Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: October 2012

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

All Hallows Read

If you're not into giving out sweets and scary stuff at Halloween then this may be for you.

The idea, basically is that you give scary books out instead of the usual trick or treat goodies.

You can find out more on the official website

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Repost: The King's Speech by Logue, M & Conradi, P (A Review)

Goodreads Summary:
Based on the recently discovered diaries of Lionel Logue, The King's Speech recounts an inspiring real-life tale of triumph over adversity, when an Australian taught a British king with a crippling speech defect how to speak to his subjects.

My review:
With more detail and covering a wider time-span than the movie, this book is an interesting account of the lives of both Lionel Logue and George VI. There were details about the royal family which I had not come across before and which kept me reading to find out if there was anything else to learn. I think that the book came across better than the movie because it was able to use extracts of letters and photographs to good effect, and also because there was more about Logue's background. Having said that, I think seeing the movie first was useful, it allowed me to see the people easier. Some might find the writing style a little turgid in places, but for me the content made this book a very good read.

Action Reader's Action: Try to be more patient listening to those who find it hard to speak.

Have you ever had problems speaking in public? What did you do to overcome them?

Monday, 29 October 2012

It's Easier to Dance by Annie Harris (A Review)

It's Easier to Dance, a memoir, by Annie Laurie Harris, a woman of African American Heritage, born with cerebal palsy, depicts the highlights, turning points, and crossroads of her life with living with a complex, multi-faceted disability. Cerebal Palsy is a neurological birth defect that can impair the function of any part of the brain. In her case, her brilliant intellect exists concurrently with lack of muscle coordination and significant speech impediment as well as difficulty in swallowing and performing everyday tasks. Ms. Harris tells in detail of the struggle to learn to take care of herself, earn professional credentials, work in profit and non-profit organisations, and become a contributing member of her community. Her vast experience and engaging personality jump off the pages as you read the compelling account of the highlights of her active life.

My review:
This woman has led a really amazing life! Sheer determination oozes from the text, leading you places you never dreamed it would. Annie Harris' life in a true inspiration! This bookwill make anyone who ever said 'I can't' feel ashamed of themeselves!
The writing is basic and factual in places, but the story that is told really makes up for that. And the conclusion is so heartfelt that it left me thinking 'wow' and quoting it to the rest of my household. 
I truly loved this book. Everyone should read it!

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review!

Action Reader's Action: Make a point of making sure you never say 'I can't do that' during the next week. Make it your personal goal to instead find out how you can do it!

What do you dream of doing?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Learning disabilities- a literary view

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
"Camo, here. Give me that!" Silvania took the cup from the man, who was walking with exaggerated care not to slop an overfull container. "And get the big blue bowl from the cold room. The big blue bowk, Camo, from the cold room. Bring it to me." Silvania deftly handed the cup to Menolly without spilling a drop. "The cold room, Camo, and the blue bowl." She turned the man by the shoulders and gave him a gentle shove in the proper direction

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Repost: Horse by Rupert Isaacson (A Review)

Goodreads Summary:
When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic healing intersected?

THE HORSE BOY is the dramatic and heartwarming story of that impossible adventure. In Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, unbearable setbacks, and advances beyond their wildest dreams. This is a deeply moving, truly one-of-a-kind story--of a family willing to go to the ends of the earth to help their son, and of a boy learning to connect with the world for the first time.

My review:
A moving and inspiring account of a young boy with autism and his family's journey to Mongolia to try ad help him. There is rarely a page in this book that doesn't have you either crying, ahhhing or cheering. The photographic inserts reinforce the amazing passage taken in this real-life story. A truly memorable tale. Should be read by all.

Action point: Donate to the Horse Boy Foundation at http://horseboyfoundation.org  

 What helps you connect with the world?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Music Out of the Pages: Disability and hope

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
And she'd play gitar again and harp. Manora had assured her she'd use the fingers properly in time. And her feet were healing.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

National November- How You Can Take Part!

I've really enjoyed writing about disabilities and sharing my experiences with you this month. Thankyou to the authors who let me review their books, or put up their guest posts. And thankyou to those of you who've commented as well.

Next month's feature will be 'National November'.
I'll be trying to highlight British authors, bloggers, and mentions of my home land from within books.
But November will be even better if you guys take part.

So, I'm on the lookout for authors and bloggers to be spotlighted. I'm also interested to hear about your favourite British authors and/or books. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post letting me know how you'd like to take part, the name of your blog (if you have one), and how to contact you.

