Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Whatever path you take. .

Whatever path you take it is better to make the move than to stay dithering on the edge of the cliff. If indeed there is a cliff. For me making a decision is the hardest thing to do. What if I get it wrong? What if I make the wrong choice and something terrible happens? Or indeed something wonderful? How can I tell which it will be? Surely it's easier to stay put, to do nothing and hope it will all somehow resolve itself without any conscious input.

My in tray is a physical manifestation of this mind set. It stands a little to my right threatening to topple over under the weight of matters that must be addressed. I ignore it, or so I think, but the stress of pretending it doesn't exist begins to grow. I feel tense, I suffer from a vague anxiety that I really ought to be doing something about all that paperwork. The pile grows, I feel worse.

Then comes the day, when I tip it all out onto the bed, the only space big enough to accommodate all that stuff, and begin to sort through it. Immediately I feel better, lighter.

As I make space in my office, there is more space to work and I set too with more enthusiasm. The tension disappears, I become more creative, ideas flow.

I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions. They only make me tense and worried that I won't be able to keep them. There is one thing however that I am determined to achieve in 2014. I will make decisions. I will not pile stuff into a basket and wait for it to go away.

Better take the path into the forest and deal with what you meet there, than hover on the fringe and expect something to happen.

There are no fairy godmothers, there is only me.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Crackers.

This year for the first time in over ten years I won't be hosting Christmas. Instead the family will all be going down to Bristol to spend Christmas Eve with my daughter, her husband and their two year old. This should mean that December is much less stressful than usual. I don't have to cook, or to remember to buy all the fresh produce, or seek out the hard to find stuff like roll mop herrings. There's no second guessing either about how much people will eat and what will prove popular this year as opposed to last year.

All in all, I can relax and get on with writing and editing. Except I can't. Somehow it these dark turn of the year days I have an almost unstoppable urge to bake and cook and decorate the house and go round the shops and visit friends, anything rather than sit in front of the screen and do some work.

Is it because the greyness makes you want to cosset yourself? If you can't pull the duvet over your head and sleep it out, is the next best thing to eat, drink and be merry, until the days lengthen and the sun shines again?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Move Over Stephen King

In October I did a workshop at Clough Hall Technology College in Kidsgrove. I worked with Years 8, 9, 10 and we concentrated on the Gothic genre.

After reading them an excerpt from "Dragonfire" we discussed how to build up tension, fear and suspense.

As always working with talented creative groups the hour we had simply wasn't long enough. A morning, maybe even a day would have given us more time to discuss, draft, re-draft and produce a polished piece of work. The tyranny of the bell however meant that there was time only for first drafts, but even those were spine chilling.

Halloween is past but if you need a taste of horror, look no further.

Year 9:
The shiver slowly rose up my leg. Soon my whole body was shaking.
“It was only a puddle,” I thought to myself. But then things began to spin round and round in my head.” That wasn’t a puddle Elizabeth. You know what it was.” They kept spinning. I couldn’t get rid of them.  

I looked all around me and that’s when I saw my way out. An alley, a dark and abandoned one at that. I sprinted down the narrow passage. I could hear footsteps getting faster Something clamped on my arm. As I struggled to get free all my belongings smashed to the ground. My phone shattered into a thousand pieces.

The next thing I knew a sharp pain hit my head. My eyes became heavy and I just wanted to sleep. I let the fatigue take over my body. The last thing I could hear was someone screaming my name.

Hearing an unearthly noise, groaning, moaning, it was starting to make me anxious. I decided the smart thing to do was run. I ran with incredible speed, almost inhuman, then I fell. Lying in an open grave feeling the breeze hit me.

I remember the days when I used to be content; the time when all my family were well. That one day changed everything…

Visiting my mother’s grave was always a challenge for me. For one thing, I never had any free time. For seconds, the graveyard always sent a shiver down my spine. On this particularly chilling February evening, as soon as I passed through the rusting iron gates, I felt tense.

Slowly I ran my hand across the white cracked paint of the door. With not much force it creaked open. The dust that had fallen from the frame indicated that no one had been here for a while and that it probably wasn’t safe to enter.

It was dark and dingy. The grotesque smell of dampness hit me almost immediately. I turned my torch on to see what was inside. I stepped in.

To my right was an old white staircase covered in spider webs. To my left was what appeared to be the living area. There was no television, no light, just an upside down lounge chair. I decided not to go into this room, until I saw what looked like a lit candle. I stopped frozen, chills racing down my spine. I was trembling. Someone had to be here.

As he leapt into the vast network of tunnels below, the thick taste of evil enswirled his nose and throat, burning him. The hunt had begun. Slowly he began to follow the tap of what he thought was water.

