Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Can You Help?

I hadn't planned to post again until A-Z starts, but this is a special case. The other night, some dear friends of ours and their three-year-old boy suffered a devastating house fire which left their home an unliveable shell. Thankfully they all escaped in one piece, but they now have absolutely nothing and their immediate future is very uncertain. I understand if it's not possible, but if you could spare just a few pennies to put their way it would be hugely appreciated, at least so their little boy could get some new toys and clothes.

I wasn't sure about putting this up here, but thought it might be worth a shot to call on the "kindness of strangers", especially as you all seem to be so nice. Again, massive thanks for anything you can spare, which you can donate via the button to the right. I'll be sure to pass on any nice thoughts too!

While I'm here I'll just mention a couple of other things. First of all, a big thanks to Martin Willoughby for selecting me as one of three winners in his giveaway of books published under the Starfish banner, an e-publishing initiative set up by him and a couple of mates. I'm already two-thirds of the way through DRC's gripping novel Son of Jack. Go and say hello to both these excellent writers and follow along, and check out the Starfish blog too.

In other news Tobi Summers of Chock Full of Words nominated me for the Lucky 7 meme. I think I'll leave this one til after April, and hopefully I should have a page 77 by then!

The entertaining Hildred of Musings of a Procrastinating Author is having a 200th post party with a 20 page critique on offer. Head over and throw your hat into the ring.

And finally, I suppose it's time to unveil my A-Z Challenge theme. It is entitled (drum roll)... 26 Things that Made Me a Writer. So that means any kind of influences, character traits, childhood memories and so on that have contributed to make me the writer I am today (errmm... whatever that means!) I hope you will enjoy the posts and they don't come across as too self-indulgent. Check a few out if you can. See you all on Sunday!

A quick note about the A-Z - I will be away from the 2nd to 6th so will endeavour to respond to any comments on those posts on my return. We're also away from the 28th until the 11th of May on a cruise, but I might be able to catch some of those last posts via the wi-fi.

Monday, 19 March 2012


Love 'em or hate 'em? I'm currently 30,000 words into my WIP and have set myself a deadline of the end of the school year (around the 23rd of June). The reason being, it's harder to get stuff done when the kids are at home, but I'm hoping to do some editing during the summer. As I expect my first draft to work out at about 80,000 words, this should be achievable if I write 1000 words on every day that I can (taking into account holidays booked (two), Easter, and other odd times when the kids are off such as the Queen's Jubilee).

I should be excited to know that it's doable. So why do I feel faintly depressed? Because I might beat myself up if I fail to meet my daily target on a number of occasions? Because a deadline makes it feel like real work? Which it is, of course... just the most fun type imaginable.

You could argue that a deadline is something to be relished. To be able to reach that end point on time, and bask in the glory of a job well done. I've always worked best under pressure - at school and uni, my essays tended to go in just under the wire.

But I can't help feeling, as I'm not a published author with a contract and no one is standing waiting, tapping their foot, for me to deliver this book, I should allow myself more freedom and flexibility and let things proceed at their own pace. On the other hand, I don't want it to drag on for an inordinate length of time. I don't want to spend two and a half years writing a book again, as with my first novel. Granted, we had a baby and moved house simultaneously in the middle of it, but that's lame: everyone does that stuff, right?

What are your feelings on deadlines and targets in general? Do you find they hamper creativity, or does it help you to work with some sort of time frame in mind - to get the job done?

Before I go, I've been musing on the subject of critique partners lately (thanks to Nancy S. Thompson's great post). I'm always nervous about sharing my work with others, but maybe if I knew there was someone waiting to read it, it might help motivate me to meet my goal. (Nancy's just had some amazing news by the way, so head over and congratulate her!) Anyone got a manuscript they're looking to finish up by the summer and want to swap? I'm too shy to ask people, so consider this an open audition. Any offers welcome! My WIP falls into the thriller category, so if that's your bag, I'd love to hear from you.

And finally, I apologise in advance if I might not be around quite so much over the next couple of weeks, as I attempt to get my posts together for the A-Z Challenge (two down, just 24 to go!) My wife booked a last-minute deal to Blackpool on the 2nd to the 6th for the Easter holiday, and while I'll regret not being fully involved for those days, it does mean I have to preschedule those dates at least. We're also going on a cruise from the 28th, so I'll miss Y and Z, which look to be among the most entertaining. Ah well, we all need holidays eh? Don't forget, it's not too late to sign up at the A-Z Challenge blog. If you're taking part, how's your post planning going, or do you intend to play it by ear?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Awards and Tags Round-Up

I've been lucky enough to receive a few honours from some excellent bloggers over the last week or so, so I thought I'd round them up in one handy post. Next week, back to some crafty writerly concerns, for those who enjoy such things. First up, C.M. Brown gave me the Sunshine Award, for my "positive nice thoughts" in comments. Aw shucks! Thanks, C.M.

