Monday, July 31, 2023

Week #31 – Dracula by Bram Stoker

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #31 – Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897

Dracula is an epistolary novel, told through letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles. Solicitor Jonathan Harker takes a business trip and stays at the castle of a Transylvanian nobleman, Count Dracula, who is a vampire.

Count Dracula is believed to be based on Romanian governor Vlad the Impaler.

The book has been adapted into several movies. The most famous is from 1931 and stars Bela Lugosi

I’ve seen Hotel Transylvania which is a really cute take on Dracula

The Twilight Saga is a modern vampire novel/movie

What’s the difference between vampire and Dracula?

Transylvania is a real place in modern Romania

and you can visit Dracula’s castle!

Have you read the book or seen any of the movies? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Week #30 – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #30 – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 1838

Oliver Twist, also called The Parish Boy's Progress, is the second novel by Charles Dickens. It was originally published as a serial beginning in 1837, then as a three-volume book in 1838. Oliver was raised in a workhouse and escapes to London, where he meets a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly Fagin.

The story is a social commentary on child labor, domestic violence, the recruitment of children as criminals, and street children.

It was made into a movie in 1948 starring Alec Guinness as Fagin, and in 2005 directed by Roman Polanski and starring Ben Kingsley as Fagin.

Disney produced the animated Oliver & Company in 1988

You can read the entire book here on Project Gutenberg

“Sanitation”, such as it was, in Victorian London

Facts you didn’t know about Victorian London

Tips for avoiding pickpockets in London [includes ideas like “don’t look like a tourist” and “don’t wear expensive jewelry or use your phone in public”]

Have you lived in or traveled to London? Tell us about it in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What is platform and why do I need it? (from the archives)

 O'Abby is on holiday for a couple of weeks, so to tide you over while she's away, we've dug a few gems out of the archives for you to enjoy. O'Abby will be back tanned and relaxed (hopefully) in a couple of weeks!

Dear O'Abby,

I keep hearing about "platform" and how important it is for writers to have one, but I'm not sure what it means or why it is so important.  Can you please explain?



Dear Unsure,

Platform is something that is critical when you are a non-fiction author, but less important if you write fiction.  Basically "platform" means the built-in audience for your book, the people who are already engaged with you and whatever it is you are an expert in and who are already listening to what you have to say.  

Platform could be a popular blog or social media channel.  It could be a newspaper or magazine column. It could be a television show.  The larger your platform, the more likely it is that you will be able to reach a large number of people to talk about and sell your book.

As a non-fiction author, your platform will indicate to agents and publishers that you are the right person to write this book, that you are already an expert in the field and have people following your work.  Before your book is published, your platform may be relatively small, but the aim is to grow it through the additional content.  The publication of your book is one step in growing your platform.  Any tours or interviews or media coverage you get as you publicise the book will help to grow your platform which will hopefully help to make publishing a second book easier.

Platform is not so important for fiction writers because there is no expectation that a fiction writer is an expert.  For fiction writers it's more important to write the best possible book for the audience you are writing for.  Platform for fiction writers will come from the readers who become fans of your book.

Hope that's at least a little bit helpful.



Monday, July 17, 2023

Week #29 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #29 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Set in the Jazz Age [1920s] on Long Island near New York City, the novel describes narrator Nick Carraway's interactions with millionaire Jay Gatsby, and Gatsby's obsession with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan.

Previous proposed titles: Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; The Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover.

It was made into several movies for television and screen, the most recent were in 1974 with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, and 2013 with Leonardo DeCaprio and Carey Mulligan

The Jazz Age

Fashion in the Jazz Age

Have you read The Great Gatsby? Tell us about it in the comments!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Dear O'Abby: How do I write thoughts? (from the archives)

O'Abby is on holiday for a couple of weeks, so to tide you over, she's found a couple of gems from the archives...  Enjoy!  O'Abby will return, tanned and relaxed (hopefully) after a trip to Samoa.

Dear O'Abby,

I have a technical question I hope you can help me with.

When I'm writing a character's thoughts, do I need to write them like this?

