Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Monthly Round-up: February 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

On 1 February, I went in for surgery.

Since then I’ve been at home recovering, so February is pretty much a write-off. However, it’s been very cold while I’ve been off, so it’s not been a bad time to be stuck indoors. And by the time I go back to work, which I hope will be next week (pending doctor approval) it will be daylight when I leave the house.

That said, there are a few things to report this month.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

I’m pleased to announce that my story ‘Morgan’s Father’ is included in the Women in Horror edition of the SIREN’S CALL e-zine. This issue is completely free to download as a PDF and is chock full of horror stories by women, so download your copy now.

In other news, we don’t yet have a release date for OUTPOST H311, but the onus is on me at the moment since I’ve had the edits back and I’m working through them. And it’s taking rather longer than I was expecting. Partly that’s due to being on sick leave. For the first two weeks following surgery I couldn’t really do much except lie about reading or watching TV. No concentration for anything else. However, this week I’ve been making progress with the edits, so hopefully there’ll be more news on this next month.

PUBLICITY

I contributed to Mark West’s Stephen King mixtape, which appeared on his blog on 26 February. This was a post including a long list of writers talking briefly about their favourite King story. I chose ‘The Breathing Method’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I haven’t worked on any WIPs for a while, what with surgery getting in the way and all. So the current status is unchanged. There are two current works in progress:

A WHITER SHADE OF PAIN: a crime thriller set in 1967 which is a collaboration with my husband. We plotted the book together, then I wrote Draft 1 and he started on Draft 2. The latter isn’t finished yet, but I’ve taken it back to make further changes to the amended chapters. So I suppose it’s currently on Draft 2.5.

DEADLY SUMMER is the fourth Shara Summers novel, which takes my intrepid sleuth to New York City when she gets a job in a US soap opera. I am about a third of the way through the first draft. I halted work on this when I started writing OUTPOST H311, and I haven’t got back to it yet.

That’s all to report this month. I anticipate that by the end of next month, spring will have sprung. But you can never tell, with British weather.

 

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Monthly Round-Up: January 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I really hate January. It has no redeeming features. It’s dark, cold and wet, everyone is broke after Christmas, there is nothing to look forward to and as I never see daylight during the working week it’s the month my SAD seems to hit the hardest so I spend most of it feeling depressed.

Hence, I am always glad to see the back of it. Happily, we are now out of January and there are a few things to look forward to in the coming months as there is news to report.

COMING SOON:

I am pleased to announce that my previously-published story “Morgan’s Father” (most recently available in the collection SOUL SCREAMS) is to be published in the forthcoming ‘Women in Horror’ edition of the ezine SIREN’S CALL.

My new horror novel OUTPOST H311 is currently with the editor, and will be released later this year from KGHH publishing. I will let you know when I have more news regarding release date.

PUBLICITY:

I’ve been a bit quiet on this front of late, and there’s nothing to report at the moment, but there are a couple of things I’ve been working on and I hope to have something to report soon.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

With the horror novel finished I’ve been trying to figure out what to work on next. I’m back at work on the collaboration with Hubby, which has been a somewhat long-running project. It’s a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman with a dream to play bass in a band, who gets caught up in the heady world of London gangs and the rising music scene when she searches for a friend who’s disappeared.

The fourth Shara Summers novel is about a third of the way through draft 1, but I have not done any work on it for 12 months. I am still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. I enjoy writing it, but it’s not selling, and is there any point in carrying on with a series people don’t want to read?

As we move into February and the days start to get lighter, things start to look brighter. Join me again at the end of this month to see what it had in store!

Year in Review: 2017

(Cross-published on the WriteClub blog)

Well here we are at the start of 2018. This is a time to make resolutions to change things in the forthcoming year, and review how things went in the last one.

This time last year, I resolved to have two finished WIPs by the end of 2017. Well, I got halfway there. I finished the latest horror novel in mid-December. The novel is called OUTPOST H311 and it will be published by KGHH Publishing some time this year. Stay tuned for more info on this.

The other WIP – the fourth Shara Summers novel – remains unfinished. I am at present trying to make up my mind whether to continue with this series. The third novel is still without a publication date. Although it was accepted by MuseItUp Publishing some 18 months ago, health and personal issues affecting both my editor and my publisher there have delayed publishing schedules.

