Beauty and the Beast: Review

It seems to be movie season yet again or shall I say movies that I want to see are coming out thick and fast. This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching the live action ‘remake’ or ‘reboot’ of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast…

Let me say first of all, the two words ‘remake’ and ‘reboot’ don’t really fall into my thoughts of what this film was. In fact I was very impressed and don’t have much at all to really criticize.

I think it’s very bold of Disney to try and reinvent and re imagine their previously successful tales especially as it hasn’t really been that long since the animation came out. As a child I saw both the animation and a stage production on a school trip which always left a lasting memory and fondness for this tale older than time.

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The film verdict

It gets going straight away with the very familiar telling of how the beast came to be. This time though we get a more detailed version instead of just a brief skip over. Life before being a beast is shown and depicted effectively with some impressive looking sets, costume and cinematography. I did struggle to tell the difference throughout the film at what was clever computer camera stuff and real stuff.

Then of course the movie flashes forward to the present and we are treated with the famous opening number from the animation. Now don’t let the homage to the original animation put you off if you haven’t seen it, this doesn’t really matter. This opening number impressed me no end and it was an effective way of introducing main characters and minor characters who were all equally impressive. In and out of song we went with Emma Watson proving herself not only to be the perfect fit for Belle but to also have an impressive singing voice.

I think for the first time she actually stood out in a film and I know she had a massively successful tenure in the Harry Potter films, I will boldly say she fitted better into the role of Belle than she would ever as Hermione Granger ; simply because she could express herself more into what her character meant. Bare with me here but in Harry Potter she spends most of the time reigning in Harry and Ron with the casual viewer developing a somewhat toleration for her being there. However with Beauty and the Beast I think we actually see Emma Watson for the first time and you don’t have to be ultra glamorous to be a Disney standard princess and this is the wonder of live action, these are real people and it feels more real.

Again I must say how well the cinematography was throughout along with the sets and costume. Disney weren’t messing around with this one and meant business. The full cast was decorated and a full ensemble of Hollywood’s then, now and future.

The main ‘baddie’ type character came via the flash arrogant Gaston who was wonderfully brought to life by Luke Evans. He was joined by Josh Gad who played by the equally as funny and different LeFou. Belle’s father came to life by the veteran actor Kevin Kline who fit into that role perfectly. Lower down the pecking order of major to minor characters you had Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Ewan Mcgregor (Lumiere, who I give full credit to as I didn’t know that was him especially with the french accent), Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts) and Stanley Tucci ( Cadenza).

Now for what was mostly a great film there is one minor or major flaw that bugged me ever so slightly. The Beast throughout was mainly computer generated from what I can gather. Now he was voiced well and I believed his character throughout but there were just some moments where the animation of him seemed a tad clunky, this was the only real thing I had which could be classed as a problem but everything else was, well let’s say awesome. Dan Stevens did great as the Beast but the computer effects just let it down a tad.

There was action, tension and detail where there previously wasn’t in the past version. Emma Watson has officially arrived as an actress who should no longer just be known for Harry Potter and Disney have taken a well calculated risk which has indeed paid off. This film has something for everyone, as long as you like the occasional song and well choreographed dancing number. Everything that Disney are known for being good at is in this film.

My final rating for this film is 4 Roses out of 5!

 

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A guide to getting published: Conclusion

A guide to getting published…. The concluding conclusion

And so it was early 2016, I had organised a publication date for Open Evening and now I needed to find a cover artist!

cropped-boooks.jpgThe platform in which you can upload and self-publish books via amazon allows you to use their software to put together a cover. The offer a fairly limited amount of designs mainly of the plain persuasion but it all depends on what you want, sometimes plain can be effective. I’ve personally never used it and on advice I received I suggest you don’t either. Unless you have an elaborate idea of what you want or even a photo you have personally taken I would suggest using the services of a cover artist in which there are many out there on the world wide webisphere…

I’m telling you to do this because A) Getting a nice cover made should already be in your budget and, B) a cover is really important and just in case you didn’t know, people do judge a book by its cover. If you read the last post you can see at the very bottom how mine turned out, and yes it looks wonderful.

