL's Internet radio station for writers, Writers FM.

I've actually known Jeff Phelps for a long time, since many years ago when we were both members of the Cannon Hill Writers Group in Birmingham, England.

Jeff combines writing with a demanding job as an architect working for Wolverhampton City Council. He's one of the most naturally talented writers I've ever known, though because of his work commitments he hasn't been able to write as much as he might perhaps have liked.

So I was delighted to find out that his first novel 'Painter Man' was being published last year. Painter Man is portrayed through the eyes of an artist called Malcolm, the 'Painter Man' of the title. The story follows his life (and the life of his family) over a number of years, showing how he attempts to make sense of the hand life has dealt him through his art. The story is full of warmth and dry humour, with some surprising twists along the way.

As well as listening to the interview on WritersFM, you can also download it from the website as a separate podcast. The interview reveals the inspiration for Painter Man, and the long and sometimes tortuous process which eventually led to its publication last year. Jeff also talks a bit about combining writing with a full-time job, and offers some tips to writers who may be in a similar position.

If you'd like to buy your own copy of Painter Man - and I genuinely recommend it as a great read - the link below will take you to the sales page at Amazon.co.uk, or you should be able to find it by searching for "Jeff Phelps" at Amazon.com.


Finally, new interviewees are always welcome at WritersFM. If you've achieved some success as a writer, do get in touch with the station's host, Karl, and tell him a bit about yourself and your achievements. All being well, he will then arrange to interview you on the radio station. To start the ball rolling, email Karl at karl-at-myhelphub.com. Obviously, substitute an @ sign for the -at- in the address above.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Writers' House of Horrors

Here in the UK a TV series called House of Horrors has just ended. In this show the TV company buys or borrows a house with some problem or other, then invites a few suspected "dodgy" builders to perform the necessary repairs. The house is fitted with lots of hidden cameras, which of course catch the builders indulging in all sorts of unprofessional practices (one classic clip showed a plumber urinating in the cold water tank in the attic).

The show is good entertainment, and also serves a useful purpose in alerting the public to the activities of these cowboys. However, some builders have complained that shows like this give their entire industry a bad reputation, when in fact it is only a small minority who are guilty of this sort of thing.

I think they have a point. There are cowboys in every walk of life - writing included!

I know what I'm talking about here. I regularly hire writers myself, either in my role as an editor or to subcontract some of my writing work. Usually it works out fine, but over the years I've collected enough horror stories to fill at least a short TV series. Here are a few examples.

* I hired a writer to research an article about the Italian social security system (not the most riveting topic, I know). It duly arrived and at first glance looked pretty good, but something about it rang alarm bells in the back of my mind. I checked on the Internet, and discovered that the article had been copied word for word from a website (spelling mistakes included!).

* For a book on Germany I hired another writer to research the chapter about transport. It was actually pretty good, but there were a few points that needed clarifying. So I sent her a short query list. "Sorry," she told me, "I've done what you asked for. I'm much too busy to answer any questions about it."

* A regular writer for a newsletter I edit was due to submit a lengthy article to me. The deadline approached but no article appeared. I tried e-mailing and phoning but got no reply, so eventually I had to research and write a substitute article at very short notice myself. Eventually the writer got back to me: "Oh, I've been on holiday in Australia. Sorry I didn't mention it to you..."

* I agreed to co-write a book with another author. We divided the chapters between us. I wrote the first one, and arranged to meet my co-author in a local coffee bar to discuss progress. He never arrived, so after an hour I gave up and went home. I contacted the writer concerned, who came up with a rather lame excuse, but we agreed to meet at the same place the following week. Again, I sat there nursing a coffee for an hour, but it was another "no show". A few days later I ran into the writer concerned, who at least had the grace to look a bit shame-faced: "I realised I didn't really want to do the book after all, but I didn't know how to tell you. So I thought that if I just didn't turn up to meetings, eventually you'd get the idea."

