Thursday, 11 December 2014

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD. OR IS IT?




Imagine Earth is a money making reality show for aliens who love watching our daily lives on Channel Blue. Then they get bored and want to axe the show: Earth. Step up, Perry Bunt (Earthling) your hour has arrived.

Jay Martel doffs his hat to the 'Truman Show' and 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' which isn't a bad thing; it serves to remind us what great stories they are.

Perry, reluctant hero, is accompanied by Amanda Mundo, his scriptwriting student, into the funny, crazy race against time to stop the end of the world.





Friday, 5 December 2014

BOOKS ON A THEME - MIND READING


I didn't read any books throughout November because NaNoWriMo got in the way, but now that it's over I've the TBR pile to consume. BTW I did okay completing a rough 60K draft of another YA story - working title: Metal Beret.


Mind reading: A great concept for a YA story.

Elise is an outsider, but finds a connection when she's struck by lightning, enabling her to read minds. With her new friends, Grace and Jack, she discovers what's so special about her new house, Bramble Cottage, and the historical Warrender family, and about her abilities and inner strengths.

I enjoyed how Lesley handled Elise's anxiety issues and coping mechanisms - which teens and adults can relate to - and how her character developed throughout the book. There are plenty of secrets and questions about who to trust or not that make this an exciting read.


Lesley is a self published author of YA fiction, this is her fourth novel. You can find more information here.





I loved the whole idea of Ig waking up an finding he'd grown horns. It's like what your parents and grandparents used to tell you when you were young, when you pulled a face, 'If the wind blows, you'll stay like that.' Can you imagine?

So the story rolls and people are oblivious, but Ig can hear their darkest thoughts, they tell him things as if they were casually chatting about the weather. Always in the background there's the fact that his girlfriend was raped and murdered, and the small town believe he did it.

On the face of it you think you know the three main characters: Ig, Merrin, and Lee, but as the story progresses so you see a different side,                                                              and that's what kept me reading.


Joe is a horror writer who I will be returning to in the future. You can find more information here.


Friday, 31 October 2014

GOTHIC: DREAMS OR NIGHTMARES?

I can't believe it's been five months since I blogged. I've been busy writing, of course.

The last blog post found me in London, and a few weeks ago I returned to attend the Writers' and Artists' Breaking the Rules: Writing YA Fiction masterclass. This was in the evening, so I had the afternoon free to visit Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library.

This is a must for fans of Gothic literature. The exhibition takes you through a seemless tour of its history: Gothic Beginnings, A Taste of Terror, Victorian Monstrosity, Decadence and Degeneration, Modern Horrors, and A Weekend in Whitby. I spent a fabulous two hours wondering in the dimlit spaces absorbing every word and image.

My favourite Gothic novel is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was wonderful to see edited pages of her manuscript. Another highlight included the display case housing the vampire slaying kit alongside Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Gothic literature evolved from the medieval past, drawing from sublime architecture and landscapes before moving to the terror created by humans and monsters, closing in on towns and homes, and tapping into the human psyche. Supernatural will always hold a place in the heart of literature and film fans with their ever increasing demand for witches, vampires and zombies. They are never far from us.

I couldn't come away from the shop without the first Gothic novel written in 1764, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. The story was inspired by a vivid dream he had at his house, which he transformed into a Gothic wonder, a house he renamed Strawberry Hill.



Some useful resources.

The BBC have been running an excellent series of programmes - The Art of Gothic presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon - which links to this exhibition. You can watch them here for a limited period and other programmes here.

Chris Priestley's top ten tips for Gothic writing here.


Do you like Gothic? What's you favourite Gothic novel or film? I mentioned Frankenstein earlier. Film-wise, it would have to be The Wicker Man.



Thursday, 29 May 2014

LONDON CALLING

Drink, Shop and Do












Last week I went to London to meet up with two Scoobie (SCBWI) friends, Christina and Lesley, who are part of BackachYA, our YA e-critique group. We spent the afternoon in a delightful cafe, in Kings Cross, which is also a shop and night club.

Lesley, me and Christina
Here we are enjoying our tea. I'm not sure if I'm praying for more tea or the loo. That was my second pot of Yorkshire tea.

It was great to get together and meet some of the BackachYA girls behind the photos, and behind the stories we've been critiquing for, well, nearly a year now.

Christina signing
 my copy of Minty



Christina (sound tina like ina in China) was down from Scotland for the launch party of Three Hares Publishing who have published her debut YA novel, Minty, a wonderful, poignant story about her journey through loss. It's a heartfelt book about the relationship between twin sisters who become separated, how they cope and learn to move on. The sense of place is captured beautifully, and I felt I was there, with Minty, every step of the way. 

Looking forward to reading the next one, Christina.

What links Christina to Lesley besides Scoobie and BackachYA? Schools. Christina was a headteacher and now writes full-time, and Lesley works as a school librarian in London. Lesley has self published three YA novels and has more in the pipeline.

Lesley signing
my copy of
Someone Like Me


I read this book on the journey to and from London, and finished it just as the train was pulling in to Leeds. It was the perfect read. Jasmine is discovering who she is as well as trying to solve a murder mystery with her friend, Tess. Her family dynamics play a role in shaping her character, an element of the story I found intriguing. She's playing detective, but is she stalking the right people? There were plenty of unexpected turns in this story that kept me hooked to the end.

Can't wait for another mystery from Lesley.

The first book I read by Lesley was her debut, Her Sister's Voice, a wonderful book dealing with sensitive mental health issues. There are dark elements to the story relating to Leila's psychological battle as she deals with her emotions and those around her.  It's an insightful look into the internal world of the teenager coping with self harm, an important issue for both sexes and all age groups. This book won the Islington Teen Read Award 2014. The follow up is Her Other Voice.

Me? I signed the bill!
Kidding.

It was great to share respective writerly journeys and future plans. Mine is to start submitting next month. Honest, I will press that button. I wish every success to these lovely friends and fine writers. TTFN until we meet again on-line or otherwise.

Happy reading and writing.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

WAS THAT APRIL?

Well, that month is done and dusted. April 1st: Fool's Day didn't stop me from cringing when I pressed the send button to two competitions, and the start of Camp NaNo.

 I entered the #NestPitch Contest where I submitted a 35 word pitch plus the first 300 words of a MS. Though I wasn't successful, it was a useful experience in getting that 'elevator pitch' right. How do you hone your 50k + MS into those few words? It's hard. Try it out.

The other competition I entered was the SI Leeds Literary Prize. I thought I'd left it too late to enter, but they extended the closing date so I thought, what the heck. I pressed send and submitted the full MS. Watch this space.

CampNaNo went okay. The plan was to write 50K. Thankfully I was able to change my word count, something you can't do in the November NaNo, and completed a little over 30K towards my new WIP. I'm excited by this new project.

Oh yeah, there was the #April Extravaganza #ukyaday, part of Project UKYA organised by the lovely Lucy. There were lots of UK Young Adult Fiction promotion, sharing author and book recommendations, and a readathon. I read Shattered by Teri Terry, the last instalment in the Slated trilogy; a dystopian thriller about a girl on a journey to find her true identity. I was running with Kyla to the very end. Then there was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, a wonderful story about a boy dealing with his nightmare. It ate me up and left me crying. Bloody brilliant! And Minty by Christina Banach, her first published novel; a wonderful, poignant story about loss.

Another pitch! I went to the SCBWI workshop: Practical Pitching with Sara O'Connor from Hot Key Books. We worked on our MS title, hook, strapline and three sentence pitch then pitched via 'Hangouts.' It was an invaluable day. I came out with a revised title, a pitch I'm really happy with *thumbs up* and I'm now ready for the next step.

Duh duh duuuuhhh! Submitting to agents. Arh!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

CAMP NANOWRIMO 2014


April sees the start of Camp NaNoWriMo. I've taken part in NaNoWri Mo in November since 2011, but this is my first Camp. There's also a summer camp in July.

This WriMo you can set your own targets. You don't have to slog out 50k, but I'm going to give it my best. I want to finish the first draft of Thick Skinned.

I started writing it NaNo 2012, but for some reason it emerged from the mix of last years NaNo and I came away with two stories. Neither were completely finish, though I did pass the 50k marker.

You don't have to be in a camp with participants, but it makes the writing more fun if you are. I was randomly placed with some campers from America and Germany, both newbies and NaNo writers.

I'll probably update my progress at the end of the month.

All the best if you're doing Camp.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

TO TWEET OR NOT TO TWEET.

TWIT TWOO INDEED

Hmm? Twitter? Why not?

You hear people talking about Twitter as if it's beneath them. That might sound a little harsh, but some say why would you, or should you share your daily thoughts with the world? It's meaningless. Why not? Who cares if you're having a cup of coffee in Starbucks, or the cat's been sick on your manuscript? Everyone and no one. People can read it and choice to reply or share your news, but at the end of day, what matters is the purpose and significance of the tweet.

I recently joined Twitter following a link from Project UKYA, run by Lucy Powrie. She host #ukyachat where writers, reader, publishers and agents connect by fingertip conversation. You feel possessed trying to keep up with all the talk, but once you get used to it it really is fun. It's an informal gathering without the noise. Bonus!