Who/what qualifies?
  • To be a spotlighted author or blogger all I ask is that you currently, or have some time in the past, lived within one of the countries that make up Britain. 
  • You can nominate any author who meets the same criteria, or book that they've written.
  • I'd also like to hear about books you've read that are based in Britain.

 So, if you're interested then just leave a comment in reply to this post (or send me a direct tweet). Please make sure you tell me what you'd like to do to be involved, and how to contact you. If you'd like to be a featured blogger/author, or write a guest post then please also leave a link to your blog if you have one.

Thanks for you interest and I hope to hear from you soon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

25000+ Pageviews Giveaway

Wow, this blog has now been visited over 25,000 times (and that's not including my regular visits).

To celebrate I'm giving away my copy of one of the latest books Ive been asked to review (and its international).
As usual, simply fill in the rafflecopter form to have a chance of winning

a Rafflecopter giveaway


What's happening?
Read these incidents from mu observations, experiences or reading and then tell me what you think.

  1. Two lanky teenage girls of african heritage stand in a museum. They are wearing tight cropped leggings and short fashionable t-shirts. Their attention is wholly consumed by the animatronic owl infront of them. As it moved toward 'bed' they start to cry, begging it not to go. An adult with them says "the owl needs to go to bed now, its sleepy." One of them moves forward to grab it and has to be persuaded to stop. Above, on the balcony, the owl's operator looks down, bemused.
  2. A group of teenagers and young adults walk down a street in London. They're busy talking. One of them is pushing another in a wheelchair. They reach the curb and look around them.
  3. A young boy, aged about 9, begins to scream as a spray of water hits him. He is in a swimming pool and the water is coming from a pirate ship. Earlier he had been aboard the same ship, firing water at other children as they protested.
  4. A young girl is yet again the last one to finish getting changed after PE. The problem is that she is still busy searching for her clothes and hasn't even started putting them on yet.
  5. In the middle of a supermarket there is a child screaming. His legs pulse up and down as his parents look on, ordering him to stop. He ignores them, but the rest of the supermarket obey the order.
  6. A student waits at a train station for her pen-friend to arrive. It's the first time that they've met in real life and she's really looking forward to it. They've got on really well online and seem to have a lot in common. She smiles as she sees her friend. But when her friend sees her she asks a question. And from then on the once chatty couple seem to be finding it a lot harder to talk.
  7. A young man sits on a horse whilst his father looks on. He gallops happily across the fields, reins confidently held in his hands. He doesn't seem to have a care in the world.
  8. Music issues from a keyboard in front of him. The boy plays, seemingly in a world of his own. A smile sets off his features. Children and adults alike stop around him to listen. Such a great melody from such young fingers!
What do you think?

Its not always easy to see disability. Sometimes it can be glaringly obvious, other times its totally hidden from all but the most aware.

I was born with one hand. I never really felt it affected my life (much). Right through primary school I wore an artificial hand, so convincing that not even my best friend knew. When I finally decided to abandon it for secondary school I remember her being amazed, but I'd just presumed she knew.

This can get me into real trouble sometimes though. Number 6 was me just under 10 years ago. And the question? Why hadn't I told her about my hand? She felt betrayed that I hadn't told her something so important, yet it hadn't been important to me at all! It was not part of my personality, it was just something that happened to be there!

It can be impossible to see a physical disability online (unless you are told about it) wheras a learning disability can be much easier to see. Conversly in real life the opposite can often be true.
What difference does it make if I tell you that in 5 of these incidents the person had a learning disability? How easy is it to guess which 5?

Our perceptions can easily be mistaken. The boy in 5 may or may not have had a learning disability. The teenager is 3 simply can't use her legs! The boy in 8 is both blind and has learning disabilities! The girl in 4 is being bullied!

Be careful what you asume, your perceptions may be less reliable than you first thought!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Repost: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman (A Review)


The bestselling story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

My review:
Whilst there were parts of this book which I enjoyed immensely, humourous and/or interesting as they were, the mathematical parts generally caused me much confusion. I guess I should have expected this in a book about 'the search for mathematical truth', but I felt that there was much more of this aspect than the bit about Paul Erdos' life. Why did he love maths so much? What about his relationships with other people? How did non-mathematicians react to him? These questions were only briefly touched on.
In short, this is a book which those with a good mathematical knowledge will probably enjoy immensely, but for those of us not so mathematically inclined it will be of interest at best. 

