Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Riding the Submission Merry-Go-Round

Author (Age 6) Riding a Merry-Go-Round

After a two-year dry spell, where I didn't submit anything, I set a goal to submit at least two novels this year.

In June, I submitted two novels and a novella. One novel and the novella were rejected. The other novel? Awaiting word.

Welcome to the submission merry-go-round.

Authors should expect rejections. Yes, they suck. Sometimes. Other times, they're almost like blessings in disguise. Maybe that publisher you thought would be a great fit isn't. Always good to have a list of potential editors or publishers to submit to if your top choice doesn't work out.

The disappointment of having two manuscripts given the thumbs down was softened by the acceptance of a short story for an anthology. And my crime drama screenplay is a finalist in a film festival. So two for two isn't bad.

Let's see if I can go 3-2.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Waiting and Potential Rewards

I'm eagerly awaiting September. That's when I'm supposed to get a yes or no on a novel submission, and I'll also be able to share some good news I've been sitting on for the last few months. Hopefully, I'll also learn how my screenplay did at a current film festival. Meantime, I'll share this from the Indie Gathering International Film Festival for my short screenplay "Cemetery."

Award Plaque

This year at Indie Gathering, I participated in table readings. Last year, actors read my script Final Curtain and gave feedback on the few pages we submitted. If you've never had that experience, it's quite interesting. This year, it was nice to just read a character part and help out.

Next year, I'm hoping to submit a couple of short films to festivals, as well as new screenplays. No guarantees they'll show or final, but that's a risk we take when we submit our work. Because we know it sometimes pays off.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Monthly Round-up: July 2017

This month's round-up post is a week late, but this time last week I was sunning myself on a beach in France. The weather was lovely, but wifi access was appalling.


Hence, here we are now in August, reviewing July.


OUT NOW/COMING SOON


I'm hoping to promote the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, at Bouchercon in October, and hopefully I'll have a release date by then. In the meantime I'm plugging the first book the series, DEATH SCENE.


PUBLICITY


The third Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH has finished. The lucky winners were Angela Paull from Hampshire and Olivia Silva from Hertfordshire. They have each received a signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH.


I am very excited about the forthcoming Bouchercon in Toronto, which will be my first time attending this particular conference. And I am particularly thrilled about being offered a panel. The panel is about violence in crime, and should be very interesting, though since it's on at 8:30am on the Friday, I am not sure how many people we'll have in the audience.


WORK IN PROGRESS


I am pleased to report that the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is finished, and work has commenced on the second draft. At this stage I am feeling confident I will hit the 1 October deadline to submit this one. Hopefully I'll be feeling just as confident at the end of August.


Until then, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the rest of the summer. And if you are in then Southern Hemisphere, you've still got summer to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Back on the Submission Train

After a three-year hiatus, I'm finally back on the submission train. Prose works, that is. I regularly submit to screenplay contests, and I'm still working on a sale or option.

So far this year, I've submitted a short story, a novella, and a novel. My goal is to submit at least one other novel, maybe two more. I haven't been idle, writing four novels and two novellas, with one novel half completed.

I can't explain why it takes me so long to submit something. Scared of rejection, most likely, although I deal with it. (When that Film Freeway notification doesn't begin with "Congratulations," I know my screenplay didn't get in.) Contests and publishing are both subjective. I'm grateful there are more opportunities for writers than when I was in college.

Hopefully, my books will find a publisher. As for finding an agent, at this point, I like being in control of the submission process. Perhaps in the future, I'll submit a novel to an agent, but probably not in the genre I'm currently working in. Depends on the certain factors. Right now, I want to write what I enjoy and not what's supposedly "marketable," since the market is in a constant state of flux. It's another reason why I like to write multi-genre, although suspense is always an underlying component of my stories, whether paranormal or contemporary.

Fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Musings on Screenplay Contests

Screenplay writing contest season is upon us. From (hopefully) making the early bird deadline to (again, hopefully) being a finalist and even a winner, the months are filled with anticipation, excitement, and even a little dread.

This weekend, the quarter-finalists for the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards will be announced. My fingers are crossed. I recently received notification The Indie Gathering International Film Festival has awarded my short screenplay "Cemetery" an honorable mention. And my full-length crime drama Final Curtain is a finalist in Action on Film Festival (AOF). Winners will be announced in August.

