Archive for the ‘Suffer the Children’ Tag

Monthly Round-up: March 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m a week late posting the round-up for March. But life keeps getting away from me, and I was also in the midst of confirming some news I wanted to report on.

COMING SOON

Edits for SUFFER THE CHILDREN are more or less done, and we’re on track for a late spring release. I’m hoping to be able to confirm a release date soon. I’m expecting late May.

And now on to the Big News. I’ve just signed the contract for the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, and am pleased to be able to say that this novel has moved from the WIP section to ‘coming soon’. Although ‘coming soon’ is a bit of a relative term. Publication is estimated at Summer/Autumn 2017. So about 18 months away. I am looking forward to working with my editor at MuseItUp on this one. I have a feeling there’ll be lots of edits on this one, but between the two of us I am confident we can get it into shape.

PUBLICITY

I appeared on Eric Price‘s blog on 7 March as part of a blog swap sharing writing tips. I was talking about what I learned during the process of writing my first published novel.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I am now working in earnest on the new horror novel, which still doesn’t have a title. I’m referring to it as the ‘urban explorers novel’ because this is who it features as main characters.

There’s plenty to keep me busy here for a while. Catch you at the end of April!

Monthly Round-Up: February 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

February is nearly over, and it has one extra day than usual this year, with it being a leap year and all. The days are gradually getting longer and it’s now still light when I leave the office at the end of the day. It’s still dark by the time I get home, mind, but you can’t have everything.

On with the news.

COMING SOON

No more news on a fixed release date for SUFFER THE CHILDREN, but it is meant to be coming out in Spring. Which means some time in the next three months. I’m expecting it to be around mid-May.

PUBLICITY

I’ve had two guest appearances this month. The first was on Amy McCorkle’s blog ‘Letters to Daniel‘. The brief was to write a letter to a hero who has changed your life in some way. So I wrote to Stephen King, who turned me on to writing horror.

I then had a guest post on Lay Lalone’s blog about why you shouldn’t listen to your English teacher.

WORK IN PROGRESS

SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers book, is nearly finished! I know I’ve said that a few times, but this time I am confident I’m on the final draft. Now I just want to get the damn thing finished and submitted, so I can get back to writing the new horror novel, which has been languishing in a ‘barely started’ first draft stage for ages.

I’v got a busy month coming up in March, including my first convention of the 2016 season, the Sci Fi Weekender in Wales. Join me next month for the low down on how it went!

Monthly Round-Up: January 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m not a big fan of January. It’s a dark and dreary month, no bank holidays, and everyone’s broke after Christmas. So this is one month I’m glad to be nearing the end of, as it’s time once more to round up my writing-related activities.

COMING SOON

I’m pleased to say that SUFFER THE CHILDREN will be released in Spring by MuseItUp Publishing. This is a re-release of my first published novel, but it’s undergoing a whole new editing process. I don’t have a release date yet, but watch this space.

PUBLICITY

I was pleased to be a guest on David O’Brien’s blog this week, especially since I’m his first guest horror writer.  I’m talking about a previous experience that made me aware that not everyone likes horror writers.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Revisions to SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH continue at a good pace. The end is in sight on this manuscript now. I’ve also moved past the stage of thinking, “this manuscript is complete rubbish” to “actually, this manuscript’s not half bad after all.” This is usually followed by the “this manuscript is amazing! I rock” stage, and then finally back to the “this manuscript is rubbish” stage. But for now, I remain in a happy place about it. The fact that my editor is already looking forward to reading it gives me incentive to finish.

That’s about all the news for now. Join me next month, when hopefully we’ll be seeing longer days, warmer weather and maybe even the first signs that Spring is round the corner.

New Year Reflections

The start of the year is a time to reflect on what’s past, on where you find yourself at the present, and where you want to be going in the future.

We are now a couple of weeks into 2016 and I find myself, on the whole, to be in a pretty good place. I have several publications under my belt including three novels and another coming soon (SUFFER THE CHILDREN, my first novel, due for re-release from MuseItUp Publishing later this year). I’ve got two more novels in progress, and ideas for a few more. The day job is going well, and I’ve seen significant improvements in my health since taking the decision to drop twenty pounds in 2015.

However, my life is also pretty packed. The day job pays well but works me hard, and I spend not only eight hours a day five days a week there, but three hours a day commuting to and from London. I have my bass guitar lesson once a week and am doing regular open mic gigs with Hubby. I am trying to develop a regular exercise routine, we play Dungeons and Dragons twice a month, I run the T Party writers’ group which meets once a month, and this is before we start talking about fitting in the writing, the promotion, the conventions, and holidays.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a whine. I am where I am in my life because I chose to be there, and I do not regret anything. However, there is always room for improvement, and the start of the year seems to be a good time to look at what I  can do better.

