Friday, 18 May 2018

Character Channelling

Novella prequel to SIX DEAD MEN
Scheduled for release end of July

As I plug my way through my Palindrome [WIP] edit before its release at the end of July, I’m working hard at channelling my central character. This is not that simple considering he’s a 13 year old boy, highly intelligent and fairly reserved too. He reads books some older people would find challenging, has an antiquated vocabulary and spends far too much time on his own or with adults. Oh, and let’s not forget his parents are Scottish (dad) and Romany (mum) so he’s bound to have a Janus complex. If this isn't already a psychological condition then I think it certainly should be.

I’ve been struggling to establish his voice for some time now and repeatedly write him in too formal a manner. It’s all about striking the right balance to ensure he’s believable and intriguing enough so readers get invested in what happens to him and those he is closest to. I’m having a hard time of it. The delete button is getting a pounding while my mind whirls with a flurry of ideas which seem fantastic at the onset then utterly rubbish once down on the page.

My trusty writing group are never shy of sharing their opinions on this matter. While their criticism can seem harsh at the time, I trust and value their input enormously. On occasion I leave a session feeling as though I’m on bloody stumps (as with the last one a fortnight ago) but they’re very rarely wrong. When I get it right they heap praise on my efforts and then I’m all aglow in their sunshiny beam of approval.

In my bid to find my inner 13 year male self I’ve also taken to watching documentaries attempting to categorise gender such as Channel 4's Genderquake. While I’m learning a whole new set of vocabulary, finally understanding that ‘binary’ is not just a mathematical term I’ve shied away from for years and feeling deeply for the trauma many of the participants in the programme experienced; I don’t think I’ve managed to channel my character effectively as yet.

Things are getting fairly desperate and I’m on the hunt for a teenager I can corner and interrogate. Yes, this is the rock clinging to the hard place I’ve arrived at. If anyone has a spare 13 year old boy with the attributes stated in paragraph 1, I’d appreciate the interaction, sans Gestapo type interrogation methods I promise. Till this opportunity presents itself I’ll have to continue to rely on my trusty writing group and the delete button on my laptop.

 If you have any advice on the subject of character channelling or a 13 year old boy available for loan please feel free to say so in the comments section of this post.

Friday, 4 May 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: HAGSTONE by Helena Rookwood

A 4 star read

I liked how I was immediately thrown into the action with the central character, Madeleine. The world she and her family inhabit is well described and I was able to picture its various elements very well. This is a bonus for someone like me who has trouble with geography in general. The place descriptions allowed me to create a world picture of where I was and feel that I inhabited this place with the characters.

The main tension is set up by an unusual cast of characters, including Madeleine’s young daughter and her mother-in-law who exhibits witch-like traits. Add to this Madeleine’s secrets about her past and the growing tension between herself and her husband and you get an intriguing set of circumstances.

The book is essential a quest novel. At the beginning we learn that Madeleine’s quest has been curtailed. As her daughter has grown from baby to toddler and nears teen hood, Madeleine’s desire to resume her quest has been quelled. But now it is rekindled and this sets up interesting dynamics in the story.

A very enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more books in the series.

Find out more about The Riverwitch Series on Helena's website

Friday, 27 April 2018

Writing Limitations

Writing With a Long-term Limiting Illness

Finishing the writing of a book is a massive achievement. It’s right up there with home ownership and giving birth in my view. There’s the initial awful draft to complete. Writing time during this phase consists of getting the maximum amount of words onto the page whilst beset with constant doubts that the concept I’ve come up with is good enough. This is even before I begin evaluating if the writing is any good at all. Now, and only now comes the beginning of the editing process. The book will go through 5 or 6 edits, sometimes even 10 if it’s being an irritable monster. My writing group, beta readers and sensational Editor, Emma, will all be giving it the once over. When I think the final edit is the one, I then have to send it off to my magnificent proof-reader, Chantal.