A thunderous bang made him swing round and fall back on his rifle, which slid  from his hand as the darkness enclosed and began to consume him. A second passed before the sensation came back to his hand. He looked down and saw the gleaming crimson pool below him.
“Still warm,” he muttered. His gaze drifted to the left as something passed his line of sight he dived for the rifle. A metallic thud ricoched across the passage as his beam on the rifle gave a loud buzz whirring into life. His heart skipped a beat as he stared into the abyss beyond…

A hand brushing against mine. If felt cold and it terrified me. Who is this? What are they doing here in my dad’s house….It’s been a year since my granddad died and I thought he needed comforting.

I was in my bedroom minding my own business when I saw the door open. At first I thought it was my dad coming to check up on me but when I looked the door was open and no one was there.
“He’s playing tricks on me,” I thought. He was always doing things like that. But that’s when I realized that there was something trickling down the inside of the window. It was a dark, cold night and it was raining heavily, but how did the rain get inside?

Laura C
As I stepped inside I felt a heavy gaze focused on me. I glanced around the Victorian room but saw nothing other than sheer darkness. I felt like my eyes had betrayed me as I was left stumbling around the vast space using my arms to feel around. It was no use. I seemed to be doing nothing but clutching air.

What was that? I stopped. Trembling I turned to my left and with a swift movement a cold hand brushed past mine.

He is walking past the window like a shadow and my hand tightens on my stake. My other hand instinctively goes to the cross on the end of my chain.
“This is it,” I think. “I’ll get you and when I do you’ll wish you’d never touched her.” My fear chokes me.

The dampness of the grass came through my shoes as I trudged down to my father’s grave. It was a freezing night in the middle of March and I could hardly feel my toes. As I approached the grave I felt a cold breeze behind my back that made me shiver, but considering it was a cold night I thought nothing of it. That was until I felt something brush past me. I quickly turned around to find nothing there.

Opening up my back past I got my mobile phone out. I unlocked it , but had no signal. Then I tried to use my back up signal but it would not work either.

Terrified I ran around the house with my phone in the air like a mad man until finally I got a bar of signal. I thought I would ring my dad but as soon as I pressed ring the phone went dead.

I could hear footsteps behind me, so I slowly turned round to see what it was…

The house looked deserted, old smashed windows and a fragile door. Marco was suspicious about this house so he walked near the back door and a grey ice cold hand swept over his shoulder.

Legend says that vampires patrolled these woods on stormy nights like this, but Ryan didn’t care. He’s grown up now. Vampires don’t exist, do they?

The trees moaned in the wind. The moon glimmered on the brim of each leaf. Ryan was felling confident, he wasn’t to be confronted. Swiftly, he strode through the wood. His boots splattered each puddle stained to the brim. Ryan picked up his pace then, at an instant, he stopped….

White roses All around there are white roses. Not your usual flower that sits in the window of shop dying. This flower was different. It wasn’t dying it was already dead.

Someone with a heart of stone, the passion of a murderer has watched these flowers grow into their beautiful bodies with strong thick petals that could survive the natural element, but would never be able to run away from the unnatural beasts that destroy.

A cold hand came out of the dark shadow grabbing my wrist tightly. I could feel his stone cold breath on my cheek as he pulled me towards him.

A cold blooded hand reached out and brushed up against my wrist and pulled me into the gloomy opening in the hallway. I could feel its cold breath on my neck and cheek…

We stopped a few miles down the lane, so that we could eat our packed lunch. That was when we saw it. A dark old, abandoned mansion loomed out of the shadows.

Owen pulled up at the end of the long, bumpy drive. Climbing out of the carriage the smell of iron blew with the wind. Slowly and calmly he started to walk towards the house.

The wind whistled like a dying soul as I walked through the big double doors of the museum. I heard the guard tell my brother
“Enter the vampires’ lair, if you dare!”

We stood watching. Ready to pounce. The midnight sky beckoned us as we walked down the cracked steps into the subway. The subway’s dimmed light and stench of wee made it the perfect place for blood, fresh blood…
I stood in the corner and so did my mum. I examined each human as they walked past. Some looked down at me and some looked scared of my black cape and bloodthirsty eyes. I was capable of anything. They just didn’t expect if from a teenage girl.
Then the perfect candidate approached the subway, long hair, green eyes, about twenty, she had the most delicious metallic blood, which made me hungry.

As the lights flickered, I pounced and bit slowly into her smooth skin. She tried to scream but quietened. Then it was my favourite part. Watching the rose I her cheeks turn into pale white daisies.

Tentatively I opened the door. It groaned and creaked as the rusty hinges struggled to release. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the mysterious, desolated house.

As I urged myself to step along the vast old damp wooden deck, I was welcomed by the stench of dampness. I could taste it in my mouth. I stepped into the captain’s cabin my eyes caught sight of an old rotten skeleton.

It was a cold night that night. The night I lost it. It was a terrible idea We shouldn’t have gone there. We should have listened. Only a few go in and survive. It is the wood of mysteries. That is where they live. The ones that kill. The werewolves!

