Writing What I Know

There are two ends of the spectrum on whether or not you should ‘write what you know’. One end, as the phrase suggests, believes that you should write what you know because you’ll be able to show a deeper understanding. The other side, as you may have guessed, gives the suggestion that what you know has nothing to do with what you can write in fiction. ‘Write what you don’t know, so that you may know it better’ I believe is the phrase.

Either way, whether your intention is to write cosy small town fiction or the most epic of fantasy, what we know will always be apparent in our fiction. We use our experience, not as the whole, but as a building base. Our education leads us down paths history may have travelled before, but we walk them on different landscapes and with different skies.

As well as working on Out of Orbit and Meat, I’ve also been working on a few other projects. Mostly, this is sporadic work when pressure becomes too much. I wrote before about the confidence crash, how the bar on these two series has been set now and I have to jump over it. When that bar looks too high, when the run up a little too daunting, I like to work on something else for a little while, something nobody knows about. Something that has no bar.

The project I’ve been using for the last month or so is a post-pandemic called Fever Rig. I’m not going to put a bar on it by explaining it in detail.

One thing I have found entertaining whilst writing this (apart from the lack of high jump) is that I’ve been able to drop in little hints of things from my own life. I’ve never been in a pandemic before, especially not one that wipes out two thirds of the world’s population, but there are little things that I can put in which amuse me greatly every time I reread them.

In the chapter I’m currently working on, POV character Cooper is getting snippy with his new colleague because she didn’t lock the ambulance door when she got out. When she asks what the big deal is, he regales her with a story about when their ambulance was stolen whilst on a call out. It’s a nice little moment in a relationship that has been quite fraught until now.

Now, I’ve never worked in an ambulance, nor have I ever stolen one. A story very much like this one was told to me whilst I was completing First Aid training with the British Red Cross (a requirement of my job.) Obviously, all the details have been changed for this retelling but I loved that little insight, an incident which begins to explain some of Cooper’s obsessions when it comes to his job.

Another part of the story that I am enjoying is the little digs I’ve been able to throw in regarding health and safety. Working in a Student Halls of Residence (Dorms for the Americans) and with a job on hotel reception before that, I’ve been subjected to more health and safety training than I know what to do with. Most of it, while important (and the law) is incredibly boring and I’ve sat in rooms being told the importance of wet floor signs and fire safety leaflets all too often.

Again, I’ve never worked in a hospital, but I can imagine that they are very on the ball about their health and safety. As a portion of the story takes place in a hospital, I wanted to have those little nuggets, even though the world has changed drastically. Someone’s mopping the floor, they still use the wet floor sign simply because it’s been ingrained in them.

When people talk about writing what you know, I don’t think it should be looked at as the whole. I think that these little bits of our knowledge and experience add up to more than the creation of a well rounded story. We use these little hints, not only as hints into our characters, but also to us as the writer.

That way, we don’t just write what we know, we let the reader know us.

Advertisements
Posted in writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Month, New Meltdown

As you may have noticed, I’ve been rather quiet for the last month. This is not only due to the fact I’ve had very little to say of late, but also because I’ve been trying to organise my non-writing life. I’ve taken up Step class twice a week, I’m trying to eat more healthily, and I’m attempting to de-clutter. This doesn’t even include my full time job, family commitments, and a crafty project that has a very specific deadline.

The thing is, I know that this isn’t going to change any time soon (apart from the craft project deadline will pass.) However, I think I’m finally settling into things a little more and I can get back up to speed with my writing. Truth be told, I definitely needed a bit of a break. Now, I’m feeling more energised and ready to dive back into those drafts.

April is going to be a busy month despite being on holiday from my 9-5 job for almost three weeks. I have a trip back to Warwickshire planned for some family time, a wedding to attend, London Book Fair, and the Indie Author Fair at Foyles on the 17th.

Oh, yeah, and I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo, trying to get another 50,000 words.

All in all, I think there may be some tears before the end.

 

So, you may ask why the hell I’m writing about all this instead of taking this time to tick something off my list. On Sunday after a trip to GoApe (definitely recommend that if you’re in the UK) I was with my housemates and we were discussing a website called 16personalities.com If you’ve never heard of this, it’s a personality quiz, but unlike those ‘pick your favourite colour, pick your favourite food’, type quizzes, this one is scarily accurate and gave me an interesting insight into my life.

Not only did my listed personality (INFP – Mediator) tell me that one of the perfect careers for me is as an Author, but it also highlighted some of the difficulties I’ve had with certain aspects of my life. One of these: follow through. I like organising and planning, but actually following through on the targets I set myself is difficult when new ideas come along.

People who know me well might also be surprised that one of the aspects of my personality is that of an introvert. When around people I am comfortable with, I am often loud and excitable, and so people assume that I’m not shy. However, the truth is that being sociable takes a hell of a lot of energy for me (even with people I have known a while) and I find it very difficult around new people. Going out, especially when new people are involved, is draining and I often need a long time to myself to recharge.

So, I’m writing this post, in a lot of ways, more for myself than anything. I want to make an effort to deal with the parts of my personality that make following through on these things difficult for me. By doing this in a way I am more comfortable with (online interaction) I can work on driving my energy to my work.

Very rambling, I know, but hopefully it’ll help as I move forwards.

 

If you’ve not checked out 16personalities.com I definitely recommend it. It can be very interesting to look at the aspects of your personality and how it affects your life.

Posted in Self-Publishing Journey, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Writing Confidence Crash

Every writer loses confidence at some point. It’s not a surprise, nor is it anything to be ashamed about. There are famous novelists who still have a crisis of confidence with every book. In fact, I’m sure that this is true of every artist, musician… most people in fact. We travel a weird wavy journey in which we hit highs and believe our book is the best story we’ve ever written, and we sink into lows wondering why the hell we ever started writing in the first place.

