Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Writing Goals in Review

It's time to revisit the writing goals I set for myself this time last year, and see how I did with them.

2012 has been a very good year, writing-wise. Not only did it seen publication of my first short story collection SOUL SCREAMS (and a launch at the BFS Open Night in June), but I also contributed to the anthology SIBLINGS, which was launched at FantasyCon. So two publications and two launches - not too shabby.

How did I do on the goals I set for myself last December? I wanted to finish DEAD COOL - the second book in the Shara Summers series - and get it out on submission. I failed dismally on this one. I had a critique session for this manuscript at the end of December 2012, and I got somewhat discouraged by the feedback. So much so, in fact, I haven't touched it since. But on reflection I'm not yet ready to abandon this manuscript. I enjoy writing about Shara, and I'd like to finish this book.

However, I have been more successful with the horror WIP, which I wanted to completed to beta reader stage. Ordinarily beta reader stage, for me, is draft 2. For this MS I've added an extra draft, but draft 3 is almost finished and I expect to have it out to beta readers early in the New Year.

My third goal was to step up promotion and increase sales of the published work. Well, I did my best to boost my internet presence, but it still feels like at this stage I'm a very small fish in a very large and crowded pond. Let's just say I'm still a long way from being able to give up the day job.

As for my goals for 2013, it may be being a tad ambitious, but I'd like to get both WIPs done. So these are my writing goals for 2013.

1. Complete DEAD COOL and have it out on submission by the end of the year.
2. Complete the horror WIP and have it out on submission by the end of the year.

I wish you a happy and successful 2013, and may you all reach your own writing goals, whatever they may be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trying a New (Sub)Genre

Courtesy of Guilane Nachez, MorgueFile.com
Almost forgot to post.

Okay, where was I? Right. Steampunk.

What? Steampunk?

All right, put down your sword canes and stop brandishing your parasols. Oh, and do you mind watching where you pour that tea? Thanks!

Yes, folks, scary as it sounds, I've started a steampunk short story. And what I mean by started is I've run the idea through Dramatica Pro, but haven't actually started writing the story yet. I bought Beth Daniel's book on how to write steampunk, but glancing through it gave me an initial idea. Jotted down a one page synopsis and started from there.

A bit nervous, especially since steampunk has certain expectations, much like mysteries. (And I want to write a mystery. That's one of my goals for 2013.) Anyway, I digress. I like steampunk, although I'll admit I'm still learning about it. That's why I'm working on a short story. I don't have enough knowledge to try to pull off a novel-length work. Heck, I may fall flat on my face with this endeavor, but I want to try. 

Writing is about taking chances, of pushing oneself to another level. Just because I've never written a steampunk story, doesn't mean I can't do it. Maybe my first attempt will be laughable, but that's what first drafts are for. Anyway, I have enough information to start writing. Maybe next Tuesday, I'll have a first draft or at least a partial one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing


I was tagged by the uber-talented Francis Knight in the Next Big Thing blog hop.  The aim is to answer ten questions about your work in progress, and then tag five more writers. I've chosen to do mine about the WIP I am currently wrestling with. And this does feel a bit like taking my clothes off in public, because not a single person other than me has seen this manuscript yet. I still feel vulnerable.

1. What is the title of your book?
It's called THE WHISPERING FEAR, and I have to give credit to Dave Gullen for suggesting the title.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Following on from SUFFER THE CHILDREN, I wanted to write another horror novel based on a mythical creature. It was my husband's idea to use a creature based on the idea of a lich.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Supernatural horror.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a bit of a fantasy wish list. My characters are all in their 20s and my knowledge of younger actors is limited.

David - the ambitious young doctor who gets possessed by the lich. Benedict Cumberpatch would probably do a fine job.

Mark - the hero, and David's geeky best friend. He's a version of my ideal man (I have a thing for geeks), only everyone on my 'most fanciable men' list is getting on a bit now. Perhaps Cary Elwys, in his 'Princess Bride' days.

Elizabeth - Mark's equally geeky girlfriend, who's a crack shot and undefeated in the world of zombie slaying video games. Maybe Kate Winslet, circa 'Titanic'.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A group of live-action role players unwittingly release an ancient evil that threatens to destroy the world.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don't at present have a literary agent. I am hoping I can find someone to publish it, but I haven't started shopping it around yet.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About seven months, to write the first draft - I started it in October 2011. I'm now on the third draft.

8. What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?
In many ways it's similar to SUFFER THE CHILDREN, but that's one of mine as well. It bears a passing resemblance to Stephen King's IT, probably.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Stephen King remains an inspiration, and my style has been compared to his on more than one occasion.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
Since I am a live action role-player the references in this story are realistic, and I think anyone who indulges in this hobby might like the LARP scenes. It's also got a kick-ass female MC.

Most of the writers I know have already been tagged for this, and I had trouble finding people who aren't already playing. Here are my five - all writers I have only met in cyberspace. Some of them may well have already been tagged, and for that I apologise. I also emphasise that there is absolutely no obligation for them to take me up on this, but you should check out their blogs anyway, because they are worth following.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Family Tradition is Here!

Sorry, all, but yes, another short story release. I'm stoked to announce "Family Tradition" is now available from MuseItUp Publishing and Amazon. Not only that, it's already received four positive reviews.

This means a lot to me because I almost gave up on this story. When I sent it to a beta reader, and she said she enjoyed it, I was, as Grimm (from Mother Goose and Grimm) would say, "Flabbergasted." Someone liked my weird little story about a broke artist hired to paint a model with no face?

"Family Tradition" is a short dark fiction suspense story, and my homage to such shows as Night Gallery, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, or any of the other suspense anthology television shows from the past. 

But the success of "Family Tradition" has brought me more than good reviews. It's helped bolster my confidence to submit other work. I'm currently in the final round of revisions for my angel UF, "The Zaphkiel Project," and plan to submit it this month. After that, I'll get to work on rewriting The Ripper's Daughter, my vampire Victorian paranormal mystery. That, plus two short stories I'm working on. I'm inspired to get my work out there. Right now, I have full and partial manuscripts taking up space on my hard drive. That doesn't include the many ideas I have jotted down in a file folder on my PC. I'm doing my best to stop being so fearful and get those stories revised and submitted. Figured I'd start with the ones I mentioned above and work from there.