Visit Action Readers
Action point: What is your focus in life? Take some time to review and (if necessary) reconsider it.

What enables you in your life?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dewey's Readathon: End of Event Meme

Which hour was most daunting for you?
The most annoying hour was 8-9pm when I wanted to be reading, but was busy putting other people's children to bed.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I think I'd read so Jasper Fforde books- they're full of comedy, easy to read if you're tired and full of nuances if you're not. 

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope, it was great as always

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
They're seemed to be a good mix of different memes

How many books did you read?
Almost all of one book, and a little bit of another

What were the names of the books you read?
Sundiver by David Brin
Dragonsinger by Anne McCarthy

Which book did you enjoy most?

Which did you enjoy least?

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't a cheerleader. 

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Probably just a reader again. I'd love to be a cheerleader, but I think I'd want to be able to stay up all night for that so that I can get as much reading done as possible alongside. 

Dewey's Readathon Update: End of Hour 24

Time read since last update: 30min
Total time read: 5h 20mins

Mini-challenges entered since last update:

Challanges completed in total:
Introductionary Meme
Turn To Page

Books finished since last update:  None

Books read so far:
Sundiver by David Brin

End of Readathon post coming up soon! (after I've had my lunch)

Dewey's Readathon Update: End of Hour 20

Spent last night babysitting, so some reading was managed whilst the kids were asleep. Unfortunatly I then had to sleep myself as I have a lot to do this morning.

Time read since last update: 3h
Total time read: 4h 50mins

Mini-challenges entered since last update:
Turn To Page

Challanges completed so far:
Introductionary Meme

Books finished since last update:  None

Books read so far:
Sundiver by David Brin

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Dewey's Readathon: End of Hour 5

Time read since last update: 1h 10mins
Total time read: 1h 50mins

Mini-challenges entered since last update:

Challanges completed so far:
Introductionary Meme

Books finished since last update:  None

Books read so far:
Sundiver by David Brin

Dewey's Readathon: Start of Hour 3

Time read since last update: 40mins
Total time read: 40mins

Mini-challenges entered since last update:
Introductionary Meme 

Challanges completed so far:
Introductionary Meme

Books finished since last update:Sundiver by David Brin

Books read so far:
Sundiver by David Brin

Dewey's Readathon: Introductionary Meme

Welcome to my little part of Dewey's 24 hour readathon.
I really love this event and so was glad when I was able to participate once again.

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am in England, which is a little wet today. We had hail earlier, but it seems to be sunny at the moment. Its just after 2pm here and I'm raring to go.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The brand-new Terry Pratchett's 'A Blink of The Screen' which only arrived in the post this morning- I'm hoping I get this far as there's several books I really should read first.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I'm trying not to snack as I'm on a diet at the moment. But I can only read until 12pm and then (after a brief drive) I'll be going to bed, so this shouldn't be a problem.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

My favourite activity (apart from reading) is playing is my local brass band.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I've done several readathons now. For the first time I actually know what order I'm going to be reading my books in. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

From Dunes to Dior by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar (A Review)

Book Summary
I moved East, back towards my roots, only to discover how much of the West I brought with me. From Dunes to Dior is the story of my life as an expat South Asian woman in the heart of the Middle East.

My review:
I found this book so interesting that it was hard to put down. To read about differences between how we perceive the Middle East and what its really like was fascinating. Plus, in trying to dislodge an American stereotype, Mohana also allows those of us from outside the US to compare and contrast our own views of Qatar.
I also loved the little touches of humourous situations which crept into the otherwise serious account. Sometimes it was amazing to read about how everyday occurances could turn out so differently because of the context in which they happened. 
The only downside is that the chapters sometimes jump about timewise, which can be slightly confusing. 
A book for all those who want to discover another cullture, or just challenge their own perceptions of the Middle East. 

Action Readers Action: Challenge your own views of a stereotype. Find out more about a culture or disability that you don't know much about.

Have you ever met someone and found your stereotypes challenged? 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Love Comes Later eBook edition is just 99 cents this week--and so is the price of its companion, From Dunes to Dior. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Love Comes Later for just 99 cents
  2. Purchase your copy of From Dunes to Dior for just 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  4. Visit today’s featured social media event
About Love Comes Later: What if pursuing your happiness also meant your best friend's disgrace? In Love Comes Later Sangita, Abdulla and Hind must chose between loyalty and love, traditional values and a future they each long to explore. Get it on Amazon. About From Dunes to Dior: I moved East, back towards my roots, only to discover how much of the West I brought with me. From Dunes to Dior is the story of my life as an expat South Asian woman in the heart of the Middle East. Get it on Amazon. About the Author: Six eBooks ago, Mohana joined the e-book revolution and now she dreams in plot lines. Visit Mohana on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.