She's a fox, thought Ted, before chastising himself, Shouldn't be objectifying her like that, dude.

One of my CPs said this is the correct way to present thoughts, but it looks weird when I have so many itallics scattered across the page.

What is correct?

Sincerely, Thoughtless

Dear Thoughtless,

I agree with you.  It does look weird if you have a lot of italics on a single page.  Personally, I don't tend to write thoughts in italics for just this reason.  But like so much of writing, there isn't actually a hard and fast rule.  The main thing to be aware of is to use italics sparingly as they do really stand out on a page.

My suggestions would be to use them to draw attention to things that you believe are important.  Not every thought is important, but some need some additional emphasis because they're imparting something key to the plot or revealing something special about a character.  In that case, italicize.

If you're writing in a more distant third person POV, you would use italics to show that a specific character had this thought.  Think of it like the narrator just dipped into the character's head and took a peek at what they were thinking.  It's not 100% necessary to use italics in this scenario, but it is something you see often.

When writing in third person and a character is talking to themselves, italics can be used to show this.  Often the thoughts are interspersed with action that can show the conflict the character is dealing with.  This is effective because there is a distinct contrast between the action that is not in italics and the inner monologue which is.

Another place you might use italics in thought is where a character is remembering something that was said in the past.  Again, you wouldn't do it for every memory, but if the words spoken were important, then they should be in italics.

Basically, using italics is a way to draw attention to something or emphasize something significant.  If you italicize all thoughts, you're giving every passing whim equal significance and this leaves you with nothing to use when you need to really hammer something home.

But don't sweat it too much.  There really are no hard and fast rules here, so if you think something deserves to be in italics, go for it.

X O'Abby

Monday, July 10, 2023

Week #28 – Charlotte’s Web by EB White

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #28 – Charlotte’s Web by EB White, 1952

The story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. Wilbur is being fattened for slaughter. Charlotte writes messages in her web praising Wilbur – Some Pig, Terrific, Radiant, and Humble – to persuade the farmer to let him live.

It was made into 2 movies, 1973 and 2006

And a video in 2002

At the end of the book Charlotte has 514 children, all of which balloon away except three – Aranea, Joy, and Nellie – who stay with Wilbur in the barn.

Different types of spiders and webs

EB White’s most popular books: Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). He also co-wrote Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (1959) currently in its fourth edition.

Have you read any books by EB White? Or seen a movie? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What is the best time to contact agents?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm about to start querying and was wondering if there is a specific day, or time of year, or part of the month that is best for querying.  I'm guessing Mondays are probably not the best because everyone is snowed under with weekend emails on a Monday, and probably around public holidays isn't great either.
But that's just based on my own experience.  Am I guessing correctly?

Kind regards,

Business Hours

Dear Business Hours,

I can see the appeal in trying to figure this out, but you are wasting your time.  There is no magic formula to when it's best to send a query.  These days a lot of agents use Query Tracker to manage their queries, and they will just log in to look at them whenever they have time, so when you send them is irrelevant. Even those who still accept emailed queries rarely look at them as they come in.  Most agents will have a separate query email address and they will go in to look at those emails when they have time.

And when they have time depends on what their existing clients are up to and what they need.  So it may be that the only time an agent has to look at queries is over the weekend or on public holidays when other people aren't working.

My advice is to write the strongest query you can, and send it when you're ready.  Don't waste time and energy trying to figure out when the stars align most favourably.  The agent might look at it five minutes after you send it, or it could be five weeks. The only thing that really counts is if she wants to read the book.

Best of luck with the querying!

X O'Abby

Monday, July 3, 2023

Week #27 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #27 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813

Pride and Prejudice, original title First Impressions, was initially published anonymously because Jane Austen disliked attention.

The book follows the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich aristocratic landowner. Darcy must overcome his pride and Elizabeth must overcome her prejudice before they can surrender to their love for each other and marry.

It was made into a TV mini-series in 1995

It was made into a movie in 2005

There are other movies based on this book

You can read the book here
Famous lines

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. This is the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice and is one of the most famous first lines in literature.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? Seen any of the film adaptations? Tell us in the comments!