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After some research and even reading some self-help books I concluded that I wanted a company called Design for Writers to make my cover. Their Facebook page displayed a wonderful array of covers in which I imagined mine would be like. And like that I accepted their quote and waited until closer the publication day to begin working with them.

During this time and getting nearer to publication day I began to pen my next book Darke Blood in which I concluded drafting in June of 2016 (coming out this year!).

Editing and Cover stuff- Final putting together of the book

Nicky Fitzmaurice my editor had informed me she had began her work and it was August now! Time flies huh? It wasn’t long until I had back my manuscript which had been annotated throughout with changes/corrections.

After approving the changes things were really ready to move into publication.

Design for writers presented me with a link to an online basecamp where I could tell them what I wanted. They asked me a boat load of questions regarding tone, plot and characters just to get the idea of what I wanted and what they could do. After some weeks of work and back and forth (its okay to ask questions at any stage of a project, especially if you are not sure) soon enough we had a cover ready! They had even given me the choice of 3 completely different options.

The final cover proof was sent to Nicky who uploaded it to Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing along with the edited manuscript and we were ready for launch!

Book Launch and Marketing – This doesn’t have to be a frightening ordeal but this is what I did and learnt from it…

And so here it was, the moment I had been waiting for since that rainy Sunday afternoon with the windows 98 computer. Book release day.

Now my advice would be to publish and upload your book maybe a week or so before your actual publication date. This allows for you to make sure it’s OK and delivers out to people in one piece. By this time, you have maybe told a close group of friends and some of them have ordered copies. Now the buzz can really begin. Some of them may have even put up a first impression review!

Out of all my ideas to market Open Evening there was one movement which sold more books that I hadn’t accounted for. The Open Evening ‘SELFIE’. And trust me book selfies sell books, in fact they sell around 50 in the first week of release.

open evening clip collection

Selfies and cats sell books!

Even now I am still figuring out how to market my book and get sales which haven’t been remarkable but… slow and steady does eventually win the race. My amazon UK page has 6 reviews so far and all of them are good.

Goodreads would be something I suggest you get into and they offer an awesome giveaway service which will get an abundance of eyes on your book. I have also tried the Amazon US giveaway scheme which can actually get you more twitter follows.

If you would like to read on about more of my book marketing advice and adventures then check back with my resources section soon.

 

Now finally the conclusion via a list of stuff you need to be like me and published…

 

  1. The willingness to write and get better at it
  2. Dedication
  3. A book idea that’s good
  4. A completed manuscript which you have edited multiple times. Trust me this is important and the amount of people who have unfinished work is more frequent than it sounds. Get to writing you can do it!
  5. An online presence – Facebook/ Twitter and Blog. Get out there and engage with people!
  6. Money! You can do this on a budget but I would say you need at least £800 to get everything you want, this also includes marketing such as Facebook adverts!
  7. An editor and or publisher who wants to publish your work.
  8. A cover artist. Plenty of good ones out there, research research research!
  9. A thick skin and a lot of patience (mainly because stuff doesn’t ever happen quickly)
  10. The ability to ask questions…. Because although it looks like I know everything, I don’t.
  11. A plan to market and sell books. How are you going to do it?
  12. A good group of friends to help you launch the book with selfies and those important first reviews.
  13. A realistic approach and of course its all subjective. Success as an author is in the eye of the beholder so set realistic and gradual goals!
  14. Just keep going and never look back!

 

Final thought

Its been rather nice re-living the story I lived over the past few years and I must thank you all for the wonderful response I have received so far. Thank you all for the likes, follows and re-tweets.

This has been my journey to publication and of course we all know it has only just begun…..