First of all, this blog has been neglected for the last couple of years, and I am going to endeavour to change that this year. Monday will still be the guest blog feature Monday’s Friends, as it has been for some years now. Wednesdays will be a writing-related post, cross-posted on the WriteClub blog. I hope to pick up the Ten Commandments of Writing feature, which rather tailed off halfway through last year. Friday Fears will feature with more regularity, and I would welcome contributions of two-sentence horror stories from anyone who feels inclined to send me one – credited, of course.

In addition, I’d like to feature other posts on the blog, about more general subjects. I can’t promise this will be weekly – it’s more likely to be once or twice a month. But when I started the blog, I was talking about commuting and London and weather and travelling and all the things that I deal with in my everyday life. And because I don’t want to be the kind of writer that only comes online to say ‘buy my book’, I’d like to get back to this again.

So, that’s one resolution: more regular blog posts. A second, more personal one, relates to the aforementioned weight loss. This was something that I didn’t really discuss on the blog, but those who follow me on Twitter will be aware of it, since I was Tweeting about my weekly weigh-ins.

This was something that came about when I went on a short holiday to France in June and couldn’t get the zip of my favourite summer dress done up. Coming at a time when I’d lost several family members and friends to cancer within a fairly short period, I was more mindful of needing to look after my health and decided the time had come to get a bit healthier. The weight loss was all about trying to shed bad habits, as well as a few pounds. I hate the gym, I hate vegetables and I love all things sweet and sugary. But sometimes you have to do things that are good for you, whether you want to or not. I aimed to get back to ten and a half stone (that’s 147 lbs for the Americans amongst you), which is what I was when I last lost weight, in 2009. The intervening years had apparently seen a gain of over twenty pounds, which I wanted to lose again. I managed to hit my goal just before Christmas, but then came all the eating and drinking and not moving from the couch for two weeks that accompanied the holiday season, and I’m now a few pounds above that goal again.

However, I resolved at the beginning of this year to try and go back to the good habits I’d adopted at the end of last year: regular exercise, more fruit & veg, fewer sugary treats, fewer takeaways, less red meat. I’ve ridden this whole weight-loss roundabout before. The weight comes off, I go back to eating what I like to eat, it comes back on again. This year, I want to try and keep the weight off – especially since Hubby bought me several new dresses in my new smaller size for Christmas, and I want to be able to keep on wearing them.

It can be quite difficult as a writer to stay fit, since writing generally involves sitting on a chair for hours at a time, moving only to get more tea and another couple of biscuits (favourite food of The Muse, apparently). And I am inherently quite lazy. I have no trouble getting up early to write, especially when my early morning writing sessions involve a yummy breakfast muffin at the coffee shop I set up in, but I am much less inclined to get up early to go for an early-morning swim.

There, then, is Resolution Number 2. And then there are the writing resolutions, which I discussed in the December round-up post. I have two novels to finish. I have to crack on with them.

There’s an additional resolution that comes in to help me with all the others, and that’s to be more organised. I’ve got a rather anally retentive personality anyway, and I love lists. Lists are the key to staying organised. I have to do lists for every week, involving both writing and non-writing related goals, and they get dutifully ticked off as I complete the tasks. Finding time to write, or to exercise, equally involves noting appointments in my diary and making sure I turn up when I say I will – even if not doing so lets down no one else but myself.

It’s always dangerous to declare one’s intentions in a public forum, since you have a lot of people to answer to if you fail to fulfil them. But it also provides a good motivation to sticking to your resolutions.

Hence, I start the year full of good intentions. I guess we need to come back here at the end of the year and see how well – or otherwise – I’ve managed to do!

Whatever you wish for this year, I hope 2016 delivers.

Monthly Round-Up: May 2015

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

How did we get to the end of May already? I do love this time of year, when the days are long enough that I get to see my house in daylight at either end of the day, the sun starts to shine and everything comes back to life. As a hay fever sufferer I’m not so fond of the pollen flying around, though.

So here’s the latest report from me on what’s being going on writing-wise in the last month.

COMING SOON:

I’m pleased to say I now have two forthcoming publications to list in this section.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is being released by Kensington Gore later in Autumn this year.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is being re-released by MuseItUp Publishing in Spring 2016.