Panda gif

The funny part is that these crashes in confidence can come from anywhere, and it is not always the negatives that send us into a spiral.

I’ve been in one of these spirals for the last week and while I’ve still not clawed my way out of it completely, I think I might be starting to get there.

In October of 2013, I wrote a blog post about bad reviews. I received my first just 19 days after the release of my first book. It was crushing, but I dealt with it and moved on. After all, it was only 6 days until the start of NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t have a crisis when I had 50,000 words to write.

writing therapy gif

The funny thing is, this time my confidence crash had not come entirely from a bad review. It’s come from two bewildering reviews and a slew of good ones.

Are you all raising your eyebrows now? Yeah, not surprised.

If you follow this blog regularly or you have me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that I am currently in the middle of the blog tour for Teeth, my vampire novel. This blog tour consisted of two weeks of guest posts and interviews followed by a week solid of reviews. There were also a few reviews in the blog tour, so I think I’ve gained ten reviews over the two weeks. Out of the reviews posted so far, only one has been 3 stars and the rest have been 4 stars. Looking at Goodreads, I currently have 16 reviews, all but one over 3*. You’d think I’d be over the moon, that I’d be sitting at my computer grinning like a cheshire cat whilst I tap away at the next book.

You’d think…

Now, admittedly, I also received a couple of odd reviews on my Out of Orbit series. There were nice parts and the star rating was decent, but the text ripped into elements of the book that I was quite proud of. Short to say, it was both bewildering and a little bit soul destroying.

Put these two events together, and you have an almighty confidence crash.

throw things gif

The funny part about it all is that the good reviews play as much a part in this crash as the bad reviews. Good reviews build you up, they show you how much people love your story, and whilst most of the time these can be used to push you to carry on writing, that there is a point to it all, there is the odd occasion that it does the opposite.

How can I write another one? It’ll never be as good as that one. I’m a fraud, and if I write the next book, they’ll all see it.

I’m not advocating this as a completely rational reaction, but I think it is a normal one. Pressure to continue to do well after a success can get to us. We raised the bar for ourselves and now we have to continue to jump over it. It’s stressful when we look at our new book and wonder if it’ll be able to sail over the bar we’ve set.

tumblr_mmg1y2toJM1sqr5ceo1_250

I spent three days staring at the chapter plan for ‘Meat’ fretting that people won’t ever like it as much as they did the first. I’ve talked myself in and out of whether I should use the same characters or move on like I intended. I’ve even now considered writing a two part sequel with two different sets of POV characters. I love what I’ve set up for the second part of the Teeth series, but am I disappointing the readers if they discover the POV characters are not continuing on from book one?

Then I started writing. I gave myself the imaginary slap, shoved all my issues into a little locked box, and started typing. Even writing the first chapter, a relatively short scene, I managed to come up with a dynamic different from the one I’d originally planned which sparked three new ideas.

anigif_enhanced-26501-1391541609-8

It’s still difficult. I’m still looking back at it and knowing it isn’t good enough, but it’s somewhere to launch from. You can’t edit what you haven’t written after all.

I guess, in a round about way, this blog post is 800 words of what Pixar and Disney tell us about the way to get past things getting you down… Only, they do it in three words.

Just Keep Swimming

Posted in Self-Publishing Journey, writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Natalie Wright, H.A.L.F, and Ditching Romeo & Juliet

Natalie and I have known each other since around the time Dead and Buryd was in the run to being released. We’ve swapped guest posts a couple of times over the last year, and I’m so thrilled that we were able to do it again… on the same day in fact.

Yes, today, whilst I have taken over Natalie’s blog with Teeth, Natalie has jumped onto mine to talk about her new book, H.A.L.F. I’m currently reading H.A.L.F, and it’s such a fun, easy read that I accidentally hit 15% on a single commute. I’ll be posting a review before the week is out, but for now I’m going to leave you in Natalie’s capable hands to talk about the romance aspect of a YA Science Fiction.

 

HALFTheDeepBeneath_cover_finalH.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers, hidden from humans and sedated. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.

Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement gives way to shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll escape the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill?

The two may need to forget their rules and training if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.
amazon

 

Ditching Romeo and Juliet

“Romeo and Juliet?” asked the beta reader as she yawned.

I’m paraphrasing (only slightly). This was the reaction I got to my first draft of the manuscript that would become H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath.

Early readers and editors liked the big picture concept: a teenage girl helps an alien-human hybrid escape from the government lab where he has lived his whole life. But my attempt at creating a romance sub-plot? They were like this:

Bad Smell

I initially conceived of Erika Holt (the female lead character) as a “wrong side of the tracks” girl who falls for a “right side of the tracks” guy named Kyle. It was all so West Side Story (which of course harkens back to Romeo and Juliet).

It was …

“So done before,” said the editor.

Back to the drawing board. Or more precisely, to the back burner where the story simmered for nearly two years while I worked on other things.

When I pulled H.A.L.F. back out and dusted it off, Kyle got the boot. Instead of an “opposites attract” approach, I decided to make my new love interest – Jack Wilson – more of a “regular” guy. Instead of a football player, Jack is a musician and poet. Instead of Mr. Suave, Jack is a flip-flop wearing, rumpled T-shirt sort of guy with just-out-of-bed tousled hair. Jack is carefree and laid back, a great counter-point to Erika’s more assertive and rigid personality.