It's not going to be easy. I have a lot of psychological blocks to deal with. But if I succeed, the reward will be that much sweeter.


 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reaching a Milestone

Yesterday, I validated my NaNoWriMo story, Serpent Fire, at 50,080 words. The novel isn't finished, but all NaNo requires is 50,000 words, and I've met that goal. I suspect many writers are in a similar position, and NaNo is the perfect catalyst to getting words on paper.

This isn't my first NaNo. Death Sword, my short novel, published by Lyrical Press, was a 2008 NaNoWriMo project. Last year, I wrote The Ripper's Daughter, a story about a former Scotland Yard DI turned vampire who's determined to stop the killer of Louisville prostitutes. Another vampire novel, initially titled Marguerite, was the first time I did NaNo (2004).

I'll admit not all of my NaNo attempts were successful. But I never threw the stories away, and plan to finish them. I've also found sometimes it's a good idea to let a story wait.

What do I plan to do with Serpent Fire? I don't know. I'm having fun writing it. At this point, it's a paranormal political thriller urban fantasy. I think it'll be somewhere between 60,000-75,000 words upon completion.

To be honest, I almost gave up on NaNo this year. In the beginning, I was so far behind, the stats predicted I'd finish December 3. I started writing 2,000 words a day, writing scenes out of sequence, just to meet and then exceed my goal. Sorry, folks, guess I'm too stubborn to give up that easily. The last day, I wrote 4,061 words to meet the 50,000 word goal. My process was write 1,000 words, take a short break, then go back and write another 1,000 words, take a break, etc. If I didn't know how a scene would work, I'd write another one, telling myself that I could "fix it in post."

I'll have to let you know how that goes...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Imaginary Places


Location is crucial to a novel. For crime fiction, which is a very crowded market, it's almost as important as plot and characterisation. There's a serial killer loose? We need to know where. Is s/he pounding the streets of East End London, or moving among the movie star wannabes in Los Angeles? Swedish crime novels are the Hot New Thing at the moment, and I'm sure that part of the appeal is the Otherness of Sweden - a country that most people haven't visited, and its uniqueness - both in climate and the attitude of the population - make it a fascinating backdrop.

Of course, the location of a novel can only pull your readers in if it feels like a real place. If you're going to write about a real place, you need to convince readers who've actually been there. If I write about a real place in my stories, it's generally London, or parts of London that I know pretty well. But that's because I'm rather lazy about the research. If I have to set a story in a place I don't know very well, I'll create a fictitious place, rather than research a place I've never been to.

For SUFFER THE CHILDREN, I made up a fictitious town in Surrey, called Stanbridge. The town itself doesn't exist, but it's based on a combination of other Surrey towns, and I hope it comes across as a real place in the novel. For DEATH SCENE I used real-life locations - the book is set in and around London and Sutton. I wanted Shara to have a real-life grounding, a chronological time line in an actual place. It does mean that I have to be careful with location, as when you use a real place you have to respect the features that are actually there. If you throw in an abandoned warehouse on a street that actually exists and is exclusively a residential area, the residents might feel the need to correct you.

The current work in progress - the horror novel - is set partly in the Forest of Dean and partly in London. I don't know the Forest of Dean all that well, but it's a vast ancient forest and I don't think anyone knows every tree intimately.  However, it became necessary to take my characters to a town on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. It had to be a small, old town.  Since I don't know the area all that well I thought I would just make up a town. After playing around with a few letter combinations the name Lydney came to mind, and seemed to work.

Earlier this week I discovered there actually is a town called Lydney - and it's a small town on the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. I found it while looking someone up on the database during the day job. One of my committee members actually lives there, so I suspect this knowledge had been lodged in my brain for a while, and my brain threw out this information when a request for the name of a town in the Forest of Dean came to light.

The only problem is, having never been to Lydney I have no idea if my Lydney bears any resemblance to the real life one. And because I really don't want irate Lydney townspeople writing me to protest what I'm doing to their town - and not just taking extreme liberties with the layout - I think I need to change the name. I'd far rather use a fictitious town. So I'm going to have to come up with another name for my fictional little town in the Forest of Dean.

I'd be interested to hear other writers' views on this. Do you prefer fictional locations for your settings, or real ones?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Women Want?

I don't get political on this blog very often. There are few issues I feel strongly enough about to be bothered to argue, frankly. But there are a few I get emotional about, and one of them seems to have been in the spotlight rather a lot of late.

I consider myself a feminist. I can't stand the sweeping generalisations that society seems to make about how people should behave based on gender. But this is me: I am a woman, and proud to be so. I don't know how to fix a car if it goes wrong, and I can't put up shelves. I also can't cook, I hate cleaning, I possess no maternal instincts whatsoever, and I have no interest in shoes or handbags. And I categorically do not know how to put up curtains, as I have discovered this week.

But my husband can't fix the car either. When it goes wrong we take it to the garage. Neither can he put put up shelves. We pay someone to do these odd jobs for us when the need arises. We also pay someone to do the cleaning. He is perhaps a marginally better cook than me. Neither of us likes ironing, so we have an arrangement - he irons his clothes, I iron mine. Generic items like sheets and tea towels do not get ironed at all.

And Hubby hates football. Which is good with me, because so do I.

After thousands of years of evolution, we have arrived at the twenty-first century and rampant sexism still exists. It makes me very sad, because it seems the human race has learned nothing. I would like to draw your attention to this website - the Everyday Sexism Project. Though I admire what this site is trying to do, if I spend too much time on it, I just get depressed.

A lot of women whose blogs I follow have talked about their own experiences of sexual harassment. The fact that so many people have stories to tell makes me very sad. I'm going to draw your attention to two, just because they are recent. Sarah Ellender has recently blogged about sexism, drawing on her own experiences of harassment in the workplace. And earlier this year, Sonya Clark wrote an excellent post about being a girl.

Fortunately for me, I don't really have any stories of my own to add. I have spent many years being a secretary, working for both male and female bosses. For a long time I preferred female bosses, as I saw too many men who wanted their secretary to either be a glamorous dolly-bird, so he could preen to his colleagues about having the sexiest secretary, or a mother figure who would look after him. Since I am neither a glamour girl nor a mother figure, I tend to be hired by people who just want someone to do the work.

