Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New goal and own goal

Kate Ellison of the blog Southern Scrawl has changed her name to Kate Avery Ellison. She's also got a book available on Kindle from Amazon. Congratulations to her on the publication of Once Upon a Beanstalk. There's another Kate Ellison. This Kate has a book, The Butterfly Clues, due out next year. If anybody knows this second Kate Ellison, could you please point her in the direction of Southern Scrawl so Kate Avery Ellison can forward the lovely emails she's been getting for her?

The girls go back to school tomorrow. The beginning of September has always been my New Year, the time when I make plans and set goals. This year is going to be slightly different in that the only goals I'm going to set are writing ones. I'm posting one of them here in the hope that I might work on that procrastination habit of mine, and hold myself accountable. Well, anything's worth trying, right?

The big goal, then, is to stop faffing about. A few words written here and there followed by deletion, is no good to anyone. I can tell myself it's okay, it happens to everyone. Or I can realise that aiming to one day be a professional writer means behaving in a professional manner. This is why I've ripped the guts out of my current wip and am, to all intents and purposes, starting again. My big goal then, is to have the first draft of this story finished by the end of October. I have other opportunities that I won't be able to take advantage of if I don't do this properly. Playtime is over and the new term has started.

Talking of procrastination, here's what can happen when you suffer from it. Today is a perfect day to tell you this story as it was the final day of the football (soccer) transfer window. (Mixed fortunes for my team). Readers who have been around for a while may remember this post. For those who don't want to read it, it tells of an idea I wrote down in my early teens that later turned up as much of the plot line in the film Sleeping with the Enemy. It happens of course, there's no such thing as an original idea. To be fair, at the time I wasn't ready to write any novel, let alone that one.

It was a different matter last Summer. That's when I first began to think seriously about trying to write a novel. I thought about the old old adage 'write about what you know', and this is the outline I came up with:

Summer is 15. She has supported Liverpool FC all of her life, it's something she shares with her dad. She's never seen them play live as they live on the other side of the country. Her father gets tickets to the 2005 Champions League final to be held in Istanbul, Turkey.* Dad dies a few weeks before the match and Summer decides to run away to Europe to watch the match, taking her father's ashes with her. The story will end with her walking into the stadium at the start of the match.

There were a lot of notes, but that was the basic premise. I love Liverpool FC and I was really excited about this idea, but then that nasty little voice crept in. The one that told me it was a stupid idea, that boys wouldn't read a book about a girl, and girls wouldn't read a book 'about football'. I should have written it anyway, because it was the story I wanted to tell. Instead I wrote something else, that turned out to be a novella rather than a novel.

A few days ago, whilst struggling with the current wip I decided to make some more notes for my football tale. Whilst doing research I found this story (and how did I miss this back in May?) Again, for those who don't want to read it, it's a news story discussing an upcoming film about a boy who runs away to Istanbul to watch the 2005 Champions League Final in memory of his dead father. If there's something you really want to write, just write it. Before somebody else does.

*This final is widely held to be the best ever in the history of the competition. Liverpool, the underdogs, were 3-0 down at half time. Nobody had ever come back to win from that deficit in this competition, much less against AC Milan. They finished the match 3-3, then Liverpool won the championship 3-2 on penalties.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Musical Stories 8: Children's Literature

I knew I might gain some readers when I decided to take part in this Campaign, but honestly I had no idea that things would explode. I'm thrilled to have reached, and exceeded, the one hundred followers milestone. (By the way, am I the only person that hates that our readers are called followers? I can't find my way to the corner with a map and a compass at the best of times, without 116 people behind me trusting in my non-existent sense of direction. I'll stick with 'readers' thank you!) I won't be running a contest, I'll save that for when I finally have a job, but please know that I appreciate every single one of you that took the time to click that little button. To my new readers, I hope you find something here you like and decide to stick around; and to my old readers (in time served, not age of course, dahlings), thank you for supporting me. At the risk of sounding corny it really means a lot to me that you come back, time after time, and leave comments. Not to get all mushy, but you don't know how much it helps having all your support. Actually, you probably do, you've all got blogs too! Anyway, thank-you.

It's Friday, and some of you know what that means. It's time for Musical Stories. I choose a writing genre each week and then pick three songs that I think fit. Mostly they're songs that tell a story in the particular genre. Occasionally I cheat slightly, but there's always a good reason for it :-)

Thanks to all of you who contributed genre and song ideas. Those that don't get used the first time round have been filed away for possible use next time. This week it's children's literature.

The first song was one of a number of lullabies suggested to me. This one is from Jamie at Mithril Wisdom. I see this as a picture book that is being read to a child at bedtime.

To me, number two is also a picture book, but one that the little boy or girl reads under the covers with a torch (or a flashlight, depending where they live!) when they're supposed to be asleep.

Number three was a late contender. I already had all my choices picked out when I came across this, and I'm so glad I found it. (I won't tell you what it knocked out, because I'll use that one next time). Here's a perfect example where the narrator's story, although the truth as a young child sees it, isn't quite the one that the reader picks up on. I have to mention the graphics in this video which I think are lovely.

Next week, we're changing the pace completely, and getting a little heavier, (for one song anyway!) with the Horror genre. For now, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've joined a campaign

A few times I've seen blogfests and other challenges around the blog and I've been quite tempted to join but, apart from the 80k in 80 days challenge, I always end up thinking 'I haven't been blogging long enough, I don't have anything interesting to say' so I let these things pass me by and watch (or read), from the sidelines, wishing I'd been brave enough to join in. Well, what better way to get over those worries than by jumping into what looks like being one of the biggest events of its kind in our community?

Rachael Harrie from Rach writes... is running her third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. From what I've read about it, it sounds like great fun and a lovely way to meet new people. I don't know much about it but lots of people who have been involved previously sound excited to do it again and there will be challenges. Challenges sound interesting, as long as I don't have to eat live bugs or something. Sign ups began yesterday and close on the 31st August. I've signed up to the YA and the Adult Fiction groups. (You can say I'm hedging my bets, I say I'm unpublished and versatile!). I've also signed up to the beginner blogger group. The campaign runs until 31st October, by which time I'll either have met a ton of new people or retired to a darkened room with a bottle of Tequila. So, win-win. Also, my blog gets a shiny new badge.

Hello by the way, to the people who were more organised than me and have already come over to introduce themselves. Get the kettle on, I'll be right over.

Thank you again to those who took the time to answer my questions last week. I've decided to continue to respond to comments on my blog but also to email those that I can. I was really pleased by how many people come back to read the comments, it's more than I thought. If there is anyone who would be annoyed by receiving an email response, please let me know and I'll make sure you don't get one.

There will be at least three more genres for Musical Stories thanks to all your suggestions for songs and genres. After that, I may repeat the genres :)

I've also decided that I'll be brave, and if I want to interview someone I'll just ask them. The worst they can say is no. It will only be occasional and only if I think I have something interesting to ask.

You guys are great. Is this what they mean by interactive blogging? ;-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sometimes writing comes second

(Click picture if you wish to enlarge).

Normal service will be resumed next week. I have a gaggle of teenage girls in the next room. They are very loud, and 'A very Potter Musical ' is even louder.

Happy fifteenth birthday Diva and Blue, I'm so very very proud of you.

Thank you all who have answered the questions in my previous post. I appreciate it, and it's been a great help.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Questions, questions

I received a few more awards recently, for which I thank the lovely people concerned. Since I recently had an award post, I'll save them for next week if nobody minds. For today, I've got a few questions for you all. Before I get to those, I just want to let you know that the fabulous Jen Daiker over at Unedited has interviewed Jen Violi. I mention this because Jen Violi's new book is called Putting Makeup on Dead People which I happen to think is a superb title for a book. If you pop over and say hi to one or both of the Jens you stand a chance of winning one of three copies. You know you want to win so that you can read it on the bus and tell people it's a 'how to' book. Or is that just me? Don't forget to come back after you've done that. I need your help.

Okay, first question. How many of you come back and read my responses to your comments? I love replying to you, but I understand that people are busy and there are too many blogs to read as it is, without coming back to the same post twice. Sometimes it takes me a few days to respond, although I do respond to them all. The thing is, I really do like replying to you so I was thinking either I could try and respond faster, the same day at least, or I could email a reply back to you. For those of you who email replies to comments on your own blogs, do you copy and paste the comment or is there something on blogger that will do it for you? There's no sense in me replying to your comment if you can't remember what you wrote! I'd love to get all your opinions on this one.

Now to my second question. Regulars among you know that I run my Musical Stories series on Fridays. It's been going for seven weeks now and I love it. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed that last Friday I didn't announce this week's genre as I normally do. The main reason for this is that it was going to be children's stories. I had two songs in mind (no novelty records!) but it turned out that one which I thought told a sweet story of a lullaby was actually a song about suicide. (Sing by The Smiths if you're interested, it's beautiful). Which leaves me with one, which isn't enough for a genre. So that one goes on hold until I come up with two more. So far we've had SciFi, YA, Crime, Literary, Chick Lit, War and Fantasy. Without getting into sub-genres, can you think of any genres I've missed? If not, would you like to see the series continue, repeating the genres but with different songs (obviously), or would you like me to think of something new? I should add that it won't be running this Friday as it's a special date for me, so I'll be posting something else, for one week only.

Last question. What do you guys think of author interviews? Recently, someone who I follow released a book and I wanted to interview him. However, he had an awful lot of followers on his blog (not something I usually think about after I've hit the follow button) and I didn't like to ask him because I didn't think he'd see it as an effective use of his time. So this is a two part question. Would you like to see the occasional interview on this blog and, if you are a published author, would you see it as a waste of valuable time to be interviewed by someone with a relatively low readership? I won't take it personally, I'm really interested. I'm not even sure I'd have the nerve to ask anyone anyway, but it's nice to have some opinions.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what you have to say and, for now at least, I'll be responding in the comments box :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Musical Stories 7: Fantasy

Before I get to this week's musical stories, I want to apologise to you. Due to having to deal with officials about financial stuff this week I'm really behind on reading all my blogs. I just can't bring myself to delete my favourites without reading them so you might suddenly find random comments from me on a days old post, or I might only comment on the most recent. I just want you all to know that I'm still reading, and enjoying them!

Okay, so this week it's the fantasy genre, and here's another apology. These are all longer than I like to post. I know people don't have time to sit and watch videos but we all know this genre tends to run long, right ;-)

Number one. I heard this sung live on the radio way back sometime in the early 1980's. For some reason, the first few lines stuck with me over the years, although I never heard it again. When I started this feature, I typed the lyrics into google on a whim and lo and behold I found this video. For those of you who read or write 'swords and sorcery' type fantasy stories, I defy you to tell me this is not a perfect example of what I'm trying to achieve with this series. (Although I don't like the video maker's choice of 'bad guy'!)

Number two had to be included simply because I think the subject of this song is the ultimate fantasy antagonist (or protagonist, if that's your thing).

Number three is one of my occasional cheats. It's not exactly telling a fantasy story but, if you have the time, watch the video all the way through, and I guarantee you'll understand why I had to include it this week. I'm only sorry it pushed a more worthy contender out, (Loreena McKennitt's Stolen Child), but I so wanted to share this video with you.

I'll be honest, I'm a bit nervous about how this week is going to go down with you. I hope you all like at least one of them!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

There are more good people than bad

Okay, to counterract the insane stuff I've been watching on my television, as parts of this country tries its hardest to destroy itself, I've got some fun things to report on.

Today, Jen at A book, A girl, A Journey passed a meme onto me. It's a fun one so I thought I'd give you lot a hint into my psyche by answering the questions. Incidentally, if you want a peek at her writing, you can read part of her first chapter at Blackbird in my Window. If you're not following Jen by the way, you should, she's lovely.
So, here are my answers:

Show us the cutest most adorable picture of your favorite animal.

(Picture of Giraffe removed).

Because giraffes don't get enough love.

You have five seconds to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. Choose one friend who would save your butt and tell us why you choose them.
Jen chose her husband and I'm going to copy her here. Except I'm going to choose my husband, not hers, because that would be weird. I haven't even met him. Although he looks rather cute in that picture on her blog (sorry Jen!) but no, my husband – well, partner (seeing as bigamy isn't allowed and I, uhh, haven't got a divorce yet. Don't hate me) - is the most awesome, all round together guy I know, and I don't doubt for a second that he will take care of us when the Zombie Apocalypse comes.

Share a quote with us.
'Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason'
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Thanks Claudia)

I know you had trouble choosing just one, let's have another.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain'.
If anyone knows whose quote that is, please can they let me know?

Using exactly 27 words tell us your life story.
Grew up, moved across the country. Married, had kids, moved back then back again. Went to uni, husband left. Found new love, started writing, penniless but happy.

Please do not throw your hands up in the air. This is not a stick up.
Not possible. One of my arms doesn't work properly :)

All the dead rock legends live again. You're standing in a fifty mile long line for:
Umm Does Elvis Costello count as a rock legend? Although, he's not dead.

Describe yourself using six words that start with the third letter of your middle name.
Natural, naïve (apparently), nerd, nocturnal, not neat.

What is your middle name? (This is for research purposes only. Your response will not affect your chances of employment.)

I'm not sure how many I was supposed to tag with this but the questions are fun, so anyone who wants to have a go at this one should do it.

Also, I received this award last week:

(Picture of Liebster award removed).

I'm really pleased. This is my first ever award and I received it from two people. The first was
Abby at Something to Write about, who awarded it to me last Friday. She's a fairly new blogger but has already become part of the community. The second, on Saturday, was Krista from I Take the Pen. I credit her with finally persuading me to try out flash fiction in a non-scary environment!

The rules of the award are as follows:

The Liebster Award (meaning “friend” in German) is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1.Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2.Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3.Post the award on your blog.
4.Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5.And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

It was difficult to pick out five people for this, not least because three of the people I had picked out received it whilst I was too busy watching things burn to write a blog post, but here are five blogs that you should check out if you haven't already:

Claudia Moser, at The Story. Whatever life throws at her, she always does her best to come up smiling.
Lauren F. Boyd: My Path to Publication. She's working hard to get her work out there and is generously sharing her experiences.
Rebecca Bradley, at Life in Clarity. I love Rebecca, she's in a similar place to me, writing wise, and I feel like we have a lot of things in common.
Rebecca Kiel. She compares making jelly (by which I've just realised she, of course, means jam. Jelly is jello in America, right?) to writing and made me look at a blue square to make my climax hotter. How can I not love that?
Lastly, and I probably shouldn't do this because although she writes, it's not a writing blog and she doesn't often post but Neon Stitches is written (occasionally) by someone special :)

I hope you find something to enjoy among that little lot.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Musical Stories 6: War

Before I get on with today's musical stories, I want to say thank you to all of you who took the time to comment on my last post. I really feel like I'm starting to belong in this community now. I also feel like I should quit whining and start writing something – anything – so that's exactly what I'm going to do, and that's down to you lot for reminding me that I can. So big hugs to you all.

This week's musical genre is War. Surprisingly I ended up with about eight songs to choose from, so I found it quite tough. I hope you like the three that made the cut.

Number one is from a band I love. I was about eleven when I first heard this and when I found out what it was based on, I went to the library and looked up the details. No internet in those dark ages! I discovered that the jaunty song I'd been singing along to was about the aircraft, Enola Gay, that dropped the first atomic bomb, (codenamed Little Boy), in a wartime situation. I remember that every time I hear this song.

Number two – well, what can I say about this one? A story of one woman's loss during a war. The same story multiplied millions of times over the years. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Number three is one of those times where I cheat slightly. It's not exactly a story, but it is about war and the video has an awful lot of shots of Sean Bean, so I'm sure at least some of you will forgive me!

Next week's genre is Fantasy, in three different forms, (unless I change my mind about one of the choices in which case it'll be three songs, two forms).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Full of ideas, but all out of words

Well, after more than a week of upheaval, Diva and Blue each have a beautifully clean and tidy bedroom. We've thrown away enough rubbish to build a recycled replica of Buckingham Palace and I now have a dozen black bags of clothes in my hallway waiting to be donated to charity. Yesterday we visited the local library and handed over as many books as the three of us could carry up the hill, and any week now someone from the council will come and remove the sofa-bed from my driveway.

The only trouble is that somehow every single room, apart from the girls' rooms, is now a complete mess and full of things that don't belong there. The garage is overflowing with stuff (it's a good job we no longer have a car!) that nobody seems to want but we absolutely have to keep and, now that they have perfect rooms, Diva and Blue have lost interest in helping me. I don't blame them. They've worked really hard, they deserve the time to relax. Just like everything else round here, it'll get done. Eventually.

You would think that all this physical activity would really put a dent in my writing time wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. The truth is, even before we started the house beautiful project, my writing had trickled down to almost nothing. I've been wrestling with trying to revise Looking for Lola (my one and only full length first draft) for weeks but I can't seem to make the story do what I want it to do. I think there's one of three reasons for this. The first could be that I'm just not a good enough writer yet to fix what I think is broken. The second could be that I just need to give it even more time before I go back to it – in which case, this week will have done me good – or the third reason (and the one I'm most worried about) is that the story itself just isn't good enough. I'm not sure which it is, but I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.

I did start to write another story, but a few thousand words in I wasn't sure the idea I had was strong enough to sustain a whole book. I haven't given up on that one either though, I mulled it over and made the odd note in my head as I threw furniture and moved rubbish. Then yesterday, something Diva said on the way home from the library gave me the germ of an entirely new idea. I jotted down a few thoughts and tried to file it away but it keeps coming back to me. There's not enough there yet to sustain a whole novel but it's coming, I can feel it. I'm a bit nervous about this latest one because it has to be set in an American high school and all I know about American high schools is what I read in books. Still, the internet is my friend, so it needn't be a deal-breaker. Whatever I decide, I need to do it soon. It's been a long time since I've gone so many days without writing anything, and just as I thought I was getting better too!

So, come on guys, what are you all up to? Has anyone else been through a slump like this? Am I wrong to try and force some words out, however bad they are, or do you think the act of writing itself is enough to get creativity kick started again?