Winning awards for my writing is great. I won't deny that. It's a validation for those times when I don't win. Like publishers, contests are subjective. Just because one contest didn't accept my screenplay, doesn't mean it's bad. Now, if all contests reject it, well, then, obviously something's wrong. :-) It also depends on the contest and the number of entries. Austin Film Festival? If I'm ever lucky enough to semi-final in that one, you can guess I'll be celebrating. However, I tend to be pragmatic.

One thing I've learned about submitting screenplays to contests is when I final or even win, I set the bar higher for myself, especially if I enter the film festival's competition a second or even third time. There's a level of consistency  they expect and I need to make sure I deliver. And because screenplays have a specific format and rely on what can be seen and heard, certain novel conventions can't be used, such as inner thoughts. That means when I adapt my books into screenplays, I have to change scenes that wouldn't translate well to the screen. If you're wondering why the book and movie can be so different, that's one of the reasons why. And writing a work of fiction (novel, short story, etc.) from a screenplay also comes with its challenges.

But it's worth it.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Ten Commandments of Writing #10: Thou Shalt Never, Ever, Give Up

I get quite cross with people who imply that I write 'for fun'. Or 'for pleasure'. This generally comes into a conversation where I'm trying to explain why the writing is not my full-time profession. I'm trying to explain that I don't make enough money from the writing to do it for a living, and so they say, "oh so you do it for fun then."


There is nothing fun about writing. Yes there are moments of exhilaration, like when the WIP is going well and words are flowing, when you're in that stage when you can re-read the words you've written and think to yourself, "actually this is pretty good. And I created it." But you know this is going to be followed by a period of crashing self-doubt, when you are absolutely convinced that everything you've written is a steaming pile of turds and you should give up deluding yourself that you're a writer and go and spend your time watching TV instead. This bit of the process is not fun. Neither is the constant lurching from self-confidence to self-loathing that I am convinced absolutely every writer, no matter how successful they are, experiences.


No, we don't do it for fun. So why do we do it? It's more a need, an urge. We need to write to keep on living, the same way we need to breathe.


You need to remember this once you have accepted the fact that you are a writer, because the road will not be smooth. There will be rocky patches. There will be times when you want to crawl under the bed covers and never come out again. Every time you submit something to an editor, you will spend the next few hours, or days, or weeks, on tenterhooks. You will be checking your email every two minutes to see if you've had a response yet. When you discover there isn't one, you will experience conflicting feelings of disappointment and faint hope, because no response at least means no rejection. Yet.


And then when the email finally comes you'll be afraid to open it, trying to put off the inevitable rejection and the crashing self-doubt that follows for as long as possible.


But then one day it won't be a rejection. It will be an acceptance. And it will all be worth it. On the dark days, it can be tempting to just pack it all in. But it's important to keep on going. When each rejection comes, give yourself a few days to pick yourself and dust yourself off, and then send the story back out into the world again. And carry on working on the next one. Whatever you do, you have to keep at it, because being a writer is in your psyche and no matter how hard it can be sometimes, it will always be who you are.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Monthly Round-up: June 2017

Well, summer is here. The UK enjoyed some sweltering hot weather this month, over 30c for several days. This is pretty unusual for us - so much so that we all bake, since very few places have air conditioning. Fortunately for us, our office does. The underground does not, however, and being packed in like sardines on the Central Line in rush hour when it's so hot is pretty close to being in Hell.


But of course British weather is nothing if not unpredictable, and now we're back to rain again. I love the long days at this time of year, and there is still plenty of summer left before we're back to the long nights of winter.


Anyway. On with this month's news.


OUT NOW/COMING SOON


There's nothing new to announce, and I've got no further news on when SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH is coming out. So this month I'm just going to plug my current publications. They are all available on Amazon US and UK, so why not have a browse?


PUBLICITY


On 4 June there was an interview with me on Rochelle Weber's blog, in which I talk about the Shara Summers series.


There's another Goodreads giveaway running at present for THE WHISPERING DEATH. It's only open to UK readers, due to postage costs, but if you fancy a free signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH, the contest is open until 15 July.