 

 

 

 

A guide to getting published

Welcome to part 2 of A guide to getting published….

So to recap from part 1; by now you should have answered the initial questions of wanting to be a writer, are you the right ‘person’ and very importantly are you dedicated to endure this journey?

These wont be questions you can answer over night and of course what comes next will also take some time. Social media has many platforms in which a writer can delve into and explore. I started with Facebook and twitter, then I created a blog some few years later. At this point I have only been on Instagram for a fraction of that time.

But during all of this you can and should be writing. It will be lonely and quiet and you wont have news to share every day. 95% of my writing life is spent with just me and words.

Eventually after a lot of dedication and time you can do it, because I did, you will face those two synonymous words; ‘THE END’

Everything up to the point of having ready material to show the world is protected by a curtain I call theory. ‘I’m going to be a published author, uh in theory’ is what you have probably said to yourself at this point but now you have some work to show for it and hence the plot thickens…

This time for me (August 2015) I was ready to make a huge decision. Before this date I was a book writing machine. In three years I had churned out not only my first book with several edits and drafts, but the two sequels all of which were related to that initial first idea I had back when I was 12 on that rainy day with the windows 98 PC. This is where I really learned my craft and developed a style which coincided with my process. I learned to become a writer. 

Book 1 had been through several rounds of submissions to various ‘big time’ and ‘smaller time’ standard publishers and literary agents. All of this received no success. Three years of starting a blog, launching Facebook/twitter and building a following was being blocked by the people whom I wanted to like my work the most, the literary industry. Now they weren’t personally blocking my success they probably didn’t even have much idea I was writing them as like many writers their work ends up on the ‘slush pile’.

Hence comes the fork in the road for you…

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Yes, I went there

Your masterpiece is written and now you are asking google how to get published. You find yourself here maybe and read a few other people’s well earned experience. Right now the world perceives there to be two main ways to find your book into print.

‘Traditional’ – This involves sending your manuscript out to masses of literary agents and waiting. Then wait some more and receive a rejection letter maybe up to or over a year later. Or if you are really really really really lucky. And I’m talking 1 in a JK Rowling billion you’ll be offered representation by an agent who will then pitch your book to a big time publisher.

To begin with this is the route I envisioned to take. But I never got to the representation offer. There are many reasons why rejections happen, firstly agents and publishers really want the very best and are swamped with submissions every day so you have more chance of being accidentally discovered from a slush pile. Not suggesting your book isn’t the best, but it is a humbling reality check trust me.

A lot of places are picky and take first impressions as an opportunity to reject E.g. If you don’t present to them with a  ‘standard’ covering letter or they want more than just a sample such as a synopsis. To be honest why would I write a story about my story, which is essentially what a synopsis is.

They are just doing their job and finding the very best is just that.

This isn’t the route I have taken but good luck if you do try this route to begin with. I recommend you do just for perspective.

 Self Publishing/Independent Publishing – So back to August 2015 and after sending out over 100 submissions I had finally accepted that it was time to try something new. Albert Einstein did define insanity by doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

The stories which I desperately tried to get published were sealed away via USB mass storage and a new journey began. This was no easy decision mind but if I really wanted this it was a liberating and difficult decision I had to make. I needed to do this if I wanted to arrive in publishing and so I turned a corner

My focus was for a new stand-alone story based upon some notes I wrote after a vivid dream I had when I was 14. The choice to do this meant if this project wasn’t a real success then I have no real loss other than my pride and I’ve experienced publishing!

Quickly Open Evening was born and I was going to get this one published by an independent publisher I had my eye on for a little while.

To define an indie publisher can be a little subjective as its classed as self publishing. I wanted to find someone who would edit, format and upload my stuff to amazon via their operation so it’s hardly a ‘self’ activity. But I would be paying for the services provided.

Finding a publisher

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Check out my review of Satin Publishing here!