Occasionally I get hit on, if I'm in the pub having drinks with female friends, in spite of obvious presence of wedding ring. I do not consider this a compliment, especially since the men in question are generally looking at my chest and not my face. But it has to be said I haven't gone through life having to constantly fend off unwanted attention, and as a teenager I did not have boyfriends. Boys just weren't very interested, and in some ways things haven't changed much. A lot of men appear to find me too intimidating. I do not conform to what society tells us is a model of attractiveness. I do not look like a Bond girl. But I am not fat and I am not ugly, even though it's taken me all of my life to get to a point where I can accept that. I am intelligent, I am opinionated and I can be brutally blunt, which some people think makes me a bitch. A lot of men don't know how to deal with that. And there are some people in this world whose opinions are informed by how society dictates men and women should behave. I'm not interested in many of the things women are supposed to be interested in. Some people find that rather disconcerting, which is probably why they think I'm a bit weird.

I grew up in the 1980s, where girls were encouraged to be Superwoman - have a career and a family. Thirty years on, I think we're going backwards. A lot of young women seem to be interested only in marrying footballers and having babies. I want to yell at them, "Where's your ambition?" It especially annoys me when women don't vote. Women had to fight very hard to get the right to vote. We shouldn't take it for granted.

And now we are approaching the dreaded Festive Season, where sexism appears in abundance. Asda's offensive ad has already been mentioned in the blog sites I pointed you at earlier. I go crazy at all the ads that assume generic 'his' and 'hers' gifts - with 'his' gifts being video games, and 'her' gifts being perfume and make up. The only thing I wanted for my birthday was Resident Evil 6. Which I got, but Hubby - who it has to be said has far better taste when it comes to picking women's clothes than I do, in spite of being straight - took me out shopping because he thought I should have some new clothes too.

I've come to terms with the fact that people think I'm weird. There are plenty of people in my life who value me in spite of my weirdness. But it saddens me that as a race we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. When I was a teenager, I thought I could change the world. Now I'm older, I'm a lot more cynical.

There are a lot of countries in the world where women have a far harder time of it than we do in the West - in some places, daughters are little more than commodities, to be married off to the highest bidder as soon as they puberty. Denied education, denied the right to drive, denied the right to vote.

A few years ago on a trip to Africa, we visited a small village where one particular charity had worked very hard to set up schools, with computers, and were endeavouring to give an education to as many local youngsters as possible. One woman in particular had worked very hard with these children. We encountered a young woman who came to talk to us, to practise her English. She was 18, and in her final year of school. She told us she was in no hurry to have a husband and children. She was going to go to university. She wanted to be a lawyer, and she wanted to help women suffering domestic abuse.

That young woman, who had clearly been inspired by the woman who worked so hard so help the youngsters of that African village, gave me encouragement that maybe things are changing, slowly. But the change is coming rather too slowly, and we've still got a long way to go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo Progress

Courtesy: MorgueFile.com
Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for the ubiquitous NaNoWriMo update. According to my calculations, based on the suggested word count of 1,667 words a day, I should be at 21,671 words. If all goes well, my word count will instead be 20,037, if I manage to get in 2,000 words, my current daily writing goal. (So that leaves me about a day behind...)

Not even halfway through, and I'm in a bit of a bind. It really won't take much to finish this story. I've already written my inciting incident, two plot points, and black moment. What about the end, you ask? Well, no, I haven't written it, but I do know the story resolution. Even so, I'm thinking 40,000 words and not 50,000, unless I can think of a few more conflicts to throw in.

One of the reasons I write short is because I tend to want to say what I need to, then move on. That may be why it's easier for me to write screenplays.

Layering emotion is also a challenge. It's not that my characters don't care about one another or their situation. It's that they tend to be more pragmatic in their outlook. Which probably explains why I'm better at writing suspense than romance. Sorry, but that's the way it is. Luckily, my romance-writing friends understand and still accept me.

Anyway, as for NaNo, I'll work on one of the scenes that still needs writing. Main thing is to get the story written before I start slicing and dicing. Writer's Digest has some free tips, so I might take a look and see if anything will light the pilot light in my imagination.

For those of you doing NaNo, good luck and keep at it!   


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rewrite


I have just started draft 3 of my horror WIP. Like SUFFER THE CHILDREN, this is another novel about a mythical supernatural creature picking off citizens, with a select group of main characters being the only one to stop it. This time, my Big Bad is a magic user of old who was messing with some seriously dark magic, and finds a way to have himself brought back from the dead. Of course there is a price to pay for such power.

I've been working on this novel a year now, and I was rather hoping to be further along than I was. Generally I present draft 2 to beta readers. Not this time. I wasn't too happy with draft 2. It seemed that my main characters spent far too much time talking about what this creature was, and how they had to stop it, without actually going out and doing anything about it. My logical brain always wants to put in scenes about research and investigation, when it comes to stopping the Big Bad. But these things don't always move the plot along. There needs to be more action.

So, about halfway through draft 2 I decided that perhaps the Big Bad needs minions, and should work on raising an army. What kind of army would an undead wizard want to command?  The answer, it seemed to me, was that my WIP was crying out for zombie hordes.

So I am now rewriting draft 3, adding a sub-plot where corpses are rising from graves and gathering under the thrall of my Big Bad, as he gathers his undead army for a final show-down. Much as I like blasting zombies in video games, I've never tried writing them into a story before.

I'm planning on sending the MS to beta readers once I've finished draft 3. Then I might find out that I really have no business writing about zombies and I've got it completely wrong. But I am having fun with it, and zombies are hot property right now. Hopefully, they still will be by the time I finish this novel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Detours Along the NaNoWriMo Freeway

Every November for the past several years, I embrace the novel-writing marathon known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal? Write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I like to joke I start October 1 with the knowledge I have 31 days to plot my story and work on character development. October 15 rolls around and I insist I can plot this puppy in 16 days. Then it's October 31, 11:59p.m. I have probably one character and a vague idea of plot.

Every year. Like clockwork.

This year, I wanted to write a phantasmagorical type of story, about a father and daughter who run a very special exhibit at sci-fi/fantasy cons.Part of it is inspired by my own con experiences and my love of animation.

Then my editor and I were discussing my on-again, off-again, mostly off-again, Angels of Death series. The second book, Serpent Fire, was giving me fits. I struggled with the revisions. The plot seemed contrived and, while there were aspects I liked, it obviously needed an injection of something. What, I didn't know. Ironically, the third book, The Devil Inside, was coming along better.