I enjoy writing the Shara series, and the few reviews that I’ve received for the first two books in the series have been positive, but they really aren’t selling, and I’m finding this very discouraging. What’s the point of writing books that no one seems interested in reading?

Since I finished OUTPOST H311 I’ve taken a bit of break from writing while I think about what to work on next. I have got a couple of vague ideas, but nothing concrete yet.

This year, I resolve to have at least one WIP finished by the end of the year. I just haven’t made up my mind which one yet.

Happy New Year one and all, and hope 2018 brings success and happiness.

Monday’s Friend: Samantha Priestley

Today I’m pleased to welcome author Samantha Priestley to my blog.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

SP: As a child and a teenager I always loved writing, but I didn’t think it was an option for me as a career, I didn’t think I’d be good enough or that I was ‘clever’ enough. It was only when I’d worked in a bookshop for a few years and met a few authors that I realised they were pretty normal people. Then when I had my children and I was at home with them for a while, I thought ‘it’s now or never’, and I started writing seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever thought I was destined to be a writer, and still don’t. It’s just the thing I want to do most.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

SP: The Brontes, Kate Atkinson, Thomas Hardy, Kate Bush, Ross Raisin, Shelagh Delaney

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

SP: You probably won’t make the kind of money you think a writer makes and you’re probably going to have to be flexible about how you make money, and if you really want to do this you’re going to have to be ok with that. Find a way to make money that still allows you the time to be creative and keep trying.

SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

SP: I do it all the time, but they probably wouldn’t recognise themselves. Almost every character is based on someone, or on more than one person.

SJT: Tell us about the latest release.

SP: It’s called A BAD WINTER and it’s my first ghost story. It runs simultaneously between two timelines, one in modern day and one in the 1760s, tying the two together with the spirit of Sarah Vernon. It’s set in a Derbyshire village where the original real story comes from. I read a snippet of a local story from that time about a girl who was murdered in a house that’s no longer standing. I don’t want to say too much and give anything anyway, but what happened after the girl’s death gave me the idea for the book.

SJT: You’ve done some travel writing.  Are there any places you’ve visited that were really memorable for you, and if so, why?

SP: Oh, so many! I love travelling and I end up setting stories in places that I’ve loved visiting. I love Cornwall and used to take my kids every summer when they were small, so it always reminds me of them as they were then. Italy I found to be so beautiful and I’d love to go back, and also Spain, I love Barcelona, it’s such a cultural city.

SJT: Any other writing projects on the go at the moment?

SP: I tend to work on more than one book at a time, so I have a first draft of one almost finished and I’ve just started another. I’ll go back to the first one and re-write then leave it a while and work on the second one etc. I have a pamphlet of flash fiction coming out with RedBird soon and my next novel, ROSE VILLA, will be out in February.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

SP: Sleep! I like going for walks, eating out, watching films. I also go with my partner to life drawing sessions (he’s an artist and created the cover of A Bad Winter). I find it really relaxing, and also everyone goes to the pub after…which is the real reason I go 😉

BLURB FOR ‘A BAD WINTER’

When does passion turn to love? When does responsibility mean guilt? When does a death become a murder?

In A Bad Winter these hefty questions stir up echoes through time, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, to create an intimate and powerful tale of personal lives in freefall. With her trademark pictorial prose and beautifully phrased metaphors, novelist Samantha Priestley has created a ghostly romance set among wintry Derbyshire hills, and a shivering good read.

A BAD WINTER is available now.

 

Monday’s Friend: Mary Andrea Clarke

Today I’m pleased to welcome historical crime writer Mary Andrea Clarke to the blog. Good to have you as my guest, Mary.