WORK IN PROGRESS


I was aiming to have the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, done by the end of June. Well it's not quite done yet, but I am nearly there. I have over 60,000 words done and I reckon I've only got another 10,000 or so to the end. If all goes well I should get there in July. So, hopefully there'll be more news on this next month. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Software Survey

I'll confess. I'm a software junkie when it comes to writing. Oh, sure, there's been some software I've either no interest in, or that I've tried and decided wasn't my thing. Even some software I've liked in the past I've given up for another.

So today I thought I'd share some of the software I use regularly. No endorsement is intended, and my opinions are mine only. Note: I won't talk about Word 2016, since many authors, myself included, use it.

In no particular order, they are:

Scrivener
Scrivener's power is in its versatility. You can organize your writing, research, character descriptions, and outlines into what it calls binders. There's a split screen option. For example, you can have two windows, one for your plot/outline and the other for your manuscript. Depending on what template you use, they have setting and character charts, and you can output your book to such popular formats as Kindle. PDF, and ePub. And yes, you can import and export files into and from Word.

Dramatica Pro
Dramatica Pro is a story engineering software, although I haven't used it to its full potential. One of its features is helping you flesh out your story through a series of questions. There are three levels of questions, so you can get as detailed as you want. I've found that sometimes it helps to already have a first draft or outline so you can answer the questions, which can build on one another. It also focuses on the relationship between the main character and the impact character, the latter who might be the antagonist, but not always.

Power Structure
Power Structure is another story engineering software. It lets you outline, create characters, develop conflict, etc. There are templates available for novels, TV, and screenplays. And if you're someone who likes the Hero's Journey, Power Structure has that feature, too.

WriteWay Pro
WriteWay Pro is another story organizing software. For example, one can take notes for particular scenes, including plot, conflict, setting, dialogue, suspense, and revision. And the completed manuscript can be exported into various files, including Kindle and Nook. Note: At this time, WriteWay Pro is free, but there is limited support and it's not available for Mac.

Fade In Pro
Fade In Pro is the software I use to write screenplays. It has Unicode support, works with Linux, has Final Draft and Scrivener support (among others), and formats screenplays and teleplays automatically. The nice thing? Once you buy the program, there are free updates.

All these programs come with free trials.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Ten Commandments of Writing #9: Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid to Pimp

Writers are, by nature, solitary creatures. We are not comfortable in crowds. So it's sadly ironic than nowadays we are expected more and more to get involved in marketing our books. To be expected to do readings and interviews. Most writers tremble in fear at the thought of facing a crowd of people.

The days of the writer holing themselves up in their garrett writing, never seen by the public, while the publisher's minions run around selling books for them, are, by and large, over. Unless you land a deal with one of the major commercial publishers who have a publicity department - and even then you'll have to turn up to signings and promotional events they arrange - you will be expected to play a proactive role in marketing. So, set aside your fear of being the centre of attention and get used to pimping yourself.

Every writer should have, at the very least, a blog, a web page and a Twitter account. Many people assume there's no point in setting up social media accounts until they've got a publisher, but there is an argument for getting yourself out there and setting up accounts before you're published, and at least by the time you've got something to sell you've built up a following of people who may be willing to go out and buy your book.

None of these things have to cost any money. You can set up a blog on Blogger or Wordpress in a matter of minutes, just by choosing a template. There are several free templates available for websites too, that don't require any programming skills (the one I use is Weebly). Set up a Twitter account and start Tweeting about things that interest you, using hashtags to connect with people who have similar interests. Never underestimate what aspects of your life that you take for granted someone else will find interesting. I take the train into London every day and shuffle around the capital with thousands of fellow commuters, and I'm half asleep when I do it. But occasionally I am reminded that to people that don't live in London, this is an endlessly fascinating city.

As a writer you obviously want to talk about your writing, but don't be that person that only ever Tweets 'buy my book' because that turns people off really fast.

My most important piece of advice for when you are published? Get yourself some business cards, with your name, your website, an email address and if possible, an image of your book cover. Take them with you everywhere you go, because you never know who you will meet. I have handed business cards out to people on mountains in Peru, and in deserts in Arizona. Every time I get chatting to strangers when I'm on holiday, if I have cause to mention I'm a writer, and the person replies, sounding interested, "oh, what do you write?" I will hand them a business card.