My editor suggested perhaps writing Serpent Fire as a stand-alone. I thought about it and realized Devil Inside could easily work as the second book. Serpent Fire received a lethal injection to make room for a new story, and one I'm having fun with, when I have time to work on it.

In this new version, Uriel, a demon-hunter, accidentally shoots and kills a demon who had permission to leave Tartarus. As part of his punishment, he's forced to serve under Sargatanas, a demon Brigadier-General, whose tough, by-the-book rules irritates the more independent mercenary angel. Sargatanas considers Uriel to be a proverbial pain and a detriment to the company, despite his exemplary sniper skills.

I'd never written such a story, with opposite characters playing off of each other. I thought it would be fun to make the demons strict and the archangel rebellious.

Unfortunately, I lost the plot sheet I'd devised for the story, which is holding me up. And having had to work on a story galley, plus reading for a contest, has curtailed my writing time for NaNo. I've come to the realization I probably won't "win" this year, but as long as I get words down, that's what matters.

As for my phantasmagorical story, well, I've debated writing it as a serial or perhaps writing it as a series of self-published novellas. I think four stories might work, depending on my research. I also have an idea to release four novellas based around the Memitim. But so far, these are only ideas.

Anyone else doing NaNo?

For more information: http://www.nanowrimo.org


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Routines


There are many stressful things about moving house, not least of which is the complete disruption to your daily routines. Everything's in a different place, you don't know where to find things for a long time, you have to get used to doing everything slightly differently.

Even my writing routines got disrupted. I did no writing at all for about a month after moving - I felt I really couldn't get back to normal life while there were still boxes to unpack. But now the boxes are mostly unpacked, most things that we use every day have a place, and I have got back into writing.

My journey to work is longer now. The train route I'm on is a slower trek into London, and I have a longer walk to the station. This has put a bit of dent in my early morning writing routine. From the old place, I would leave the house at 6:30 am, to get into the West End for 7:30, and I would sit in Starbucks for an hour writing before going to work. Now, in order to get to the West End for 7:30, I have to leave the house at 6:00 am. That means a 5:30 start if I skip the shower and other morning customs - generally I prefer to have an hour.

However, in the new house I have a bigger writing space - in fact I have a study, a whole room to myself to write in - in the other house I only had a writing corner. This morning I decided to try out a new routine - getting up early to write at home before work.

So I set the alarm for 5:30 am. I spent an hour writing, in my pyjamas (with cup of tea, of course). I then had an hour to get ready for work, and although I had to catch a later train than usual, I was still at my desk for the day job by 9:00 am. By the time I got there, I'd been awake for three and a half hours and felt that I'd already done something productive with my day.

I think I'm going to stick with this routine. It means I will spend a bit more time in our new house, I'll save a bit of money by not buying quite so many Starbucks breakfasts, and it means I get the writing time in before I even leave home in the morning. It did take me a while to get going this morning, and I'd had two cups of tea before I even left the house. but it's just a matter of getting used to a new routine. It's good for me to get out of the rut sometimes.

I'm not planning on giving up the Starbucks mornings completely. This is just a way of cutting back, without cutting back on the writing. After all, once upon a time I thought I could never write away from my little writing corner, and my Starbucks mornings proved that one wrong.

And there is something gloriously decadent about writing in one's pyjamas.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Short Story Release!

I'm excited to announce the release of my short horror story, "Obsession", in Spells - Ten Tales of Magic.

This year, I've been busy writing short stories. It's also brought me back to my dark fiction roots and rediscovering the short story writers I admire. I'm glad to see short stories seem to be making a comeback.

Are short stories hard to write? Some authors have admitted they find the format difficult. Since I started out writing short stories, I find it easier than writing a novel. But it may be that I want to get to the point and move on. :-)

I notice I often write characters who become fixated on some person or object. In "Obsession", Corinne is determined her boyfriend promise his undying love. Only problem is, he's dead. Can she extract a promise from beyond the grave? 

Spells is available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Year Older

Today is my birthday. I am 43. I am slightly bummed about this - I rather enjoyed being able to say I was the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything when I was 42. 43 just doesn't seem to be a very interesting number. Though it is a prime number, and I guess there aren't too many of those.

However, looking back on the past year it does seem I have cause to celebrate. The last 12 months have seen the release of my third published book. Maybe I'm not making loads of money from the writing, but I'm getting published, and that's something to cheer about.

It seems a lot of our friends have lost one or both parents recently. Mine are still around. Some people have been dealing with losing their jobs, or debilitating illness. I still have the day job, which lets me pay the mortgage, and I'm still alive and kicking. So it seems there's a lot to celebrate. I'm off to raise a glass to being another year older. Bring on 43.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Five Favorite Horror Reads and a Free Book

Headless Statue - Eastern Cemetery

I've two short dark fiction stories releasing soon. But rather than talk about my writing, I thought I'd share my five favorite horror stories, ones that still stay with me after all these years.

1. The Haunted Well (Tales of Terror) - Ida Chittum's story of a father who commits a heinous crime over a seemingly innocent act isn't for the squeamish. Indeed, this is probably the best collection of horror stories I've ever read and many of the stories still resonate with me. My only regret is I no longer have my copy.

2. Cool Air (H.P. Lovecraft) -You know those people who have their thermostats set so low, ice forms on their windowpanes? There may be a reason for it, but you probably don't want to know.

3. The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) - A house that drips malevolence, seeking to trap the living within its walls. A young woman drawn to its darkest secrets. I think the scariest thing about Hill House, besides the fact Jackson made the house seem like a living, breathing character, is we never know what happened to make it so evil.

4. The Shining (Stephen King) - What's worse? Seeing the bloody ghosts of twin girls or watching your father descend into madness? Then there are those hedge animals and that boy lost in the concrete tunnel who wants Danny to play with him. Um, sure. Yeah. Right. 

5. The Monkey's Paw (W.W. Jacobs) - The classic "be careful what you wish for" story. And proof that horror is far more effective when less is more.