Rules here:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award and provide a link.
  • Write a post about it
  • Answer the questions below.
  • Pass it on to 10 bloggers who you think really deserve it and let them know
  • Answer 10 Questions:

Favourite colour: Blue

Favourite animal: Elephant

Favourite number: 21 (lots of reasons for this)

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Coke

Facebook or Twitter: Facebook (hardly on it but not on Twitter at all)

My passion: Writing, then reading

Getting or giving presents: I like both

Favourite pattern: Paisley

Favourite day of the week: Sunday, because I get to laze around (mostly)

Favourite flower: Purple Heather (my wife's name (not the purple bit) - sorry, soppy again!)

I will pass this award on to the following:

Lynda R. Young
Sarah Pearson
T.D. McFrost
Peggy Eddleman
A.E. Martin
Mark Koopmans
Siv Maria
Emily R. King
Kamille Elahi

Next, Martin Willoughby and Julia King tagged me in the Lucky 7 Meme, and Martin also passed on some tag questions. Thanks, both of you! If you don't know, here are the rules for the Lucky 7:

  1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines-sentences or paragraphs--and post them as they're written. No cheating
  4. Tag 7 authors
  5. Let them know
I like being referred to as an author! Like Martin, I don't have a page 77 yet, so I've gone for 47. Here is my excerpt, lifted straight from my Word Document:

“Yes.” Silence again. Helen felt incredibly tired, but kept watching him with an expression of patience.

“I don’t really remember anything else about here. Can I talk about my mum?”

“Of course. Where will we start?”

“I don’t know. It’s funny. I can’t remember when I stopped living with my mum and started living here, but it must have been ages ago. I still remember my mum like I saw her... yesterday. And Darryl, too.”

Make of that what you will...

Finally, here are the questions from Martin.

What is the title of your current WIP. Tell us about it?

This might illuminate the excerpt above a bit. No title yet - I'm absolutely terrible at them! I started writing this in a synopsis style, but deleted this and went for more of a blurb as I think I'd still like to keep you guessing. Helen, a 26-year-old estate agent who is driven by her career, is forced to take time off work to care for her husband who is suffering from amnesia after a serious car crash. Though at first he does not remember her, they seem to grow closer than before as they reconstruct his memory. But is everything as it seems?

When did you start blogging and why?

I started my blog on October 11th 2011, after my sister said as a writer I had to blog (and Tweet - though I haven't ventured into that yet). I thought it might be a way of getting my name a bit more known, though there is much more to it that I have since discovered. I actually thought at first it would be a good thing to do on a Sunday when I was bored - little did I know how much time was actually involved!

If you could do anything tomorrow, what would you do?

Have all day to do nothing but write and do a chunk of at least 5000 words on my WIP (with breaks). I feel like I've fallen somewhat behind on schedule, due to illness (ie kids being off school), appointments, and sometimes plain old procrastination... *slaps wrist*

Describe your happy place.

A walk around Lanark Loch, near where I live, is good for clearing the head, especially with the sun setting and making golden ripples on the water. There are playgrounds for the kids too.

What was your first happy memory?

Running toy trains over a big pile of sand with my brother, in the driveway of our old house when I was three. We'd just moved into the house which was a bit of a shell, and my dad was doing it up. The sand was going to be used to make cement.

What was the scariest thing you've ever done?

Jumping off a bridge in New Zealand with an elastic band round my ankles.

What is the funniest thing you did today?

Slept in for three extra hours, meaning it was a bit of a panic getting the kids to school. Wasn't really "funny" at the time.

What is the strangest place you've ever got an idea for a story?

In a swanky London restaurant. Not that strange, but the best I can remember right now.

Where do you write?

At the kitchen table.

If you just won a ticket to anywhere in the world and you had to take me, where would you take me and why?

Well Martin, I think we could just go for a nice walk in the Lake District and discuss life, the universe and everything. I don't know if you're a rambler, but I like to and can certainly ramble verbally too.

I'll nominate these seven for the Lucky 7 meme and the tag questions:

Jayne Ferst
Abhishek Boinapalli
Kelley Lynn
Kevin Hiatt
Kathy McKendry
Stu Ayris

Enjoy everyone!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Second Challenge of the Platform-Building Campaign

The time has come for Round 2 of Rach Harrie's Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, which according to Rach is "challenging but not too challenging". Well, I'd hate to be around if she really decided to challenge us, because this was taxing in the extreme. However, I thoroughly enjoyed writing my entry. Clever woman, Rach, to say the least.

Here are the prompts and rules:

Prompt 1:
Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.