Why can they read better upside down than the right way up? Is it easier to read writing on a different colour background? Does size really matter? Are words all jumbled up?
I'm no expert on dyslexia, but these are all problems I've come across in diognosed dyslexic children when trying to help them read (or write). And what really gets me disheartened is when children with these problems grow up hating the idea of reading.
Its then that I ask myself: how can we make reading fun for these children?

I guess its likely that they'll always have some problems with reading in our society. Whilst there are some books now make more accessible to children with dyslexia, everyday writing is generally not! And worst of all, many people do not even really know what dyslexia is (apart from problems reading), so how can they even look to help others?

So what is dyslexia really?
Wikipedia says:
Dyslexia is a very broad term defining a learning disability that impairs a person's fluency or comprehension accuracy in being able to read,and which can manifest itself as a difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, or rapid naming.
The British Psycological Society (1999) defined dyslexia as:
evident when accurate or fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the word level and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching.’

As I said before, all this of course means that those with dyslexia will naturally find reading hard.
This being the case it is particularly important that they see why it is worth persisting if they are to ultimatly enjoy the experience.

Ideas for helping anyone with reading difficulties enjoy reading (especially those with dyslexia):
  • Seek out books with a good plot at a simple reading level
  • Read exciting stories to them straight from the book. Make it a book with good pictures, so they can easily re-tell the story to themselves without worrying too much about the words.
  • Play games with children that show words and pictures (but don't rely on reading ability) to give them as much word exposure as possible.
  • Let them enjoy audio books once in a while. Buy books with accompanying audio and help them follow along where possible.
  • Investigate the possibility to visual dyslexia- this may mean that they see words better on a certain colour, or parts of their vision are missing.
  • Talk to them about what they see and make sure you understand their perception of books and reading. Use this to inform how you approach the topic with them.

That's just a few thoughts off the top of my head.

If you have any other thoughts, ideas, or experiences then I'd love to hear them. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Repost: Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood by Julie Gregory (A Review)

Goodreads Summary
A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor’s examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just twelve, she’s tall, skinny, and weak. It’s four o’clock, and she hasn’t been allowed to eat anything all day. Her mother, on the other hand, seems curiously excited. She's about to suggest open-heart surgery on her child to "get to the bottom of this." She checks her teeth for lipstick and, as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance. This child will not ruin her plans.

From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, and operated on—in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother’s mind. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most hidden and dangerous form of child abuse, in which the caretaker—almost always the mother—invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Many MBP children die, but Julie Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother's madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman.

Sickened is a remarkable memoir that speaks in an original and distinctive Midwestern voice, rising to indelible scenes in prose of scathing beauty and fierce humor. Punctuated with Julie's actual medical records, it re-creates the bizarre cocoon of her family's isolated double-wide trailer, their wild shopping sprees and gun-waving confrontations, the astonishing naïveté of medical professionals and social workers. It also exposes the twisted bonds of terror and love that roped Julie's family together—including the love that made a child willing to sacrifice herself to win her mother's happiness.

The realization that the sickness lay in her mother, not in herself, would not come to Julie until adulthood. But when it did, it would strike like lightning. Through her painful metamorphosis, she discovered the courage to save her own life—and, ultimately, the life of the girl her mother had found to replace her. Sickened takes us to new places in the human heart and spirit. It is an unforgettable story, unforgettably told.

My review
A moving and gripping account of a girl (and a family) entangled in the grip of Munchausen by Proxy. Intense and revealing, it was hard to put this book down- especially once I realised that it was a true story written by the very person who was abused. The way this abuse was carried and twisted through the generations was particularly haunting

Action Reader's Action: Make yourself aware of possible signs of abuse, and what to do if you think you've noticed them.

What does disability mean to you?

Monday, 8 October 2012

WHIRLWIND TOUR: Interview with Mohanalakshmi Rakakumar

Please enjoy this interview with Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, author of the heart-breaking multicultural romance, Love Comes Later. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, 5 autographed copies of Love Comes Later, and 5 copies of its companion, From Dunes to Dior.    

