November 30, 2017-Well, it took me long enough! After visiting the London Book Fair, the largest book fair in the world, in March of this year, I’ve finally decided to share a few of my notes. The presenters were phenomenal, and I learned so much. I’m happy to say that at Pandamonium Publishing House, we are constantly trying to implement these ideas in our works. Here’s just a taste of a seminar I attended titled, Children’s Picture Books, Today and Tomorrow which was presented by Christine Baker…she’s the person who introduced Harry Potter to France!
- Visual and aesthetic changes based on what is coming out of Europe
- Core is sharing a story between kids and adults
- Globalization of illustrative talent
- Smaller publishers=different esthetics, different graphic styles, RETRO styling and online media influence of graphic styles
- The changes currently are in regards to children’s books polarization in how to sell to people in the market. Books about food (donut on the front or about a shopping trolley sell insane amounts of books in supermarkets)
- There is a large spectrum of illustrations, and a slightly alternative style is forthcoming
- DIVERSITY IS HUGE. Be willing to take risks and be experimental, this will open a lot of doors. It’s good to see things from other countries because that itself lends to diversity. The Gruffalo is a great example of this.
- Rhyming books can be hard to translate, and books for kids don’t always need to rhyme, but rhyming is fun if you do it right!
- Non-Fiction Narrative is up and coming in this market
- Unusual measurements-BIG HUGE books are popular
- Push the boundaries of art
- The scale is almost furniture size for up and coming picture books. A couple of kids gathered around a huge book as they read it in front of the fireplace on the floor.
- Digital content-This is not so important to have books in an app because there isn’t really a demand for it.
- Non-fiction books can have illustrations rather than photographs. Eg. Great White Shark
- Screens and tablets can never replace books
- Physical touching of a book is best, kids with their parents turning the pages, sitting on laps
- Apps are only good if what you’re doing is interactive. It must be intelligent because apps are difficult to sell.
- Heavily illustrated early reader novels (5-8 years) are here to stay!
- Kids always read up!
- Cross over books are books between picture books and middle-grade novels
- Tons of writing is told in the imagery
- Be untraditional, non-traditional, odd, with a different style. Don’t look like everything else in the market! Stand out!
- Define and describe new categories illustratively
- Your book is a work of art, be unique and interesting.
- It’s all about fantastic stories, adventure, characters kids care about that they want to share with their parents, intriguing covers make you want to know what the book is about.
- The US is the biggest market for books right now, but the UK is the biggest market for picture books.
November 29, 2017- Hello friends! I just wanted to say that the support for my upcoming thriller, Obsessed with Her has been amazing. Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages asking about how to get a copy, here’s the rundown. I’ve decided to do a very special first edition of 100 copies, if you’d like your name on the pre-order list to receive the first edition, please send me a message via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Facebook messenger and I will ensure that you get a copy! Spots are filling up fast, and I’m so grateful to each and every one of you that have joined me on this journey. Thank you for all of your kindness and love.
November 28, 2017- I’m very happy to announce that school visits are in full swing for this year and into 2018. It has been an absolute pleasure to visit students in various schools to read them my book Deer Diary. I’m always inspired by what they have to say, and they often give me new and exciting ideas for upcoming books; This is precisely what happened during a school visit in Hamilton on Friday! The students wanted to know if next time, I could write a book about different woodland animals, as I had left out some of their favourites! When I asked them what animals they would like to see in the future, the answer was unanimous: They picked a wolf, a fox, and an owl! That being said, I’m thrilled to say that I’ve decided to write a sequel to Deer Diary with a whole new cast of characters that will include the animals that the students suggested. Of course, this means that I will dedicate Deer Diary 2 to the students of that school! Look for Deer Diary 2 in the summer of 2019:)
November 25, 2017- Here’s a quick and dirty guide to creating characters. This is just a taste but feel free to contact me for more information about the classes I teach!
- Without characters what is the point- Characters are the heart of your novel
- What a character wants- It’s critical for the reader to know what your character wants from the start.
- No one has to like me- The reader doesn’t have to like your character let’s get that straight but they MUST be able to give the reader a reason to follow him. To continue to read his story.
- But they must care about what happens to him, they might want to see him dead but wishing him dead invokes strong feelings.
- Tension creates awesome characters, it shows your reader what they’re made of. Put them into tense situations and see how they fare.
- Choose your name wisely! Stay away from things like Skye and Storm…publishers are sick of seeing these names over and over.
Here is a basic character creating checklist:
- Name, sex, right or left handed, age, height, build, eye colour, hair colour, distinguishing marks eg. Tattoos, scars, birthmarks etc.