So that’s two horror novels to look forward to! Sometimes I think the universe is dropping me big hints I’m more a horror writer than a crime writer.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF:

I’ve been a bit lax with promoting. Nothing new to report here. I hope to get back on the case by next month.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Work is progressing well on the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.

I’m also in the (very) early stages of a new horror novel. No title yet, but it is about a group of urban explorers who encounter a supernatural Big Bad.

With two WIPs on the go I’ve got to crack on with the writing. I will report back on how it’s going next month!

Monthly Round-Up: April 2015

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The more observant may notice that there was no monthly round-up last month. This was partly due to the day job keeping me a bit too busy to keep up with blog posts, and partly because there was nothing to report.

However, I am now back on track , so here is the news from my writing world.

COMING SOON/OUT NOW

No new ‘coming soon’ announcements since February’s news about SUFFER THE CHILDREN being released by MuseItUp next year.

The anthology THE DARK HEART OF PEEPING TOM is out there, though, and it’s available in paperback as well as e-book (and Kindle). It features many stories that were first published in the UK 90s horror zine PEEPING TOM, including my story “Jimi Hendrix” eyes. If you like your horror dark, brooding and disturbing, this is a collection for you.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

After a bit of a quiet period, I have kick-started my online presence and have a few guest appearances in cyberspace to report

29 March – I had a guest post on horror writer Luke Walker’s blog about why a nice horror writer like me writes crime.
9 April – I wrote the inaugural post for author and editor Akaria Gale’s new series on pro tips, writing about why the author needs a balance of praise and criticism.
20 April – Jan Edwards interviewed me on her blog.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I am still working on SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara book. This time last month I was quite depressed about it. Then I decided to scrap the old draft and start again. It’s never an easy decision to do this. If you keep restarting a manuscript you never get to the end, and I am a big advocator of getting to the end of the draft and fixing it in the rewrite. But I got to a point when I felt the manuscript wasn’t working in its current state and there was no point in continuing.

The reboot involved making some fairly major plot changes. Happily, the new draft is going quite well, and I have been able to salvage quite a lot of the earlier draft and incorporate it into the current WIP. Thus proving that it wasn’t all complete rubbish after all.

I am, however, only 7,000 words into the new draft so there is rather a long way to go yet.

See you next month!

Monthly Round-up: February 2015

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

As we reach the end of February, we see signs of the end of winter. Or at least we do here in the UK. I believe over the pond they are still up to their ears in snow and temperatures way too low for any civilised society. Have I mentioned how much I don’t miss those Canadian winters?

Anyway, in my world this month has seen builders and other tradespeople come and go as we get some improvement work done to our house. I’m sure the end result will be worth it, but as a creature of habit I hate the disruption, and having everything in the wrong place for several weeks has put me in altogether the wrong frame of mind to do anything writing-related. However, there is some news to report this month, so I move on to my update for the end of February.

COMING SOON

I do have some news in this category. I have just signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing to republish my horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Those who have been with me a while will know that this was my first published novel, released by Lyrical Press in 2010 on a three-year contract. I have always had a special fondness for this novel, seeing as how it was my ‘firstborn’, as it were, and I am pleased that Muse are able to offer it a new home, and give it the promotion that it deserves.

‘Coming soon’ is a tad misleading, though, since the release is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2016, and that feels like some time away.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

There are a couple of new online appearances to report for February.

8 February – I was interviewed by Robbi Perna

15 February – I talked about how to beat writer’s block on Iona Brodie’s blog.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work continues, slowly but surely, on the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH.

As for the new horror novel, well it’s sort of finished. I’ve started querying it again. Whether or not it is definitively finished rather depends on what kind of feedback I get on it. I will be sure to keep you posted.

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

The Ten Commandments of Writing #1: Thou Shalt Make Time To Write

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Just about all writers have that encounter, sooner or later, at a party or some other social event where they get chatting to someone who asks that stock question, “what do you do?”. When they discover the answer is “writer”, the person says airily, “oh, I always wanted to write a book. If I could ever find the time.”

I’ve always believed that being a writer is not something anyone chooses to be, any more than we choose the colour of our eyes, or our skin, or whether we are left or right-handed. What we do choose, however, is whether or not to be a successful writer. And the first step in being a successful writer is finding time to write.

It’s the stock excuse for many aspiring writers: I could finish my book if only I had more time to write. I used it myself for quite a long time. My first published novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, took me ten years to write. I used a variety of excuses to try to explain this, but really they were just excuses. Fledgling writers find excuses not to write for many reasons. The most common, if we’re honest with ourselves I think, is lack of confidence. But taking ten years to write a book is a luxury only afforded to the unpublished writer, or ironically, the very successful. If you’re Stephen King or JK Rowling, your loyal fans will probably wait ten years for the next book, if they had to, and still be there to buy the book at the end of it. For the rest of us, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are many writers out there to attract your potential readers when they get bored of waiting for you.