1. Love Comes Later tells the story of Abdulla’s arranged marriage to his cousin Hind. Neither is excited about the prospect—Abdulla because he is still recovering from the untimely death of his former wife and unborn child; Hind because she is a thoroughly modern girl who does not appreciate the prospect of being anyone’s second option. How did the inspiration for this story surface, particularly for the characters of Abdulla and Hind? In conversations with people in Qatar, expat or Qatari, the subject of love inevitably came up. For women, the main issue involved the small pool of people they felt they had to choose from. My surprise and revelation came, however, when my male friends expressed similar sentiments. We often think men have all the power in male-dominated societies but from these discussions I began to realize how society limits both male and female aspirations with universal social expectations like marriage. The story began to form there: what would make a man unlikely to marry? And why? What would he do in order to keep his freedom?

 2. You met your husband in Qatar although you are both American-raised and come from Asian heritage (you South Indian, and your husband of Laotian descent). How did the two of you meet? This sounds like such a magical love story! We met at work, believe it or not, and at first the entire possibility of forging a lasting bond with someone I’d just met seemed as foreign to me as the desert landscape outside. I had my mind set on my career and wasn’t looking for a relationship; people were throwing dire warnings my way not to take anything starting overseas very seriously. But over time, I was impressed by the strength of my husband’s character and realized, despite the naysayers, I had never met anyone else like him. The desert is a great place to find out what someone is really about because you can’t rely on the busyness of life at home--work, family, friends--to hide behind. It’s just you, in a foreign setting, and that can be like a pressure cooker for most expats. What’s inside eventually comes out. Lucky for me, I listened to my gut, and six years of marriage later, I’m more and more grateful.  

3. In Love Comes Later, how do the characters of Hind, Fatima, and Luluwa embody the modern Qatari (or Arab) woman? They’re each their own personalities and have characteristics of different parts of Qatari society. Each of them occupies a space that demonstrates the changes in society as increasingly Qatar become open to the rest of the world. While Fatima was live, she was probably the most conservative of the three, which makes sense because she is also the oldest. She wanted to get married, and though she had a job outside the home, was much more excited about the birth of her first child. Hind has been allowed to study abroad without a family member, and during the story that causes her to become increasingly liberal-minded. Luluwa is very young at the time of this story, and she represents those in the next generation, who have even more choices facing them about tradition and society. The Arabian Gulf is different from the Middle East, partly because of the oil revenues that drive the economy, but also because of the gender segregation that is very visible and preserved by the local community. While the female characters may have a lot in common with other Muslim women from the Arab world in terms of personal aspirations, their circumstances and context are unique to Qatar.  

4. Based on your experiences, what is the one thing you believe Westerners would be the most surprised to learn about the city of Doha? You can make relationships here that will last for a lifetime a lot more easily than you can at home. Part of the reason is that we are all in the same boat--expats and locals alike--everyone is searching for ways to make contribute to the rapid growth and development of the nation so that means you are engaged in meaningful work. Most people here are interested in cultural exchange and open about the world in general around them. This, plus the fact that the country is such a melting pot means that you and your children (if you have any) are more likely to have friends of different faiths and nationalities than many other places in the world.  

5. What made you decide to relocate to Doha in particular, and what has motivated you to stay for so long (7 years)? Do you plan to move back to the U.S. one day, or might you set-up your permanent homestead in Qatar? I don’t know of anywhere else that is investing as much in education as the Arabian Gulf at the present moment in time. I came to work at an American university, took some time to consult at the national university, and then worked for a newly established publishing company. They were all fairly big name organizations in their own right and the ability to contribute significantly on the programmatic level as I’ve done at a fairly young age would be difficult to replicate anywhere else. Sorry, my academic side took over for a second! I am a scholar and this is a wonderful place to have the resources--perhaps most importantly time--to work on research and writing. And because I am a writer, I can’t remember another place I’ve lived that has so inspired me with subject matter--unless it was inside my own head as a teenage immigrant. We agree in our house that we’ll stay as long as we’re having fun. And that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.  

6. In your memoir From Dunes to Dior, you note that your American upbringing combined with your South Indian heritage, doctoral education, and femininity mean you’re a rather unique mixture of social identities in Qatar. How hard is it for you to reconcile all these sides of yourself while trying to fit in to this new society and take pride in all that makes you you? Depends on the context; when I’m in traffic, it’s not unusual for me to return stares from men elbowing each other to have a look at me driving while they’re sitting in buses going back to their accommodation. In the classroom some students are taken aback for the first few sessions but eventually I grow on them. In instances where I have one on one interaction--or people hear my Western accent--I don’t have that much difficulty. It’s when I’m in places where judgments are made by skin color--the mall or first time meetings--that I have slightly more difficulty but in general these smooth out over time.  