And I learned this lesson the hard way. In 2010, just after the first book came out, I went to the Horror Con in Brighton. I'd packed postcards, and business cards, but we headed down on the train after work, and when we reached the hotel we discovered there was a party in a bar on the pier, which had already started, so we dumped our luggage in the room and headed straight there. Then we discovered it was a free bar, so of course that's where everybody was. And I had so many occasions to hand out my cards and tell people all about my new book, but they were all back in the hotel room. I've never made that mistake since.

Once you've got that book deal, there are other things you can do to promote yourself. Host guest posts on your blog site featuring other writers, and get them to host you on their site. It's mutually beneficial to both host and guest, and it doesn't cost anything to do it. Go to conventions - as many as you can afford - to meet up with other writers, readers and publishers in your genre. When the call for panels goes out, volunteer for one. Most calls for panel volunteers also ask you to list what sort of panels you want to see, so think realistically about what you could feasibly talk about. Short fiction? Cross-genre fiction? Independent publishing? The road to publication (no matter how far along it you are)? Throw out any ideas you can - you never know what might inspire the panel organisers.


 You should also try contacting your local paper and your local book shops to see if they are interested in promoting you, but this is very hit and miss. I had some success with the former, but if you're with a Print On Demand (POD) publisher, getting your book into book shops entirely depends on the shop's buying policy. I have found that in the UK, a lot of book shops aren't interested in taking anything they can't buy on a Sale or Return basis, and that's generally not possible with POD. But still, it doesn't hurt to ask. You might discover that the manager of your local bookshop is an advocate for small presses and is agreeable to organising a signing with you.


In short, do what you can to pimp yourself, when you can. And there will be times when it all seems like a great deal of effort, and when the royalty statement comes in and you haven't sold much, you will wonder why you bother. But marketing is all part of the process of being a writer, and it's something that we all have to participate in to a certain degree, no matter how disagreeable it might be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Doing It For Fun?

It's sometimes hard to explain, to a non-writer, why I write. The confusion generally comes when the non-writer discovers I am not a full-time writer. "So it's a hobby," they say. "You do it for fun."

I can't explain that it's not a hobby - more a need. And most of the time, it's not fun. It's not fun to experience the crushing self-doubt that arrives on a regular basis and convinces me that every word I've ever written is complete rubbish. Or that feeling of rejection that comes with every email beginning, "thank you for sending us your manuscript. We regret to inform you that it will not fit our list at this time." Or, for me, getting up at 5:20am to write before work when really I'd much rather have an extra hour in bed.

Generally when such conversations come up I have to start by explaining that much as I would love to write full time, it's not economically feasible. It doesn't help that these conversations are generally with people who are not only non-writers but pretty much non-readers. They might have read Harry Potter, or Fifty Shades of Grey. So they think 'writer' and JK Rowlings and EL James spring to mind. And they're rolling in it, so all writers must be loaded, right?

My last royalty statement was for all of £5, and that represented a year's worth of sales. I am so far away from being able to make money from the writing that it seems an unobtainable goal. Giving up the day job is simply not an option because I have no other form of income.

At times I get completely overwhelmed. I leave the house at 6:20am so I can write before work. I generally don't get home before 7pm. I have French lessons and bass guitar lessons and admin stuff to deal with like emails and blog posts. And this is before we get to household stuff - laundry and remembering to pay the credit card bill and so on. Sometimes I get to a point when I feel I just can't cope with it all any more.

Logically, the thing to give up is the writing, because I kill myself trying to do it for no apparent reason. But even the mere thought of doing so makes me die inside.

And that's really why I write. Because I need to do it to keep on living. Not writing is as unthinkable to me as not breathing.