Jack WilsonBut more than just changing the character, I altered the relationship sub-plot. Now as the story begins, their relationship is falling apart (as opposed to meeting and falling for each other over the course of the story). The reader drops into a senior-year relationship that was fun over the summer but is now at risk of crumbling entirely.

And just when it looks like they may find some equilibrium in the “friends zone,” their nightmare in the desert begins when they meet the strange, fascinating and dangerous H.A.L.F. 9.

As a writer, it is so much more fun to explore where all of this is going. What will happen with Jack and Erika? Will Erika’s fascination with the alien-human hybrid push her relationship with Jack off of the tracks? Or will the dangers they face pull them back together?

I hope that readers enjoy Kyle’s replacement – Jack Wilson – as much as I enjoyed creating a worthy (and more intriguing) love interest for Erika.

 

*****

Natalie Head Shot CroppedNatalie is the author of H.A.L.F., a young adult science fiction series, and The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult fantasy trilogy. She lives in the high desert of Tucson, Arizona with her husband, tween daughter, and two young cats.

Natalie spends her time writing, reading, gaming, geeking out over nerd culture and cool science, hanging out on social media, and meeting readers and fans at festivals and comic cons throughout the western United States. She likes to walk in the desert, snorkel in warm waters, travel, and share excellent food and conversation with awesome people. Natalie supports the rights of both humans and non-humans to live a life free of suffering caused by people. She was raised an Ohio farm girl, lives in the desert Southwest, and dreams of living in a big city high rise.

Check out some extras

Website/blog: http://www.NatalieWrightAuthor.com
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com.NatalieWright_
Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com.NatalieWright.Author
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/NatalieWright_
Watch the H.A.L.F Trailer: http://youtu.be/UydPpCaT5BQ

H.A.L.F
Amazon – Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R6U32CA
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24396064-h-a-l-f

Posted in Guests | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stories Behind Stories

While I’m away, visiting lots of blogs for the Teeth tour, I have got a group of award winning international authors here. Each one of these women is  great. All together, it’s amazing! So amazing, in fact, that it’s only available for 90 days.

So I’m going to hand it over to them.

 

The Stories behind the stories

WWW head shot banner reduced

Carol Cooper on One Night at the Jacaranda

One Night at the Jacaranda is the first novel I’ve created that got as far as the hands of readers. There’ve been other efforts: a coming-of-age novel set in Cambridge, a children’s story about a stray dog, a novel about a teenager coping with disability, and the chronicle of a female surgeon in training. She never reached the top as she spent too much time horizontal (like the manuscript, still languishing in a drawer somewhere).

Now I see that I was trying to fit into particular places on bookshelves. By contrast, One Night at the Jacaranda, although it’s contemporary women’s fiction, doesn’t nestle quite as neatly into a genre.Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG

The idea came to me out of the blue. I was on a flight to the USA, on my way to my father’s funeral. As I sat sipping a much-needed gin and tonic, the idea for a story about a group of single Londoners popped into my head. There’d be a struggling journalist, a lonely lawyer, a newly single mother of four daring to date again.

I covered paper napkins with scrawled notes which eventually developed into the novel. Finally I’d embarked on creating the kind of book I’d want to read for pleasure. I wasn’t thinking about marketing angles. I just wrote.

All the characters are made up. I don’t know where ex-con Dan came from, and I’m glad I never had an au pair as manipulative as Dorottya, but some of the influences are obvious. Although the stressed doctor in my story is male, he takes on many of the frustrations I face in my day job. Ditto the single mother, the freelance journalist, and the young man diagnosed with cancer are all people I relate to.

I like to pretend that the story has nothing to do with my father. For one thing, it would have been far too racy for him. He’d have choked on a Harrogate toffee by page four.

Yet things fall into place when a parent dies, so his influence is there. The deeper message of One Night at the Jacaranda is that the characters can’t find happiness with someone else until they confront who they themselves really are.

Over the years I’d authored and co-authored many non-fiction books. The leap to writing fiction required new skills. But it was refreshing to write what I wanted to write, without worrying about word counts or thinking of appropriate illustrations. My experience in journalism shows, I think, in my short scenes, cutting from one character to the next.

Medicine has a huge impact on my fiction. You can’t put your patients in a book, but doctoring teaches you to observe. It’s no surprise that many great writers have been doctors. While I can’t pretend to be in the same league as Somerset Maugham, Michael Crichton, AJ Cronin, Khaled Hosseini or Abraham Varghese, I’m grateful that my work brings me into contact with such a wide range of people and situations.

Roz Morris on My Memories of a Future Life

I was always fascinated by tales of regression to past lives. I thought, what if instead of going to the past, someone went to a future life? Who would do that? Why? What would they find?

My Memories of a Future LifeAnother longtime interest was the world of the classical musician. Musical scores are exacting and dictatorial – you play a note for perhaps a sixth of a second and not only that, there are instructions for how to feel – expressivo, amoroso. It’s as if you don’t play a piece of classical music; you channel the spirit of the composer.

I became fascinated by a character who routinely opened her entire soul to the most emotional communications of classical composers. And I thought, what if she couldn’t do it any more? And then, what if I threw her together with someone who could trap the part of her that responded so completely to music?

Jane Davis on An Unchoreographed Life

I was gripped by a 2008 court case, when, in an interesting twist, it was ruled that a prostitute had been living off the immoral earnings of one of her clients. Salacious headlines focused on the prostitute’s replies when she was asked to justify her charge of £20,000 a week. But the case also challenged perceptions of who was likely to be a prostitute. The answer turned out to be that she might well be the ordinary middle-aged woman with the husband and two teenage children who lives next door.

JDV-AUL-2400 (1) reducedWhilst I was writing the novel, it became especially relevant when change to the laws governing prostitution were proposed and became headline news.