For an unpublished writer (me) there's a wealth of information and opportunities that I wasn't aware of: e.g. #askagent - ask an agent question; #nestpitch - pitch competition, and #fp - FridayPhrases microfiction, to name but a few.

Of course, there's the casual chat with a favourite author.

Have you converted to Twitter, or fled kicking and screaming back to the real world?


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

IN SUPPORT OF KINDLE

I remember saying that I would never get a Kindle, but I bought one. I've had it a few years now and love it. It came into it's own the other week when I was recovering from a migraine. Lying on the sofa, trying to relax, I needed to something to pass the time. I couldn't watch t.v. or read, which I really wanted to do. Then I remembered that I could switch the novel to text-to-speech mode. I closed my eyes and listened to The Starter House by Sonja Condit, a chilling ghost story set in a house.

The text-to-speech mode has other great uses. When I'd finished editing The Junk Room, I emailed a copy to the Kindle and spent a few hours listening to my first complete MS. To read it is one thing, but to hear it spoken really changes the way the story shapes in your mind. I will admit, I felt a little choked.

So it's a thumbs up for Kindle, but not a dismissal of the lovely hardback or paperback. Oh no. It's a great alternative though. Long may they live together sharing their USP's.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

WORKSHOPS, CONFERENCES AND NETWORKING.


Two consecutive Saturdays saw me at a writing workshop in Leeds, and a writing conference in London.

The Finishing Your Story workshop was held at Compton Library, Leeds. Katy Massey, a writer of life stories, hosted the four hour free event, supported by SI Leeds Lit Prize.

Though we didn't cover everything that was planned on the day, we were able to look at editing and dialogue and share ideas. There are some resources here about this workshop and the others in the series.

How to Write forChildren and Young Adults and get Published was held at Bloomsbury Publishing, London. The seven-and-a-half hour Writers and Artists conference costing £95. 

Emma Hopkin, MD of Bloomsbury Children's and Educational Publishing, led the introductions followed by a panel discussion: What are children's publishers looking for and what are today's children reading? With Jill Coleman (Little Tiger Press), Mara Bergman (Walker Books), and Julia Eccleshare (Childrens Book Editor of the Guardian).

After a coffee break Julia Eccleshare chaired the next discussion: How to submit to an agent with Julia Churchill (A.M. Heath), Jodie Hodges (United Agents) and Camilla Wray (Darley Anderson).

There were Q&A following both discussions.

After lunch we went to our prearranged workshops hosted by authors. For young children there was Yasmeen Ismail; writing for 8-12's was Elen Caldecott, and for YA was Matt Whyman. I was with the YA group.

The best advice from the workshop was to write about the character, not the age. It's all about the character of you're MC.

It was a long day (09.30-17.00) but there were reception drinks for the last hour, and another chance to chat with fellow attendees. By then many had left to travel home. I had two-and-a-half hours on the train to digest my day and make a start on Matt's latest novel, Savages.

Attending these events isn't compulsory for writers but I think you gain so much from them. My experiences here were contrasting regarding the travel and cost. Writing is a solitary experience whether we like it or not, so networking with other writers is important. Hearing words of advice straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, from agents and publishers was priceless.

Both days were mostly attended by women. We were a mix of ages, backgrounds and writing abilities, all sharing the same passion for writing. It was great to share our writing experiences and ideas, as well as make connections in order to meet up face to face, and in cyberspace, offering support along the writing journey.


Have you attended local events or had to travel widely to enhance your writerly experience? How have these events effected you as a writer?







  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

THE WRITER'S JOURNEY

This year I want to progress in my writer's journey. Where am I? Well, I can see where I want to go, but there are lots of forks along the path and plenty of diversions.

I'm revising The Junk Room, my current WIP, and I'm encouraged by the feedback I'm getting from the SCBWI e-critique group. All these little steps that are coming together will further my learning.

As well as this, I've been doing some reading on submission packages. This can include query letters, cover letters and synopsis. There's a wealth of information out there on the web. Below are some of the resources I tapped into.

Mslexia
Writers and Artists
Nicola Morag - Write a Great Synopsis
Query Shark
Also check out resources from literary consultants, agents and publishers.

I started off looking at the elevator pitch. This is a great exercise breaking your novel down to 25 words. It's not easy, but it's a great challenge. What is the core element of the story? What does the MC want? What is their main hurdle?

This can be developed further for the synopsis where you should see the MC's journey through major obstacles, plot and climaxes. It should explain the structure of the story and character development. This summary of your story is written single spaced, on 1-2 A4 sides. It's not a lot, is it? That's why they say it's hard to write.

Along with your sample chapters, this is your first impression, so make it count.

What are your experiences? Did you find it easy? Fun?