7. You’ve published six ebooks within the space of a year. How on earth do you manage to be so productive? Do you plan to keep this pace up, or are you just sprinting to get started? I had the luxury of a backlist of manuscripts that had been politely declined by a number of agents over the years. Each time I stalled, I would go on and write another. I decided to give all of them a home on e-readers as a way of reaching readers. I have two more to go as part of the original list of 8. And of course there are ideas for new stories that keep coming up--even the possibilities of two more books with characters from Love Comes Later--but I think I’ll take a more relaxed approach after December!  

8. You chose to pursue indie publishing even though your PhD in English Literature would make you a prime candidate for the traditional publishing model? Why indie, and if given the choice to do it all over again, would you still choose this path? I came to indie publishing because I put a lot of time and effort into my academic books and no one--not even my mother--ever read them. That’s a long time for them to just waste away in the library. I kept hearing the indie drumbeat at conferences I attended and decided these manuscripts that weren’t being picked up didn’t need to be rejected 60 times in order to make it into the hands of readers. I don’t regret going indie. I wish I had done it sooner in the sense that it would have been fun to work on a single book, release it, and then start another book, instead of this wild and creative space I’m in right now where I’m revising one book, researching for another, and promoting others.  

9. As a writer, what is the message you are trying to get out to the world? Who are you trying to reach, and what do you want to tell them? Are your books more entertainment/ informational driven, or is there a deeper resonance you are trying to achieve? I want to take readers to places they’d like to go but can’t physically get to because of time or financial considerations. A book is the oldest form of technology we have, and though we’ve put them on tablets and found ways to make them enticing through video or graphics, we haven’t actually changed what a book does which is transport us to worlds other than our own. I want my stories to capture the essence and wonder of storytelling for the reader who will enter a world unfamiliar and yet see something of him/herself in the characters, dilemmas, and settings.  

10. What can readers expect next from MohaDoha? I am working on other titles… the very next one is a coming of age story, set in the U.S., told from the perspective of a young female protagonist, Sita, who we’ll root for to grow up into an empowered woman despite those who have other plans for her life. I love interacting with readers. The more feedback I get, the better content I feel that I create. So the door is open--tell me what you loved or what was confusing--and I’ll keep you posted on the release date for An Unlikely Goddess!   As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Love Comes Later eBook edition is just 99 cents this week--and so is the price of its companion, From Dunes to Dior. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Love Comes Later for just 99 cents
  2. Purchase your copy of From Dunes to Dior for just 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  4. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Love Comes Later: What if pursuing your happiness also meant your best friend's disgrace? In Love Comes Later Sangita, Abdulla and Hind must chose between loyalty and love, traditional values and a future they each long to explore. Get it on Amazon.
About From Dunes to Dior: I moved East, back towards my roots, only to discover how much of the West I brought with me. From Dunes to Dior is the story of my life as an expat South Asian woman in the heart of the Middle East. Get it on Amazon.  
About the Author: Six eBooks ago, Mohana joined the e-book revolution and now she dreams in plot lines. Visit Mohana on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Music Out of The Pages: Cherished Instruments

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
It was, undoubtedly, a beautiful harp. Very rarely a craftsman gets something so right that it is impossible to imagine an improvement. He hadn't bothered with ornamentation. That would have been some kind of sacrilege.
And it was new, which was unusual in Llamedos. Most of the harps were old. It wasn't as if they wore out. Sometimes they needed a new frame, or a neck, or new strings- but the harp went on. The old bards said they got better as they got older, although old men tended to say this sort of thing regardless of daily experience.
Imp plucked a string. The note hung in the air, and faded. The harp was fresh and bright and already it sang out like bell. What it might be like in a hundred years' time was unimagineable.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

GUEST POST: Writing from The Unconscious by Michael Sussman

 I am pleased to welcome Michael Sussman, author of 'Crashing Eden' to 'The Story Factory Reading Zone'.

Author Bio:
Michael Sussman is the author of Crashing Eden, a YA fantasy/paranormal novel, and Otto Grows Down, a children’s picture book featuring illustrations by Scott Magoon.
Dr. Sussman is a clinical psychologist and has also published two books for mental health professionals. He’s the author of A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy and the editor of A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice.
He resides in the Boston area with his son, Ollie.