I grew up within the footprint of Nelson’s paradise estate. The story of his mistress, Emma Hamilton, has always fascinated me. Born into extreme poverty and forced to resort to prostitution, she later became a muse for artists such as George Romney and Joshua Reynolds and a fashionista by bucking the tight-laced trends of the day. Cast aside by an aristocratic lover, she went on to marry his uncle. Completely self-educated, Emma continually reinvented herself, mixing in diplomatic circles and becoming confidante of both Marie Antoinette and the Queen of Naples.

But Emma’s story is unusual. I had a clear understanding that, had I been born in another age, the chances were that, living in London, I would have been either a domestic servant or a prostitute – but quite possibly, both. Prior to 1823, domestics under the age of sixteen didn’t receive a salary. They worked a sixteen-hour day in return for ‘bed and board’, a very generous description of what was actually on offer. And, in return, when they reached the age of sixteen, they were cast out onto the streets.

During my research, I used the Internet extensively to source personal accounts, diaries, blogs and newspaper reports. How did sex-workers come to the attention of the police and social services? What were the main reasons they ended up in court? (The answer was generally tax evasion and financial crime, things I knew about from my day job.) How did sex workers see themselves? How did they view their clients? How did this perception change if they stopped? I also consulted The English Collective of Prostitutes, who very kindly allowed me to quote them in my fictional newspaper article.

And then I began to imagine what life was like for the child of a prostitute. There was nowhere I could research that hidden subject. And it is always the thing that eludes you that becomes the story.

Orna Ross on Blue Mercy

WWW_Memes_Orna reducedBlue Mercy is a high-octane drama in the shape of a mother-and-daughter conflict swirling around a family murder mystery. A tyrannical old father is dead, a suspected mercy killing. The answers as to who might have killed him and why are deeply embedded in male-female relationships but also, crucially for this volume collection, in something core and primal in inter-female relationships too.

 

 

Kathleen Jones on The Centauress

The Centauress was inspired by a meeting with an extraordinary Italian sculptor who was officially female, but was very open about the fact that she was a hermaphrodite. She appeared to revel in her dual sexuality, although there was an underlying note of tragedy in the stories she told about her life. I began to wonder what it must be like to be born without any specific gender identity and what it might mean for relationships. Almost by accident, I was present when she was being interviewed for her biography and there were a lot of discussions about the ethical questions her life story raised; how much the biographer should tell and how to protect the people she’d shared her life with.

WWW_Memes_Kathleen reducedWhen she died, her story wouldn’t let me go. Meeting her had changed my life – as she had changed many people’s lives, not always for the better. Fictional episodes started writing themselves in my head, often centred around one of her reminiscences. I kept thinking ‘what if?’ and gradually the novel began to take shape. Fiction can often be closer to the emotional truth of something than factual biography.

The Centauress is set in Istria – a very beautiful part of Croatia that used to belong to Italy and has the turbulent historical background I needed for the novel. The family of my main character, Zenobia, has been torn apart by conflict. Living in Europe means living every day with echoes of a violent, recent past; sharing your village or street with people who may have betrayed your relatives, or be relatives of someone your family also betrayed. Just below my house in Italy, at the bottom of the olive grove, is a memorial to six young boys who were dragged from their houses and shot, only a year before I was born.

As a biographer myself, I’ve often felt uncomfortable ‘eavesdropping’ on the most intimate moments of someone’s life, so it’s not surprising that my narrator, Alex, became a biographer researching the life story of celebrity artist Zenobia de Branganza, who is the Centauress of the story. Alex has to struggle with the problems of her subject’s desire for honesty and the wishes of friends and family not to have their lives exposed. Alex has her own private tragedies, because the novel is also about surviving some of the worst things that can happen to you. It’s this knowledge that enables Zenobia to trust Alex with her most intimate revelations. And the message she gives to Alex is that it is possible to heal and that you must always be ready to accept happiness and love when it comes your way.

Jessica Bell on White Lady

White Lady by Jessica BellSome writers do have a distinct message they want to expose through their books before they begin writing. Those writers would be able to answer the question Why? pretty easily. I am not one of those authors. If there are messages in my books, they develop and grow organically, without my interference. But now that White Lady is complete and on bookshelves, I would say that message is the following: The power of unconditional love can be scarier than having a knife held to your throat.

 

 

Joni Rodgers on Crazy for Trying

Tulsa, my heroine, is a bookish, zaftig misfit, much like I was in my early 20s, and I drew on my experience as the lone female disc jockey at a rock station in western Montana. The themes of body image, forgiveness, making peace with one’s past were important to me, then and now. I also wanted to write about a healthy, loving union between two women (Tulsa’s mother and her partner) and how unfair it was—to them and to their daughter—that they weren’t allowed to marry. I was turned down by a number of agents because I refused to cut that storyline, and back then (in the mid-1990s) it was still a verboten topic for commercial fiction.

WWW_Memes_Joni reducedI started writing this book when I was living on a fire tower in the Northern California wilderness and finished it almost ten years later while I was undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (blood cancer). I had no immune system, which meant mandatory isolation. That gave me the space and quiet to write 16 hours a day simply because I loved placing words in rows. This purely creative purpose breathed joy and peace into what was otherwise a very dark time. My prognosis was poor; I was told I’d live five years if I was lucky, and my son and daughter were just five and seven years old. When I started seriously pursuing getting the book published, I was driven by the reality that this book might be the only way my children would ever really know me.

Crazy for Trying was originally published by a prestigious small press and was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, which launched my career and gave me a whole new life. This book, I truly believe, is the reason I’m still alive. Had I not found the purpose and peace I gained from writing it, I don’t think I would have made it. It gave me so much pleasure to revisit Tulsa and her crew. The book is a lot funnier than I remembered!