It doesn’t stop after the writing process. In the meanwhile I have to ensure I’m keeping up with contacts, sorting the cover, creating a fabulous look to the interior, arranging a blog tour before the release, maintaining my social media presence etc etc. Oh yes, let me not forget that I have to keep up my tutoring commitments throughout.

This relentless focus on the task along with the need to pay the bills means I have to commit myself to the job in hand. Sometimes this is not all that easy. There are periods when my writing mojo goes off to its secret mojo cave and I’m left mojo-less for several days at a time. This results in writing days full of stilted sentences, much muttering, under the breath, swearing, nails chewed to bloody stumps and repeated abuse of the delete key. Then of course there’s the restriction to my writing time dictated by my teaching schedule. Falling ill is really not an option open to me. But it’s one I face on a daily basis as I suffer from Lupus and Scleroderma. So when I'm ill it takes me at least 3 times longer to get over whatever it is than it takes anyone else.

Along with this there are several symptoms of Lupus which make life a tad more difficult. The ones which affect me the most are prolonged periods of fatigue and pains in my chest when I have to breathe deeply. I also suffer from debilitating migraines when I ignore my body's need to rest. These can knock me out for 3 days at a time. My Scleroderma symptoms are mild in comparison to the Lupus. I really feel the cold, have very cold hands and feet (they sometimes turn blue), some hardened skin on my hands and feet and red spots on my face which intensify when I’m under the weather or tired.

Too many changes in my routine, failure to eat regularly and rest when my body requires it can result in days of lost writing time. So I jealously guard my writing schedule and support my dodgy immune system by taking a daily homeopathic remedy, eating a healthy diet, exercising and resting whenever my body demands.
Of course, life will throw curve balls along the way so I don’t necessarily stick as religiously to this regime as I should. When I slip, I suffer for it and hasten to mend my ways ASAP as it affects my writing considerably if I don’t. I am first and foremost, a slave to what my writing dictates it needs from me. And that means I must ensure as perfect a work-life balance as possible. So far things seem to be going well.

Is there a long-term illness which makes your writing life harder than it needs to be? Tell me about it.

Friday, 20 April 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: BLAZE by Devyn Jayse

A 4 star read
The main character, Vincent is living in the insalubrious world of the Blights with his younger sister Penny. They are orphans striving to survive in a harsh world. Vincent has his set of friends and a burning anger fuelled by the unfairness of the situation he is forced to live in. Suddenly a series of fires begins to engulf the district. People are afraid and accusations start flying.

This is an engaging read with good characters and well a created setting. I felt I was in the shady world of the Blights with Vincent. The idea of a divide between The Blights and The Town is made very clear to the reader. Vincent’s cohort of friends are interesting and the description of the bond between them is realistic as it also charts the scuffles which can often occur between a friendship group of boys or young men. Further suspense is created by pushing Vincent into a situation where he’s forced to prove his innocence concerning several fires which have been set.

Some minor issues for me: I wanted a clearer idea of how old Vincent is. I kept speculating, he also solves the mystery of who is setting the fires far too easily. This could have been drawn out even more.

Intrigue is introduced by the insertion of new characters. I wanted to know more and will definitely be looking at the rest of this series once my other reading commitments are over. A writer to keep an eye on I’d say.

Grab a copy of Devyn's work today.

Friday, 13 April 2018

#Indie Intro

#Review: RED DESERT by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

4 Star reading

I must confess a certain attraction to the inhospitable red planet ever since I saw Total Recall. The Arnie version of course. There simply is no other. As many of you know, I’ve even squeezed a mention of Mars into my very own little eco SciFi number. So I was delighted to come across this translation of Deserto Rosso. It is written in diary format from the perspective of Anna Persson, an astronaut landed on Mars together with several colleagues. Together they are hoping to set up a primary colony.

The opening is dramatic as use of the present tense and the narrator’s situation draws the reader in. The story line switches between events on Mars and flashbacks, in the past tense, in which we learn a great deal of backstory. I found these details and the relationships Anna has with other characters very engaging. I wanted to read on and in fact finished the book in only 4 sittings. Anna's complex character is well rounded and Monticelli details her motivations, actions and feelings to perfection.