The stark reality is that writers have no more hours in the day than anyone else. Finding time to write is simply a matter of ensuring you block off some of those hours for writing. Many writers, like me, have full time day jobs. Some have kids and school and hockey runs to deal with, elderly relatives to care for, yoga lessons, football practice, swimming lessons, or even a combination of all of the above. Modern life is extremely busy. But amongst all this, the writer must carve out time to write.

What works for me is getting up at a stupidly early hour and getting the early train into London. I sit in Starbucks round the corner from work, and have a soya latte and a muffin for breakfast while I wait for the NetBook to boot up. I try to get an hour of writing in before I head for the office to start my working day. I find this hour very productive, and in truth I get more done in that hour than I do if I take a day off work and write at home.

I appreciate not everyone can face getting up at 5:30am. Fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought I could have done it, either. But I have discovered that this is the best time for me for writing. It may have something to do with tapping into the muse before my internal editor wakes up, but I find the words flow first thing in the morning when I am not properly awake. Some writers I know carve out an hour of writing time when the kids are in bed. Some find that writing late at night works for them. The key is to find what works for you and schedule it into your routine. Block off the time in your diary. Make sure that your family members also know that this particular time is Writing Time, and you are not to be disturbed.

Making time to write in a packed life generally means sacrificing something. For me, it’s sleep. Other writers I know have stopped watching TV, opting instead to use that time as writing time. If your schedule is absolutely rammed, have a look at what you can change to fit in some writing time. If you get a lunch hour at work, can you leave your workplace and set up in a nearby café or some such to use that time for writing? If you regularly meet friends at the pub twice a week, can you cut down to one a week and use the other evening as writing time? If necessary, try experimenting until you find a routine that works for you. As I mentioned, it never occurred to me once upon a time that I could get out of bed so early. But once I got in the routine of doing so, I found it not so bad, and the thought of a nice sugary treat when I get to the coffee shop does sometimes inspire me out of bed at that unseemly hour in the morning.

But the most important thing, in order to be a successful writer, is to write, and so this is my First Commandment of Writing: Writer, Thou Shalt Make Time To Write.

Plotting

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

On the crime panel at Sci Fi Weekender, I found myself – quite literally – between two opposing views on plotting.  At one end of the table was a writer who was evangelical about the importance of plotting.  At the other end of the table was a writer who says she never plots and believes she would lose interest in writing about her characters if she knew what was going to happen to them next.  I was sitting in the middle.

I was struck by how neatly this set up demonstrated opposing views on plotting.  Some writers are plotters, some are ‘seat of pantsers’, but rarely have I seen two extremes demonstrated so neatly on the same panel.   And it inspired me to come up with this post.

I am on the side of the plotters, I have to say.  But it hasn’t always been that way, and it has been my own experience that has brought me to this way of thinking.

When I started writing SUFFER THE CHILDREN, it was based on a short story called “Kiddiwinks”.  The story was basically about a group of children telling scary stories to each other about the witch that allegedly lives in the haunted house.  They dare each other to go in and discover that it is, indeed, occupied by a sinister old woman.  Who, they learn too late, eats children.  The writing group encouraged me to turn this short story into a novel, and the premise behind SUFFER THE CHILDREN was born.

When I began the novel I knew the monster was to be a mythological creature, and that the main characters would have to defeat the creature.  What I didn’t know at the time was how they were going to do that.  I began the first draft, thinking that ideas would come to me as I went along.  I ended up writing half the novel, and then got stuck.  I went back to the beginning, and re-wrote the first half, but I was still stuck at the same point.  My characters were floundering around saying that they had to defeat this evil creature, but they had no idea how to do it, and neither did I.  I put the novel away, for a good five years – writing short stories in the mean time.  I dreaded going back to it.  I had no idea how I was going to write myself out of the hole I’d dug for myself.

But I wanted to finish the novel, and eventually I bit the bullet and realised I had to work out how it was going to end.  So I went back to the beginning and wrote a three-page summary of the whole novel.  From there I took that summary and broke it down into a chapter by chapter plan, from beginning to end.

At that point, I went back and started the novel over.  And lo and behold I got to the end of the first draft.

I have used this technique for writing ever since.  I write the plot summary first – usually it runs to three pages.  I break that down into a chapter by chapter outline.  Only then do I start writing the first draft.