 Writing From Your Unconscious

One way to approach writing fiction is to let your unconscious mind lead the way.

This is not to denigrate the conscious mind. It is a critical component of the writing process, especially once you’ve completed a first draft and must begin reworking and polishing your material.

But I have found that when it comes to generating that first draft, it pays to let your conscious mind take a backseat and allow the subterranean realms of your mind full sway.

My favorite quote on this issue is from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert Olen Butler: “Please get out of the habit of saying that you’ve got an idea for a short story. Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you.” 

So how do you access your unconscious? For some, this comes naturally. Others, like me, must coax the muse out of hiding. This is best done, in my experience, by entering into the twilight state between waking and dreaming. Walking, jogging, communing with Nature, taking a hot bath, daydreaming, self-hypnosis, and meditating can all help. So can writing down your dreams or practicing lucid dreaming.

I often begin with an image, or even a title, and let my mind play around with it. Many writers prefer to work from an outline, but I find that too constricting. I like to let my imagination take flight, trusting that a good story will emerge. Writing my novel, Crashing Eden, I often started a new chapter with little or no idea where the story was heading next. That kept me interested, as if I were the reader!

In the words of E.L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

So, when working on a first draft, try to let your writing flow, unimpeded by conscious judgment or analysis. You’ll write a deeper, more genuine story if you allow your unconscious mind to guide the way.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How A Kindle Became My Best Friend

Regular readers may be rather surprised by this post's title. Ever since I first heard of e-books I have been against them. I've made whole posts about why I prefer physical books and why digital books are bad. And my review policy says that no-way will I read them. But, last summer, I finally succumbed to the temptation and (surprisingly) its not as bad as it seems.

It all began when I, accidently, signed up to do virtual tours of e-books. You see I hadn't released that when it said you'd get a book for review it had to be a digital book. But once signed up I thought I'd just print some of them off to take on holiday. Then I released how long they were, and the cost this would involve.Luckily, my Dad had bought a Kindle last Christmas. So I borrowed it for a few weeks to read the aforementioned texts. It was then that I fell in love.

You see, I was born with a short-left hand. Most of the time this is no problem for me. Sure, I have to hold my book a little bit closer than most people (but this doesn't bother me as I'm short-sighted anyway). But one problem I have is that when reading for a long time I can get back-ache as I have to bend over when turning pages. Also, it can sometimes be hard to hold large paperbacks with one hand.

The Kindle solved all these problems. Suddenly I could hold a book in one hand. All at once I could turn pages without doubling over. I could read it standing up and not be worried about dropping it. I could lie on my back to read (a simple pleasure, but one I never realised I'd missed).

I still love the feel of physical books and I won't be giving them up anytime soon. But I've not realised that the benefits of e-books outweigh the disadvantages for me. And so, next Christmas, I plan to get a Kindle of my own, so that it really can become my new best friend.

N.B. I don't have a Kindle I can regularly access yet, so please still don't ask me to review e-books for the time being. After Christmas however, this may all change.

What do you think of Kindles? I'd love to read your opinion.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

GUEST POST: Writing Blind from Christine Amsden

I am absolutely delighted that Christine Amsden, author of The Immortality Virus has agreed to write a post for our 'Dis-Writing-Ability October' month.

So, without further ado, let me welcome Christine Amsden to the page:

Writing Blind

If you ever meet me in person, you may notice something a bit off about me. Maybe it’s the way I don’t quite meet your eyes or the way I miss the most obvious details. Or maybe you see me reading something with my trusty magnifying glass, the manuscript mere inches from my nose.

Let me just start by answering your first question: No, glasses will not help. Glasses, though they help so many, are not a magical cure. Alas, those of us whose problems do not lie in the area of the lens cannot benefit from the corrective power of glasses or contacts. I’m afraid I have a broken retina.

I was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease when I was sixteen years old, at which point I began a rapid spiral towards legal blindness. Scar tissue formed on the center of my retina, creating a corresponding hole in the center of my vision. Mapped out using peripheral field tests, the hole has jagged edges, a bit like a star. I don’t see this star directly; there is no black spot hovering before my eyes – like anyone with a blind spot my brain tries to compensate by filling it in with details from the periphery. At the right distance, you’ll look like Cousin It to me. Step a little farther back and you may lose your head to the wall behind you. That is, of course, if I'm focusing on you, which I rarely do. Another way to compensate for a blind spot is to look around an item instead of at directly it, an imperfect mechanism that ensures I live in a blurry, unfocused reality.