Where things were not so great for me was in the large sections of didactic information about Mars itself. I understand it is necessary for these crucial facts to be there as they pinpoint the difficulties the astro-team has waiting for them on this hostile planet. However, these chunks of information felt rather stilted. This may well be due to the fact they are in translation. Writing in English is complicated enough. I can’t even begin to contemplate how difficult translating an entire novel is. But sometimes the very fact of the translation made itself evident in clumsy phrasing, overlong sentence structures and perhaps the odd word or two with questionable context. And there was also the odd proofreading issue.

Despite this I enjoyed the story very much and would certainly read the rest of the series once I’ve finished this crazy Goodreads challenge I’ve set myself. If you like SciFi and stories with great characters then this book is the right one for you.

Other books in this series

Friday, 6 April 2018

Writing On The Go

Writing on the go can be a challenge. You don’t have the comfort of your familiar writing space. There’s no handy kitchen for making cups of tea, no cupboard full of snacks and no slow-cooker getting lunch or dinner ready while you become absorbed in your writing.

Over the years I’ve carved out a little nook in my living room which serves as my writing oasis in the midst of the craziness that makes up my weekly schedule. It’s a light, bright space where I keep all my writing accoutrement. It’s where words get put on the page, where I agonise over every punctuation mark, where the delete button gets a frequent pummelling. It’s the first place I head every morning as soon as I have a cup of coffee to hand.

So how do you go about getting that familiar writing nook feeling along with the sense of routine you’ve built up over the years when you’re not at home?

I’ve been writing on the go for several years now. At first, when I was a full time teacher, it was one of the few times I actually got uninterrupted writing time. Now of course I have regular writing days factored into my teaching timetable. But I still relish those moments when I know I can write every day without having to worry about having teaching commitments to fulfil at some point.

The diminishing size of my notebooks

Whenever I do a weekend trip or go away for a little longer I’m sure to be considering writing plans ahead of time. A weekend away usually involves a notebook. I’m talking old school and not electronic here. Luckily I have a large selection of these as people are always giving me notebooks as presents. In the past I used to take along a largish one but now I’ve downsized and stick to a much smaller version. 

My trusty ASUS, notebook and pen
Longer trips used to involve my trusty ASUS Seashell and a USB with my latest WIP. Now however it’s just the ASUS as all my WIPs are stored online. I also keep a back-up of all my docs on a portable hard-drive just in case the internet goes nuts. I have future plans for letting go of the ASUS completely, though the mere thought of this pains me as it’s been such a loyal companion for so long. The plan is to invest in a collapsible keyboard which is compatible with my Kindle. This will be a weight and space saver.

However, that time is not here yet. For now my ASUS and I continue to explore new territory with only an old school notebook and pen serving as aide de camp. After all, when the notebook is completely covered in scrawls there’s still plenty of paper napkins to hand wherever your travels might take you.

How do you write on the go? What’s your go to implement of choice?

Friday, 30 March 2018

Fighting Talk Update

The Witch Adoption Project, the cheeky little fantasy upstart won the battle of the genres. Scifi fans were just not fast enough with their trigger fingers to topple this young lady from her perch on high. She will now be the WIP I work on for next year once Palindrome is published this summer.

The main battle was fought on my Facebook page and she won by 31 votes. Here is her successful plea to the public. As you can see, she shamelessly used her youth to pull the voters in.

Hi there
My name is THE WITCH ADOPTION PROJECT and I'm a WIP sitting in a folder on Rae's laptop. I want more out of life. I don't want to stay a draft forever more. I want to be published.

So I'm appealing to you dear followers to support my cause and vote for me. Yes I'm young. Yes I'm precocious. But age is only good for wine and cheese. I'm neither.
The rest is now up to you. You know what you have to do.

The Witch Adoption Project is the sequel to my fantasy novel The Lonely Dragon for ages 8 and upwards. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a good fairy tale you know. I very much look forward to working on this WIP as of August and am sure she’ll give me as much lip as she’s given the voters.