Monday, 31 March 2014

'My Writing Process' Blog Tour

My friend and author Robyn Roze has passed the My Writing Process Blog Tour baton to me today. Please do check out her Blog Tour article here. Thank you, Robyn.

The first rule is that I have to include a photo of myself so here's the best photo I could come up with from the last couple of years - sorry. I suppose I'd better get on with it then.

What am I working on?

Firstly, I'm continuing to work on my novel, Haven Falling. It's a fantasy novel set in a future where magic exists alongside robots. It started out as a novel for adults (as in grown-ups, not erotica) but after a rethink at the end of last year, I've decided to rework it for the 9-12 age range. My original protagonist Steve is now fourteen years old (not thirty three) and my new accompanying protagonist Blessing is eleven years old (not seven). It's the first of a trilogy and I envision the world I create in this novel leading to many other magical novels too.

Secondly, I'm working on a murder mystery script for my business, Murdering The Text. This is the third commissioned play of 2014. With this one, my customers have asked for a Christmas theme. The title is Festive Reapings and the cast includes an elderly fairy, a drunken Santa and two flirty elves.

Finally, I'm putting together ideas for a book of memories. The inspiration for this came to me when my godmother died last year. She is one of the last of the older generation that I grew up with. I have so many memories of life with her and other long gone people who coloured my childhood. It would be a shame to lose all of that. This book will be a mixture of photographs, poems and short prose.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The first difference, which applies to all of my writing (and I daresay every writer), is my voice. I have never attempted to style myself on other writers. My voice has developed along with my life and personality.

My novel includes the usual mixture of magic, adventure and villainy but I've taken a different slant on the 'fairy' myth, looking back to Italian origins. I also combine this with the future technology of the world of my story - solar powered public vehicles, tentacled robots and walls that change colour at the flick of a switch.

My murder mystery plays are based on my own experiences of performing on stage, the many actors I've met (it's so much easier to write for a cast that you know) and what details my devious mind can pull from life. These plays are used as fundraisers by amateur theatre groups, schools and other small fundraising organisations.

Why do I write what I do?

The murder mystery writing came from, initially, the need to raise extra funds. The am dram group I was part of wanted an additional source of money so that it could not only stage plays that our loyal audience would come to see but also take a risk on new or less popular plays. The popularity of the resulting scripts led to the forming of Murdering The Text.

I've always had a wild imagination which lends itself to fantastical storylines. It's no surprise, therefore, that my favoured genres are fantasy, horror and science fiction. I love the idea of magic - be it a magic act on stage, special abilities or simply the power of a sunny day to make us smile - and so the fantasy genre fits me and my imagination best. 

How does my writing process work?

 I wish I could say that I have a consistent method for all of my writing but, unfortunately, I don't. I approach my script writing in a very systematic way:
  • Initial details (cast, staging, theme) - often these come from a customer request.
  • Theme and setting.
  • Create a cast of characters (including a murder victim).
  • Motives for murder.
  • What do we need to reveal in the play?
  • Write the play.
When working on my novel, however, my process is much more erratic, shooting off at tangents on a regular basis. There is always an initial idea. This could be a character, a scene, a setting, or a what-if. I'll let that stew for a little while before extending the idea in a brain storm session. Basically, I take a piece of A4 paper and write down all the details I can think of regarding the idea:
  • setting
  • characters
  • title
  • if this happens, that what about this?
  • and so on.
I let it stew a little more and then I begin to plot until I have a near complete chapter plan. It doesn't have to be completely finished. I like to include a level of flexibility. Then I begin to write.


Now I'm passing the baton to three other writers, Kelly Hashway, Suzanna Williams and Elisabeth Zguta. Suzanna and Elisabeth will be posting on Monday, April 7th and Kelly will post about her writing process on Wednesday, 9th April.

Kelly Hashway

Kelly Hashway is a young adult and middle grade fantasy author represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. You can find her blog here.

Suzanna Williams

Suzanna Williams is a young adult author living in the wild, wet, Welsh borderlands. Suzanna looks for UFOs amongst the stars and imagines all the people she meets have dark secrets (which she writes into her books). She is the author of Shockwaves, an action adventure with a telepathic twist, and Ninety-five percent Human, the story of a teenager who saves a human/alien hybrid, which triggers the invasion of Earth. You can find her website here.

Elisabeth Zguta

Elisabeth believes that freedom of self-expression is the essence to happiness. She creates stories and blogs as an independent author and publisher. She lives in the Memphis area but grew up in New England, and is an avid reader. She writes stories of paranormal/supernatural mystery sprinkled with history and romance. You can find her website here.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 2

Find an image of a window online, in a magazine or from your own photo collection. Write what you can see, as if you are inside looking out through that window.

This my photo. This is the house I was brought up in.

I raise a hand to shield my eyes from the summer. Against the cool shade of my home, the sunlight is glaring. My mother waits for her photograph to be taken. Under instruction from her elder sister, she sighs inwardly as her sister's friend giggles. My father poses, leaning on the flower box to take the strain off his weak hip. Another memory is being made.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Spring has gone into hiding behind a rain cloud sky here. It's the kind of weather that sets a mood - grey, cold, hurried. In a novel, it would be a forewarning of something unseen on the way.

Setting up the tension in your novel from Fiction University (the new name for The Other Side of the Story) offers more ways to create mood and tension in your writing.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Photo Inspiration for March

At this time of year, the crows always return to nest in the trees at my children's school.

The street that the school sits on is lined on both sides with hefty horse chestnut trees. The crows reside in each of those trees, a community of raggedy nests and cawing neighbours. 

They're intelligent birds, majestic when seen in flight. They have ties to Norse mythology and Native American legends. They're also survivors, adapting to the spreading reach of mankind. Yet for all this, they are often dismissed as villains or henchmen. We have books about rabbits, otters, and owls, but crows rarely figure as heroes. 

Years ago, a fellow member of a writing class told me a story about crows. Nancy was quite elderly by this time, American with a slow, drawling accent. She and her husband had been posted in Burma for some years (her husband had some bureaucratic role). In the grounds of their home, an old, immense tree had housed a community of crows. She called them the crows' court because on occasion, she would find the pecked, bloody body of one of the crows at the base of the tree. She saw this as a sign that the dead individual had been judged by his peers and, for whatever reason, sentenced to death. This might sound brutal but is that so different to our world and our own judgements on each other?

If you hadn't guessed by now, I like crows. They make me think, imagine, and stretch my mind into another world. They give me a reason to lift my eyes from the pavement under my feet.

What about you? What do crows mean to you? What do they inspire you to write?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

I'm not a lark. Early mornings do not happen naturally to me. Unfortunately, with two children and a school run to arrange, I'm the first one up in our house. It would be nice, sometimes, to be able to just get up and write, work on my creative outpourings like my literary heroes. Oliver Burkeman thought he would try just that - spending a day following the routines and habits of some of our creative greats. You can find out how he got along in Rise and shine: the daily routines of history's most creative minds.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Many Sides of Medusa Blog Hop

Thank you for stopping by the Many Sides of Medusa Blog Hop hosted by Heather Lyons and Kelly Hashway. 

Door Prize: Your door prize for joining us is the short story prequel to the Touch of Death series titled Curse of Death. It's the myth about Medusa and how she was cursed by the goddess Athena. Claim your free gift by clicking here.

Heather and Kelly are teaming up to show you a very different side of Medusa. Forget the monster you might think she was, and check out these excerpts from The Deep End of the Sea and Touch of Death. You just might change your mind about Medusa.

The Deep End of the Sea excerpt:
The Deep End of the SeaBut there’s no way around it. I am, in fact, a monster. A hideous one, to be precise, but as I don’t have any mirrors on Gorg√≥na, I can’t verify that one for certain. I rely on the fact that every single person I’ve frozen over the ages boasts abject fear on their face, which makes me believe they find me pretty horrifying. And it sucks. It genuinely, truly, absolutely, unequivocally sucks. I hate stealing lives.

Thus, not only am I a monster, I’m a really lousy one. A lonely, classic Five Stages of Grief following, insecure, shut-in of a pathetic beast who talks to the snakes on her head and the statues on her island.

Find Heather online: 

Purchase The Deep End of the Sea on Amazon or B&N.

Touch of Death excerpt:
My hair blew up, flying wildly all around me. My blood bubbled in my veins like boiling water, but it didn't hurt. It was the feeling of power. Too much power. My body felt like it was going to burst. Still I held on. My eyes closed, and I threw my head back. An image filled my mind. Medusa. Her snakes wriggled their bodies at me, flicking their tongues. Chills ran down the backs of my legs, but I forced my eyes away from the snakes. Lower. To Medusa's face. She smiled at me. Her face and eyes filled with warmth. She looked like…Mom.

"Do not fear me, Jodi. My blood lies in your veins and in your heart. you are one of mine. My children."

Find Kelly online:

Purchase the Touch of Death series on Amazon or B&N.

If you want more Medusa, be sure to check out The Deep End of the Sea and the Touch of Death series. And…Heather and Kelly have a giveaway for you. Enter on the rafflecopter form for your chance to win a $20 gift card to either Amazon or B&N, Medusa Makeup lipgloss, signed bookmarks from both authors, buttons for each book, and Touch of Death stickers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

I've been struggling with my novel writing over the last few weeks and when this happens, I always find it helpful to dip into the advice on The Writer's Village blog. This article, Seven Quick Ways To Write Sentences That Sizzle helped me finish the chapter that was causing me problems. Have a look.

The first episode of Pan Macmillan's new book webshow - Book Break

Monday, 10 March 2014

Rose-tinted Thinking?

Two things happened to me over the last week that got me thinking about the world of writing.

The first was this. A friend informed me that I was wearing rose-tinted glasses if I thought I could make a living as a writer and that I should just get a 'normal' job. This wasn't a personal slap-in-the-face but rather this person's opinion of writers in general.

Secondly, a worried writer friend sent me the link below. The article that had so chafed on her emotions appeared in the Guardian, From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author's life? by Robert McCrum.

This article uses the story of a handful of successful authors (Rupert Thomson, Paul Bailey, and Joanna Kavenna) to discuss whether it is profitable, or even sustainable, to write for a living nowadays. With the onslaught of Amazon, the ongoing worrying financial climate, the growing popularity of ebooks and the increasing availability of free material online, can writers support themselves financially through their literary creations?

"All I want is enough money to carry on writing full time. And it's not a huge amount of money. I suppose you could say that I've been lucky to survive as long as I have, to develop a certain way of working. Sadly, longevity is no longer a sign of staying power." - Rupert Thomson

It's a fascinating, if a tad downcast, article, which led to a lengthy discussion between my worried friend and me. She has two novels under her belt and another one being written. She still has a 'day job' but would love to support herself solely from her writing.

I'm still working on my novel but my writing income comes from the plays I pen for my business Murdering The Text. It doesn't bring in an incredible amount of money but I love it, and I'm lucky to have a supportive husband.

We all know that to sell our books (whether self published or traditionally published) and writing, we are expected to self publicise, often imaginatively and diversely. Very few of us expect the massive advances that existed pre 2008. Magazines look to their readers for much of the material they would previously have paid for and many of the new online magazines don't pay at all.

So what does that mean? Well, unless you have a millionaire for a partner (or are already a millionaire yourself), there has to be a back up plan. Mostly, that plan is to keep the day job or create one for yourself (several writer friends offer editing services and do extremely well out of it). There's no reason to be a starving artist these days.

So am I wearing the proverbial pink lenses? No, I don't think so and having spoken to other writer friends, I've come to the conclusion that most of them have binned their tinted spectacles too. Writing, in many ways, is no different to life in general. It requires effort, imagination and a realistic attitude. In my view, that's nothing to be depressed about.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Here's an interesting way to test your writing. Take the Writer's Diet Test. I used the first chapter of my novel and got "lean, no improvements needed" - phew.