It may be I never manage to make enough money from the writing to give up the day job. But I will, somehow find a way to fit it into my life because there's just no other option.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Monthly Round-up: April 2017

Time, as they say, waits for no one. A third of the year has already gone. However, the best thing about this time of year is that I actually see my house in daylight during the week. Technically, it's spring. But I think someone forgot to tell the weather that, as the temperature in the UK has been more winter-like the past few days. Some places even have snow. Anyway, enough about the weather. On with the news.
OUT NOW/COMING SOON
Seven years ago this month, my first novel was published - SUFFER THE CHILDREN was released in e-book format by Lyrical Press. It marked a major turning point in my life, fulfilling a dream that I had chased for thirty years. And now the book is available again, from a different publisher. If you haven't yet read the book that started it all for me, you can buy it here from MuseItUp Publishing.
Coming up to the present day, I have been in touch with my editor and the edits for SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers novel, will be underway shortly. I'm still optimistic for a 2017 release.
PUBLICITY
I've been a bit quiet on the publicity front of late. It's now been nearly a year since anything new came out, and I always feel it's difficult to plug a new book when it's not really new at all.
I did run another Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH, however, that finished on 15 April. The winners were: Rachel Sanders in Sutherland, and Adam Bradbury in Surrey. Their prizes were posted last week, and indeed should be in their hands by now. The plan is to run some more Goodreads giveaways between now and October, so if you're still interested in winning a copy of this book, keep an eye on the Goodreads page.
I'm a bit light on the convention side of things this year as well. However, that's largely because I'm going to Bouchercon in Toronto in October, and not only is that a con that requires an international trip, it also clashes with most of the other cons I generally go to (FantasyCon and Bristol Horror Con, to name two). But I've been wanting to do Bouchercon for years, and with it being in Toronto it gives me a good reason to go visit family and friends in Canada at the same time.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is going well. I've agreed a deadline with my publisher at KGHH on this one, and it's full steam ahead.
That's it for now. I've got to get on with the writing!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are You an Yin or Yang Author?

Cover of How to Write a Movie in 21 Days
I've been using Viki King's How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days as a way to jump start my latest screenplay. I'd been having trouble coming up with a plot and figured this book, which I'd had for years but hadn't used, might be a way to approach my writing from another angle.

Finished the first draft last week.

Anyway, during my reading, I came across what she describes as Yin or Yang writers. For example, she asks how do we see ourselves? If we tend to be more rational, interested in world affairs, and such, we could be considered Yang. If we're intuitive and see life through personal experiences, then we're probably Yin.

So what kinds of stories would a Yang author write? According to King:

"Your script structure probably hinges on external events and actions. It's in the mystery, thriller, or crime-action-adventure genre."

Whereas, with Yin authors, King goes on to say, "Yours is probably an inner story. The character is on a journey of self-discovery. Themes are love and personal growth."

Of course, there are those who combine the Yin-Yang aspects. It's sort of like saying one is either a pantster or plotter, although many writers fall somewhere in the middle. While this screenplay is a suspense screenplay, the main character is on a journey of self-discovery while on a literal journey to save her team.

Knowing I lean more toward the Yang style of writing also explains why I have an easier time writing horror, suspense, etc. and struggle with romance or more personal stories. Not that I won't write or read them, but now I understand it's part of my mindset why I write the stories I do.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Authors, keep writing the stories you love.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Monthly Round-Up: March 2017

I realise I missed February's round-up, which is a bit remiss of me. I lost quite a lot of March to a lingering virus that turned into a sinus infection. Happily, after over two weeks of feeling terrible, I am feeling good again.


OUT NOW/COMING SOON
No further news on the third Shara Summers book, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, which is meant to be out this year. However, if you have not yet met Shara Summers, you can pick up the first book, DEATH SCENE (in all e-book formats) directly from MuseItUp Publishing's online store.


PROMOTION
I'm running another Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH. If you are in the UK and like horror, you can enter now to win a free copy of the paperback. Contest closes on 15 April.


This weekend I'm heading off to the SF Weekender in Wales for a few days of sci fi geekery. And I'm doing a couple of panels for the writers' track as well.


WORK IN PROGRESS
The virus left my brain feeling too mushy to write and I lost a couple of weeks of writing time. However, I'm back on track now and work on the new horror novel continues apace.


That's all to report for now. Catch you next time!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Where'd I Put That Darn Idea?

Dime image courtesy of Morguefile.com
Ideas. A "dime a dozen," as some people would say. Not copyrightable unless presented in some tangible form: treatment, synopsis, novel, screenplay, etc. (But I'm not going to get into legalities here. I'm not qualified.)