 

 

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women

Order your copy now at
Amazon.co.uk – http://goo.gl/89FlFZ

Amazon.com – http://goo.gl/8jfFMS

Just $9.99 for seven novels. Available 90 days only from February 20.

More information on www.womenwritewomen.com

Watch the video trailer: https://animoto.com/play/oTQrHVfeHYOqtS5V1o6RSA

Posted in Guests | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teeth Blog Tour and Other Updates

As you may have noticed, I’ve been rather quiet the last few weeks. Not only have I had the most horrendous cold that is making sleep my best friend in the world, but I’ve also been planning for the Teeth Blog Tour, which starts on Monday! Teeth Tour Banner2

I’ll be hitting 21 different blogs with some guest posts, interviews, and wonderful hosts who will be giving reviews of Teeth.

This tour has been organised by the brilliant Faye Rogers, and we’ll also be doing an eBook giveaway, not only of copies of Teeth, but also with the opportunity to win all three of my published books. So make sure you’re following along.

Teeth Side Banner3 Teeth Side Banner5

 

So yes, lots and lots to be excited about! I’ll be discussing the vampire lore I used in Teeth, my favourite places to write, my views on series vs standalones and more!

Not only that, but whilst I’m off touring blogs, I’m also hosting some wonderful people here!

On Wednesday the 18th, we have a phenomenal group of ladies talking about their box set ‘Women Writing Women’. These women are some of the most inspirational and talented indie authors I’ve had the pleasure to meet. It’s going to be a real treat.

And I am also having Natalie Wright stop by with a guest post. Natalie is a fantastic YA author. Her Akasha series is award winning, and her new book ‘H.A.L.F The Deep Beneath’ is wonderful. I’m reading it now and I already recommend everyone picks up a copy.

So, that’s it for now, or more… until Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in Self-Publishing Journey, Teeth | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bookourite #2: Harry Potter Series

I think there is a sliding scale in that the more you love a book, the more difficult it is to pick out why. I’ve been pondering my favourite elements of Harry Potter for the last week, and I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be wanting to change the bits I pick for this post.

So I’m just going to dive right into it.

Sidebar: If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series, or seen the movies, or not talked to anyone in the last fifteen years, I suggest not reading this post for spoilers.

 

Favourite Book of the Series

I thought I’d go for the big one first. With seven books in the series, it’s understandable that people have different favourites. Admittedly, I had to sit and consider this for a while, as I have plots I love from all of the books. In the end, I kept coming back to this one.

The Goblet of Fire.

I think Goblet of Fire is my favourite, in part, because it was the first book I read over and over. I got into the HP series just as GoF was coming out, and then we had an agonising two and a half year wait (Sorry, Song of Ice and Fire fans, your waits are worse.)

Goblet of Fire is the first of the bigger books, and it’s also the book before teenage angst and paranoia completely takes over Harry. I love the wider exploration into the wizarding world through the Quidditch World Cup, and the different cultures in the Triwizard Cup.

I could honestly go on about this for a college sized essay, so I’m going to stop there. It’s my favourite.

 

Favourite Location

An odd decision, out of all the ‘favourite’ things I could have picked. However, picking a location is one of my big things for Harry Potter because it informed my writing a hell of a lot.

I started writing by writing Harry Potter fanfiction and play-by-post roleplaying within the HP world. So, exploring the locations was a big part of my early writing.

The Ministry of Magic

The Ministry of Magic is not explored nearly enough in my opinion. Even in fanfiction, roleplay, etc, most are focussed around Hogwarts. Personally, I find the MoM far more interesting. They have an experimental charms and potions department. How many stories are buried in that vault?

You could easily spent a hundred short stories exploring the daily lives of people in the different departments. There are so many wonderful ideas that I’d love to explore, even after fifteen years of writing.

 

Favourite Dialogue Quote

“Well – it’s just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to – what is the phrase – ‘Come quietly.’ I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course – but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.”

Dumbledore is so cool! There are a dozen quotes I could have chosen here, and practically all of them are from Dumbledore. So, I chose this one, not because it is the deepest, or the most eloquent, but because it’s the most indicative of his character.

 

Favourite Narrative Quote

Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, ‘It unscrews the other way.’

There are some wonderful descriptions in Harry Potter, quotes that make me chuckle or hold back a sob. (Yes, I’m a sap, we’ll deal with that later.) But the reason I chose this one is because, for me, it showed McGonagall perfectly.

For the first four and a half books, we see McGonagall as a stern stickler for the rules. Yes, she has her loves and her beliefs, but she always cements them in the rules. Even up until this point in book five, she has been fighting against Umbridge in a way that has been strictly within the confines of the rules. She mocks Umbridge wonderfully, but she never truly steps out of line.

Here, we see her driven to the end of her tether, and finally abandons the rules, even if it’s in a small way. McGonagall is a fantastic character, and this, for me, captured her determination to protect the school and its students perfectly.

 

Favourite Character

It is a toss up here, but seeing as Albus has been in two segments, I’m going to go with my other one: Remus Lupin.

I always felt there was more about Remus that would have been interesting to know. He’s had a horrible life, adding his werewolf affliction to the fact that he blamed himself for his friend’s death for twelve years. He thought it had been Sirius, and in one swoop he lost everyone he held important in his life, the only people who had truly accepted him.

Honestly, I can’t completely explain why I love Remus so much. Perhaps because he’s the quiet, bookish one. Or because he’s obviously got a completely deviant side in creating the Marauder’s map with James, Sirius, and Peter.

I just love him!