Some people baulk at such a regimented plan, but this is now the only way I can write a novel.  It means that every time I sit down for a writing session, I review what I wrote last time, and I look at my chapter plan and I know what’s going to happen next.  Sometimes my chapter plan is quite brief – it might say, for instance, that in chapter 10 my amateur sleuth has to discover X about this character, which turns out to be a vital clue.  But how she’s going to discover this piece of information I still have to think about when I sit down to write the chapter.

This doesn’t mean that things always go to plan.  Writing the first draft of DEAD COOL I was surprised to discover about three quarters of the way through the first draft that the killer was not who I initially thought it was.  But knowing the identity of the real killer suddenly made a lot of things in the plot that hadn’t been making sense click into place, and all I actually had to do to correct the second draft was to plant a couple of extra clues and rewrite a few scenes with different characters.  And of course it did change the ending a bit.

If you’re a pantser and not a plotter, I am not disrespecting the way you work.  Everyone has to find the system that works for them.  But I will say, as a reader, I can tell when a book has not been plotted.  Generally the book will start off with the characters heading in a certain direction, and suddenly they’ll lurch off and head in a completely different direction. Some people might say that they enjoy unexpected twists like this, but I tend to find them a bit off-putting.  But this is just me.  On the whole, I don’t like surprises.

Perhaps we can liken writing a novel to taking a journey.  A plotter takes the GPS, and the map.  They’ve studied the route beforehand, they know where they are going and how they are going to get there.  There are no surprises.  This is the way I work.  Occasionally I might take a slightly different road than the GPS suggests, because instinct suggests there’s a better way, but only if I’m confident that I’m still going to end up in the same place.

A pantser, on the other hand, will get in the car and start driving.  For them, it’s about the journey, not the destination.  They will get lost, they will arrive very late, they might end up someplace completely unexpected, but they enjoy the journey and not knowing what’s around the next corner.

Plotting and pantsing is reflected in reading preferences, too.  I much prefer to read books that are plot driven, with a clear beginning, middle and end.  Readers who are more fond of character-driven books and ‘surprises’ are going to be more fond of writers who don’t plot.  And I suspect such readers may not get on very well with my books – they might consider them too predictable.

This is one of those issues that always causes lively debate – there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s entirely down to personal preference.  Whether you’re a reader, or a writer, where do you stand?

Commercial Break

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

As we settle into 2014 I’ve been rather busy with promotional stuff, so I thought it was appropriate for a general update on what I’ve been up to of late.

Firstly, a round-up of guest appearances on the Internet for 2014. At the end of January, I featured on Chris Weigand’s Palace of Twelve Pillars blog, talking about how I was inspired to create my amateur sleuth Shara Summers. Earlier this month I visited Janie Franz’s blog Anasazi Dreams, talking about ambition and discipline being the tools of a writer. And most recently I’ve visited Helena Fairfax’s blog, where we’ve been reminiscing about childhood holidays in Blackpool.

All of this is an endeavour to drum up interest in the Shara Summers series, as the first two books are being released by MuseItUp this year. The first, DEATH SCENE, is a re-release. The previous version is no longer available, but the re-release will be out in the summer. If you haven’t been introduced to Shara yet, this is the one to start with. And if you’ve already read DEATH SCENE, a new publisher means new round of edits, so this version will be slightly different than the first.

If you enjoy meeting Shara in the first book, the second book in the series, DEAD COOL, will be released in Autumn so you won’t have to wait too long to catch up with her again.

Thus far, I don’t have definitive release dates or covers for either book. But you’ll be the first to know when I do, so watch this space.  In the meantime, if you want a sneak peek, there’s a blurb about each on the ‘Coming Soon’ page on my website.

And finally, if your tastes run to darker fiction, I’ve got some back listed horror titles that might be to your liking. SUFFER THE CHILDREN – available on the Kindle (US and UK) – is a supernatural horror novel with its roots based in mythology. And SOUL SCREAMS – available in print and ebook – is a collection of short horror stories about “that inner scream no one can hear but you”. It’s recently received some rather positive reviews on Goodreads, and if creepy stories are your thing, it might be right up your alley.

All this is why I’ve not had much time for the blog recently.  But of course that’s a poor excuse, and I hope that from now on I can improve on this year’s track record.

If you’ve recently discovered this blog, I bid you welcome and I hope you’ll stick around for a while.  If you’ve been following from the beginning, I’d like to say thank you for bearing with me – your support means a lot.  It’s going to be a busy year for me, writing-wise, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride.