Friday, June 30, 2017

GeekMeets: Stitches Yarn and Thread Emporium



Location:
Shop 52A
Kyalami Corner Shopping Center
Cnr Main Rd and Pitts Ave
Kyalami

Contact Details:
083 440 0214
info@stitchesemporium.co.za
Website

Opening Hours:
Weekdays: 9am-6pm
Sat: 08:30am - 5pm
Sun: 9am - 3pm

Products:

  • Yarn
  • Embroidery thread
  • Knitting accessories
  • Crochet accessories
  • Quilting fabrics and accessories
  • Cross-stitch and tapestry
  • Classes



Knitting is one of those weird little hobbies I picked up as a kid in Grade 3. We had this overly ambitious teacher who thought knitting would be a legit skill to have. I remember sitting with my classmates in a big circle while we all worked on our little squares. even the boys were made to knit. Retrospectively, this was a pretty cool thing to do because why should only girls know how?

I picked it up again for a Rotary Interact charity drive in high school, where I passed on the basics to others. At that stage I was only able to cast on, knit a normal stitch and then cast off. Oh, wait. That is still pretty much the sum total of my skills today.

I have a whole box of knitting goodies, a lot of which my mother passed on to me and I decided it would be a good time to make some scarves. It is winter and all. it will also help keep my hands busy while watching Netflix.



I popped into this little shop called Stitches at Kyalami Corner to see what wool they had for me and was super impressed with the setup and the staff there. To the point where I am now kind of addicted to buying funky wools to eventually knit with. I also want to learn how to use patterns and the ladies there have kindly promised to show me all these new skillz to widen my knitting arsenal.

Yup. That's right. One of these days I may even learn the purl stitch.

So if you are in the area and have a crafting itch to scratch, go check the shop out. And they do not have what you are looking for, they will happily source and order it in for you!


Memes Only People Who Wear Glasses Will Understand

I went down the Google rabbit hole and found some awesome memes for all you glasses-wearing nerds. :P








Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Successful Formula For Self-Publication - A Customer's Perspective

I have seen it time again when new authors decide to self-publish their books but go in unprepared and then wonder why their title is not selling or getting reviews. I don't even mean good reviews, here. I mean any reviews AT ALL.

Having had a good look at the market and being an avid reader myself, I have noticed a few key factors that any self-published author needs to have nailed down before unleashing their creations into the world.

Please bear in mind that I am simply approaching this from a buyer's perspective. With memes.

1. The Cover


Every book needs a cover but putting your design skills to the test in MS Word is simply not good enough. It gives an awful first impression and makes your product look cheap. That's right, authors. In case you have forgotten, you are in fact selling a product and people want to pay for quality. They will not part with their hard-earned dollar if your cover looks like it was designed by a 13-year-old for book report day.

Also, do not rip-off covers of popular books because this will piss off fans and make you look lazy. Just don't do it.

Have the title in a clear font. It can be decorative, but it must still be legible. A good idea to theme your cover to the genre is to have a look at popular covers and look at font styles that they have in common. Your name should be in a smaller, simpler font. Sans-serif styles seem to be quite popular.

Keep the background simple, so that the key elements pop and are not lost in the noise. Often, the most effective backgrounds are plain white or black. Think Twilight. The reader doesn't want to feel that your cover reminds them of the Great Acid Trip of 1979.

Have one key image that draws the eye and is also memorable. Do not clutter the cover with lots of smaller images unless it works with the genre of the book and still has an overall universal appearance.

There is a rule in Photography called the Rule of Thirds. This should absolutely be applied to book covers as it is fundamental in producing a pleasing image. This is useful in determining the placement of your title and central image. The idea is that your canvas is divided into 9 equal squares, showing the key areas for optimal balance of the image. The same applies to designing a cover.


To use the grid overlay on a cover I have played around with, it is easy to see how key lines and features correspond with the grid and points of focus.

I will do another post in more detail on how the elements of photography will help you with cover design. It is a logical approach as photography and design follow the same basic principles of what the eye finds visually pleasing. 


2. Get an Editor



Your best friend as an author is your editor. And by this, I do not mean your editor is your best friend. You need an objective outsider to go over your work and suggest changes. Someone who actually does this job for a living and understands writing holistically.

Here is the problem. Most eReaders offer a sample of your book before people part with their dollar. If you cannot capture the reader in your first few chapters with your awesome writing and plotting skills, you will not convert that purchase into a sale. It is as simple as that. People will not buy the book in hopes it will get better. You do not take one bite of a disgusting burger and then try more. Unless you enjoy suffering. And most people don't. 

Do not assume your book is worthy of publication once you have finished your first draft. Go back and edit it. Read it out aloud. Edit some more. Then call in a professional.


3. Blurb



Next to the cover, your blurb is the most important selling point of your book. It should be captivating and punchy, telling the reader enough about the book without giving anything away.

It is not a place for you to word vomit your plot or summarize your book. It is also not an easy thing to write. That is why you have professional people who do this for a living. I seriously doubt JK Rowling sat and mulled over her own blurbs.

This is the one place where there absolutely cannot be any sort of errors. It is probably more important than the book itself and should not be treated like that aunt nobody wants to invite to the family lunch, but do because they feel obliged to fill that extra seat.

I remember when I was in school we had this really involved English teacher who made us read a book of our choosing and then write the blurb for it. This was a brilliant exercise, as he showed us how to identify the key elements of the story.

You need to introduce your protagonist and also make the reader want to crack open the spine by revealing little tidbits of the plot. Keep it short and true to the feel of your story. Do not mislead readers into thinking your book it something it is not.


4. Formatting



You need to go through your book with a fine-tooth comb and ensure that when it is read on any device, it does not have any funny gaps or bad alignment.

Any formatting issues make a reader feel like they have been cheated out of their money, as this reflects on the overall quality of the product.

Are all your indents consistent? Do all the chapter heading match? No unexplained blank pages between text?


Once you have all this in place, you are ready to send your book baby out into the world! Ensure that you are not rushing the process and that you have a quality, polished product!

Please do leave comments and suggestions below!













Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Harry Potter Means to Me #HarryPotter20



It was 20 years ago that The Boy Who Lived was first introduced to readers worldwide. This was after eight other publishing houses had rejected the manuscript, not seeing its potential.

Little did Bloomsbury know the goldmine they were sitting on. Up to now, Harry Potter has been translated into 67 languages, been made into a successful film franchise, has theme parks erected in its honor and has racked up numerous awards and achievements, becoming one of the most recognized literary characters today.

While I can speculate on the reasons behind the enduring success of this series, I think it is going to be better to touch on what Harry means to me. There are plenty of other sources which delve into the thematic appeal of Harry Potter and it's universal success.

It was in June 2000 that I received the first three books for my 16th birthday. I had very little idea who Harry Potter was or had any clue of the rising popularity of the series. My local Exclusive Books had them on display at the counter and I picked the first one up out of interest while I was standing there with my mom, waiting to purchase the next installment in my favorite horsey series.

My first impression was that it looked pretty boring. And weirdly marketed. The cover was not great and, while it looked to be aimed at kids, the writing inside was small with no pictures at all.

The manager of the store saw me holding Philosopher's Stone with a confused expression and assured me that they were very good and extremely popular. My mom, passively taking note, must have remembered this because I unwrapped the first three books for my birthday along with the latest Hanson CD from my brother.

I was skeptical, but I gave the books a shot.

One of the things I am most thankful for was discovering the books on the brink of national popularity. I was able to enjoy them and form my own relationships with the characters without being tainted by media and other people's opinions. My Harry, Hermione, and Ron have remained pretty much as I first envisioned them back then.

I enjoyed the first three books, but the fan mania really hit me when the fourth was due to be released and the hype became real. I remember standing in the CNA, looking at a poster with the new artwork for book four, even though the book didn't have an official title yet, and feeling excited.

When I finally got book four (I originally had the US edition thanks to parental travels), all I remember was how big it was! Suddenly, Harry's world had exploded in rich detail and depth and it was glorious.

When Order of the Phoenix was released in June 2003, midnight release parties were suddenly a thing. I got my copy online because, in those days, we were not used to books being available om the day of release and Take2 (now defunct) has promised release-day delivery. This was also the first of many online purchases.


Looking back now, I can still remember the days I received book 6 and 7 with clarity. Hermiting myself up until the books were finished so I didn't get spoiled. I read each of those in a day. And then started them all over again.

