Happy New Year 2017

So here we are at the start of another year – a time to reflect on the year that’s past and look at what one might want to change for the new one. And when you put your New Years’ Resolutions into a blog post, you can’t really ignore them.

I resolved to finish the two novels I was working on in 2016. One of them was SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers novel, which happily was finished, and submitted, and at this point in time it is scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing some time in Autumn 2017.

The second was an as-yet-unnamed horror novel. Unfortunately I ended up shelving this project. I got about 20,000 words in and decided it really wasn’t working, all the characters were cardboard cut-outs and the plot was too thin.

I’ve spent some time over the Christmas period plotting the outline of a new idea. It’s very early days yet, but this one I am rather more excited by, and I hope to have the plot outline finished over the next few days, and then I can start writing it. Just as well, since I’m contracted to Kensington Gore (which is now officially known as KGHH Publishing) to release another horror novel in 2017.

So, as at the beginning of 2016 I am once more resolving to have two new novels finished by the end of the year: one is the aforementioned horror novel, and the second is the fourth book in the Shara Summers series. Which is already nearly 30,000 words into the first draft, so good progress has been made thus far. It would be good to be able to have the fourth book done by the time the third book comes out.

And that’s pretty much the only resolution I’m making for 2017. Connected to that is the need to be way more disciplined in the writing. I whinge about having to get up early to fit the writing in around the day job, but most writers have to juggle the writing around other things so I am not in a unique position. We all have the same number of hours in a day. What we choose to do with those hours is up to us.

I am going to endeavour to pay more attention to this blog, which has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months, but I made the same resolution last year. I am going to carry on with my ‘Monday’s Friend’ feature, which is open to writers of any genre, so if anyone wants a slot, get in touch.

I’m not going to spend time discussing the things going on in the wider world. I don’t have any control over any of it, and I am making a point of trying to be less stressed about the things beyond my control. The only things I can control are the decisions I make that directly affect my life, and the way I organise my time. So this is what I will focus on for 2017. The universe will unfold itself the way it sees fit, whether I like it or not.

I wish you all a happy and productive 2017, and I wish you luck in achieving your goals for the year, whatever they may be.

Monthly Round-up: December 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Well the blog has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I resolve to pay it more attention next year.

We find ourselves at the end of 2016, so this post will be a reflection of my writing year, and not just activities of the past month.

OUT NOW

My two horror books were re-released this year. MuseItUp published SUFFER THE CHILDREN (Kindle versions available on Amazon UK and US sites).

Meanwhile, KGHH Publishing (formerly known as Kensington Gore) re-released THE WHISPERING DEATH with a wonderful new hand-drawn cover. It’s available in paperback, and on Kindle UK and US formats.

PUBLICITY

I pledged to have at least one guest appearance a month this year. I mostly succeeded to October, but the last couple of months of the year dropped off for various personal reasons. A full list of all my online appearances can be found on my website.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve made some progress with the first draft of the fourth Shara Summers book, which is entitled DEADLY SUMMER. The third book will be released next year, and I hope to have the fourth book in a state to be submitted by this time next year.

I’m also contracted to submit another horror novel to KGHH in 2017. The one I was working on at the beginning of this year I have since abandoned since it really wasn’t working. I now have the plot of a new book formulated, so I need to get motoring on that one.

I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a difficult year for many,  so I’m sending strength and positive thoughts out there into the ether, to fortify us all.

 

Monthly Round-up: October 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m a week late with the latest round-up, since it’s now November.

OUT NOW

Nothing new out this month, but another plug for my two horror novels. SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing, and THE WHISPERING DEATH, with its fab new cover, is available in paperback and in Kindle format from Amazon (US and UK).

PUBLICITY

On the last day of October I had a guest spot on the fabulous Joan C Curtis‘s blog talking about the discipline required for writing.

And I did my final convention of the year in October as well – Bristol HorrorCon. This one-day Con celebrating all things horror has now been going for two years, and is great fun. I did a panel on Horrible Crime, where we discussed the crossover between crime and horror (and digressed a bit as well), and I did a reading as well.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work continues on the fourth Shara Summers book, DEADLY SUMMER. Which was initially a working title but I think it works so I’m inclined to keep it. Still on the first draft though, so early days yet.

See you next time!

Hallowe’en

This blog has been neglected of late. There’s been a lot of life stuff getting in the way of the writing, which I hope to talk about at a later date.

Today, though, is Hallowe’en. As a horror writer I feel I can’t let the day go by without comment.

