Friday, 24 August 2012

Get an Agent and Win Books!

Well, probably not both at the same time, unless you happen to be unusually blessed by the deities of fortune. But as they say, you have to be in it to win it.

If you haven't heard of Deana Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get an Agent blogfest, go here for the details! Even if you're not looking for an agent, there are also chances to get signed by a small press, and it's a great opportunity to learn and network. I'm in awe of Deana for putting this massive event together.

Now, a couple of giveaways. First up, Donna L. Martin is celebrating the nine month anniversary of her blog with two extremely generous book packages: one geared towards writers, the other towards readers. I'd be happy to receive either! Please visit Donna at her website or blog, and you can check out the contest here.

Next, E. Arroyo has got some great news to share: she was recently signed by Sapphire Star Publishing for her debut novel, The Second Sign, and she wants to give something back to all those who have helped and supported her on her journey. So she's holding an awesome giveaway of some great writing craft books. Go here for all the details. Please note, this contest is open to US residents only.

And finally, I want to say that I'm humbled and amazed to have reached 300 followers! When I started this blog, I thought it was extremely unlikely that anyone would even see it. So, thanks for being here, reading my flash fiction and helping me muddle through this whole writing malarky! A special hello to those I met in the Hookers & Hangers and What If bloghops, I look forward to getting to know you better! I'll be doing something special to celebrate so stay tuned.

For now though, I'm afraid I need to disappear for a week or so... I know I've just been on a break, but I'm going to see if I can't get my MS gleaming for GUTGAA! I've received tons of stellar feedback from my CPs, and I now have a better handle on what my novel needs. I'll still reply to any comments and visit you back. And if you're in for the blogfest, I'll see you there. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

How much research do you do?

First of all, apologies for not making my normal rounds of commenting recently. Since my holiday, I've had some work issues to deal with, we've been getting the kids back to school, and I've been generally adapting to the shift in routine (I'm a creature of habit, after all). I'm still getting back to all the commenters on my twisted version of Goldilocks - thank you, I'm overwhelmed by the response! - and I've picked up critiques again for my CPs. As I've begun my redraft of The Memory Cell, I've also been looking closely at the feedback I've had so far.

Now my book deals in part with amnesia, a subject of which I admittedly know very little other than what I have gleaned from online resources (and we all know we can never completely trust these). My CPs haven't said much about it, but maybe a professional in the area would if I sent them the book. But I wouldn't know how to go about such a thing, and they'd be far too busy to help me anyway, wouldn't they?

We've all seen books where the author thanks an exhaustive list of authorities and experts in their acknowledgements. I really admire this approach; it's rigorous and it's clear they've tried to make the book as watertight with facts as they can. My problem is that I tend to research on the fly; what I need to know, when I need to know it, and I can't wait to get back to the writing.

It's funny I should be this way considering I trained as a journalist. Everything had to be as evidence-based as possible. I've still got reams of tapes of all my interviews and notebooks full of shorthand. Not saying I didn't enjoy the process; it was the nature of the beast.

But now I've got no one to answer to (for the moment, anyway) and this is fiction, right? Suspension of disbelief, and all that? It's like the first time I lived on my own at the age of 23. With no one else to take into consideration, my flat quickly fell into horrifying disarray. Luckily my girlfriend (now wife, amazingly), pulled me back into line. Maybe I need that for my work. I'd hate for my book to lose credibility because I got things wrong, and it would only take one person to point it out.

I'm a bit nervous about admitting I'm a lazy researcher, but it's something I'll definitely work on. How about you? How far have you gone in the name of research? And do you think a great story and writing make up for the sin of not having your facts 100% straight?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

"What If?" Fairytale Madness Blogfest

This fun blogfest is running from Monday to Friday this week. Our mission, if we chose to accept it, was to pick a classic fairytale and tweak it by altering "one detail, one event, one character trait, one thought". There are four categories: Plot Twists, Love Stories, Comic Relief and Tragedy. It didn't take me long to opt for the Tragedy team (I do like putting my characters through hell), but I've only just done my entry now although I've been signed up for almost two months. I was a bit stuck on the fact that most fairytales are tragedies if you just take away the happy ending, but I think I've finally come up with something a bit more creative. Anyway, it was super fun to write! Here's my entry of 300 words, hope you enjoy...

The smell of fresh porridge wafted out of the open door of the cottage and Goldilocks followed her nose inside. Sure enough, three different-sized bowls stood on the kitchen table. The smallest bowl tasted the best, and she ate it all up.

Her stomach felt rather heavy after that, and she thought she’d better sit down. The smallest chair was the comfiest, but after a few seconds she heard a crack and ended up on her bottom amid a pile of broken wood.