Harry was a big factor in my love of fantasy. These books opened up whole new genres for me. It was also amazing to be part of the fandom with each new book, possibly the largest and most diverse of anything ever.

I loved Hogwarts. I loved that each character had a place and was not just filler, but a well-rounded person. I felt like each time I picked the books up again, I discovered something new or made connections I had not noticed before. For me, that is what makes these books special. They grow with the reader and offer new experiences, even years later.

JK Rowling was also not afraid to handle her characters honestly. Let's face it. Sometimes Harry was not the nicest person and made terrible choices. But, it for this reason that I love his character as he learns and grows throughout the series.

The movies were just a sideline thing, They paled to the richness of the novels and, while fairly accurate, I much prefer the Hogwarts in my head.




For the fans, Bloomsbury has released the first book in awesome house editions! I will be getting mine (Hufflepuff) even though I already have the book in both the normal and illustrated editions. Because it's what you have to do.

I hope everyone will be celebrating 20 years of Harry. Even if it is just admiring your collections and remembering your first time. If you have any memories that stand out for you, please let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett


Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (April 2017)

Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.  
When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex? 
I got wind of this book via BookTube and was pleasantly surprised to find a copy locally so quickly. I do have to mention that the decrease in waiting time from publication date to books being available in local stores is pleasing. It seems the local buyers are working hard to get books in the hands of customers before they resort to ordering online or reading a new release digitally because there is no other option. Props to them!

This one got me excited purely because it is a retelling of You've Got Mail. Kinda. It still manages to be its own unique story too. Obviously the overall plot of predictable, but I loved the cast of characters and the setting.

This takes place in a small touristy town in California during summer vacation. So, if you are in the US, you might want to pick this up for your summer vacation because it hits all the right vibes.

It has surfers, romance, a weird little museum, a scooter and two adorable leads. There are some heavier themes, but the book is not preachy and also doesn't rely on them to add depth to the characters.

I enjoyed Jenn Bennett's Night Owls, even though I found it a bit cliche. However, she has improved her style tremendously with this one.

If you are looking for something cute to take your mind off shitty life stuff, this is your book.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rant Review: Looking for Group - Rory Harrison


Title: Looking for Group
Author: Rory Harrison
Publisher: HarperTeen (2017)

Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as squalid, and he sure isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.” 
His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it is just online: Arden. And now that Dylan is suddenly in remission, he wants to take Arden on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea. 
But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden's father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

I was so excited for this book. It was supposed to tick all the boxes.

World of Warcraft!
LBGTQ representation!
Road trip!
Geekiness!

However, what I expected and what I read were vastly different things. Sure, there were all the WoW references by little gamer heart could desire, but that was about where the enjoyment stopped.

There was absolutely no fucking plot. None. Sure, the two protags had issues, but this does not a novel make. I felt like most of the time I was meandering around the confused mind of a teenager without a roadmap.

And, I am sorry, but the likelihood that a gay teen who has come to terms with his sexuality falling in love with a transgender female is pretty damn unlikely. Arden, for all intents and purposes, is a girl. Dylan feeling romantic feelings towards her is kinda like a giant middle finger in the face of her transition. It basically means he loves the boy parts about her and not the girl parts. This is pretty much how I see it anyway. And that is just plain unhealthy and also not something I think should be seen as an example of LBGTQ life. No. Just no.

I could be reading too much into it, but this is my opinion and I am sticking to it.

Plus, if a random boy rocked up at my house that I had only known online, I would probably call the cops. Not invite him him in for a stroll in Azeroth on WoW. Dylan just shows up and Arden is only mildly freaked for like three seconds.

I skimmed a lot of this. I was bored. I wondered when interesting things were going to happen. I got angry. I got bored. I got angrier.

This was also super John Green- like. Enough with the cancer sub-plot already. Enough with super special characters who are all sparkly, misunderstood snowflakes. I want realistic teens. I am not this old biddy who doesn't remember what those years were like.

Anyway, go read this if you want. If you like John Green, then you will probably enjoy this.

Review: Objects in Mirror - Tudor Robins


Title: Objects in Mirror (Stonegate Series #1)
Author: Tudor Robins
Self-published

Starving, starving... Grace is always starving these days. 
But Grace is also strong, and determined, and skinny. For the first time ever Grace is as thin as she wants to be – nearly – and there’s no way she’s giving that up. 
Except, what if she has to give up other things to be able to keep wearing her new “skinny” breeches? 
What if it comes down to a choice between all the horses she loves – Sprite, the ferocious jumper, and Iowa, the sweet greenie, and Whinny, the abused but tough mare – and the numbers on the scale, the numbers on food labels, the numbers always running through her head? 
Grace knows what her stepmother, Annabelle, wants her to decide. She knows what Matt – gorgeous, amazing Matt – wants her to do. She knows what the doctors think. 
But she also knows nobody else can make this decision for her. And sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s got the strength to do it. 
There is danger in living with anorexia, and there is also hope. Objects in Mirror is a truthful exploration of these extremes and of the struggles that lie between them.

When  I saw this book on promotion, I decided to grab a copy. It has been such a long time since I had read a horse book, I figured this one would be a great trip down nostalgia lane. To put this in context for those who don't know me, I am pretty horse obsessed and read all the horse books as a kid. Especially Saddle Club and the Thoroughbred series. To say I am familiar with the genre is an understatement.

But, I don't want you guys to think this book is only for horse-crazy types. Objects in Mirror is a poignant journey of a teenager and her battle with an eating disorder. I feel that this is something that isn't touched on too often and, when it is, it isn't approached in a realistic way.

I also loved that Grace was not this perfect wunderkind. Yes, she had a great relationship with Sprite, but I have known horses who prefer to have only one person ride them.

It was a fast-paced, easy read that I can highly recommend. I have not read too many self-published books as this is a new foray for me, but I was impressed with the quality of writing and overall formatting. This sounds like a stupid thing to mention, but there is a lot of crap out there.

If you are looking for a good read for your teenage daughter, this is a good bet. If you are wanting a solid book that deals with real issues without it being this super dramatic thing that is magically cured by love, pick this.

You can grab a copy off Amazon for your Kindle for less than $5 and there is a follow up in the works.


Friday, June 9, 2017

TBR Top 5: Big Books Edition


TBR Top 5 is a new feature I am going to try and do every Thursday. I have a pretty huge TBR pile and I thought to highlight some of these books and chat about them will help me get to them quicker than I have been doing. In theory, anyway. Plus, I really suck at sticking to monthly TBR shortlists, so at least I get to chat about books I am excited to read without breaking any promises to myself.

This week, I will be looking at the giants in the pile. Those books that are actually kind of intimidating because they are so big, but I want to get to anyway.



1. A Court of Mist and Fury / A Court of Wings and Ruin (Sarah J Maas)

The next two books in this series are huge, guys. Seriously, intimidatingly big. Probably the main reason why I haven't leaped on them like a hyena at a feeding frenzy.

If you don't know this series yet, get out from under your rock. It's pretty much the top fantasy read in YA at the moment. What started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast has become an epic, unique story with awesome characters.



2. Diviners / Lair of Dreams (Libba Bray)

This is a series set in 1920's America. The age of the American Dream. I absolutely love the setting and have read half of book one. Life got in the way, but I do plan to pick them up again very soon.

They are also super cheap at Reader's Warehouse. Going for just R69 each. They have both titles in stock.

Book three is also on the way at some point soon!


3. Passenger / Wayfarer (Alexandra Bracken)

These two make up a complete duology with time travel, romance, and mystery.

I confess that I did get them based on the covers alone, although they have gotten some mixed reviews on Goodreads.

I look forward to tucking into them soon, though!


4.Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)

This is the first in Brandon Sanderson's epic 10 book series. It weighs in at over 900 pages and I am so glad I have the smaller US edition, which is more compact in size than the UK version.

I am honestly not sure when I will read this, but it is on the TBR regardless. It's part of my mission to read through some of the best fantasy books as recommended by Buzzfeed.



5. Lady Midnight / Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)

Cassandra Clare. In spite of her basically drowning in controversy, I really do want to read all her books. I have started with her steampunky series and am quite liking it so far.

These two are part of her latest series offering and reviews seem very positive. Many saying that her writing has seriously improved.

I am really excited to pick these up after I have finished up Mortal Instruments. And, as a side note, I will not watch the TV show. So don't even ask. It looks cheesy and awful.

What big books do you guys have lined up to read?