Category: daily blog


Tweeting with authors!

Twitter is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

Last night I HAD to go in and Tweet my new favourite author Elizabeth Wein about something I had just read in her new book Rose Under Fire, which was released on June 3rd 2013.

AND SHE REPLIED!!!

How amazing is it that you can interact with the author of a book WHILE YOU ARE READING IT??? And what a lovely lady she is too.

I must just say WHY she has become my new favourite author, and it all started when I was reading THIS post by the awesome Chuck Wendig (who I have mentioned once or twice here before…ahem…) about Young Adult fiction. He talks about ‘Riskier Stories’:

Personal opinion time: some of the bravest, strangest, coolest stories right now are being told in the young adult space. It’s stuff that doesn’t fly by tropes or adhere to rules — appropriate, perhaps, since young adults tend to flick cigarettes in the eyes of the rules and don’t play by social norms as much as adults do. (Though teens certainly have their own social codes, too.) I wish adult fiction so frequently took risks on the material at hand, but it doesn’t. And as a person (relatively) new to the young adult spectrum, I used to assume it was all Twilight: generic pap. But then you read John Green, or Libba Bray, or Maureen Johnson — or holy shit, have you read Code Name: Verity?! — and your eyes start to go all boggly. Amazing storytelling in this realm. Amazing! I’ll wait here while you go read it all. *stares*

So I went to find Code Name Verity. AND WOW…just WOW, can that lady write. Her story is gripping, her characters compelling, I was totally knocked off my feet and blown away.

The tale is about two young women in World War II who become best friends, and who inadvertently end up flying over German occupied France together. Their plane is shot down, and the passenger parachutes out, only to be caught by the Gestapo and tortured for information about the British war effort. She tells it through the story of her friendship with her pilot.

Its a heart-rending tale and should be read with a box of tissues close to hand. What I loved best about it was the depiction of love and friendship between two people; how another person can mean the world to you and carry you through the very best and worst of times.

I have now purchased Rose Under Fire, and am a few chapters in, but I will review it here when I am done.

Back to Twitter. I was SO excited to be able to have a conversation with the author of the book I was reading, so humbled that she replied straight away, that I have made myself the promise I will endeavor to do the same should I ever get my book finished and published, and  have fans who follow me on twitter.

WRITE THE BOOK, KATE.

Tiger-Moth-flying

#AmWriting

I know. This is supposed to a be a ‘daily blog’, but it has been anything but, even from the beginning. I should really re-title my posts.

So what have I been doing?

Well, for one thing I have been undertaking an on-line course for writers, ‘The Story Cartel course’. This invaluable course talks you through how to build a platform, engage with your readers and share your story. It takes you through simple practical steps whilst enabling you to interact with both the founder himself (Joe Bunting) and other course members – budding writers from all over the world with varying levels of writing and publishing experience (from never having shared a story with anyone, to experiences in both the self-publishing and traditional publishing worlds).

The course can be found here:

http://course.storycartel.com/

Of course I can’t even BEGIN to ‘engage with my readers’ if I don;t have anything for them to read, and this is my current agony. What WILL they want to read? I have such a great idea for a story (well, I think it’s great) but I have started it three different ways so far and I STILL can’t decide the best way to approach it. My characters have changed from teenagers to adults and back again, and one of them has changed genders twice! Part of me thinks I should maybe just move on to the next chapter, KEEP WRITING and somehow it will sort itself out.

Hopefully.

My daughter and dyslexia

IMAG0635

I wrote this for The Write Practice today – a short piece about my wonderful daughter and how she was affected by Dyslexia.

I sat in the village hall with all the other proud parents, on hard plastic chairs, watching two little girls singing on their own. They were a comical sight really – one small and round, one tall and lean, wearing their black Stage School t-shirts and leggings. They were singing ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, their voices loud but shaking slightly, not able to disguise the nerves they were obviously feeling.

I had salty warm tears pouring down my face. I felt kind of embarrassed because no-one else was crying as much as I was, but one of those little girls was my youngest daughter. Two years previously she would never have done anything like this. Two years previously she wouldn’t have even wanted to sit in the front row of the audience – “I don’t want anyone looking at me!” she used to say.

My daughter has Dyslexia. And yes, it’s not a life threatening condition or an illness where one has to have treatment or medication, but for her it is a huge stigma. Especially in a family where her mother and older sister eat books and love to write. She just wanted to be like everyone else.

It took quite a long battle with the school to get them to recognise she was having problems. I realised when she was in year 2 that things were not quite right, but her teacher just told us our daughter had some mild difficulties that didn’t require any extra help and she’d soon catch up. My daughter hated school that year. Her friends were all reading and writing. She thought she was ‘stupid’. Her worst experiences were when they were expected to read aloud to a group of class mates. You can imagine how humiliating it must have been for her to have to stand there in front of her peers and not be able to make sense of the words on the page.