Those are just a few examples - I have plenty more. Of course, anyone can call themselves a writer and there is no regulator to set standards, so I suppose it shouldn't be any great surprise that there are cowboys in this business as well!

The anonymity of the Internet has made it even easier for writers to do a vanishing act when the going gets sticky. But ultimately I still think it's their loss. I never hired any of the writers mentioned above again, while with others who have proved reliable I have been able to put a steady stream of work their way.

So before you're too quick to condemn "cowboy builders", do take a careful look at your own writing, and be sure that you're not guilty of any unprofessional practices yourself. And watch out for my series Publishing House of Horrors - coming to a cable TV channel near you soon...

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Useful Website: Rhymezone

Here's a useful - and free - website I discovered recently. As the name suggests, Rhymezone is aimed at least partly at poets (and anyone else) seeking a rhyme.

Enter the word you want a rhyme for in the Word box, and ensure that the box beside it says 'Find Rhymes' (if it doesn't, click on the down arrow at the far end of the box and click on Find Rhymes from the pop-up list that appears).

Now click on 'Go Get It' and a list of words and phrases rhyming with your chosen word will be displayed. By default the list is arranged by number of syllables - so at the top you will see all one-syllable rhyming words, followed by words of two syllables, three syllables, and so on.

If you prefer, you can have the list arranged by number of letters instead, by clicking on 'letters' near the bottom left of the screen. In that case you will see rhyming words of two letters, three letters, four letters, and so on. I don't find this quite as useful myself, but perhaps you might!

Rhymezone therefore functions as an online rhyming dictionary. In this respect it could be of value not only to poets but to anyone who ever enters slogan contests (as discussed in my course Quick Cash Writing). But in fact this is only the start of the range of features offered by the site.

You can also use Rhymezone as an online dictionary. Enter any word you want to look up in the Word box as before, and this time select 'Find Definition' from the pop-up list. As a test, I entered the word 'promise'. Rhymezone came up with the following quite comprehensive set of definitions:
* noun: grounds for feeling hopeful about the future
Example: "There is little or no promise that he will recover"

* noun: a verbal commitment by one person to another agreeing to do (or not to do) something in the future

* verb: give grounds for expectations
Example: "The results promised fame and glory"

* verb: make a promise or commitment

* verb: promise to undertake or give
Example: "I promise you my best effort"

* verb: make a prediction about; tell in advance

You can also use Rhymezone to find synonyms (words similar in meaning to your chosen word) and antonyms (words opposite in meaning). Just select the appropriate description from the pop-up list as usual.

The synonym-finder could be very useful if you are writing or editing a book and need to find an alternative for a word that has been over-used. In this respect, of course, it is similar to a Thesaurus.

On all results pages, commonly searched words are shown in bold, whilst obscure words are dimmed. You can click on any word and its definition will be displayed.

Rhymezone offers a range of other features as well, including the opportunity to see examples of any word in context from Shakespeare, the Bible and other sources. Even if you're not a poet, in my view Rhymezone is well worth a place on your Favorites list.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Exchange rate woes

Just thought I'd mention this - in the last couple of months the British Pound has strengthened against the US Dollar by about 8 per cent. The official exchange rate today is around 1.87 Dollars to the Pound.

What's that got to do with writing? Well, my courses Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days are both priced by my publishers, WCCL, in US Dollars. The bad news for me is that the royalties I get from WCCL are now worth 8% less to me, because I live in the UK and need to change my Dollars to Pounds before I can spend them.

My pain is your gain, however - if you live outside the US, at least. Because of the fall in the Dollar, my courses are effectively cheaper than they have ever been before. So if you've been thinking about buying either (or both) of these courses, financially speaking there's never been a better time!

For more info on either of my writing courses, just click on the links above. And if you're in the US, I'm sorry the fall of the Dollar (or the rise of the Pound) won't benefit you in this way, but I still think you'll find that the courses represent amazing value!

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