I had come across Satin Publishing whilst networking and generally being an author with an online presence. Never underestimate the power of networking or even exchanging ‘likes’ over Facebook. Always be nice, courteous and of course helpful because you never know when you might need someone who offers a service. Having looked at the work Satin produced, to me they seemed like the perfect choice to give Open Evening a home. Soon enough I made contact with Satin’s own Nicky Fitzmaurice and she was happily to publish my book!

After that journey of trying to get my last book published ‘traditionally’ I quickly asked myself why didn’t I try this sooner?

The package with Satin Publishing included editing, formatting and uploading to amazon and kindle. So this was actually happening!

There are numerous independent publishers out there looking for first time authors and to me Satin Publishing was a perfect place for me to begin this journey. They had a decent number of followers on social media and looked all around professional. The work they had previously published was a good mix of genre which convinced me to contact them.

As much as I knew they were going to be great to work with this is a leap of faith (of sorts) and that’s something all authors have to take if they want publication.

I could have just asked Nicky to edit and format the book but the deal also included uploading and sorting out all the nuts and bolts that comes with getting the whole thing up on amazon.

I had researched prior and knew exactly what I wanted; Open Evening to be published and available on amazon via print on demand paperback and e-book!

Let’s just break that down – My book is available to anyone who can order it via amazon in two different formats

  1. Paperback – via a print on demand service. This means when one is ordered one is printed and dispatched so there is no need for me to store them. If I wanted to send a copy overseas I can via amazon and it saves me mailing it as they print and package it locally.
  2. E-book – An electronic version readable on most e book readers such as Kindle.

Agreements were made and a quote was sent out. We quickly arranged a publication date and then I got busy social media-ing. What I needed next was a cover for Open Evening and an artist to make one….

Next time on A guide to getting published…..

The Publication Process

That concludes part 2 of A guide to getting published! Stay tuned for part 3 of A guide to getting published. I will explain how it all formed into what you can see below…. I will also speak of how much you need to spend, and I will even give you a basic step by step guide.

 

 

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A guide to getting published: Part 1

Very recently I was asked in person about my experiences of being a published author. What does it take to reach that moment of holding your own book in your hands?

How do you go from imagination and thought harnessing all the way to print?

Thinking about it, if we can go deep only for a few reflective moments and if I were to turn around and look at the road that lays behind me. Just beyond that moonlit horizon is a whole series of stories and experiences that made up my official journey to publication.

This series of posts is a guide of how I did it, what I learned, what went well, what didn’t and above all and like everything in the world of ‘publishing’ it’s subjective towards the beholder. By that I mean nothing fancy other than there is more than one way to get ‘published’ and be ‘successful’. There are several inputs that result in different outputs, but luckily for you this is my road map of a journey which started in 2012.

First of all above anything you have to answer the 3 following questions…

So you want to be a writer?

I was twelve years old when I first started writing on that old windows 98 computer, it was a rainy Sunday afternoon… Everyone has their story and mine probably isn’t any different to how you or anyone else realized they wanted to be a wordsmith. It’s the very first thing you must decide, do you really want to do this?

For me I just had a story in my mind which expanded by tenfold over the years, grew with me as I became an adult and never ever went away. Sometimes you should listen to the various characters in your head even if they do talk out of term. This persistent universe which I had created convinced me that I should one day show it to the world and hence question number 1 was answered.

writingDo you have what it takes to dedicate yourself?

You have to be really dedicated! No I really mean that…

Again I’m being subjective when say this because I can only relate it to my experience. Are you ready to dedicate the hours and time into putting together a story that is made purely from organic thought? Are you willing to learn the translation process?

Translation? Huh you ask. Writing is nothing more than taking a thought in your brain and converting into written word. But the big revelation is that you don’t have to be that good at it to be successful!

So can you translate what you see in your mind into words and sentences?

To be honest in the earlier days I struggled immensely with my description and detail. This is something which will only improve after spending hours practicing and even now I struggle. Back space will feature heavily along with giving your laptop or computer screen the death stare of ‘vacancy’.