“Legally blind” is a difficult concept to describe, not least because it is slightly different for every affected person. I can give you some technical jargon about having 20/200 vision with best correction but what does that mean?

Between guide dogs and glasses lies a middle ground of visual impairment, one that comes with blurred vision, an inability to see details, and a check in a box on tax forms. I can see you, but not as well as you see me. I can read, but not without enlargement of some sort. I am writing this right now in 36-point font, though it will appear normal when you read it.

When it comes to my daily routine, the biggest problem with legal blindness is that I cannot drive. It is a freedom that so many take for granted, but I’m afraid I have less sympathy with the current oil crisis than most. For me, an increase in public transportation would kill two birds with one stone.

I have always wanted to be a writer. It was my dream when I could still see individual leaves on trees and had no idea that one day I would scarcely recall what that was like. I would like to think that whatever I had wanted to do, I would have been able to make it work, vision problems or no vision problems, but of course, that is somewhat naïve. At one point, when I was considering “day jobs” (I knew early on that writing wouldn't easily pay the bills), I thought of being a pilot. The next year I knew that wouldn't work out.

Writing is what I do now, thanks largely to a supportive husband. Besides using 36-point font, I have my monitor on a flexible arm so it comes to me, reducing back and hip pain resulting from years of necessarily poor posture.

My vision slipped twice in my life. The first happened early, taking me from nearly perfect vision at 15 to legal blindness at 18. For years afterward, 26-point font was fine, and I could read most normal print with a simple hand held magnifying glass. Then, two years ago, at 33, my vision slipped again. I now see closer to 20/400 with best correction. Practically speaking, this means I have gone to an even larger font working, and that I can't read many of those school forms my kids bring home in their backpacks every day. I am working on convincing the teachers to send me e-mail instead, because anything that comes to me on my computer is easily enlargeable.

I “read” most of my books, for pleasure or business, in audio format. The national library for the blind and physically handicapped has a fine catalog with a respectable number of titles. If you ever wonder why I write science fiction and fantasy, but read more romance, the answer is simply that the library for the blind doesn't record as much scifi and fantasy as romance, and what they do record tends to be for children or young adults. I am not up to date on recent speculative fiction authors, though I am well read in the classics.

I have a Nook that I can use at the largest font setting. I am thrilled that I can read more current books, although I am very picky about what I will read that way. It is a slow process. In the days of the individual leaves, I could devour entire novels in an evening and not even have to stay up that late. These days even turning pages takes longer than that, and since I only get 20-30 words on a page...well, like I said, I'm picky.

Writing itself is not all that difficult for me. Oh, I think when it comes to visual description I might not use the vivid brush strokes I have seen (heard) other authors use. I haven't heard any complaints, though, so I'm either doing better than I think, or other aspects of my stories more than compensate. I tend to think the latter is true. One thing I like to do when I write is to burrow into the characters' heads, finding the heart of who they are and bringing that to life on the page. This isn't something you can see; it's something you have to feel.

Revising and editing are also not difficult for me, thanks to large fonts and a monitor that come to me instead of the other way around. There isn't an author in the world who turns in perfect drafts, and neither do I, but I've seen far worse copies from authors who don't have my convenient excuse. For that reason, I don't make it an excuse. The words are large enough that I can see if they're the right ones or not, and to the best of my ability, I make sure they are. (Note: Murphy's Law would suggest that there is a blaring typo somewhere in this manuscript, and that I'm going to hear about it as soon as it goes live on the internet!)

Believe it or not, I have recently gotten into editing. This is an aspect of writing that I shied away from for years because of my own feelings of inadequacy. Lately, though, I have become convinced that with the right tools in place, I am as capable of finding and catching errors as anyone else – and more than most. I started editing after years of teaching online writing workshops and providing feedback to the students. The feedback on my feedback over the years has been empowering. Plus, I love it. I love reviewing a promising piece of fiction in such a way that I can be a part of making it better. I admit that I prefer content editing to copy editing, but that's mostly because content editing feels more rewarding to me.

I love questions, by the way. If ignorance is a disease, then asking questions is the cure. So ask away. I can take it.

For more information on Stargardt’s Disease (including more technical information), visit the American Macular Degeneration Foundation at http://www.macular.org/stargardts.html
Thankyou Christine for sharing with us. 
If anyone has any questions (or would like to share how their own 'disability' affects writing or reading) then please feel free to leave a comment. 
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