Running for my life, I’m no way near my house. I see white roses. Where am I? Smashed wndows. I walk to these double doors that open by themselves

Where am I? Black gates, creaking doors, smashed window. I’m alone in a  place like a prison. The darkness keeps creeping into the room. The wind gently blowing open the loose window. Step by step the cold polished floorboards creak. I can sense movement in the room and it’s not me! I slowly walk over to the bed. Is it safe to even think about lying down? Wait. What was that? A noise downstairs. Should I go and see what it is?
   It’s midnight and the clock is ticking. Silence. The night sky blinds the trees, while they sway in the breeze. Sometimes I see the branches in the ripped curtain. The suddenly a shadowed figure approaches the painted gates …and that’s when I fall in love! Brown hair swooshing in the whistling wind. Blue  eyes shining in the moonlight.

The demons are screaming again. Laughing as they…never mind. I arrived at the home as a dare. A dare from my friend; the friend I had before this all started. My name is Sarah. I’m fifteen and I’m alone trapped in this house, forever. I’m dead and in a way it’s a comfort…

Year 10 concentrated on language and the Gothic genre

had phrases I could steal.
“I could smell how ancient the walls were.” She used repetition effectively
“There was nothing but darkness. Empty darkness.”

 “As the dancing leaves of one tree swayed to the side something behind them became very clear. My eyes widened, my mouth grew dry. A graveyard. We lived  behind a graveyard.”

Ethan wrote,
“As my clock chimed ten the door slammed with a vicious force almost like someone in a bad mood had shut it.”

chose a bus journey late at night, increasing the tension to the last paragraph using a classic technique.
“I was half way down the street. I looked behind me and the old man was standing on the corner. At this point I knew I was safe. I turned around again one last time and he had gone. I turned back around and he was on my drive.”

 drafted and re-drafted as all writers must. She began in the third person.
“It was getting later and later. About four young girls …were walking round the graveyard.”
But in the end moved to a much more effective use of first person.
“As the night drew in, it grew darker and darker I was walking through the deserted graveyard.”

writes about a new house fraught with menace.
“The house stood isolated and lifeless.” And used questions to increase the tension.
“I wondered who lived here and why did they leave.”

Chose a railway station in London to create a very Gothic situation.
“I remember getting onto the rain with  my school group, but now I’m here on my own!

The atmosphere suddenly became damp The signs to say “No Entry” started swinging, the hinges screeching in the breeze. I automatically felt my body stiffen. Where is everyone? Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I remember anything?

My eyes glance up and down the isolated platform. I spot the sign saying “Platform closed” Am I in the wrong place?”

Chose an abandoned warehouse.
“As always I’d go and check it out but this was different. The place began to feel more and more sinister.” 

wrote of the horror of being abandoned.
“I gradually lifted my hand towards the door handle. I slowly turned it, trying to be as quiet as I could. I glanced around me. My family was nowhere to be seen. I was all alone.”

However sometimes  it’s better to be alone.
“I could hear the rustling of branches being stepped on. I was not alone. My heart began racing, faster and faster. Who was there? Why were they there? Were they following me? I picked up my pace and began speed walking.  The sound of footsteps grew louder. They were following me.”

meanwhile gives an illusion of safety.
“My pace was increasing again and so was theirs. I breathed heavily, only to inhale the smell of rotting meat. Whoever was behind me was not leaving anytime soon. I could see a bright street lamp in front of me. I felt safe. But the smell had not gone.”

went straight into the horror.
“It was cold and extremely dark. Why me? Why did I have to be the one they’d chosen?
As I sat up I could only see my fingers if I held them close to my face. Not being able to see my arm scared me even more. All I heard was the owls outside and the noise of floorboards creaking.”

There was more horror from this writer who unfortunately did not put their name on their work.
“I stood at the bottom of the bed. White disembodied feet were poking through the bed sheet. The feet were still and lifeless. Sounds of footsteps shook the old wooden floorboards behind me. I turned to see if there was anyone there. There wasn’t. I turned to look at the spine breaking feet. They were gone and the stench they left behind was horrific. I could almost taste it.”

Personification of the graveyard was very effective.
“The room was dark, barren, isolated. There was nothing around apart from the graveyard, staring, watching, waiting for someone to cease. It stared past the curtains through to him There was a chill in the room. It came from outside. It was creeping in. When Kevin left he room there was a surge of euphoria. It was as if the graveyard had released its grip on him. It had let go.”

Had a great sense of the dramatic.
“I sank into the corner of the dark engulfed room. The boor burst open A strange shape emerged from the shadows. It crossed to the bed. I thought, this is my chance, I have to go. My heart was pounding. I dashed out of the corner and out of the door. The mysterious shadow followed. Its footsteps were following me and catching up. My heart was thrashing against my rib cage . I didn’t stop. The corridor was along and lifeless. The cobwebs caught in my hair as I ran.

achieved a sense of menace.
“Lurking in the shadows like a prisoner in a cage. As she walks through the tunnel she hears something tapping. “Tap, tap.” It was footsteps but where was it coming from? There is nobody around.”

conveyed an eerie sense of place.
“I walked light foot down the silent street. My footsteps echoed as I trudged on. It was pitch black and I was alone. The only light came fro the pale moon that lit up the slippery road that went on ahead of me.”