My original routine consisted of coming home from work, taking a shower, making a cup of tea and then spending 4 hours writing. This grasping the translation stuff doesn’t happen overnight and for nearly two years I was writing more than I was doing anything else outside of work. Was the stuff I made any good? Probably not and I would even say that out of that 4 hours of work 30 minutes of it produced anything readable. It does take time and there is no short cut to putting in hours.

Nowadays my process has evolved as I have. I will spend up to an hour drafting new material, and all of those hours worth of work makes readable work!

In this step you will have to financially commit yourself in buying a PC or laptop. Unfortunately and as romantic as pen and paper is, it’s just not the fashion!

So do you have what it takes to put in the time?

Okay so you’re dedicated but it still isn’t enough!

Are you the right person to call yourself a writer?

This is NOT a deep reflective question where you will spend days pondering about what your calling is in life. Take it at face value. Are you willing to be very very patient, so patient that it’s a discipline.

There is no better way to look professional and serious by being patient and cool about things. So you’ve sent a dozen copies of your manuscript out and haven’t received a reply. You may never will and what have you really lost? Sending stuff out will happen but the concept of not being bothered any results by it will really give you a one up. There are probably may many sorry cases of people following up and demanding they read their manuscript and consider it to be the next Harry Potter series. Just be cool and if someone likes what you write, they’ll find you trust me.

Mold yourself into a patient and professional person even if this is just a hobby. There is no excuse for bad manners in life and writing is no exception.

This will be a journey of solitude, and by that most of the time nothing really happens other than you, a laptop and the story. So be prepared to be alone, only a writer becomes a story teller alone.

Prepare to be criticized and judged. People react in weird ways when you say you’re a writer. How you handle that will define how you take any criticism.

write 2

Next comes the real journey…

I can’t physically teach you how to write and develop a work process, that’s up to you to figure out.

So you’ve written your masterpiece and edited it over and over again until all you see in those words is white noise.

Now it’s time for the big plunge, going public!

Arrive on social media and figure it all out

In order to build a profile as an author you have to have an online presence.

You can do this as you are writing, but to really be taken seriously you must be on social media. I began with small baby steps, I created an author page on Facebook and then got all my friends to like it. Over time friends of friends will engage and as you network other writer types will join in.

Next came twitter and eventually I got myself into blogging which is a big thing these days.

Blogging is an opportunity to talk and not be interrupted, its also an opportunity to share your opinion to the world. Whether that be a topical review, pressing journalism or just an update about what you are writing. A blog is a center piece to your online presence. Give it a catchy and even a slightly humorous name. Remember we aren’t curing disease here we are just arranging words together that turns into something that reads well. Have fun, be silly, be serious but above all be there! To date my most successful blog post is nothing about books, its about Yoga! 

Social media success is somewhat an enigma at times. It’s not all about ‘hey I’m a writer and my big book is coming next year’. You almost have to go fight club and not actually talk about that sort of stuff. It’s sounds weird but it’s true. Post stuff that you find interesting and may not be relevant to writing, you may just find yourself with a new follower or comment. In my resources section you can see a brief guide to social media including the use of Instagram. 

And so you’ve taken the plunge into deciding you want to be a writer. By now you may have even completed a first draft, and yes my first drafts are also awful. The Facebook page has been launched and you have started to blog. You may even be thinking about how weird twitter really is.

Your building blocks are starting to form a foundation towards getting a book out there! 

Part 2 will feature my journey and the choices I made in getting my first book published! We will cover the details of what goes into being independently published and what you need to do to get there. 

Logan Review

I don’t think anybody knows where the actual timeline of events lies with the last few X men films but I can happily say that’s not relevant. As a matter of fact I myself have never seen a bad X men film and so I went into watching Logan with rather high hopes.