Now her bum was sore, her tummy seemed to be full of lead weights, and to add to that, she felt like she was going to black out. She dragged herself upstairs to find a bed. She chose the smallest one – it felt like it had been made for her – and fell into a chasm of sleep.

The three bears were shocked when they returned to find the mess and the empty bowl. They hurried upstairs to find a little girl asleep in Baby Bear’s bed.

“Who is she?” asked Daddy Bear.

Was she,” corrected Mummy Bear, after feeling for Goldilocks’ pulse. “That porridge...” She sank onto her own bed and put her head in her paws. “Bear porridge is poisonous to humans – only sugar cancels out the effects. If she’d waited for us to come back, I would have given her some and none of this would have happened.”

“What do we do now?” Daddy Bear was comforting his son, who had started to cry.

“Take her out to the woods behind the house. Then we’ll need to pack up and get gone. Once her family realise she’s missing, the local bear family’s going to be first on their hit list. I really thought this time might be different, but it seems bears find trouble everywhere.”

If you want to read more, you can find a linky list here, courtesy of awesome Team Captain Leigh Covington. I can't wait to get round to all the other entries!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Game On Blog Tour: Interview with Author Kyra Lennon!

I'm very proud and honoured to feature Kyra Lennon on the blog today, as part of her tour for her fantastic debut novel, Game On. Since I met Kyra in the A-Z Challenge, she's become one of my best author buddies due to her generous and outgoing nature. She even offered to critique my WIP with nothing in return, and her feedback has been invaluable! So I jumped at the chance to interview her as part of the tour. Let's get to the questions...

Hi, Kyra. First, can you tell us a bit about who you are and your background?

I live in the UK, on the South Coast, and have lived here all my life. When I left school, I attempted college for almost a year and realised that it was not where I wanted to be, then began working in retail. I’ve worked in gift shops and toy shops, and I loved it! Working in those kinds of shops in a seaside town at the height of summer is insanely busy but always a lot of fun.

I've been in many such shops. Bet you've got loads of stories to tell!

When did you first realise you wanted to write and can you tell us about how you got started?

I’ve always written. My mum encouraged reading when I was little, and writing seemed like a natural progression for me. There was a long period of time when I stopped because working full time didn’t really allow me much time for writing fiction, but it was something I always thought about, and something I always loved.

It took me a long time to write seriously too, because I didn't think I could write anything good. You've got to get past that and just get on with it!

What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to writing?

Life. Just being out in the world, where so much is happening, it’s hard not to be inspired. I’ve always been fascinated by people, too. I like to people watch and imagine scenarios about what brought them to where they are, what makes them tick, and why they act the way they do. Life, in general, inspires me.

I agree, there's endless ideas to be had from life and people!

Tell us about your debut novel, Game On. How did the story come about and what was the process of writing the book from beginning to end?

I think the synopsis says it best! After swapping her small town life to work for one of the top soccer teams in the U.S., Leah Walker thought she could finally leave the ghosts of her past behind. However, when she meets serial womanizer, Radleigh McCoy, the memories of her old life come swarming back, and she is forced to ask herself whether she has really changed at all.

The story was kind of born around an image I had of Radleigh McCoy in my head. He didn’t have a name then, but he had this arrogant, disrespectful-to-women personality that needed exploring. I wanted to know what would happen when he came up against a woman who wouldn’t fall for his sleazy lines, and the whole idea for the story just kept on growing from there.

Game On is one of the only stories I have ever written in the correct order! I used to write scenes as they came to me, then filled in the gaps. Once I finished, I realised that writing in the correct order is actually easier for me.

Everything's a learning process!

You're currently working on the follow up. Any advance nuggets of info you can share with us? Go on, you know you want to... ;)

Haha! Well, the follow up to Game On is loosely titled Foul Play (I will need to put some more thought into this because it’s kind of an ugly title, but it fits the story and the soccer theme!). It focuses on Jesse Shaw, the youngest member of the Westberg Warriors team. It follows almost directly after the end of Game On, and it’s the story of Jesse and his best friend, Hunter, going to London for a month, to get away from the craziness of L.A. Foul Play is a little bit different to Game On for a few reasons. Firstly, it falls into the category of YA, which is something I never really planned to do. Secondly, there is very little soccer because it’s off season. And finally, it is dual POV. While in London, Jesse meets a girl named Isabelle, and half of the story is told from her perspective. It seemed like a good way to introduce her character, and we will see her again later in the series.

I like how you're sowing seeds for further entries. It'll be good to hear more from Jesse, and I'm interested to see how you handle the male POV (it'll be great, I'm sure!) Also, can anyone come up with any more soccer-based titles? How about "Striking Out"? Lol, I'm sure others can do better! 