 

Favourite Death

This is a bit of an odd question, but seeing as there were quite a few big deaths in Harry Potter, (as well as quite a few meaningless ones, I still haven’t forgiven her for Remus Lupin,) I thought picking my favourite would be a good idea. Of course, by favourite, I mean the one that affected me the most. Not the one I was happy had been offed.

My favourite death in the series is Albus Dumbledore’s. His death was both sudden and drawn out. The scene in the cave where he is reliving his worst memories brings me to tears. Here is a man who has done more than most will ever accomplish. He is ridiculously smart and talented, and yet here he is, scared and vulnerable.

To balance that against the Lightning Struck Tower and his conversation with Draco, you realise that Albus really does understand Draco. It isn’t until later you see exactly how similar Albus and Draco could have been. Both prominant families, both with dreams of grandeur, both drawn too far in and regretting it.

Of course, then you have Snape, and it all just gets worse. Dumbledore seemingly returns to that scared and vulnerable aspect of himself, and in all honesty, I believe it. Dumbledore is a lot of things, and while he claims death is the next great adventure, I don’t believe he was truly ready in that moment. Seeing that last truly human fear in him was very poignant for me.

 

Moving on from Harry Potter, next week I’m going to do My Sister’s Keeper. I love the book, hate the movie, and next week I’ll be picking out the reasons why.

Posted in bookourite | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bookourite #1: Teeth

One of my favourite elements of Self-Publishing and the new era of publishing we’re seeing thanks to the internet, is that readers can get a better insight when it comes to authors of the books they love. They can see our writing habits, our other hobbies, and even parts of the books that we loved/hated/pulled our hair out over.

Readers and Authors have contact like never before. Not only can readers find out about authors, but authors can be in direct contact with readers to find out what they liked and didn’t like. It’s a very exciting time to be in a creative arena.

With all that said, I thought I would do one post a week under the hashtag ‘Bookourite‘ (If you haven’t worked it out, that is Books and Favourite.) I’ll be posting quotes, characters, chapters, storylines, and everything in between from my favourite books.

If you want to do a bookourite post on this blog, please let me know by clicking the ‘contact’ tab at the top. If you’d like to do this on your own blog, make sure you hashtag bookourite.

 

To start it off, I’m going to give you my author view of my bookourite elements of my most recent release, ‘Teeth’. Teeth is a short vampire novel that I started writing on Wattpad because I had a couple of characters who wouldn’t get out of my head. It’s part horror, part comedy, all blood, murder, and mockery. One of the reviewers dubbed it ‘Vampires meet Saw’ which amuses me.

So, here are my bookourites from Teeth:

 

Favourite Scene

My favourite scene to write was in Chapter 13 where Spencer is showing Thomas around the house. I was able to get in so many little jokes and comments on the paranormal genre, both things I like and things I was able to change.

“Next to them is the room you do not go in unless the house is on fire. They design graphics on video games and they don’t like being disturbed unless you’re delivering them blood and red bull.”

One of the most annoying things for me in the paranormal genre is the idea that because they’ve lived a hundred years, all vampires are somehow rich and don’t need to work. So, I flipped that on its head and tried to come up with a load of jobs vampires could either do without going outside, or could be done entirely at night. My favourite jobs there are telemarketing and the vampire who is a popular paranormal romance writer.

 

Favourite Character

I hope you all realise that this is kind of like picking between my children. I don’t have real children, so all I have are these fictional ones.

“I woke up in an unfamiliar room with my one night stand hanging from the ceiling.”

That being said, I have to say Spencer Allaway. He brewed in my head for a long time and he is the one I know the most about. He’s a curious, funny, intelligent little bugger, but he’s also incredibly flawed. He’s petty and obsessive, he’s a complete brat when he wants to be. More of his past will come out in later books, but let’s just say that he’d probably be dead-dead by now if he hadn’t been made vampire-dead.

 

Favourite Dialogue Quote

William was probably the most surprising character. As he’s not a POV character, he’s viewed entirely from other people. I had some great inspiration for his dialogue, especially when you start realising he’s not quite as brute-idiot as some characters believe he is.

“Well, I suppose I could break down the door,” William suggested idly. “Unless you’d like to sire a locksmith?”

I wrote it, and it still makes me snort.

Favourite Description Quote

August was a fantastic character to write. His personality, especially his snide sarcasm refused to stay in his dialogue. It seeped into the narrative, giving all of his chapters their own unique feel.

The young were foolhardy and believed themselves invincible. They would only get themselves killed if they knew. Not that they didn’t get themselves killed anyway, but once again, August was there to clean it up.

He seemed to clean up everyone’s messes. The eternal fucking janitor.

 

Favourite Location

My favourite location in the book is the coffee shop Paige works in. It’s inspired by a cafe in San Francisco called Blue Danube. I go there with my friends when I visit, and I always love it.

The coffee shop was almost empty, yet when Thomas stepped in he could feel a buzz of energy all around him. He moved towards the counter, worried that he was going to knock into people, but there was nobody at the tables. One woman sat in a comfortable seat by the window and two men occupied a table by the wall. That was it.

It’s the type of little independent place where they serve homemade food and organic fair trade coffee. The employees know the regulars and will sit and chat to them when there aren’t customers. It’s the sort of place that probably has knitting group and book club meetings in the evenings and will stay open until the last customer has finished. I like those places.

 

Favourite Idea

One of my favourite parts of writing this, as I’ve mentioned above, was taking those well known ideas of the paranormal genre and flipping them on their head. Even just tweaking them gave them a whole new life for the story, something to pull into the plot or throw away with a passing comment that might make readers laugh, or stop to think.