Special Note: Those are my favorite five, although I've many more. Now I'd like to share a free giveaway so you can enjoy some horror stories. No, none are by the authors mentioned, but you may find your own favorites:



Free from October 23-27: HAUNTED : TEN TALES OF GHOSTS 10 stories by 10 authors. US Kindle: http://buff.ly/QJTIxt UK Kindle: http://buff.ly/PKz5q0
 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Room of One's Own

Since we moved house, I have done no writing. Somehow I seemed unable to to get back into a normal routine until all the boxes were unpacked and everything had a place. And there were a lot of boxes to unpack. The disruption of this, coupled with no internet access, is also why I've not been blogging.

Hubby and I have been together 22 years and we've moved four times during our life together. Each time has been into a bigger place than the last, and each time there was more stuff to move. We're both terrible hoarders. I've been unearthing some fascinating artifacts whilst unpacking this time around. Every story I wrote in high school, for instance. All my school notebooks. Every letter that everyone ever wrote to me from the point I moved from Canada back to England in 1988.

So now there are two of us in a four-bedroom family house. You'd think that would be enough space for two people, but we're still working on finding a place for things. Much of the space in our house is taken up by books. We are both bibliophiles, and although we've now both converted to e-readers, that doesn't mean we want to get rid of all the physical books we have acquired over the years. In the last house, the books were spread throughout every room. When we moved, we got a better idea of just how many books we've got. Taken in total, there must be close to a thousand in all.

The two of us have always dreamed of a private library, and with the layout of the new house we began to think that we might finally realise that dream. The house has an extension at the back - a lovely sunny room the previous owners called 'the sun room' that we thought would make a perfect library. However, when we actually got in the place and started unpacking all the boxes, we began to realise that we actually had too many books to fit them all in one room.

For once, though, we moved into a house that already had bookshelves built in - the first time we've bought a house bought by fellow bibliophiles, it seems, as usually the first thing we have to do is put up shelves in order to put the books away. The dining room in this lovely old house was built with a fireplace, and although the actual fire has been removed, the alcove on either side of the chimney breast has been filled floor to ceiling with sturdy shelves. Just right for putting books on.

Of course, we had far more books than these shelves would fit, and so we have bought more book cases and have managed to create our library - see attached image.

 I have to admit I am very fond of this room. It's a wonderful room to sit and read in, and it's one of my favourite spaces in the new house. The plan is to keep this room free of TVs, computer and stereo equipment, and keep it as a quiet space - a proper 'room of one's own', where we can retreat for solitude and quiet reflection.

 With this room being at the back of the house, as part of a single storey stone extension, we are already getting an inkling that it will be a tad chilly in winter - the season we are, of course, moving into. However, this is such a wonderful space that I don't think the cold will put even me off from spending time in here. I might just have to get into the habit of wearing thicker sweaters around the house. And of course, when one sits and reads, a nice hot cup of tea doesn't go amiss either.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

According to my NaNo stats, this will be my seventh year participating in the popular writing challenge. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. For fledgling novelists, the stats seem almost impossible to achieve, but if you break it down, 1,667 words a day is manageable. If you're willing to commit, that is.

I'm friends with authors and they don't all write novels. (Or, in NaNo's case, short novels.) Some are poets, others screenplay writers. But some have expressed a desire to write a novel. Indeed, they've started plotting one or have even completed it. Finishing a manuscript is a feat unto itself and anyone who reaches that milestone should be applauded.

But what of those who can't seem to get beyond "taking notes" and yet never advance on their novel? I've tried to convince a friend to sign up for NaNo. If nothing else, it would help give her the push she needs. We've discussed her story, but I think she's come to rely too much on planning and still isn't quite sure how to approach the actual writing.

Is it fear? Hard to say. Many aspiring novelists probably fear that if the first line isn't perfect, the rest of the story will hobble behind and eventually collapse upon itself. Trust me, stories can be revised. I hate the beginning of my current UF. Hate it. But I plowed on ahead and continued with the revisions. The beginning will take care of itself. I just need to spend some time away from it. (Not to mention, I've changed it so much, I couldn't even tell you how the story originally started.)

So what am I writing for this year's NaNo? A phantasmagorical type of story, one inspired by the cons I've attended. Do I have any idea of my plot or characters? Only a vague one. Why worry? I have two weeks to plan this thing. Of course, I say that every year and then before I know it, it's November 1.

But I've got faith. After all, out of six NaNo attempts, I've won four. Not bad odds.

To learn more about NaNoWriMo   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Anthology Story Released

I'm excited to announce my short story, "The May Lady Vanishes," is included in Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft. This is the third story I've published in the Ten Tales anthologies. Unlike my previous stories, which were dark fiction suspense, "The May Lady Vanishes" is more positive. Well, nobody dies. :-) Then again, it's only appropriate, given Beltane is a time to celebrate life and love. It was also a chance for me to write about what's considered taboo in romance: the interracial romance. (Now I can't understand why that's considered taboo, but apparently it is in some circles.) Being a rebel, I couldn't resist throwing Taboo over my shoulder and kicking dust in his face.

"The May Lady Vanishes" also deals with racism. Not the overt kind, but the subtle, insidious type that plays itself off as helpful "suggestions." For Andre, the main character, trying to fit in as the newest coven member is hampered not only by the feeling certain members don't want him around, but also by his contentious relationship with Dominic, his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. When Melissa vanishes, Andre believes Dominic is responsible.

To find out more about Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, check out Amazon or Smashwords.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Shout Out to Kentucky Writers (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about some of Kentucky's literary authors. This week, I want to introduce you to several genre writers. They write romance, science fiction, mystery, horror, and more.

First there's the Kentucky Independent Writers group. These authors take writing and publishing seriously and are willing to learn and pass on their knowledge. You can learn more about each author by stopping by the KIW blog.

Another independent author who publishes with small presses is Amy McCorkle. She also writes as Kate Lynd, and has had stories published by Hydra Publications and MuseItUp Publishing. You can find out more about her at her blog, Creative Chatter.

Debbie Kuhn is a multi-genre author whose work has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Apex Publications, and Mysterical-E, among others.

Reviewer and author, Michele Lee also writes speculative fiction and is an advocate for helping others understand autism.

I hope this introduction to these Kentucky authors will inspire you to check out their writings.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Shout Out to Kentucky Authors (Part 1)

I live on a street named after a Kentucky writer. We get teased for being bare-foot, uneducated rednecks, but we're also home to some of the best storytellers.


Award-winning literary authors include Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab's Wife), Bobbi Ann Mason, (Shiloh and Other Stories), Wendell Berry, (That Distant Land: the Collected Stories), Silas House, (Coal Tattoo), and Robert Penn Warren (All the King's Men).

Still think we're all uneducated hicks? Then let me introduce you to our poets, including the aforementioned Berry and Warren. Frank X. Walker is the founder of the Affrilachian Poets and received the Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Fellowship. Other Kentucky poets include Crystal E. Wilkinson, also a founding member of Affrilachian Poets, Joy Bale Boone, Barbara Kingsolver, among others. Two Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights also hail from the Bluegrass State: Marsha Norma ('night, Mother) and Suzan-Lori Parks (TopDog/Underdog)   

Kentucky is home to the Southern Kentucky Book Festival/Kentucky Writers Conference, the Kentucky Book Fair, Kentucky Women's Book Festival, and the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, among others. While Hawley-Cooke is no longer in business, Carmichael's Bookstore and A Reader's Corner Bookstore help keep Louisville's independent bookstores alive.

Next week, more Kentucky writers, including best-selling romance and mystery authors, and independent/digital/small press writers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Quit! No, Wait...

So I'm at a crossroads. I don't know if I should continue writing my angel UF stories or throw them away.

Part of it is no one seems interested in my angel UF, although the sub genre is apparently very popular. For other authors. Me? Not so much. I seem to have better luck with the vampire short story I wrote.Go figure.

I've learned to stop looking at my royalty statements, reviews, Amazon rankings, etc. Too depressing. Well, the reviews are okay. I can live with them. Love my stories or hate 'em, at least there's a reaction. It's the apathy that sucks. 

I like my Angels of Death series and want to continue writing it. At this point, I'm revising the second book and have the third partially written.There were some other angel UF/paranormal short novels and novellas I had planned to write, including a few short stories. But if no one's interested, seems pointless. I do have other story ideas to write, so lack of material isn't a problem.

Yes, I understand authors need backlists and first books don't always sell. But that's not always true. And when I see authors recommending other authors' books, I can't help but wish I could be that lucky. It's like I don't know the secret word to get into the awesome club house.

Still, despite wanting to quit, I'm too damn stubborn to give in so easily. I just can't give the naysayers the satisfaction. Oh, I can retreat but that doesn't mean I'm planning to surrender. And I know there are those authors out there who would love to see me fail. Y'all know who you are. Sorry. Not happening. Years of being bullied and abused has taught me to never give in. And I sure as hell won't start now.






Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crisis of Confidence

In the last three years, I've had three books published. I had two unpublished novels doing the rounds when Lyrical Press picked up SUFFER THE CHILDREN, and so DEATH SCENE was already finished when my editor asked me if I had anything else she could take a look at. And the short stories in SOUL SCREAMS were also written - it was just a case of compiling them.

Since I finished writing DEATH SCENE in 2004 I've started four novels. None of them I've managed to finish. The original sequel to DEATH SCENE was an homage to Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, but halfway through the first draft I decided it wasn't working and I shelved it. Then I started work on my urban fantasy novel. I did manage to finish draft 1, but after giving the first half of it to beta readers, I decided that one wasn't working either and I never finished the second draft.

Then I started working on another Shara Summers book - this one with Shara investigating the case of the defenestrated rock star. I have managed to get to the end of draft 2, and then I sent it out to beta readers. Once more the message I'm getting back is that there is so much wrong with this book I should scrap it and start over with a new idea.

I'm also working on a new horror novel. I am about a third of the way through draft 2 of this one. To be fair, I have not let anyone else read it yet, so I have had no third party comments. But as far as I'm concerned, it still needs a lot of work. So much so that I'm getting discouraged.

Now I'm getting quite depressed. What if my writing really is rubbish and I'm never going to write anything again of publishable quality? What if I'm deluding myself that I can write at all? It's not as if my published books are selling in huge quantities. I've had some very nice comments from a few readers who have really enjoyed one or more of my books, and they've all had a handful of good reviews. But the vast majority of readers out there either don't know about my books or don't think they're worth bothering with.

It's times like this that I think no one who's sane would choose to be a writer and put themselves through this heartache, and life would be a whole lot simpler if I could not be a writer anymore. The problem is, it's not that simple. Writing is not something you can turn off when you get bored with it. And I also know that this the 'down' phase of the ups and downs of the writer's life, and it will pass in time.

That doesn't make me feel any better right now, though, when I just want to finish the damn book. Any damn book...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dusting Off Old Manuscripts

Remember your first story? I don't. Seriously. All I recall is it was either horror or YA mystery and I wrote it in a blue spiral notebook. I went on to write a series of short stories and two more novellas, all before entering high school. Then I became interested in the 1920's and 1930's, particularly gangsters and Prohibition, so my stories revolved around those subjects. (Believe it or not, I still have a few pages of those stories.)

By the time I went to college and decided to major in English, my interest had shifted to more "literary" work and I was writing poetry and character-focused stories about expatriates in France during WWII or revolutionists during the Hungary uprising of 1956.

It took me nearly 20 years, a few poetry, review, and freelance article publications,before I came back to my dark genre roots. Okay, maybe not that long, but you get the idea.

During this time, I found I was writing but not producing. Oh, I would start a story, then the inner editor would kick in and I'd abandon it. So one day I decided I was going to write a story without going back and reading what I'd written until I finished. And I did. That was a YA horror, which will probably never see the proverbial light of day.

My next project was also my first NaNoWriMo: a dark vampire historical. Yes, I did finish it.

And, like the YA horror, I promptly pushed it aside as worthless. After all, I'd been taught first novels aren't publishable. (Although technically it wasn't my first...)

I couldn't help but wonder if the vampire story just needed a chance. So when I came across a class that focused on revamping abandoned manuscripts, I thought why not? Granted, I'd learned a lot about writing since that first NaNo, taken online classes, joined writers groups, worked with critique partners, etc. Maybe I couldn't salvage the entire book, but if parts were worth saving, it might be worth it.

The fate of this particular manuscript is still unknown. Then again, the class just started. :-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Siblings' Anthology Now Available


I am pleased to announce that the 'Siblings' anthology, part of Hersham Horror Books' Pentanth series, is now available.

This book features five stories on the subject of siblings with dark secrets. The other four authors, in addition to myself, are Richard Farren Barber, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Sam Stone and Stuart Hughes.