What I am qualified for is being someone who often struggles to come up with ideas for stories. Or, I do come up with one, and upon further examination, realize it's the dumbest thing ever. Back to the proverbial drawing board. (On those days, I think maybe I should trade in my keyboard for my Wacom pen and pursue an art career. But then I look at my artwork and reason pats me on the head.) Don't worry, I'm not giving up on writing. I don't really know how to do anything else.

I've been needing to write a new feature-length screenplay. Winning first place with a short and a feature is great, but an author doesn't live by two winning screenplays alone. And, since there's a writing challenge coming up next month, I need to find a new idea for a novel. (This while revising an older one.) While I do have a one-page synopsis for one, and I do want to write it, part of me wants to write another one based on a documentary series I've been watching. I'll probably write the former one, since the latter, a historical mystery, will require research.

But didn't I say I needed to find ideas for stories? How could I say I had a couple of ideas then? (To be honest, the synopsis was written a while ago.) I guess, for me, ideas come organically from my experiences. Like the documentary, which reminded me how much I loved the subject and inspired the current plot idea.

Ideas have also come to me in song lyrics and in paintings. There's no consistency, and what worked before may not work again.  Ideas are mercurial like that.

What about the screenplay? That was a bit harder, since I knew what I wanted to write about, but didn't have enough information about the organization to write a plausible scenario. But then I got the idea of how to work around that while doing some of the exercises in Viki King's How to Write a Movie in 21 Days. I'd bought the book when I was first learning how to write a screenplay, but had never used it. This time, I thought it might be the jumping off point I needed. And it seems to have worked. I don't know if I'll do every exercise in the book, and I'll probably write the script in less than 21 days, as soon as I get my characters developed.

And did I mention how difficult it can be to create a well-rounded character? But that's a post for another time. :-)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Character Occupations


One great thing about being a writer is being able to create characters with different occupations, including some I would've loved to pursue, had I the opportunity.

Like many authors, I've held several jobs: telemarketer, receptionist, secretary, bartender, artist model, security guard, substitute teacher, server, and probably a couple more I don't remember. But I wanted to be an author since I was in middle school, when I bought a blue notebook and penned my first novella.

I also wanted to be a private investigator growing up, as well as a doctor and pharmacist. My mother was a nurse's aid and I read her medical books. Sadly, chemistry proved my bete noire. I suppose I would do better now, given my life situation is less stressful than in the past. Suffice it to say, though, we all have our educational strengths. Mine is English, while my husband's is science and math. Our daughter took after him. It all balances out.

Over the recent years, I've sometimes wished I'd gone into forensic science, either forensic pathology or computer forensics. That, or become a homicide detective. The reason? To help solve murders and other crimes. Crime scene investigation has fascinated me for years, as my bookshelf can attest.

I've written a couple of homicide detective characters. Been playing around with creating a private investigator and writing a series of tongue-in-cheek novellas. Other characters I've been working on are NTSB investigators, a US Postal Inspector, and a former Secret Service agent. Not an exhaustive list, to be sure. And yes, there are a couple of characters who work as doctors.

Like actors can play various roles, so too can authors live vicariously through their characters. Even better if the author has similar experiences for real world comparison, but for those who don't, creating a fictional world is one alternative.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Listening to Your First Instinct

Death Sword Cover
Last time I mentioned returning to work on Serpent Fire, the sequel to Death Sword. Initially, Death Sword was meant to be a stand alone, until Samael demanded I tell his story. Don't ask. Anyway, Samael's story continued, not only in Serpent Fire, but in a third book, Devil Inside. Unfortunately, Serpent Fire kept giving me fits, and Devil Inside came together faster, although that meant nothing if I didn't get Serpent Fire in shape.

What to do? Considering I wasn't contracted for a series, I had to submit each book on its own and hope the publisher would pick it up. Except Serpent Fire wasn't working the way I hoped, and any hopes of submission were quickly becoming unlikely. I even tried combining Serpent Fire and Devil Inside, given Serpent Fire was a novella and Devil Inside novel-length. But that's only because I cut out a significant subplot from SF.