- Parents, siblings, marital status, significant others, children, other relevant relatives, pets, friends, enemies, other relationships eg. The person they buy lottery tickets from every single day etc. religion if applicable, beliefs and superstitions.
- Occupation, status, wealthy or not, living space, mode of transport, workspace, are they a neat freak or are they messy
- Fears, secrets, eating habits or food preferences, sleeping habits, hobbies, pet peeves, how they relax, attitudes, stressors, obsessions, addictions, ambitions, how are they seen by others and how are they seen by themselves
The bottom line is the more that you know about your characters the better. Of course, you don’t have to include everything on the checklist in your book but the point is to know your character so well that it comes through in your writing. Let a little of your character seep out at a time and be sure to show and not tell.
- Make your character memorable but believable
- What are the characters flaws? Arrogance, lust, greed, self-destruction, martyrdom, self-deprecation, martyrdom, stubbornness etc.
- Don’t forget about facial expressions, body language, and emotions
- Make sure you know your secondary/supporting characters, as well as you, know your protagonist
- Remember that the secondary characters don’t know that they are secondary characters
- Don’t let your characters have what they want
- Ask yourself how you can make your character’s situation worse
- Build flaws and conflict into the setting
- Create conflict between characters (not only the protagonist and the antagonist but also between the characters who are friends and allies)
- Increase the consequences of failure for the hero
- Remember to blur the lines! The hero doesn’t know who to trust or the hero has clashes with the law, the hero hurts those closest to him, society turns on the hero.
- Do terrible things to your character. Make them suffer a horrible loss or maim them if necessary.
- Creating characters is the most important thing you do. If you get it wrong your story will be wrong no matter how well plotted.
- These are the characters that you need to STOP writing! The hunky, brooding, and mysterious guy: mystery does not mean substance. The Mary Sue: the perfect main character who always gets everything right but doesn’t see it, everyone loves her and she can do no wrong. The popular girl: she’s mean and hates the protagonist for no reason. The nerdy sidekick: make sure their existence means something or kill them.
- Make sure your character is always acting in character. Don’t make them do something that they wouldn’t normally do. Eg. Your character never combs his hair because he’s bald. Make sure you don’t put him in a bathroom with a comb, brushing his hair.
- Give every character a reason to be in the story, if there is no reason for them to be in the story then kill them off.
Hope you enjoyed a tiny piece of character creation! Now get writing:)
November 16, 2017- I’m really excited to share this with you guys! Here is a special, never seen before, sneak peek of an up and coming character, illustrated by our very own, Shamayal Hayat. This children’s book will be launching in March 2018 so stay tuned for details! Until then, I’m not giving anything away…nope, not even the title!
November 3, 2017- There seems to be a lot of confusion around three little words…Middle-Grade Novel. Let’s dive into the basics and explore what elements make up a middle-grade novel.
- Middle-grade books are for kids in grades 4, 5, and 6-ages 9,10, 11.
- This is a diverse group of readers, and the middle-grade word counts are as follows: books for younger kids are 20,000-25,000 words and the books for the older kids usually contain 35,000-40,000 words.
- These books are usually large print, fast reads. A great example of a younger middle-grade novel is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a great example of an older middle-grade book is our very own Unfrogged by Tamara Botting.
Middle grade interests include the following things:
- PEERS– I capitalized this word because it’s the single most crucial thing to middle -graders and it’s important to know that kids care what their friends think above anything else at this age!
- Family-The child is the main character, the child is in the middle, and everything revolves around him or her. For example, parents are getting divorced what does that mean to the child?
- Self Concept– How do I belong? Who am I? Kids at this age are just starting to figure this out and ask the questions that will eventually shape them into adults.
- Puberty-Looks, development, gender, opposite sex and relationships.
- Future-Upon who does the future depend?…It depends on the main character of course!
So if you’re planning on writing for middle-graders, keep the above things in mind!
October 31, 2017- It’s official, there are 55 days until the release of my newest book, Obsessed with Her. This is definitely not a book for kids, but is a psychological thriller for grown-ups! We’ve got to have our own fun, right?
Obsessed with Her has been in the works for a year and so much has gone into it. I’ve had tons of help along the way from some exceptional consultants, including my Beta Group readers and the wonderful officers from the Toronto Homicide Unit. There are so many people to thank and acknowledge for allowing this book to come to life!
I’ve decided to write this book, and all of my thrillers going forward, under the pen name, L.L. Colling but rest assured, it’s still me. Sometimes authors like to separate their works and genres by writing under a pen name, and I’ve decided to do the same.
I’ll keep you posted on any developments such as a potential pre-release and any other exciting info that will be coming up in the weeks that follow.