The book will be officially launched at this year's FantasyCon. We have a signing table there at 12 noon on Saturday 29 September.

'Siblings' is now available to buy from Amazon, in Kindle and paperback format.

Take a look at Hersham Horror Press's website for more info about present and future publications.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stressed

Generally I don't post when I'm stressed. When I'm stressed I get grumpy, and I don't want my blog posts to turn into long whinges. However, I am doing so today for reasons I hope will become clear later.

I've had a couple of holidays this summer, which were not stressful in themselves, but coming back to work after time away always makes me regret going away in the first place - the work piles up when I'm gone, and suddenly there isn't enough time to do everything.

I seem to have been struck by a series of ailments over the last few weeks - nothing serious or long lasting, but it has meant I've spent altogether too much time sitting in hospital waiting rooms.

We are in the process of buying and selling property, which is a long, drawn out and stressful process. I'm not going to say too much about this at this stage, because English property law being what it is, nothing is set before exchange, anything can go wrong - and frequently does - before that stage, and so it's best not to assume it's actually going to happen until the keys are in your hand. However, the process involves dealing with estate agents and solicitors, which is stressful enough without all the other stuff going on.

Most crucially, though, I am still wrestling with the WIP. I am mired in the "my writing is rubbish" stage, believing the whole thing needs dismantling and putting back together, and I am not sure where to start.

However, I am starting to think that life stress is connected to writing stress and vice versa. When the writing is going well I am in a much better frame of mind and can pretty much handle whatever life throws at me. When it's not going well, suddenly all kinds of other hassle creeps in - notably, things that wouldn't be bothering me quite so much if the writing was going well. I started today with an early morning writing session that didn't go at all well - I spent much of that hour staring at the page thinking what I had written was complete rubbish. Hence, I didn't have a good day at work, either. When I start the day with a good writing session, the day job is much easier to handle.

So the only stress in my life I should actually be focusing on is my troublesome WIP. If I can kick that into submission, everything else should be a breeze. Even the house move...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Radio Debut

I was going to write a post about leaving writing groups today, but instead I decided to talk about my first radio interview.

Now, as a rule, I like to joke I don't have a face for TV or a voice for radio. Which is why I'm usually behind the scenes. A few years ago, I shot and edited a local TV show called Carl Brown's Reality. I had been interviewed by him on another incarnation of his show but this time I was behind the scenes.

I've also been a freelance magazine writer and have interviewed different people in the community. It's a long way from journalistic writing to genre writing. And it's a long way from being interviewer to interviewee.

My biggest concern is sounding like an idiot and not saying anything significant. At least with writing, I can revise before submitting. Radio interviews? They're live. Of course, I edited the video episodes, removing noise, fixing bad footage, etc.

If you like, you can check out my Edin Road interview here.

Have a great week!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Future of Publishing

Bricks-and-mortar book shops have been having a bad time of late. Borders was the latest big chain to file for bankruptcy. In the UK, the only book store chain still in existence in Waterstones, and there are very few independent book shops left.

Meanwhile the popularity of e-books continues to rise. Some Internet murmurings suggest that the rise of e-books is directly responsible for the downfall of bricks-and-mortar book shops.

It could be argued, however, that the demise of the book shop is not down to e-books but online retailers like Amazon, as people switch to doing their shopping online, in the comfort of their own homes.

E-books are not going away any time soon, and the publishing industry, like it or not, has to adapt accordingly. Readers do not expect to pay the same price for an e-book as they do for a hardback. Some readers may prefer to buy the e-book instead of the paper book, but some readers might buy both - they might go to the signing session and buy a pristine hardback copy to keep on their shelf, and buy the e-book as well to read on their daily commute. A few savvy publishers have started to issue the e-book version free to anyone that buys the hardback - this seems like an excellent idea, and will encourage more readers to fork out for the hardback. I myself am reluctant to buy hardbacks, as I do most of my reading on my commute to work. If the e-book was thrown in for free, I might be more inclined to buy the two-for-one, so that I could keep the hardback pristine and shiny on my book shelf whilst reading the e-book on my way to work.

There appears to be some fear that e-books will kill off paper books. There is also a fear of piracy. My view all along has been that there is room in the industry for both, and that the best way to combat piracy is to make books freely available, in all formats and in all regions. Get rid of the DRM system, and make e-books available in a universal format that can be read on all e-readers.

A lot of people claim they are suspicious of e-books because they like the smell and feel of old paper books. Yet I've spoken to many such people, who, upon finding themselves in possession of an e-reader, soon come to adore it. I myself am in this category. Liking e-books doesn't mean one has to stop buying paper books. I just find myself buying even more books these days. I still buy paper books, but I buy far more e-books because I don't have to worry about storage space for e-books.

Another interesting factor, though, is that people who were never readers of paper books but are into gadgets, gain possession of an e-reader and soon find themselves vociferous readers. If e-readers are encouraging more people to read, that's another big point in their favour.

E-books might be the future of publishing, but paper books have their place too. Ultimately the aim of the publishing industry is to get more people to read. Format and retail habits should be secondary - as long as people are buying books to read, does it really matter what format they are in?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Options

Last night, I finished my round of content edits for my short dark fiction suspense story, "Family Tradition," and the story has now been sent to the line editor.

Hard to believe this story releases in three months, give or take a week. I've started lining up guest blogs. Once I have cover art, I'll be able to work on promotion/marketing.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say I was excited to see what the cover artist's rendition will be. I've got an idea of an image I would use, but I'll save that for the trailer. :-) 

Meanwhile, I'm working on revisions for another short story. I don't know the fate of this one. If the editor rejects it, I'll submit it elsewhere.

These are exciting times for publishing. Traditional, indie, digital, small press, etc., whatever you like. As someone who writes multi-genre work, I don't have to worry about some publisher "pigeonholing" my books. If one editor/publisher rejects me, I'll just send my story to someone else. Or I'll self-publish it.(Caveat: Of course, all writers know never to submit a story until it's as well-written and free from errors as it can possibly be.)

Yep, I like having options. :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Suffer The Children?

In the last 12 months, I have been at two different panels, at two different Cons, where a member of the audience asked the same question. The question was, "Is there anything you feel you can't write about?"