If you have read my reviews before I do my best not to include major spoilers so consider this a warning if you haven’t seen Logan.

logan.PNGThe year is 2029 and quickly we are introduced to an older beat up Logan. Hugh Jackman fits into an older wolverine well considering he is older now. Walking around with a limp you immediately believe Logan has seen better days. The mutants we all know too well with this universe are nearly all but gone. That is apart from the Professor himself (Patrick Stewart) who brings probably his greatest performance of Professor X I have seen.The wheel chair bound genius is reduced very much to his somewhat demented thoughts and is reliant on medication.

For the first time in these movies we see the pinnacle icon characters for who they really are, and without being poetic this film about mutants has never been so human. Wolverine is literally floating down at the bottom of the barrel and trying his best to keep Professor X above water. The likes of Storm, Rogue, Cyclops and the school for the gifted has long gone making the premise of Logan dark and even desolate in some places.

The story soon enough unfolds which is; survival of the mutants. The mostly mute and brilliantly cast Dafne Keen plays a young girl caught up in the full on extermination of her kind. It is up to Wolverine and Professor X albeit their conditions to bring her to safety. Action is woven in and out of the plot and feels relevant at all times even if this is an uber violent version of an X men film. We see the very graphic repercussions of what clawed hands actually do to a man in a somewhat Tarantino style. Paired with this is the swearing and a lot of if which is no complaint to me, it just adds to the humanistic realism.

The bad guys come in the form of Boyd Holbrook a bounty hunter type and later on the twisted doctor played by Richard E Grant who are equally great and convincing. They do their best to track down the final mutants some of which are very young kids all in hiding.

As much as we could predict from the trailer this film did feel like a final send off for an era of great films.Anything that did happen wasn’t predictable and even came out of the blue. I must give full credit to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stuart who both in my opinion put in oscar worthy performances. Both of them were really emotionally attatched to their characters and you get a well invested performance across the board, even the minor characters felt like they were well thought of.

As much as its uncomfortable to see X men favorites in such a position it has given them a brand new angle and relevance. Emotion, brutal struggle and coming of age are the words I would use to define this film which was watchable all the way through.

Other news about books n stuff

Ok so I have been looking for more ways to get eyes upon Open Evening (my first book) and may have actually found a little inch of success and a few sales. Over the past few weeks I have been running a few giveaways.

  1. Amazon giveaway to people of the US – Over 500 people signed up and glanced upon Open Evening, that competition is now closed and books are on their way to the winners.
  2. Goodreads – Giveaway runs until the 21st of March 2017, currently 555 people requesting 1 of 3 signed copies. Link here 

Both giveaways have helped immensely in terms of follows, facebook likes, and tweet people following me. I have even sold some books over in the US. Thanks to all who have taken part, got themselves a copy and have joined me on this journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Evening Goodreads Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! WHY NOT HELP AN INDIE AUTHOR BY GETTING YOURSELF A COPY OF OPEN EVENING FOR $3 

Thank you for everyone who entered, much love LH!

March is officially here and is officially the month of giveaways! As some of you who are in on the social media loop will know at the beginning of the week I initiated an Amazon giveaway allowing the people of America to enter with a chance to win one of two copies of my debut book Open Evening. The criteria is simple, follow me on the tweet machine. So far over 400 people have entered!! That’s some great visibility

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Well that’s good news but the even gooder news is I am now running another give away, this one is available to all those who live in the following countries;

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cambodia, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and United States Minor Outlying Islands.

Entry Requirements

All you have to do for my Goodreads giveaway is be a member of the site, it’s free like my giveaway and then you will be in with a chance to win 1 of 3 signed copies of my book. Now a review would be nice if you are a lucky winner but it isn’t mandatory. The competition runs from now (02/03/17) until 21/03/17 so it’s now closed….

 

Other News

In other book related news, I have heard from my editor Nicky and the edit of my next novel DARKE BLOOD has begun! I’m looking at a May release for this one so watch this space.