“Are you going to invite me in?” he asked.
Spencer appeared next to the girl and tugged the door from her grip, pulling it open wider.
“You can’t,” she said. “You can’t come in without an invitation.”
August laughed and stepped over the threshold.
“We can,” he said. “It just isn’t polite.”

What I loved most was using these little ideas and giving them a little meaning whilst also dismissing them completely. You don’t heal instantly: Well, that’s because you don’t want it to, otherwise broken bones would never set right. Keep vampires away with garlic: Their taste buds are much stronger and garlic is an overpowering taste.

I think, with all of these, my favourite idea that came out of Teeth was that these vampires know all the lore, they know the misconceptions, and they use them for their own amusement.

And there we have it. Teeth as my first bookourite! Next I’ll do Harry Potter, I think. That was always one of my favourites.

Posted in bookourite, Teeth, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Environment #3: Motivation

I’m back with another Writing Environment post, and the fact it’s taken me two months to write this, I promise, has nothing to do with motivation. Thought I’d point that out now. Honestly, things have been rather busy. That’s a mute point, really, but we’ll move on.

Whether you want to call it motivation, muse, or something else entirely, the fact remains that motivation can be an incredibly difficult thing to find and keep. There are a hundred and one things that can destroy it, or keep you from ever finding it. Motivation is like momentum, it’s easier to keep it up than it is to create.

However long it takes you to finish a project is not important. Whether you write 50 words a day or 5,000, the point of this post is in keeping up with a level you find comfortable and rewarding.

So here are some pointers to not only help you find your motivation, but to also keep the momentum flowing:

Accountability

updatesUntil you publish (however you choose to do so,) writing can be a very solitary task. People may know that you’re working on a project, but they mostly don’t see the progress, only the finished product, which for some can take years.

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is that others can see how you are progressing. We can friend each other and see word counts, we can see whether we write in splurges or in a daily push. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people all writing, and it’s all visible to everyone. This means that we feel more accountable to everyone, not only ourselves. It’s like trying to lose weight – Having others there who will see the progress we’re making motivates us to do better.

If you take a look at the front page of www.chelecooke.com you will see that I now have an updates section near the bottom of the page. This shows everyone who visits my site how I am doing on different projects. They could check back every week if they wanted. I am no longer accountable only to myself, but to everyone who looks at that page and sees where I’m at. We are social creatures, and sharing progress on a goal can motivate to keep that progress going, even if we never share the ‘after picture’ until we reach our final weight.

Ways to play with accountability:

  • If you have a blog on writing, add your current wordcount to the bottom of every post, and post regularly.
  • Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr – whichever social media works for you.
  • If you have a website, set up an updates bar
  • Set up a ‘word count’ group with some writing friends. – Set your own targets and share how you get on. GoogleDocs can be great for setting up a sheet that’s shareable with friends.

Regularity

Some writers believe that you have to write every day. Writing regularly will increase productivity, not simply because of the amount of time spent at the keyboard (or notebook.) By writing every day you effectively train your brain to get into a particular space (getting into ‘The Zone’ anyone?)

However, by saying you should write regularly, I don’t specifically mean that you have to write every day. Some people work best in long splurges where others work better in shorter intervals every day. Does it take you a while to get into a rhythm? If so, maybe a five hour marathon every Saturday morning is better for you than an hour after work each week day. Either way, by setting up this ‘Writing Time’, you will start training your brain into focusing when you take your position at the keyboard.

Important to remember with regularity:

  • Keep it up! Even if you only write ten words the first time you sit at your keyboard for an hour. Even if you only write ten words the next time too.
  • Experiment. Try different lengths of time, different times of day, once a week or five times a week. Make sure you’re finding what works best for you.
  • Take time off and do not feel guilty! Don’t allow yourself to get dragged into every second must be spent writing if that is not what you want. Do you writing time and then have some free time. (I’ll talk more about this in Rewards.)

Distraction

Many of us work on laptops these days. Unfortunately, those laptops often come with a connection to the internet and endless videos on youtube, facebook updates, etc. A lot of us also live with others. Distraction can come from anywhere, even internally, and shutting them off can be a problem.

There are many ways to get past distractions. My personal favourite right now is to put on headphones and shut myself in my bedroom. As I said above, momentum is a glorious thing, easier to keep going than it is to start, and once you’re in a rhythm, don’t let someone or something pull you out until you’re ready.

Sometimes, however, we all need a big red NO button to stop us from updating our favourite social media site.

Things to try to minimise internet distractions:

  • www.writeordie.com – Set yourself a time limit and a desired word count and start writing. If you stop, bad things happen.
  • Freedom – An internet blocking software. Set a time limit and that’s it, no internet for you for that allotted time. The only way to cut it short is to restart your computer. You can try the software free with a 5 time trial. (While it says Mac, there is a PC version too.)
  • Turn off your router and move rooms – The effort of going to turn the router back on and waiting for it to load might just put you off searching out that cat video. Though, this probably isn’t a good idea unless you’re alone in the house.

Rewards

Just what it says on the tin. Setting yourself up with a reward at the end of a writing session makes us feel good. We achieved. We succeeded. Now, have something shiny to say well done.

Writing is a long task. Seeing your book in print for the first time is one of the most wonderful rewards I could ask for, but actually, that doesn’t get me though the months of slogging my guts out over a keyboard, of agonising over each word choice. For those times, I use small, sometimes meaningless rewards.

Now, I usually go by word count or as I finish a chapter (depending on the length of the chapters,) but you can also do this by time frame. Also, what you set as your reward is completely up to you. Lastly, most importantly, you don’t have to stop for your reward. If you’re on a roll, keep going, but don’t forget about the reward later. Let them build up if you want.