SJT: Did you always know you were destined to be a writer?

crimson cavalierMAC: No, although I always enjoyed writing.  It wasn’t really something I thought about consciously.  Some of my primary school teachers had suggested I should become an author.  I wasn’t really convinced at that point.  A slow burning flame that came to fruition, or maybe like the maturing of a good wine.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MAC: Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L Sayers, Jean Plaidy, although I don’t write about known historical figures, and Jane Austen.  Pride and Prejudice made a direct contribution to The Crimson Cavalier when I named Georgiana Grey after Mr Darcy’s sister.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MAC: Try not to get discouraged by the rejections.  There’s no average time or number of nos a writer will hear before getting the yes.  Go looking for opportunities to write, even if it’s not your preferred format.  Competitions, writers’ groups, evening classes, all are good discipline and set targets.  Even an encouraging letter from a competition organiser where you just missed the shortlist can be the spur to keep going.  Accountability is a good motivator and good feedback is always a help.  It also provides valuable interaction in an essentially solitary occupation.

love not poisonSJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

MAC: Only twice, both have ended up dead.  In most cases, I have found characters have evolved as a mix of qualities I have picked up subconsciously or something I’ve heard which has to be used.  The last real life inspired character was left face down in a river in my latest work in progress.  I must decide his fate or he will soon become bloated like some unfortunate individual I saw in Midsomer.

SJT: I’ve killed off real people in my books too! It’s quite carthartic. When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

MAC: Neither and both.  I do plan to an extent, but more on a next chapter basis than detailed planning of the manuscript.  Of course things don’t always go according to plan.  The Crimson Cavalier was full of surprises.  One character intended as a passing background figure suddenly appeared on the page, with a very specific appearance and a large part to play in the next book, Love Not Poison.  The latest Georgiana Grey work started as an exercise inspired by Dorothea Brande’s classic work, Becoming a Writer.  I wanted to shake things up.  Her suggestion of keeping a notebook by the bed and writing the first thing that comes into the head in the morning, before fully awake, kicked off a new novel.  I’m not sure yet where it’s leading but that’s half the fun.

SJT: Your series is about an independent-minded young woman in Regency England. Not a time desperately progressive when it comes to women’s rights. What inspired you to create the character of Georgiana Grey?

MAC: In a way, it was the very difficulties women encountered in that era which made me want a female sleuth trying to negotiate the system, if only to see if it could be done.  I always loved the film, ‘The Wicked Lady’, in its original black and white version.  While it may have required some suspension of disbelief, the intrigue and tension mixed with the class distinctions remains riveting.  The role of highway robber gave Georgiana a level of freedom to circumvent some of the rules  We know highwaymen were not the glamorous Robin Hood-like adventurers of fable.  Yet we also know the world is not black and white, the anti-hero has good points as the hero has flaws.  Ross Poldark’s anger at a sick man’s imprisonment for a minor crime leads to him breaking the law but I suspect most of us would not condemn him.  The prison scenes from the original ‘Poldark’ were in my mind when I motivated Georgiana’s anger about her servant’s conviction.

debt not dishonourSJT: Any current writing projects in the works?

MAC: At present I am editing The Body Nursery, which introduces some new characters, two bodysnatchers who discover a dead baby while liberating an old man from his coffin.  One is uncomfortable with treating the child as merchandise and suspects a questionable death which he decides to investigate.  Another lawbreaker with a conscience.  I have also started writing a new Georgiana Grey adventure, in which her cousin and chaperone, Selina Knatchbull, finds a body which subsequently disappears.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MAC: I enjoy spending time with my long distance family when I get the chance, we always manage to do some fun stuff.  I like reading (of course!), going to the theatre and places of historical interest.  Just recently I had a great day out at Hampton Court,  I have been there before but always spot something new!

SJT: Thank you, Mary, for taking time to chat with me today.

If readers want to learm more about Mary’s work, check out her website and follow her on Twitter. The link to her publishers can be found here.

The first book in the Crimson Cavalier series is currently available on Kindle for 95p, so if you want to grab a bargain, hop over there right now (or $.123 if you’re in the US).

 

Monday’s Friend: Sarah E Smith

Today’s guest is fellow KGHH author and crime writer Sarah E Smith. Welcome, Sarah!

Inside the Mind
By Sara E Smith

A couple of months ago, Sara asked me to blog about my processes, and whether it’s changed as I’ve developed as a writer. So I thought I’d explain how I do a whodunnit and why Byrd books are taking much longer to write than the Secret of Aldwych Strand did.

For mesarah e smith (2), writing a time travel trilogy was like falling off a log. Mark and Lucy’s story oozed from every pore. Tumbling like a river in flood; desperate to reach the world. This new set of books is best compared to wading through treacle without waders.  Symington, Earl Byrd,  my latest creation for KGHH publishing, is a gentleman detective; living and working at the start of the 20th century. His world is dark and dangerous. His opponents vicious, clever, and always one step ahead. Hence the treacle. I had to rethink how I wrote; had to become more methodical. Plot more, think more. Draft and discard more.