Prompt 2:

Prompt 3

Prompt 4

Prompt 5


Second Campaigner Challenge

Do one or more of the following:

  1. Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  2. Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  3. Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  4. Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  5. Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.
For added difficulty/challenge:

  • Complete at least three of the above activities and tie them all together with a common theme (feel free to either state the theme in your post or leave us to guess what it might be)
  • Write in a genre that is not your own
  • Ask Challenge entrants to critique your writing.

I did Challenge Number 2. I was going to do more, but I just couldn't come up with more interpretations of the prompts that were different enough. However, it is under 200 words (199, edited down from 303 - slashing over a third of a story is HARD), and it is not in my genre (normally thrillers, and I guess you could call this magical realism, with possibly a bit of YA in there).

And it is open for critique. Why not, eh? ;) The theme of my story is "poverty". Here it is:

Terrible Magic

Three ragged-clothed children were scavenging amongst the rubbish when they heard splashing. They hauled the red-coated boy onto the bank, propping him against the rusted support of the old concrete bridge, so in contrast to the gleaming marble one.

“Thanks for saving me. My ball dropped off that bridge, I went in to get it, but I didn’t know it was so deep.”

“We’ll look for your ball. Come on, Manisha.”

He looked at the remaining girl. “Your leg is cut.”

“There are jagged rocks underwater here. It’s nothing.”

“OK. What were you doing here?”

“Looking for food.”

“I can get you some food. All I need is a wooden spoon.”

Without questions, she stumped off and returned with the required item. The boy filled the spoon with water, then mumbled a few Hindi words and the water bubbled up, materialising into the shape of a pear. Then it was a pear, which he handed to the girl, who bit into it ravenously.

“It’s a trick taught to my great-great-grandfather by his fakir,” he explained. Then his eyes widened. “Oh, no. I forgot. If the food is eaten by anyone not born within the palace, the world will explode-”

Monday, 5 March 2012

Tagged again

I was tagged by Melissa Sugar over at Have You Heard? to answer eleven more questions. I think she posed some toughies. Here goes:

1. Name one thing you consider your biggest regret in your life so far?

I guess it would be not taking writing seriously earlier. I started writing my first novel when I was 26.

2. If you could go back in time and do things differently, what is something you would change?

Errmm... see above? There's not much else I can think of. Maybe spend more time travelling.

3. If you could travel to another time period, but you must agree to remain there for a full six months would you go? If yes what time period & where would you time-travel to the future or past

It would be cool to observe dinosaurs in the wild (safely!) and see the Earth before we messed it up.

4. Would you rather be on the best seller list once (only once) or win the single ticket mega multi- state lotto?

I would go for the latter option because the best seller list would be a one-off moment, a flash in the pan. And, not number one? Just on the list? If I won the lottery I would always be set up to write, we could get rid of all our debts, and could always provide for the kids if they were in trouble.

5. When you write in the privacy of your own home, what do you wear?

Jeans and a t-shirt. As I've dropped Emma and Eve off at school/nursery and have to pick Eve up from nursery.

6. What was the happiest day or time of your life?

21st June 2006, 2.45pm. When I saw my wife walking up the aisle up on our wedding day. 45 minutes late, but worth it. Close runner-up would be 10th October 2008, 2.59pm (the birth of my daughter). Sorry to get all soppy on everyone.

7. Would you rather have loved deeply and been hurt deeply or have never felt true love before or the hurt that can go with it

Well, that's tough. I think the former as with the latter you haven't really experienced the extremes of being alive.

8. If you current novel is made into a Major Motion Film; who would play your protagonist?

Lame answer but I'd rather it was someone unknown than a big name actress as I wouldn't want people to have preconceptions about the character. And, I can't think of anyone suitable.

9. If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you

Maybe that guy who played John Lennon... Aaron Johnson.

10. Name one thing about you that you seldom share with others~or something that we in the blogosphere do not know about you.

I played lead oboe in the school orchestra.

11. You are a character and are being interviewed: What is your greatest strength? Worst flaw?

Greatest strength: Patience.
Worst flaw: Disorganised.

So here are my questions to pass on to others. I'll repeat the ones from last time as I left them open for everyone, but don't know if anyone picked up on them.

1. Who is your favourite character of all time and why?

2. When is your best time to write? Why?

3. What do you think is the most underrated book of all time?

4. How would you feel if a book of yours was adapted into a massively successful film that far outstripped the popularity of your book?

5. What is your favourite cartoon?

6. What do you do if you get stuck at any point while writing?

7. Toast, cereal or full-fat fry up in the morning?

8. Describe how you feel when you first give someone else a piece of your writing to read (even if only a spouse or friend).

9. If you were able to live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

10. What one thing would you most like to achieve by the end of this year?
I'll tag my 11 most recent followers, who are:
Dawn Malone
Sally Stackhouse (sorry, I couldn't find your blog)
Angela M
E. Arroyo
Prerna Pickett

Hope you all enjoy my questions...