Your day job is writing freelance articles, which is awesome. How do you balance this with your more creative side, as well as blogging and other such activities? In other words, describe your daily routine, if you can?

I don’t really have a daily routine. The nature of freelancing is such that, if there is work to do, I’ll do it. It’s not always possible to have set working hours, or set amounts of articles per day, so I just work when the chance arises, and the rest of the time I write fiction.

At least you always get to write!

What do you like to do when you're not writing or blogging?

Sleep LOL! I like to read a lot. I am on a huge YA kick at the moment, and about three quarters of my Kindle is filled with YA books. My other big passion is jewellery making. I got good at it very quickly, and it is so relaxing!

I'll have to get my wife in touch with you, she loves custom jewellery!

And just for fun, can you describe yourself as if describing a character from one of your novels?

Ack, I was dreading this question LOL! Okay, let’s give it a try:
A twenty-something woman stared out at the calming blue waves, raking her fingers through the hot sand. It was another beautiful summer’s day, and she’d finally swapped her trademark jeans and boots for a skirt and sandals. Sure, the skirt was denim, but going too far out of her clothing comfort zone was just not in her nature. Her dark hair – up in a high, and possibly unsuitable for her age, ponytail – swung in the light sea breeze as she watched the brave people, swimming and splashing in the ocean. In spite of living by the sea for her whole life, she’d never learned to swim herself. And that was okay with her. She’d always been more of a beach volleyball kind of girl anyway. 

Ha, nice job! Where I come from it's usually a bit too cold to swim anyway...

Here is my review of Game On!

I really enjoyed this book. While I would not typically pick up a book in the category of chick lit, human relationships are fascinating to me and this story deals with some heavy emotions which feel very raw at times. Leah is an eminently likeable protagonist and the author draws us in to share in her conflicting feelings as she undergoes various trials and tribulations at the hands of her arch nemesis, star footballer Radleigh McCoy. Will they? Won't they? Well, I'm not going to give anything away but I will say that you're going to find it hard to tear yourself away. Lennon has a sparky and engaging voice and there are many one-liners that had me laughing out loud. A perfect holiday read!

You can pick up a copy at the following places...

And you can find Kyra through these avenues:

I wish Kyra all the best for the remainder of her jaunt around the blogosphere!

NB: Just a quick note to say that I'm disappearing again as we're going down to Brighton for a few days, but I aim to be back in full force next Wednesday. :)

Friday, 3 August 2012

A Review of The Lorax

Happy Friday everyone! First of all, I need to apologise for being largely absent over the past week and a bit. That wasn't the plan... we've just been seeing friends, taking trips, and other stuff that tends to happen during the summer months (regardless of the random weather in Scotland). I'm going to try to catch up over the weekend.

Among these exploits was an outing with the kiddywinks to see The Lorax. As it's based on one of my favourite books, I thought I should write a little review.

So this was my favourite Dr Seuss book as a kid. That might be because it played into my whole eco-warrior phase, but I think it's a great story and the message only gets more relevant. But that message is only for kids, by the way. I think it's good to bring it to their attention in a context that they'll enjoy, but most conscientious adults won't need the reminder, and I found the bombastic production didn't match the simple charm of the book.

The core story was fleshed out in a way that I felt a bit ambivalent about. The Once-ler was an emblem of faceless capitalism in the book - literally, as all you see of him is a pair of arms wielding an axe. He comes across a forest of Truffula trees, which he chops down in order to use their tufts to make thneeds, bizarre multipurpose garments. In the movie, he befriends the cute woodland creatures, but still blithely destroys their entire habitat. He's too nice to convince as a villain, whereas, in the book, he only develops a sense of guilt after the Lorax disappears.

There's a new villain introduced, too - the tycoon O'Hare who runs the town of Thneedville, which sprang up after the forest was felled, and manufactures bottled air. His character is a cardboard cut-out, but the idea of paying for fresh air is a great conceit in terms of taking corporate greed to its logical extreme.

A lot of the new elements introduced by the film seem quite clumsily grafted on and don't quite add up - Ted, who went unnamed in the original story, wants to find a real tree to win the heart of Audrey, who seems to be in the minority among the brainwashed inhabitants of Thneedville in yearning for a return to nature. Where did these people come from? Were they created at the same time as the plastic conurbation? The town is surrounded by thick metal walls and no one seems to be aware that it is in the middle of a dessicated wasteland. O'Hare has security measures in place to ensure no one leaves town, but Ted manages it without too many problems on several occasions.

In conclusion, I'd have to say it was an average effort. Kids will love it - song and dance numbers included - and hopefully it will encourage them to think about what's happening in the world. It's enjoyable enough for adults, as long as you don't expect justice done to the book.