You see whilst I know exactly who the murderers are and why they have committed such heinous crimes, these tales aren’t put together from chapter one to chapter last.

Right from the beginning, before you write the words Chapter One, it’s important to know who the murderer is and why their victim, or victims, had to die. So, I write the murderer’s confession first. You know the drill: “Of course, I murdered Major Plumb in the Study with the lead piping…” and in early draft, this section always ends with: “And I would have got away with it, were it not for you pesky kids.”

After establishing the who and why, I write the first murder and continue up to the point where Byrd shows how clever he is by examining the evidence at the crime scene.  Then I stop, and write Byrd’s final speech to the suspects: “I’ve called you all here today to…” This allows me to establish the red herrings,  and the lies these people need to tell during the rest of the tale in order to make them possible murderers.

From then on it’s pretty plain sailing. Get the rest of the main story written predominantly from Byrd’s perspective – except when 3rd person or another POV is needed; meet and interview the suspects; and then kill off at least one more person. This done, it’s time to open the files: “I called you all here today” and the “Pesky Kids”; copy and paste them in, and job jobbed.

Except of course it’s not.

It’s at this point I realise I’ve  missed out one motive,  or forgotten to murder someone. In the worst case (as at the moment with his second book) the plot’s twisted in on itself and the universe will implode. So back I go and change, rewrite, and add until I’ve had enough… and never want to write a murder mystery again.

SB COC NEW MASTER COVER (2)So

Am I

Finished?

No!

Because as I read this draft through, it becomes blindingly obvious there’s no badinage and interplay between Byrd and his bizarre entourage: cousin CC (a chief inspector with Scotland Yard); Sampson and Watkins his servants. There’s no sub plot; no tantalising glimpses into the central characters past – or present.  By this point I also realise the history is missing. Those passing references to the events of the early 1900’s, which I must include, or burn in the fires of inaccuracy. So, after a short temper tantrum, I add those bits, and send it off to the editor before I make any changes … or throw any more toys out the pram.

At this point peace descends. A short month(ish) truce broken by an email from the editor. This reveals: gaping plot holes and an ending that doesn’t make sense; sections of text which drag, she doesn’t like or are a pile of poo – my words. It’s also now I realise, that some of the voices are too similar. A constable on the beat speaks like a toff. Byrd doesn’t have enough whimsies and mannerisms, and the least said about Sampson and Watkins the better.

Eventually though, the final product emerges and it’s over to you dear reader for your verdict…

twitter pics1 (2)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Plymouth in 1967 to a naval family, Sarah never wanted to go down to the sea in ships, she wanted to travel in time. For some people this would be a daunting challenge. For Sarah it was easy. There were three ways to do it: stow away in the TARDIS, study History and write a book. The last two were achievable, and she may not have travelled in the TARDIS, but she did once travel in a Mini Metro with Tom Baker, the fourth (and for those of us of a certain age, the best) Doctor Who.

Learn more about Sarah and her writing on her website, her blog and her Amazon page, or follow her on Twitter.

 

BOOK LINKS:

Meet Symington Byrd. Playboy. Gentleman. Detective.
viewBook.at/COC

For the Time Travellers out there: the Trilogy is complete:
getBook.at/CompleteTrilogy

 

 

Monthly Round-up: July 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This month’s round-up post is a week late, but this time last week I was sunning myself on a beach in France. The weather was lovely, but wifi access was appalling.

Hence, here we are now in August, reviewing July.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

I’m hoping to promote the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, at Bouchercon in October, and hopefully I’ll have a release date by then. In the meantime I’m plugging the first book the series, DEATH SCENE.

PUBLICITY

The third Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH has finished. The lucky winners were Angela Paull from Hampshire and Olivia Silva from Hertfordshire. They have each received a signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH.

I am very excited about the forthcoming Bouchercon in Toronto, which will be my first time attending this particular conference. And I am particularly thrilled about being offered a panel. The panel is about violence in crime, and should be very interesting, though since it’s on at 8:30am on the Friday, I am not sure how many people we’ll have in the audience.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I am pleased to report that the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is finished, and work has commenced on the second draft. At this stage I am feeling confident I will hit the 1 October deadline to submit this one. Hopefully I’ll be feeling just as confident at the end of August.

Until then, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the rest of the summer. And if you are in then Southern Hemisphere, you’ve still got summer to look forward to.

Friday Fears: Two-sentence Horror #12

Hello horror hounds!

I’ve had another two-sentence horror story submitted to me from Claire Fitzpatrick, which makes it time for some more Friday Fears!

Here is Claire’s story:

“This tastes divine,” I murmured, shovelling the soft strips of meat into my mouth. “It’s a pity you’re so thin,” I added, slicing off the cheek from my sister’s hack-up face.

And here’s one from me:

I always dreamed of being famous, and fame has finally come to me. It also came to the man who murdered me, but at least he’s still alive to enjoy it.

Happy Friday, and don’t have nightmares!

 

The Ten Commandments of Writing #10: Thou Shalt Never, Ever Give Up

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I get quite cross with people who imply that I write ‘for fun’. Or ‘for pleasure’. This generally comes into a conversation where I’m trying to explain why the writing is not my full-time profession. I’m trying to explain that I don’t make enough money from the writing to do it for a living, and so they say, “oh so you do it for fun then.”

There is nothing fun about writing. Yes there are moments of exhilaration, like when the WIP is going well and words are flowing, when you’re in that stage when you can re-read the words you’ve written and think to yourself, “actually this is pretty good. And I created it.” But you know this is going to be followed by a period of crashing self-doubt, when you are absolutely convinced that everything you’ve written is a steaming pile of turds and you should give up deluding yourself that you’re a writer and go and spend your time watching TV instead. This bit of the process is not fun. Neither is the constant lurching from self-confidence to self-loathing that I am convinced absolutely every writer, no matter how successful they are, experiences.

No, we don’t do it for fun. So why do we do it? It’s more a need, an urge. We need to write to keep on living, the same way we need to breathe.

You need to remember this once you have accepted the fact that you are a writer, because the road will not be smooth. There will be rocky patches. There will be times when you want to crawl under the bed covers and never come out again. Every time you submit something to an editor, you will spend the next few hours, or days, or weeks, on tenterhooks. You will be checking your email every two minutes to see if you’ve had a response yet. When you discover there isn’t one, you will experience conflicting feelings of disappointment and faint hope, because no response at least means no rejection. Yet.

And then when the email finally comes you’ll be afraid to open it, trying to put off the inevitable rejection and the crashing self-doubt that follows for as long as possible.

But then one day it won’t be a rejection. It will be an acceptance. And it will all be worth it. On the dark days, it can be tempting to just pack it all in. But it’s important to keep on going. When each rejection comes, give yourself a few days to pick yourself and dust yourself off, and then send the story back out into the world again. And carry on working on the next one. Whatever you do, you have to keep at it, because being a writer is in your psyche and no matter how hard it can be sometimes, it will always be who you are.

 

 

 

Monthly Round-Up: June 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Well, summer is here. The UK enjoyed some sweltering hot weather this month, over 30c for several days. This is pretty unusual for us – so much so that we all bake, since very few places have air conditioning. Fortunately for us, our office does. The underground does not, however, and being packed in like sardines on the Central Line in rush hour when it’s so hot is pretty close to being in Hell.

But of course British weather is nothing if not unpredictable, and now we’re back to rain again. I love the long days at this time of year, and there is still plenty of summer left before we’re back to the long nights of winter.

Anyway. On with this month’s news

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

There’s nothing new to announce, and I’ve got no further news on when SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH is coming out. So this month I’m just going to plug my current publications. They are all available on Amazon US and UK, so why not have a browse?

PUBLICITY

On 4 June there was an interview with me on Rochelle Weber’s blog, in which I talk about the Shara Summers series.

There’s another Goodreads giveaway running at present for THE WHISPERING DEATH. It’s only open to UK readers, due to postage costs, but if you fancy a free signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH, the contest is open until 15 July.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I was aiming to have the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, done by the end of June. Well it’s not quite done yet, but I am nearly there. I have over 60,000 words done and I reckon I’ve only got another 10,000 or so to the end. If all goes well I should get there in July. So, hopefully there’ll be more news on this next month. Stay tuned!