Year 8 worked on shape changers. I read a passage from Dragonfire and these are some of their responses

As I woke up there was a sudden bang. I went downstairs and saw a shadow change from one thing to another.

I hear a rock being thrown. I turn around. Nothing is there. I start to shake and sweat………….I close my eyes as I think it is all a dream, but when I open my eyes slowly his colourful creepy face was right behind mine and his cold pale hands were touching my warm scared face. All I saw was a clown.

As I opened the old rusty door in the decaying warehouse it was one minute past midnight. The light flickered. My heart was racing. In the distance there was a shadow. What was it? I called by there was no answer.

I got out of bed to see what the yapping was about. As I was walking down the stairs with half open eyes I heard the dogs yelping again, but now they were rustling around in their basket like rabbits. I slowly opened the kitchen door and turned the light on, but it strangely started to flicker and I could have sworn that I saw a figure as if someone was standing there. I got so scared because I saw a snake tail with human legs, with tiger face, but what looked like a stare was half way across its face. By the time the light had stopped flickering the figure had gone.

I push open the door. I look in.  I say “Hi”. Someone answered but I can’t see anyone. I shout louder, ”Where are you. They say, “I am down here.” I look. It is a snake. It has the body of a snake and the head of a human.

I entered the woodland and heard branches snapping. I was really cold and it was damp. It smelt like a dead body, mouldy rotting and old. It was horrible. It felt like someone was watching me, so I stared to run. I tripped over a branch and started to cry. I heard something come whipping past me

There was something behind me. I looked. There was nothing there. I heard footsteps. I saw a white face. I panicked. I went to see. There was nothing there. I turned around. There it was on the corner looking at me. Then it went. I stopped and thought and I heard it shouting me. It came towards me and then ……

We saw this abandoned house, that someone used to live in along time ago – then I heard a sound and I saw a shadow and I grabbed Molly’s hand.

Phil walked into a man. He was tall with an ageless face.
“What are you doing here?” said the man. His voice was like a whisper but it was like he was shouting at them at the same time. -----------The man’s arm fell off and turned into beetles, but then the man’s head grew bigger like it was about to explode. The head started floating and the man’s body fell to the floor. Wings came out his head.

A shadow appeared standing behind the door. I turned and nothing was there. I lay back down and closed my eyes, then opened them again. A face appeared. I suddenly jumped out of my huge bed and all I could hear was “I am going to kill you.”

Out of the darkness came a knife pressing across my throat. I could feel the blade piercing my skin with blood dripping down me.

I saw I had my phone so I texted my mum. She was not answering. She was asleep. If I rang her, he would see, so I put my phone back in my pocket and opened the window and stared calling for help. Then he stopped the car and got tape and put it around my mouth, feet and hands. A tear dropped from my face and I started to cry.

There was a house. Something black was there. I started to run There was a shadow gaining on me. Something cried out and stopped me from running.

In the old abandoned firestation the rusty old door opened. The windows cracked and….

A hand jumped out of the van and grabbed my wrist. There was a bang as the van doors shut. Before I knew it, I was in the back with lots of people.  -------what were the going to do with me?

A hand crept out from the darkness. I carried on walking.-------- Then someone said my name.

I turned on the light and found that it was just my coat so I turned it of again and got back in bed. I was badly wrong. I could hear footsteps coming and there was a nasty rotting smell. I could feel it getting closer and closer.

A hand reached out and grabbed me. ---------I could see right through him and he could touch me but I couldn’t touch him. He had a knife and put it to my throat and I could do nothing because I could not touch him. I couldn’t get away.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Grey Time

Grey time, eats into your life. It saps your energy and gives you the illusion that your days are full.  Instead of focusing on what I want/need to do, I give in to social media, a bit of half hearted tidying. I watch a not very interesting programme or film, all the way through instead of switching it off at the point at which I realise I am bored.

Why do I allow this grey, half heartedness to permeate so much of my day?

One reason is that it stops me having to tackle the things that scare me. By supper time there's no point in working out how to put Dragonfire on Create Space. I can put off learning how to photoshop, or even how to download pictures onto my blog.

On the days I give into greyness. I end up feeling vaguely dissatisfied, a little frustrated and somewhat , bored, but also tired. Too tired to give myself a shake, sit down at the computer and write.

When I don't give in, however, I can go on for as long as it takes and when I outface the demons and successfully use the technology, or complete the story,  I feel really good about myself.

It's taken me a while to understand how much of a day can be grey. How little time I can spend living in the now. From now on, I'm determined to make every minute count. Not by rushing around and constantly doing things, however. Being still is good, as is talking with friends or just watching the light change from my window. What is important is not doing something for no good reason, or doing it in a half there sort of way. Life is just too short for that.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Dragonfire Review

From the sun filled fields of Italy a great review of Dragonfire.

October Sunshine and a Kindle

Word of mouth recommendations are vital for self-published writers, and those from traditional publishers too. I'm always grateful when friends take the time and trouble to review one of my books and what beats everything is when I know that someone, whose judgement I respect and whose writing I value, has enjoyed my story and is spreading the word. 

Thanks Barry. You've made my day.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The not writing part of writing.

Today I've been really busy. I've done some more work on proofreading "Master of Trades" the final part of the"Dragonfire Trilogy" my books for 8-12 year olds and anyone else who is missing a certain boy wizard.  In a week or so it should be out there on Amazon Kindle, hopefully without a single clumsy phrase, misplaced comma, or typo.

I've also been reading "Woman's Weekly Fiction Special". Last week I went to a number of workshops run by Della Galton, Jane Wehnham-Jones and Gaynor Davies on what sort of stories they are looking for and immersing myself in the magazine is part of my research.

When I'd finished that, I turned my attention to the book I'm reviewing. An hour or so on that and I think I'll call it a day.

All these activities are part of a writer's life and I know they must be done, even though they stop me from doing what I really love.

There won't be any time for the actual writing and a writer should write something every day. So perhaps this is where blogging comes in.

Short sharp, self-contained pieces that help keep my writer's muscles flexed and ready.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Time Management

German housewives do on average four hours housework a day. Shocked and somewhat intimidated by this statistic I was about to dismiss it, when I had a sudden thought. Exactly how much time do I spend a day on house related tasks?

To my amazement, on a day when I didn't think I'd done any real cleaning, I totted up two whole hours. This took in laundry, filling and emptying the dishwasher, making the bed, cleaning the loos, wiping over worksurfaces. The sort of thing I never even considered proper, hard core housework.

The two hours were balanced by the three when I did nothing but write.

Then of course there was the time spent dealing with e mails and FB. I did try to limit this to once a day, but found that I missed important messages, so now I allow myself a few minutes, first thing in the morning, mid-day and last thing at night.  On only one of those sessions will I do more than scan through and answer urgent messages.

Was this a good day? I got a lot of editing done, the house was ticking over and I didn't miss anything on  my social media.

On the other hand could I have done more? Could I have spent more time writing, or is this all part of being female and conditioned to look after the house in a way that men are not?

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Witching Hour

3 am and I can't sleep. I've tried the relaxation exercises. I've counted backwards from 500, got lost and started again, and again. Nothing helps.  It's going to be one of those nights when I simply won't be  going back to sleep. 

Once this situation would have thrown me into a blind panic. Fear of being tired at work the next day, of being too woozy to drive, or to concentrate would have sent my heart racing and the chances of any sleep whatsoever flying. 

Now I look at it all differently. 

Lying in bed and letting my mind drift is a very productive way of spending those witching hours. I've written whole stories which the next morning have been transferred onto the computer. I've had ideas for characters round whom there is a novel waiting to be written. I've realised just what is wrong with a particular piece of writing and how I can put it right. 

Not sleeping is now something to be welcomed and embraced.  It truly can be a magic time. 

Anyone else feel this way? 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What do Agents and Publishers Need?

What is the one thing literary agents and publishers can't do without? Surely the answer to that is writers. Without us they would lose their business, their sources of income and their lifestyles. We are their raw material, on which everything else depends, so why do they treat us the way they do?

First of all there is the general assumption that we, the creative ones, must package our work the way they want us to. The query letter must entice, the synopsis must be the right length, the right tone, the right voice. Never mind that both those forms of writing are amazingly hard to get right, and do not necessarily indicate that you are a good writer of fiction, this is the first hurdle that must be negotiated. Why is it not possible simply to say "Here is my novel, do you like it?" After all it is the novel that will be sold to the readers, not the synopsis or the covering letter, or the CV.

Speaking of which this too seems to be crucial. Surely all that anyone needs to know is whether I can write a good book and follow it up with another. A list of previous publications, if any could suffice and if I'm brand new to this game then you either like my work enough to take the risk, or you don't. Whether I am married, bake muffins or kill sharks in my spare time is surely irrelevant.

Assuming that you have done all this and fingers crossed, heart thumping, stomach churning you have sent off your work what happens next?

Mostly nothing. A few agents and publishers will acknowledge your e mail. Many won't.

Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

And wait some more.

If they like your work, they ask to see more and great celebrations and rejoicings take place.

If however they do not, then..............


And more nothing.

OK. They don't like it. But surely they can at least e-mail  a "Thanks, but no thanks".

It takes seconds. It's only polite. It's treating you like a fellow member of the human race with hopes and feelings.

It also might be one way of not alienating a possible source of income.

After all in this day and age, sick of being treated as if they don't matter how many successful writers have gone on to sell huge numbers of e-books and all without recourse to a single agent or publisher?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

What to do when feeling Blue

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I'm feeling down. It's one of those days when counting your blessings, being grateful for all the good things you have in life doesn't make any real difference. 