The first panel was the one on British horror at FantasyCon in Brighton last year. The panel was peopled entirely by men (unrepresentative, I thought, as there are plenty of British women horror writers, but I digress). The second panel was at the Harrogate crime conference last weekend and dealt with the issue of whether women write more violent crime than men. This panel was almost entirely women - the sole man there writes under a female pseudonym, and he was there to give a slightly different slant to the discussion.

All members of both panels unanimously gave the answer that they shied away from writing about terrible things happening to children.

In my writing career thus far, I've had terrible things happen to many children in my stories. Indeed, the plot of the first novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, revolves around a supernatural creature who survives by sucking the life essence out of children. My urban fantasy project - though currently shelved - features a supernatural private eye who works as a 'ghost whisperer', and in an early scene she has to deal with the ghost of a child horribly disfigured in the accident that killed her.

Admittedly I come from the perspective of someone who not only doesn't have children, but who clearly wasn't in the queue when maternal instinct was handed out. Most of the writers on the aforementioned panels were parents. But let's look at this a bit closer. My writing idol, Stephen King, has many terrible things happen to children in his stories. In CARRIE a gymnasium full of teenagers at their high school prom burn to death. The plot of IT kicks off with the young brother of one of the main characters being pulled into the sewer and killed by the Big Bad, in the guise of an evil clown. And then there's PET SEMETARY, that features a toddler mown down by a truck, who consequently comes back from the dead and goes on a murderous rampage.

People with children are uncomfortable with the idea of terrible things happening to children because it cuts too close to their own fears for their children. But as horror and crime writers, our job is to scare people. You can write about nothing more convincing than the things that scare you. I think that's what Stephen King was doing with PET SEMETARY. After all, he is himself a father. Surely nothing scares a parent more than the thought of one of their children dying. And the father in PET SEMETARY, having to face this tragedy, knows that there's a mysterious graveyard over the hill that seems to possess the abililty to bring things that are buried there back from the dead - even if they don't come back quite the same as they were before. Faced with that knowledge, what should he do? What would any grieving parent do?

In order to grow as writers, I think we need to be able to write about anything - especially the things that we are most afraid of. Ultimately that's why I decided I need to tackle that rape scene in the curent WIP. I knew I was shying away from it because I was uncomfortable with the subject matter. And hence, I needed to face it.

There should be nothing that a writer should be afraid to write about, especially if you like to write stories that scare people. The things that scare you the most are likely to scare your reader as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writing Multi Genre

When I was younger, I loved reading  mysteries, fantasy, horror, and suspense/thriller. My favorite books were by Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Phyllis A. Whitney (YA mysteries), Madeleine L'Engle, and others. My first stories were horror and YA adventure.

And then my focus turned to poetry and literary writing. Genre writers were replaced by Kafka, Camus, Shakespeare, Robert Browning, and others. As I worked toward my BA in English, I became interested in alternative journalism.

It would be over ten years before I came to understand a simple truth. If I enjoyed reading what could be considered speculative fiction, then why not write what I loved to read?

So why was I so dense?

I think I was still trying to find myself as a writer. Even now, I want to try writing in genres I've never tried, like mystery and maybe even science fiction. I don't want to be encumbered by "rules" that say I can only write one genre because I'm not an "established" writer.

Looking forward to writing these stories, whatever genre they might be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Tell, Not Show"?

I was quite interested to discover this summary on the Internet of Lee Child's recent talk at ThrillerFest on 'Tell, Don't Show' to do with debunking writing myths.

Now, I'm not about to start disagreeing with Lee Child. He's a best-selling writer and I am not, so he's obviously doing something right. But the advice he gives here contradicts everything I've been told in 30-plus years of writing, and I think it warrants further discussion. Namely, this advice of "telling" not "showing".

Let's take this point of describing the character. When you're writing in third person, it's easy enough to throw in a brief description: "Jane was a tall, willowy redhead." I would have no problem with that, and I do like to have the main character described early in the novel - it helps me picture them in my mind. When you're writing in first person, though, it becomes rather more difficult, without resorting to the old trick of the character catching sight of themselves in a mirror - and admittedly this has been somewhat overdone.

Lee Child maintains that there's nothing wrong with just telling the story. To a certain degree, I can see his point. A writer who becomes preoccupied with technique can lose sight of the story. But to "tell" instead of "show" flies in the face of everything I have been told about writing, and I think to apply story "telling" instead of story "showing" generically is to tread a dangerous path. Say you're writing a story about a character who finds a dead body, and gets scared. You could "tell" the story just in those terms, but it would be a far more interesting story to describe how the character gets scared. Describe the dead body. If it's been there a week and is festering with flies and maggots, that's going to provoke a very different reaction in your reader than just stating "there in the grass lay a corpse." How does the character display fear? Does he scream and run away? Does he lose control of his bodily functions?

I wasn't present at the talk, so it's difficult for me to take it in context. However, I do think it's good food for thought. What's your take on this? Do you think Lee Child has a point, and sometimes "telling" is better than "showing"? Or would you disagree?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What If?

This past Saturday, at my local Sisters in Crime meeting, we engaged in a POV writing exercise. As I scribbled furiously, letting the words flow - this was timed, after all - I suddenly realized an idea for a romantic suspense was forming. True, it was a rough sketch about two dancers, hardly the stuff of suspense at that point, but it didn't matter.

So, ideas. Where do they come from? The great cliched question. And I'll admit it depends on the particular story. For example, many of my stories start out as "What if?" questions. I remember sitting in gridlock during a particularly hot, humid July. No air conditioning and traffic moving at the proverbial snail's pace. As I sat there, I wondered what would happen if girl fell out of the sky, hit my car, then vanished. Another "what if" story came while driving down Hwy 44, through verdant forests and twisting curves. What if a young girl moved to a cursed, isolated village? That story became "White Pine Village," a YA and my first work of fiction in over a decade. (No, I've never submitted it. It still sits in my drawer.)

Although I don't do this as much, I sometimes clip articles from a newspaper as possible ideas. Pictures are also influences. A portrait of a woman holding an umbrella over her face inspired "Family Tradition," my latest dark fiction suspense short story.  

Whenever an idea comes to me, I write it down and keep it on a file. Even if it's no more than a title, I note it. Many of these ideas won't become stories but this doesn't mean they're not valuable. Sometimes an idea may not work for one story but might work for another. 

Mystery, paranormal, suspense, romance, genre doesn't matter. Only the story does.