The irony is that for the first ten years of my life, Hallowe’en completely passed me by. Living in the North of England in the 1970s, we didn’t really celebrate Hallowe’en – possibly because we have Bonfire Night five days later, which was a much bigger deal – when the whole neighbourhood would throw their scrap wood in a pile on a vacant lot all year, and then on 5 November it would be lit to create a big bonfire, and everyone on the street would gather to watch fireworks and light sparklers and eat Parkin and black peas. And if none of these things mean anything to you, you’re probably not British.

Anyway, in January 1980 we moved to Canada, and in October of that year I experienced Trick or Treating for the first time. I was a week past my eleventh birthday. I dressed up as a princess. My sister and I went out with my mother and stepfather and a couple of friends, and we hit three or four of the neighbourhood streets. I came back with a haul of candy so large it lasted me pretty much until the following Hallowe’en.

I didn’t get many trick or treating years in, as two years later – a week past my thirteenth birthday and in Grade 7 – I decided I was too old for trick or treating and volunteered to sit at the front door handing out the candy. I ended up serving it up to quite a lot of my classmates that year. Which they seemed to find quite embarrassing.

What I’ve always loved about Hallowe’en, though, is the concept of dressing up – of being somebody I’m not, just for a day. In high school everyone was allowed to turn up for school in costumes for Hallowe’en. One year I decided to go as a punk. This was so far removed from what I usually looked like at school that most people didn’t recognise me. Which was the idea, of course. And it was quite liberating, to shed my usual goody-two-shoes image and pretend to be a bad-ass. Even if it was for just a few hours, and it was entirely theoretical because I was way too timid to be a bad-ass for real.

Nowadays I’m in the UK again and although Hallowe’en is more of a thing than it was when I was a kid, it’s still not as big a deal as Bonfire Night. Trick or treating happens, but not everyone buys into it and for stores it’s pretty much nothing more than another retail opportunity. Some kids may get to go to school in costume, and some retail outlets let their staff dress up in spooky costumes for Hallowe’en, but I don’t know any offices that will let you do so, and as I sit here typing this at my desk at the day job (I am officially on my lunch break, so even now I’m not breaking any rules), it’s just business as usual.

But in spite of that, I still want to acknowledge the occasion.

Happy Hallowe’en!

halloween2

Monthly Round-Up: September 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Well it’s been a busy old month since the last update. End of September? How did that happen? Before you know it, it’ll be time to think about the dreaded Festive Season…

But for now, on with the news.

the-whispering-death-new-master-website-2OUT NOW

I am pleased to announce that THE WHISPERING DEATH has been re-released with a new cover, hand drawn by the uber-talented Erin Kelso. I include it to the right. Nice and spooky, yes?

The story itself is unchanged, and remains available in print and Kindle version from Amazon.

And of course SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats.

PROMOTION

I’ve had a few guest appearances online in the past month.

On 5 September I did a blog swap with Chuck Bowie, with a post about the importance of rewriting appearing on his blog. Then on 16 September I appeared on Diane Dooley’s blog, with a post about being a woman of horror.

My interview for the British Fantasy Society’s journal appeared in issue #16, which was released this month. The British Fantasy Society exists to supports British writers and publishers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and the journal is free to members. If you’re not a member but want to be, check out membership options on their website.

And, speaking of the BFS, I attended FantasyCon, the SF/F/H convention run by the BFS which this year was in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough. It was a great weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and I had a panel and a reading as well. I read from SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Reading slots were organised this year with two authors sharing a half-hour slot. A very good idea, to my mind – it meant the audience was bigger. And my reading partner, Priya Sharma, is a fantastic short story writer and a lovely person.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I am making good progress with the fourth Shara Summers novel, which is currently titled DEADLY SUMMER. Still first draft, though, so a long way to go yet.

That’s it to report for now. See you next month!

What I’m Doing At FantasyCon 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This weekend I head for the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough for the annual British celebration of SF/F/horror literature, FantasyCon. FantasyCon was the first con I ever attended, some time in the late 1990s, and I still hold it in fond regard.

On this occasion I am travelling alone, since Hubby is not joining me. He claims to want a quiet weekend at home. I think he’s looking forward to a weekend of being able to play games, make models, watch the documentaries he likes in peace. That’s OK with me as long as he remembers to feed the cats.