Things you can use as rewards:

  • An episode of a TV show – If you’re like me and love to splurge on a specific TV show, set episodes as rewards. Write 1,000 words, you can watch the next episode. If you write 3,000, Boom, that’s 3 episodes for you to relax with afterwards.
  • Money – It’s as simple as that. Set yourself a price per word and pay yourself for your time. Penny every 5 words? That’s £2 per thousand words. Use your £2 on something like chocolate after your sprint, or save up for a month or a week and spend the money on something bigger. Yes, it was already your money, but unfortunately I haven’t found anyone to pay me yet.
  • Time on the internet – If you’re taking out the internet via limiting your distractions, you can reward yourself with internet time after a sprint. 100 words equals 5 minutes on Facebook. Save it up and after 1,000 words you have fifty minutes of uninterupted pointless browsing or endless funny videos.
  • Sweets – Buy yourself a tub of sweets and allow yourself one for a word count/time slot you set.

 

And that’s it. My suggestions on motivation, how to start and how to keep it. I’d love to hear some of your tips for motivation if you have them.

Next up in the Writing Environment posts: Organisation! (My mum will love me because this one includes Excel spread sheets!)

Posted in Self-Publishing Journey, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

15 Things for 2015

Yes, that’s right, it’s another New Years resolutions, what we hope for 2015, post.

If you’re already sick to the teeth of them, don’t worry, another week and I’m sure most of us will have forgotten we even made the resolutions, let alone kept to them. Unfortunately, that’s usually me. The end of year stock taking can often be an invigorating experience and a week after it happens, I’m back to thinking ‘why did I ever think I could do this?’

So, here I am, telling you all the things I’m going to do this year. I hope that by doing this, I will be accountable not only to myself, but to you all. Perhaps not wanting to let you wonderful people down, if nothing else, will help push me through.

Therefore, I have decided on 15 things I would like to accomplish by the end of 2015. I like the symmetry. I’ve also split this into three topics. Writing, Business, and Social.

Writing

1. Publish book 3 of the Out of Orbit series.
Yep, it’s in the works, and goddamnit I will get it on the market.

2. Finish and publish 3 Out of Orbit short stories.
‘Coyote’ is already in its first draft, and I also have ‘Body of Art’ and a currently untitled short in the planning stages.

3. Either self-publish or have Le Cirque Navire with an agent and/or publisher.
I’m about 20,000 words from finishing LCN, but seeing as I’ve written 15k in two days on this story this week already, I think it’ll be finished within a few days. I’ve promised an agent the first look at this manuscript, and where I go with it from there will depend on whether they wish to take it up.

4. Write and publish ‘Meat’, the second book in the Teeth series.
As these are shorter books, I’d like to keep up a relatively quick turnaround with them, so I plan on having ‘Meat’ ready by Autumn.

5. Finish my portion of ‘Ridgers’.
WIP Title ‘Ridgers’ is a dystopian collaboration being written with Moa Johansson. We’re both rather busy at the moment, but I’d like for this to keep moving forwards as I absolutely adore working with her.

Business

6. Do more public speaking.
Speaking at events is a great way to get your name out there and to meet some wonderful people. I’d really like to take this further as the year progresses.

7. Have 5 new unattached stories ready to go.
One of the big things with any business is knowing what your next step is. This will hopefully be my full time career one day, and as such, I need to treat it that way, not only focusing on what I’m doing now, but also what will come next. So, that means 5 new novel ideas, not attached to a current series, that can wait in the wings for when I’m ready for them.

8. Set aside time five days a week to ‘work’ and get into a rhythm.
I want to ensure I’m hitting 10,000 words a week, not to mention editing, formatting, and other publishing jobs. If I want this to be my career, I have to treat it as such, meaning set times when I am officially ‘at work’.

9. Take advantage of some more of the opportunities the market has to offer.
Whether that means I set up to release an audiobook, I do a trial run on Pubslush, or I begin releasing merchandising, I understand that eBooks and print novels are not my only product. I want to start expanding within the market.

10. Organise myself as any other professional would.
This, I think, will probably be the most difficult on the list because, even though some of my other points involve writing entire novels, this has the most work. It means organising everything from my publishing schedule to my finances. Yes, writing is my passion and hopefully one day my full time career, but it is not my entire life. I need to separate publishing from my personal life and approach this as any other professional would.

Social

11. Sort out my mailing list, facebook likes, twitter followers, etc. 
I’ve been largely lagging on this and it’s time that wasn’t the case. I know all the theories and now I need to take the time to put them into practice.

12. Podcast.
I’m not entirely sure whether this means me setting up a podcast, or me seeking out podcasts to guest on, but either way, I’d like to give it a try.

13. Proper promotional blog tours.
I’ve largely ambled my way through this up to now and no more. I already have a blog tour lined up for Teeth, working with a publicist, and from there I can see what works for me to ensure all my blog tours are well worth following and getting me the right exposure.

14. Post an informative post once a fortnight on my blog.
I’ll also be posting updates, release information, etc. But I want to ensure I’m building a informational hub with my experiences in self-publishing, writing, etc. Therefore, I’m going to be releasing an informative post once a fortnight.

15. Do more on Goodreads and Wattpad.
I would like to have a better connection with the people I’m friends with on Wattpad and Goodreads. So, reading a lot more, reviewing other stuff, etc. There are some truly wonderful people out there, and I want to get to know them better.

 

And that’s me. Admittedly, I have some personal goals for 2015, but as none of you probably want to hear about me falling over on treadmills and how cranky I am without chocolate, I’ll leave that alone.

All the best for 2015 to everyone reading.

Posted in Self-Publishing Journey | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment