Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: February 2015

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

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

COMING SOON

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

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

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

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

8 February - I was interviewed by Robbi Perna
15 February - I talked about how to beat writer's block on Iona Brodie's blog.

WORK IN PROGRESS

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

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing: Introduction

Those of you who have been following this blog a while will know that I have been at this writing game for quite a while. In fact, I've been at it most of my life. I've been writing novels since I was 11 years old. I've been submitting my work since I was 17. I am now 45. I will leave you to work out for yourself just how many rejections that equates to, with the added note that just because I have stuff published DOES NOT mean I don't get rejected any more. Nor does it mean those acceptances are any less sweet.

Anyway, when I got to thinking about just how long I've been at this game, it made me realise just how much I've learned along the way. And maybe I can pass on some of those things I have learned over the years to others, who may be just starting out on the whole writing/submitting/rejection carousel.

I will emphasise that I don't have all the answers. The thing about writing is that you never stop learning about your craft. And the publishing world is a whole lot different than it was when I started out, when there was no internet and no email, and submissions had to be sent by post, with a stamped self addressed envelope, and markets had to be researched and the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook was the must-have publication for getting hold of publishers' details.

No, I am by no means claiming to know everything about writing. If I did, I'd be making a great deal more money from it, and would be getting a lot more acceptances than rejections. But there are things I've learned along the way. Things that I wish I'd have known when I was starting. Things that might have led to that novel contract arriving a bit sooner than it did.

For the next few weeks, I am going to run a regular feature on this blog, featuring my version of the Ten Commandments of Writing. I am not claiming to be Moses, and unlike his mine are not written in stone. These will just be things I've learned along the way, that might help someone else as they try to negotiate the thorny path to publication.  These will otherwise be known as the "Writer, Thou Shalt Not" rules.

Join me here at the same time next week for more information about the first commandment:  "Writer, Thou Shalt Make Time to Write."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monthly Round-Up: January 2015

I can't believe we're almost at the end of January already, in the year that 'Back to the Future' promised us hover boards and flying cars. It seems they were a bit wrong about that.

But in the meantime, here is a round-up of my writing-related activities in the first month of the year.

OUT NOW

Sadly, nothing new lined up to come out this year as of yet.  I have to finish writing things first (see 'Work In Progress' for more information there).  Of course I am still promoting DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL.  Just in case you haven't got around to reading them yet...

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

The year has got off to a good start, with three guest appearances thus far:

8 January - I appeared on JQ Rose's blog in her series of writers passing on their writing tips. There was also a giveaway running, and Susan Bernhardt won a free copy of DEATH SCENE.

13 January - I made a guest appearance on Marsha West's blog, talking about how the submission process has changed in the 25 years since I first started sending stuff out.

23 January - I was interviewed by Lisa Lickel, chatting about DEAD COOL.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Since the beginning of the year I've been struggling to get into the flow with SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara Summers book. Even though I plot before I start, it still takes a little while to find the voice, and the pace, of a new book. This one has the added complication of being half-started already, and I decided to completely scrap what I had of the first draft and start all over again.

Happily, I am now 5,000 words in and I think I've found the muse. I still have a suspicion I'm starting in the wrong place, but the words are starting to flow and there's plenty of time to fix things in the rewrite. I have chosen to focus on the 5,000 words that I have already written, instead of the 65,000 words still to go...

As for the horror novel, this has become rather like a jigsaw, with my looking at two previous drafts (both of which I thought at the time were finished) and deciding which chapters belong in the actual final draft and which ones don't. And I suspect I may still have to insert a couple of new chapters before it's finally done. I was rather hoping to have this one finished by now. Sadly, that's not the case. Maybe by this time next month, though.

And that brings us to the end of this month's news. See you at the end of February!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monthly Round-Up: December 2014

Well we're not only at the end of the month, we're at the end of the year, so this will be a more general overview of 2014.

OUT NOW

It's been a rather good year for me with regard to publications. The first two Shara Summers novels were both published by MuseItUp this year, and in addition I had a story in the anthology THE DARK HEART OF PEEPING TOM.

And if you haven't got around to buying DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL yet, I'm including the links...

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

Two guest appearances for me this month.  I was on Conda's Creative Centre blog talking about the complicated love life of Shara Summers - despite my constant denials that I write romance.  Then I was interviewed for Suzanne's Thoughts for the Day.

I've been quite busy with guest appearances on the Internet this year, and the complete list can be found on my website.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Well, what can I say here?  I have several projects on the go at once.

The good news is, I have started writing the third Shara Summers book, which is currently titled 'Spotlight on Death'.  But I'm in a very early stage of the first draft, so there's a long way to go.  My aim is to get it to final draft stage by this time next year, but that might be being a tad ambitious.  We shall see.

The horror novel in progress, THE WHISPERING DEATH I was busy rewriting and then I got a bit tangled up when I realised the changes I had made to the draft meant the ending now made no sense.  However, since then I've worked out how I can fix it.  I am hoping that by the end of January I will have this novel in a fit state to start submitting.  I'm also not going back to the day job until Monday, so I've got the rest of this week to work on it.  Hopfully I can make significant progress in the next five days.

I will be back next year with more information about goals for 2015.  In the meantime, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, however you choose to celebrate the end of the old year and the dawn of the new.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nine Years in the Making

This coming January, I'm slated to have shoulder surgery. As you might guess, this will curtail my writing, at least for a few weeks. So I've compiled a list of writing goals I want to accomplish before January 1. So far, I've written a short radio play based on a short novel, completed a 65,000-word thriller for NaNoWriMo, and, as of today, finished a short novel I began about nine years ago.

Yes, nine years. Cathedral Girl was my second NaNoWriMo attempt, following a "win" in 2004 with a historical vampire story. This project was my foray into studying angels and demons, which would culminate in the following publications, Death Sword and Exterminating Angel, and the unpublished drafts, Serpent Fire, The Judas Dilemma, and Hell on Earth. Hey, if you've got this knowledge available, why not use it? :-)

But why take so long? Part of it was while I knew how the story would end, I wasn't sure how to get to that point. I jotted notes from what I had and used a program called Writer's Blocks to flesh out the rest of the story. The result is a rough first draft, but that doesn't matter. What matters is I have something to work with.

I have a couple of partials to finish. While I'm hoping to finish one before my surgery, I'm not sure if I will or not. But if I can make a dent in it, that's better than nothing.