I could go and sit in a corner and howl. I could stuff myself with rhubarb muffins.  I could start early on the bottle of red wine on the kitchen counter. 

Or I could re-read Josh Allerton's blog on three positive things about having cancer. 

Now that really puts things into perspective. 

Josh has had to face the thing that most of us dread,  life threatening illness at a very young age and he has dealt with it with honesty and courage and a sense of humour. 

He has written about his illness without the slightest shred of self pity or that awful "misery memoir" tone that drags you down to wallow in some voyeuristic pit of second hand emotion. He's just got on with his life. He can talk openly about what he has experienced but he never lets it take over. 

No victim status for Josh. 

Great stuff. 


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Keeping the balls...

in the air.

Years ago, when I sought advice about why my writing career wasn't exactly taking off, I was told that I had too many things on the go and once.

That was true then and is even more true now. Not only is there a short story which needs polishing, but I am currently editing my YA novel, promoting "Dark Angel" on Wattpad, looking for small regional publishers for my children's book "City of Secrets" and blogging.

As well as all that, I should be working on the "Dragonfire" trilogy.  I need to step up promotion for the e books and kindle the final volume "Master of Trades". I also have to re-read "Slipping Through the Net" my contribution to Hag Lit, the first few chapters of which, in a moment of madness, I sent off to an agent.

Then there is Face Book and Twitter. The first I love and can manage, the second I'm still working out. I know I have to get to grips with it, but I need to sit down and spend some time following and tweeting to see what works for me.

Between letting the world know what I'm doing, and actually writing my head feels like it's spinning. Much more importantly I feel as if I'm dabbling here, there and everywhere and not focusing on finishing anything.

The trouble is that as a writer nothing is finished until it's bound solidly in a cover; even e books can be scratched and re-written at the click of a key. So there will always be countless balls in the air. The trick is, I guess, to keep calm and focus on the one thing you've chosen to do today. Keeping a list of what has been done and what still needs attention could be useful too.

I should imagine that being in this situation is quite usual for a writer, so if any of you out there have any hints as to manage your work in an even vaguely sensible way, I'd love it if you would share.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

"Winter Count" the book launch

Saturday night was a first for me. It was the first book launch I've ever been to and it was a real family affair. Friends and relations all gathered in Foyle's bookshop in Bristol to welcome "Winter Count" into print. The anthology of his poems is the work of my nephew Peter Naumann, the cover was designed by my sister the artist Anuk Naumann who together with her husband Roger had helped to organise the event.

It was a great evening. Greeted by glasses of Prosecco there was time to chat to my mum and Peter Oran the owner of Starborn Books who published "Winter Count" before the main event.

Pete, must have been a little nervous, I know I would have been, but he came across as funny, self assured and totally in control of his material  as he told us about himself, his journey to publication and his work. Then he read a selection from the book, explaining each poem and giving an insight into  what had inspired it.

His poems are dense, alive with with imagery and rich in language. They are poems to be pondered over, their meanings teased out and debated. All of which could be daunting for a reading event, but not this one. Even the most inexperienced poetry reader couldn't help enjoying both the reading, the interview by Peter Oran and of course the poems themselves.


"Winter Count" is available from sales@starbornbooks.co.uk.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Being on the Radio.

It's something every writer has to do. It's no good writing the book, or the short story, or the play you have to get out there and promote your work and, dare I say it, yourself.

For me this is the hardest part of my writing life. As far as I'm concerned I'd be more than happy sitting in my office working away at my computer. Of course I want people to read what I'm writing but I rather wish it would just happen in some nebulous, magical way and I didn't have to go around telling everyone how wonderful my latest is and how they really have to read, if not actually buy it.

Still that isn't going to happen, so in the meantime I need to do the whole promotion thing. Which is where being on Cre8 radio on Monday night came in.

The first thing I have to say about the experience is how much I enjoyed it. Even before I'd reached the studio Rosie was there to greet me, and Paul Oldfield and Chris and fellow guests Jason and Laura made me feel very welcome.

Talking to Paul on air was like chatting to an old friend. What made it really easy was the fact that like the true professional he is, Paul had done his homework and the questions he asked gave me plenty of scope to talk about my books and the way I write. We also touched on my views on education and the years I spent living in Jamaica, so there were no awkward pauses when I searched my brain for something to say, or, I hope, many "ums" and "ahs".

By the time it came to reading a chapter of "Dark Angel" I was having fun and I hope my listeners were too.

Spooky stories on radio always come across well. There are plenty more in my collection and there's the rest of the book too. Maybe someone, sometime will have a slot for "Tales before Midnight." A series of stories to chill the blood and keep you awake until the first slither of light slips in under the curtains.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Are writers junkies?

Are writers junkies? Apart from being hooked on writing, which goes without saying, I'm beginning to wonder whether there's another addiction we suffer from.  Perhaps not all of us, that might be too much of a generalisation, but I definitely must stand up and declare that I am a writer and an adrenaline addict. 

I thought I wanted an easy life. I thought I wanted to do nothing more than sit at my computer and write. So I did. After a while, however, I became aware of a slight disatisfaction. A feeling that grew more acute as the time went on. I was checking my e mails and coming away disappointed, I was on edge, missing something. Then I realized what it was. There were no stories, no books, no plays out there. No agent, publisher or editor was scrutinising my offering and deciding whether to accept or reject. I hadn't anything to look forward to. Admittedly it might be a rejection, but on the other hand it might just be the golden moment when it seems that at long last my dreams of success out there in the mainstream were going to come true.  

The time has come therefore to face up to my addiction and get another fix.  "House of Shadows" will be winging its way to another agent tomorrow. More of "Dark Angel" will be up on Wattpad and I'll be looking at my cache of short stories to see what needs to be tweaked before going out. 

Then I'll start feeling slightly nervous every time I check my e mails. There will be a feeling of anticipation each morning that maybe, just maybe today will be the day. 

This is how I deal with my need. I'd be interested to hear what other writers do. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Kicking Down the Door

My toe's through the door, but now I want to kick it down and let the world in. Well, not the world, only those people who love YA vampire novels, who have been bereft since Twilight finished, who are lusting for a new love interest.

My problem is how to find them.

In lots of ways putting "Dark Angel" on Wattpad is working for me. I'm getting some fantastic comments, thanks Elisia and her readers, and  re-thinking and re-editing, which is what the book needs.

I'm Tweeting and Facebooking and talking face to face. Old fashioned I know, but it does work.

But I'm not building up my following as fast as I might.

So anyone out there that fits the above description, take a look and spread the word.  Or if you've any other suggestions let me know.

Lauren needs her story out there.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Being kind to me day.

Yesterday I had a being kind to me day. Following two rejections in as many weeks, I was feeling down, the giving up on writing forever sort of down. Usually I can grit my teeth and work through that, but I decided to try a different approach.

I was going to spend the whole day doing only what I wanted. If it was something I felt I had to do, then it wasn't going to happen. Also, whatever I did, I wasn't going to rush. If it took longer than usual, or if it didn't get finished it simply didn't matter.

And writing anything, since I was obviously so bad at it, was banned.

So what did I do?

I tidied my desk and instantly felt better.

I spent an hour or two in the garden, pulling up weeds and cutting back shrubs and I felt better.

I ate supper and had a glass of wine.

And somewhere, between the glass of wine and the beginning of a Sky Arts programme on Hopper, I did a little gentle editing.

I know this was forbidden, but by that time in the evening I was mellow and relaxed enough and because it wasn't a work in progress or something I'm promoting right now, I actually enjoyed it.

The lesson learned? Stop rushing around, slow down, enjoy. If it happens, it happens. There will be other days when I have more energy, when I'll be on the net, tweeting and facebooking and all the things I need to do, but sometimes it's necessary to switch it all off and have a be kind to me day.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dark Angel

I know vampires have had it. I know that we're supposed to have moved on, past Twilight into a new Zombie dawn, but something tells me that this just isn't true. There's still an appetite out there for these beings that prey on our blood, yet appeal to something deep and dark inside us.

A few years ago I wrote my own vampire novel. It went out to a few publishers and agents, but nothing happened so I filed it away on my hard drive. The book however wasn't going to let me go. My characters had got their claws, or is it fangs, into me and were demanding a return from the dead. So I took another look at my "Dark Angel" and today I posted the first chapter on the Wattpad site.  It's a YA novel and if that's not your thing and you know a teen who appreciates the genre please ask them to read and comment. If on the other hand you'd like to give me your input and feedback, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Stop the world I want to get off.

Two weeks ago I had an attack of labyrinthitis. It came out of the blue, one moment I was watching Lucy having a fitting for her wedding dress, the next the room began to spin. Luckily it didn't last long so I managed the journey home on the train. It wasn't until later that evening that the true horror set in. By Sunday morning I could not get out of bed. I was sick and dizzy, I couldn't read, or bear any light. I lay there in the semi dark feeling rather scared and very, very sorry for myself.

This lasted for about three days, until finally the pills the lovely Dr.Kahn prescribed kicked in and I could stagger drunkenly down stairs to lie in front of day time TV.  This was all I could manage. No reading, no writing, nothing for a whole week.

Strangely enough, however, those days were some of the most productive, creatively, that I've had in a long time. Stories flooded my imagination. It was as if I needed the break from the computer and any other stimulation to free the creative processes.

Perhaps we all need this sort of break. Not the being ill bit, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but the down time to give the creative side of the brain the time and space to flower.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

1000 Words

Want to write three books a year? Sounds crazy but inspired by a post from  Caffeinated Catherine catherineryanhoward about her goals for 2013, I'm now writing 1000 words each day minimum allowed. That way if I keep up the schedule I should have 365,000 words by the end of the year, which means at least three long, novels. That would be amazing and actually all I'm hoping for is to write the books I have in my plan and to finish off all the uncompleted projects I began in 2012.

Not having started until the end of this month I won't make the full number, but who cares. This way works for me and the best thing of all is that you get to put a big pink, sorry but that was the only colour marker I had, tick on the calendar on the days you've done your total.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Shape-changing in Kidsgrove

On a cold winter day with hints of snow blowing in the air, I drove to Kidsgrove for a workshop on creatures that walk on the dark side.

In a high ceilinged classroom, with footsteps echoing down the corridor outside, Nine Two and I shared our ideas about shape changers, while the rest of the pupils and staff of Clough Hall Technology School went about their usual business.  

The trouble with shape-changers is that they are not what they appear to be. What can seem friendly and familiar might be dangerous and not to be trusted. One of the characters in my novel for kids of all ages, “Dragonfire” is Jocelyn von Drackenberg, the shape-changing dragon. On first meeting he appears kind and helpful, but as the story develops, it becomes more and more obvious that he has very sinister motives.

Showing a real feel for dark fantasy the class concentrated on creating an atmosphere of fear and horror. Some of the settings were conventional. Brandon wrote about John visiting his nan’s grave, with “the wind whistling and the leaves crackling under his feet.” Courtney, however, “was walking down the school corridor late at night …when I saw a figure in the darkness.” While Joe chose “the barren pitch” of an empty football stadium.

Others chose familiar situations, which became more horrific as their stories progressed. Chloe was at home on the upstairs landing when she “saw a man with the body of a dragon, his eyes were yellow. He spoke my name.” Callum was walking home on a Friday night when “All I could think about was the field I had to cross.”

In the other stories the horror became more acute as the writers realized that parents were not what they seemed. Harry wrote that the eyes that peered through the darkness “were just one pair of glasses. They looked a lot like my dad’s glasses and that’s when it hit me, there he was, my dad; but something’s changed…”

Parents are people you should be able to rely on when things get scary, which is why Fern’s story was so effective.
“”Where are you? Please I’m scared. Stop!” Silence, as I turned around. “Mum?” I asked. “Is that you?” No reply.” While in another story, whose writer unfortunately remains anonymous,  “I heard my name being called from outside the door. A light, yet harsh voice. It was my nan.  “Why are you here? How did you get in?” I asked…no reply just a slight smile was drawn on her face.”

The gorier side of horror wasn’t ignored. Hannah woke to “hear a dragging sound. My door opens and something is dragging my parents in the next room ….blood running from my mother’s eyes and my dad’s nose. The creature got its claws and stuck them in my mother’s chest getting blood. It started scribbling blood on the wall…As my eyes adjusted in darkness I could see what it said “I KNOW YOU’RE AWAKE.””

Truly horrific!

Thanks Nine Two for a terrifying afternoon.   

Monday, 28 January 2013

Workshopping Dragonfire

One of the best things about being a writer of children’s books is that it gets you into schools. I’m one of those people who really enjoy working with kids and the workshops I did at Clough Hall Technology NAMe on Friday were brilliant. Thanks guys and thanks Chris Nelson for inviting me.

My first group was Nine Three. We had less than an hour so I decided that the best approach was to concentrate on writing dragon poems. Or at least the first draft of a dragon poem, because by the time I had introduced myself and my books and they had introduced themselves there was little more than forty minutes of writing time left.

I read a passage from "Dragonfire" about Jocelyn the shape changing dragon, then we  talked about my picture of a dragon and brainstormed their ideas. Next came the writing. Five words on five lines, the first ones that come to your head about dragons. Not easy if you’ve never done it before, especially if English and poetry aren’t your favourite subjects.

Building from those original five words, the group drafted their poems. We discussed words, eg why big might be less effective than humungous and why we needed something vivid to describe the power of dragons. From this came Natalia's
“Ruthless teeth tear/ Coldblooded murder kills.” And Owen's “Sharp tail/ Sheer teeth/Scaly ripped skin.

Adam gave us the feeling of power and fury “Vicious wings blow/Angry eyes lazer.” As did Bradley’s “Fierce eyes scare.”

Louis also concentrated on the anger of dragons in the lines “Hard head punches/ Angry fire burns.” While Dean’s dragon had an  “Evil temper always fighting…merciless.”

There was little time to discuss structure but Daniel had an instinctive grasp of form ending each line of his poem with a verb, ie,”Enormous teeth grinding/Armoured body protecting.” As did Sean with his brief three lines. “Long scaly/massive black wings/Sharp claws scratch." While Lewis followed Daniels’ pattern, “Fire breathing burns/Powerful roar deafens" in a tightly structured poem.

Ashley gave us “Scaly fluorescent skin.” Which sent my mind whirling on the possible colours of a dragon’s body and Jordon concentrated on the “Bright eyes glowing mysterious,” the more magical elements of the beast.”

At the end of the session everyone had produced a poem in less than an hour. In an ideal world there would have been time to polish and perfect, but schools work to a timetable and I had another group to go to after lunch.

Thanks Nine Three for a great session. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.