Know how they say to listen to your first instinct? Yeah. Good idea, in this case.

I was smart. When I decided I wanted to write each book separately again, I wrote down the chapters and scenes from both Serpent Fire and Devil Inside, and used a different process, particularly "Chapter 1, Scene 1" for SF, and "Ch. 2, Sc. 2" for DI. Then a bit of info about what the scene was about and any corresponding plot point. All this done on index cards, which I then transcribed on Scrivener's index cards.

An extra bonus? Pulling out all the folders I had on the latter two manuscripts, I found detailed notes and character descriptions. Granted, some of the plot had changed, but it was enough to work with. Even better? I had the manuscripts available, too. Now all that remained was to reverse engineer the stories, making any necessary revisions, adding in the subplot, and hopefully getting them ready by Spring.

Why wait this long? Why not work on Serpent Fire and Devil Inside years before? Not that I hadn't tried, but I couldn't make the stories work then. Since that time, I've written five angel paranormal suspense novels and one novella. Not to mention, parts of another angel novel and an outline. Perhaps I wasn't ready to work on Serpent Fire until now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

No Plot? No Story?

I'm at that crossroads of revising a novel and trying to think of an idea for a full-length screenplay, as well as plotting my next book and getting ready to go through a major revision of Serpent Fire. The latter has been my bete noire for years, and I'm determined to produce a polished manuscript this year.

Usually in situations where I'm writing a new book, I often have a character in search of a story. I've used tarot cards to help me plot an idea, often using the Hero's Journey. Other times, it might be a snippet of a song or a piece of art that inspires me. As more and more of the plot unfolds, I try to weave it into a comprehensive whole using Dramatica Pro, a story engineering program.

The hardest thing is writing the first draft and realizing the plot isn't quite going as planned, no matter how carefully thought out. Unfortunately, like many writers, I have stories like that. It's not easy to look at a story that isn't working and part ways. If possible, I try to salvage what I can to use in another story. Of course, that requires organization and (for me) extensive notes.  Currently, I've been using Scrivener so organization is a bit easier than the binder I used for a previous novel.

Then there are those stories that aren't quite ready to be given up on, but still aren't quite up to par. Ones that I'll keep, but probably will end up taking space on my hard drive. Of course, since it's 1 TB, no worries.  :-)

It can be frustrating putting one's energy into a book that isn't working and having to back away from it. It's easy to feel one has no talent and that one's plots are weak. I think it's important to remember that even if a plot isn't working, perhaps a better one is waiting around the proverbial corner. I've had times when writing when I realized I could improve the plot. So even though I'm a plotter, it doesn't mean I've written my outline in stone. Adaptability is a good thing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Monthly Round-up: January 2017

I'm a bit late with this round-up since it's now 1 February. So how have I been doing in the first month of this year? Let's see...

OUT NOW

Nothing new out, but I'll take this opportunity to pimp the existing works.

Horror
The Whispering Death
Suffer The Children

Crime (Contemporary Amateur Sleuth)
Death Scene
Dead Cool

Short Story Collection
Soul Screams

PUBLICITY

No guest blog posts to report. However, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH for February, with two free paperback copies of the book to giveaway. You can enter here. Please note this is for UK entrants only, due to postage costs. Please promote the giveaway if you are able to - I am hoping to raise awareness of the book and perhaps get a few more reviews. There will be more giveaways over the next few months so watch this space.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work has started on a new horror novel. Since this one is to be delivered to KGHH Publishing this year I am pressing on with it, and I have achieved nearly 10,000 words in the first month of the year. It is set in the Arctic, and it has the title OUTPOST H311.

Meanwhile the fourth Shara Summers novel is also a work in progress.

Plenty to keep me busy, then. See you at the end of February!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best Books of 2016

Sometimes people ask me how I deal with the commute to work. I spend a good three hours a day - often four - travelling by public transport, into London and back again along with hundreds of other commuters.
The singular thing that keeps me sane on my commute is that I use the time for reading. Losing myself in a book allows me to find some pleasure in this daily ordeal.

For the last few years, I've participated in the Goodreads challenge by setting a goal for myself on how many books to read in the year. For the first time in some years, I did not complete my challenge in 2016 - I set myself a goal to read 70 books and only read 68.

Generally this time of year I list the best of the previous year's reading, which is guided by which books I gave five-star ratings to. And in 216 there were four, as follows:

Defending Jacob - William Landay
Witches Abroad (Discworld #12) - Terry Pratchett
13 Minutes - Sarah Pinborough
Try Not To Breathe - Holly Seddon

There's one comic fantasy, one crime thriller and two psychological thrillers. Further details, as well as a link to the Goodreads page for each book, are listed below.

Defending Jacob
I had to read this one for my book group, and it left me utterly gripped. The story is told from the point of view of Andy Barber, district attorney, whose life is rocked when his fourteen-year-old son is accused of the brutal murder of a classmate.It throws up an interesting moral dilemma: what is a father to do when he suspects his own child might be a murderer?

Witches Abroad
I'm still working through my re-reading of the Discworld books, and I have to admit that the books featuring the witches - Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick - are my favourites. In this book the witches have to venture to much-suspect 'foreign parts' to stop the happy ending of a well known fairy tale. Because there's so much more to the story than the one that we've heard. I love the witches and their very different but forceful personalities.

13 Minutes
I tend to run into Sarah Pinborough at most of the conventions I attend these days, and know her well enough to say hello to. Not only is she a lovely person, but she's a phenomenal writer, and one of those people that occupies a spot on the writing career ladder that's much higher up than me, and I can only look up and hope that one day I can get to the same spot.

Sarah Pinborough writes in many different genres. This novel is pegged as YA, but I really hate that label because when I see it I assume it's referring to a kids' book. The main character of this novel happens to be a teenage girl, but the genre is most definitely psychological thriller. The main character is rescued from a freezing river and revived after being technically dead for 13 minutes, and this is where the title comes from. How she got there is the main plot of the story, and it soon becomes evident that all the main characters are hiding secrets. As well as being a gripping story, this also serves as a reminder as to just how bitchy teenage girls can be. I'm so glad I don't have to go through all that again.

Try Not To Breathe
Another psychological thriller, I had to review this for Shots and I found it utterly compelling. It involves the story of Amy, who was attacked and left in a coma when she was 15. Fifteen years have passed and she is still in the coma, but the story of how she got there is gradually revealed through three viewpoint characters, one of which - disturbingly - is Amy herself, who still has active brain function within her coma although she is tragically unaware of how much time has passed.

For this year, I have set myself a target of reading 68 books - the same number I managed to read last year. However, due to the fact that there are a lot of problems on London transport at the moment and I am spending four hours a day on trains, buses and underground trains I have been getting a lot of reading time in and I am already two books ahead of schedule.

If you're on Goodreads and want to compare books with me, or even check out some of mine, connect with my profile here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Five Favorite Reads of 2016

Last year, I managed to reach my goal of reading 50 books, which I kept track of via the Savvy Reader 50 Book Pledge. (Actually, it was more than 50, but I didn't list books I helped judge for a contest.)

While I enjoyed many of the books, I decided to focus on five in particular. In alphabetical order, they are:

The Cover-Up (Dana Griffin) is a well-crafted aviation thriller involving an airline crash and the ensuing investigation. The author, a commercial pilot, reveals his expertise in aviation while writing a story that's accessible to readers not familiar with the industry.

The Flower Master (Sujata Massey) involves a young woman from California, now living in Japan, who becomes embroiled in the murder of an ikebana teacher. The crime, along with her struggles to fit in culturally, keep the reader engaged in a satisfying mystery.

Incident at Badamya (Dorothy Gilman) is set in Burma in the 1950s and involves a 16 year old orphan who finds herself captured, along with six others, by members of the Red Flag Army. But there is more to one of the prisoners than she realizes, and her magical Burmese puppet may be the key to her kan (destiny).

Lucifer Rising (Gavin Baddeley) is an examination of how the Devil has been depicted throughout history, including the "satanic panic" of the 1980s, in heavy metal, even in films. This book is written with a balanced point of view that cuts through the hype.

The Princes in the Tower (Alison Weir) explores the mysterious deaths of Prince Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, nephews of King Richard III, long thought to have been responsible for their deaths. One wanting to learn more couldn't go wrong with this book as a reference.