Anyway, I shall be at the day job Friday morning, and then boarding a train to the wilds of Yorkshire mid-afternoon. Somewhere I have to change trains. I think it might be York. There’s not a lot of time between the two so I hope the first train doesn’t run late. I am supposed to get to Scarborough about 5:30pm. In plenty of time for the disco – hurrah!

In any case, I do have things to do for this particular convention. I am giving a reading at 3pm on Saturday. The organisers have organised author readings in half-hour slots, with two authors per slot. I rather like this idea. It means you’re less likely to have no one turn up to your reading, since there’s a good chance there’ll be someone there to watch the other author as well. My reading partner is Priya Sharma. I have not met her before, but looking forward to doing so on Saturday.

Then at 8pm I’ve got a panel called ‘Paint It Black’, which is all about why horror permeates so many other genres. My fellow panellists are Simon Bestwick, Jo Thomas, Timothy Jarvis and Phil Sloman, who is moderating. With the exception of Simon, who I’ve met in person, everyone else I only know from the internet so I am looking forward to meeting some new people.

Other than that, I shall be visiting a few panels and spending a lot of time in the bar, where I hope to be able to meet up with the people I only ever get to talk to at Cons. Although I might be tempted by the FantasyCon karaoke.

So if you’re there, come and say hello. If you tell me you’ve bought a copy of any of my books at any point, I might even buy you a drink.

 

 

Monday’s Friend: Chuck Bowie

Today I’m pleased to be doing a blog swap with Canadian writer and fellow MuseItUp stable mate Chuck Bowie.When you’re finished here, hop on over to his blog to see what I have to say about re-writing.

But for now let’s give a big welcome to Chuck!

Oh, Those Oh-So Predictable Lines!.
By Chuck Bowie

‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’
Benjamin Franklin

You’ve had that first sniff at success, be it a completed story or a published novel and now, armed with confidence, you open a blank screen and begin:

Chuck‘It was a dark and stormy night.” So far, so good. That familiar ring upon re-reading those six words suggests you’re onto something, so you proceed. The words flow, and you get your thousand words on that first day, and it feels good.

That evening, watching one of those Sunday evening movies, you put on your writer’s cap and analyze each scene as it unfolds. You nudge your partner. “Behind the door is the librarian. She’s gonna be holding a gun!” And Lo! That is exactly what happens. With a tone of admiration, your partner says “I can’t wait until your story is written. You won’t be as predictable as this show, right?” And you nod your head. Of course you won’t.

The next day, you write another thousand words, and by Friday, you have five thousand words in your story. It’s very exciting. On Monday, you begin the day by reviewing the twenty written pages, and you realize something. Those first six words sound familiar, because you’d read them, a long time ago. From someone else’s work. Concerned, you speed through the paragraphs, noting tired lines, too-familiar lines, and ‘lazy’ lines: the ones you wrote because they were ‘good enough’.

Well, good enough isn’t good enough.

With that having been said, do you throw up your hands and give it up? Should you chuck it and start over? Perhaps. But, hidden within the dross, is there a really fine sentence, or line? Does one (or more) of your paragraphs really push your story along? Does one of your sentences, however awkwardly it was constructed, reveal something true about your character, or the scene, or the description?

Well, then. You now have options. You can begin to fix things, cutting lines like a machete through tangled Amazonian greenery. Or you can, of course, always purge and recreate. Might I suggest a third option?

Keep going.

Writing is re-writing, to coin a phrase. But just before re-writing, is the writing part. That’s where you are right now, staring at your twenty pages of not-good-enough work. If your plot is intact, your characters are unfolding, and your setting has been set, keep on going. Make minor adjustments as you travel down this path, but keep up your pace. All too soon, you’ll get to the re-writing phase. Engineers have this expression: ‘First direction, then velocity.’ Let this be your mantra. Get your plot rolling before worrying too much about details you can refine later.

Unless.

Unless everything you’ve written is derivative, too familiar or just plain old copied from somewhere. This is not good. Shakespeare says there is nothing new under the sun, but this does not give the writer license to take whatever they want and call it their own. So be tough on yourself, once you’ve entered the rewriting phase.

You may recall me mentioning to keep going. And I also noted there’s not much about the human condition that hasn’t already been experienced (and in some way documented). With these in mind, it is absolutely critical to have an interesting story to tell. If it isn’t worth telling, or if it’s been told to death—and by better writers than you and me—then perhaps this isn’t your story to tell.

StealItAllCover180116 (2)Writing is hard work. The average book of fiction takes 80,000 words times twenty re-writes totaling 1.6 million carefully studied words. Do not put yourself through this if you aren’t going to commit to the best possible effort. This includes offering the best plot you can imagine, and a strong re-write can help. Do not, above all else, be predictable. Samuel Johnson wrote the most scathing review I ever read. It went like this: ‘Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.’

Don’t be that writer.

Author bio:

Chuck Bowie writes international suspense-thrillers from his Fredericton, New Brunswick home. His third novel, STEAL IT ALL drops in paperback this fall.

Find out more about Chuck from his website, or by following him on Twitter.

 

 

Monthly Round-up: August 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With the summer behind us we are facing longer nights, colder days, and can look forward to Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night (at least here in the UK). Though we are having a burst of unseasonably warm weather here in London so maybe we can hold onto summer just a bit longer.

OUT NOW

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is now available in from all e-book retailers. It’s still available direct from the MuseItUp store at the special release price of $2.99, and if you buy it from there it is available in all e-book formats.

PUBLICITY

I’ve been busy with guest posts since the last round up. Here is a run-down:

30 July – guest post on Luke Walker’s blog on the endurance of horror.

12 August – interview on Judy Penz Sheluk’s blog as part of a new series called ‘Before they were authors‘.

17 August – Interview on Kay Lalone’s blog about SUFFER THE CHILDREN

I’ve got a few more guest posts coming up over the next few weeks, and I’m also off to FantasyCon in Scarborough next month. So watch this space!

WORK IN PROGRESS

The horror novel has not been going well so I’ve put it to one side while I work out how to fix it. I think none of the characters are working. Or the plot. In fact the only thing I’m happy with is the setting, so I think some major surgery is required for this time.

In the meantime, however, I’m happy to say I’ve started work on the fourth Shara Summers novel. This one takes her to New York city, and it has a provisional title of DEADLY SUMMER. Early days yet, but it’s going quite well.

See you next month!

Monday’s Friend: Adam Lawrence

This week I’m pleased to have debut author and fellow Kensington Gore writer Adam Lawrence as my guest on the blog. Adam is also a keen gamer and a fellow Resident Evil fan. Welcome, Adam!

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

AL: When I was little I always enjoyed creating my own versions of monsters and characters that I liked. For instance, I liked Top Trumps but I didn’t like the subjects so I created my own with my own characters and stories. That grew into wanting to make my own comics, but I guess I find typing a lot faster than drawing now! I get very passionate about the stories I enjoy, but often find there’s things missing or things I feel could have been improved on. My stories and ideas are a product of their inspirations.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

AL: I think he’s reliably cited as almost every writer’s influence but the first person I’d say would be Stephen King. The variety in his ideas I find pretty amazing but I also enjoy hearing about his struggles as a writer, especially the most negative of them.

magic boxSJT: Tell us about THE MAGIC BOX, your debut novel.

AL: The story is about Felicity and Tremayne, two shop workers in a supermarket who have no idea where their lives are going – until they find a witch living in the woods. The witch, Alexia introduces them to the world of magic – a world that has been hidden for thousands of years. Naturally a witch with so many years behind her has secrets and one of those secrets begins to threaten the safety of the world – and it falls to two unprepared and out of their depth shelf stackers to save it.

SJT: What inspired you to write this novel?

AL: I have always enjoyed the little characters – the ones that are plainly average or horribly flawed in their own way, usually floating to the side of the story and not taking centre stage. The idea was to have the world in peril and saved by two people that were distinctly average – to show that even the most ordinary of people can be extraordinary when they need to be.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

AL: Oh, lots. I have one completed horror story called ‘Sleepwalker’ that needs editing and tidying up and another called ‘Evil Never Dies’ that is five chapters off completion. Also I started writing out four new stories to play around with so I have a lot of things to be focussing on! Perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew but time will tell. I think the only way to improve is to push yourself so that’s what I’m aiming for.

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

AL: I’m a big fan of gaming, so I’m often playing Resident Evil to get my horror fix but lately I’m running about in Overwatch the most. I also follow Formula One a lot and try to catch as many of the races as I can – that always stops me writing. I also enjoy drawing, which can be both fun and stressful but it can help a lot to visualise ideas I have.

Adam LawrenceAuthor bio:

Adam Lawrence lives in Croydon and is a keen artist and writer. He particularly enjoys writing horror, fantasy and sci-fi, and loves gaming. He’s also a huge fan of sushi.

Adam’s first novel THE MAGIC BOX is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon (UK and US). Learn more about him and his writing by following him on Twitter.

Childhood Hero

One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was ‘The Bionic Woman’ starring Lindsay Wagner. Jaime Sommers was my hero. She was smart, she was resourceful, she was super-strong, and she generally managed to rescue herself without any help from the men, because if she got locked up somewhere she could just punch her way out. I remember bounding around the play ground in slow motion pretending to be the bionic woman – because in the show (for some reason) whenever super-fast bionic running happened, it was done in slow motion.

I had the bionic woman action figure as a kid. It was one of my favourite toys, and it came with a bag of cool accessories – a wallet full of dollar bills; maps; mission instructions; make-up. All doll-size. When I played with my Jaime Sommers doll I made her jump over the sofa, making that clicking noise that generally indicated she was using her bionic powers.

My husband bought me the box set of The ‘Bionic Woman’ on DVD for Christmas last year, and it features all three complete seasons, plus the four episodes she originally appeared in from ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. Her first appearance was in a two-part series. She was Steve Austin’s fiancee and a tennis pro, then she gets seriously injured in a skydiving accident, and Steve convinces Oscar Goldman to shell out the millions of dollars needed to bionically rebuild her. All goes well at first, but Jaime’s body rejects the bionics and she dies at the end of the second episode. But when ratings are high enough TV deaths are always reversible, and Jaime Sommers proved so popular, she was brought back from the brink of death and a second two-part episode in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ has Steve discover that Jaime is still alive. But alas – she’s lost her memory and doesn’t remember being in love with him.

And so from there spun a separate series that ran for three seasons, and I’ve been working my way through them chronologically. There are few things I’ve noticed about watching a show for the second time 40 years later.

Firstly: I watched every episode as a kid, but as young as I was at the time, I enjoyed the action, but I didn’t follow every nuance of the story line. I am re-watching episodes I remember watching when I was six years old, but I realise I was misremembering them.

Secondly: I realise that watching this show sowed the seeds of feminism in me at an early age. Even in the 1970s, in a less politically correct time, Jaime Sommers was a fantastic role model. As already mentioned, she was able to get herself out of pretty much any situation, as the villains always underestimated the strength of this ‘mere woman’. An early episode in season 1 has Jaime take her class of schoolchildren (for the day job she works as a teacher) on a picnic. When the boys refuse to let the girls play softball “because everybody knows girls are no good at sports” Jaime bargains with them that if she can score a home run, the girls get to play. So of course with her bionic arm she hits the ball and it flies for miles, she proves her point and the girls get to play baseball.

But I am also realising, in this retro re-watch, that actually it’s not a very good show. Apart from the appalling seventies fashions (orange and brown wallpaper? How did anyone think that looked good?), we have cardboard cut out villains, wooden acting, and implausible storylines. And then of course there are a few logicistical problems with the whole concept of bionics. Bionics are effectively cybernetics, something that I guess was a fairly new and exciting thing in the seventies. Having two bionic legs and a bionic arm are all well and good, but without a bionic spine, if you try to lift a car you’d do yourself a serious injury! And given the fact that Jaime’s bionic limbs are complete replacement for her biological ones, which got crushed beyond recognition in the skydiving accident, there is absolutely no scarring. There are a couple of episodes in which she wears swim suits, and there is no mark at all to indicate where her real skin ends and her bionic body parts begin.

But as a kid I didn’t think about any of this. I was just enraptured by the show. I found it scary at times. The last episode of season one involves a young girl (played by Kristy McNichol) obsessed with her dead mother, who was apparently accused of being a witch, and spooky things keep happening. I haven’t got to that one yet in my re-watch but I remember being creeped out by it the first time I watched it. I also haven’t got to the episodes featuring the ‘fembots’ – female robots who set out to kill Jaime. But the scenes in which the fembots walk around with no face masks, revealing a pair of staring eyes amongst circuit boards and wires terrified me as a child. I had nightmares for weeks about fembots. Hopefully they won’t creep me out quite so much forty years on.

I am enjoying my trip down memory lane in rewatching this series, and having a slightly more objective take on the impact it had on my childhood – good and bad. As I finish this blog post with the theme tune of ‘The Bionic Woman’ I’d like to open the floor to all of you reading. What TV shows from childhood had an impact on you, and have you ever watched that show in adulthood? If not, would you want to? Or is it better to keep memories of childhood firmly buried in the past, instead of running the risk of shattering one’s illusions by realising that the show you thought was amazing was actually rubbish?