My daughter is beautiful. Yes, I know what you are thinking – I’m biased, I would think that, but we get comments about this all the time from friends, acquaintances and people we have just met. “She could be a model!” they say. I tell her this all the time, but she can’t see it. She has other qualities too – such determination! If she decides she is going to do something, then she is going to do it, come what may. Her sister is two years older, but my youngest daughter was the first to ride a bike without stabilisers, the first to learn to swim. I’ll never forget the first time she swam under water. It was in the middle of a hot summer, and they were in the little outdoor pool at the school. I was stood watching on the side, wishing I could be in the cool water with all the children. My daughter’s  best friend wanted to show me what she had learned on holiday, and ducked under the surface of the pool, and then my daughter, not to be outdone said “I can do it too!” and flung herself down. My heart was in my mouth, I thought she was going to drown, but seconds later up she popped, a huge grin on her face, and then she did it again and again. There was no stopping her from that moment on.

It was Year 3 when we finally had a breakthrough at the school. She had a wonderful teacher that year, one of the best I have ever met. A large, solidly built rugby player of a man, loud and enthusiastic and great fun. He had a knack for bringing out the best in his pupils, and was always very encouraging. We told him of our concerns and a few weeks later he came back to us with an apology. “Yes, you are right, she does have dyslexia,” he told us, “we are going to put in some extra support for her.”

Her confidence soared that year. Suddenly she was asking for speaking parts in school plays and telling us she wanted to join the Stage School her sister attends on Sunday mornings.

Two years later there we were, watching her singing and dancing and acting in front of an audience and loving it. I’ve never been so proud.

http://dyslexiaaction.org.uk/

Ok….slightly freaked out that WordPress.com has changed its format since I was in last…where have all my widgets and stuff gone??? I suppose I will find them in due course…

(ETA – never mind…found them…)

Meanwhile, apologies for not updating my blog in over 2 weeks – I have been working on the concept for another book. This one is going to take some time if I want to get it right – and I DO. I’ve got such a great idea, and I’m so excited about it, but it has to be perfect or nothing at all.

And at the same time I am starting to re-write the novel I wrote for Nanowrimo – initially I was just going to concentrate on this new idea I have, but there are times when the new idea part of my brain has a temporary shut down, so its nice to work on something that I can use a different part of my brain for.

Its all good.

One thing that has been weighing heavily on my mind is what to do with these books when I have finished? Self-publish or traditional route?? There are lots of authors out there with conflicting views and experiences. Take for example Chuck Wendig, one of my writing heroes (my spell checker tells me heroes has an ‘e’ in it…not heros but heroes…kind of like potatoes?). Chuck has written a whole blog post on the publishing route today, and advises:

“You should try the traditional route first.”

His reasons? Well, he has used both the traditional route AND the self-pub route, and though both are earning him money, it’s the book he had published via the traditional route that has given him the most success, the most money, the most exposure – and something about a ride on a flaming unicorn dispensing food to the hungry. He may have made that last bit up…. (If you click on that quote above, you can see the whole post).

In contrast, Joanna Penn has had much success with self-publishing, and has much advice and information (plus various online courses) to offer on this route.

I change my mind with the wind. Every new piece of information I read on the subject of publishing has different advice and convincing ideas. Every road is different it would seem – every writers journey is unique, and in the end all we can do is try and see what works for us.

At present I am thinking I will try and self-publish my nanowrimo novel and go for the traditional route with my new one. We’ll see what happens.

I have to actually WRITE them first, right???

Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

Anyone else want free e-books?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

I recently joined a group called Story Cartel. It was set up by Jeff Goins and Joe Bunting as a way of ensuring reviews for new e-books.

The idea is that they send you notice of new e-books, and you can download them for free. In return, all they ask is that you write a review on Amazon.

Seems like a good deal to me – who doesn’t want free books? And they say one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read. Plus I’m hoping that one day I can put out an e-book and get reviews in the same way. Its all win, win win!

While I was downloading today’s free book, Roxy by PJ Reece, I checked out the authors blog and saw that he has another book out about writing stories – Story Structure to Die For. I had a look on Amazon uk and it was £1.50 (!!!) so I thought what the hell, lets see what he has to say. I really like his ideas about heroes and tragedies, and how to draw your readers in. I’m going to try his ideas with the re-write of my nano book.

Incidentally, just in case you didn’t know (because I didn’t until fairly recently), you don’t actually need a Kindle to read free books – you can download an e-book reader on your laptop or your phone, and voila!

Ok, that’s enough plugging stuff today I think. I’ll post another story next, I promise!

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

This post is WELL overdue. I haven’t been in here for so long.

So how did I do in Nanowrimo?

Well, I DIDN’T write 50,000.

I wrote 31,634 words, which is more than I have written for anything ever. AND I wrote a whole story from start to finish. So, I am really proud of myself!

I learned lots of things during the month. I learnt that I COULD write every single day, and I always wanted to. Some days I didn’t know what to write, but I never felt like I didn’t want to write at all. I found I had to force myself to write the first few words, and usually something would follow it. Some days I only wrote a few hundred words, other days I wrote a couple of thousand. The ‘pep talks’ in the Nanowrimo web site, and on other writers blogs, kept me going even on the worst days.

I also learnt that however prepared you think you are, when you come to write it doesn’t always work the way you think it’s going to. I had many days where my characters would turn to me and say “You want me to do WHAT?” – and I had to figure out something else for them to do, or find some motivation to get them to dance to my tune.

I also found a million plot holes. Well, maybe not a million, but a lot anyway. But in the spirit of nanowrimo, I just kept going – I will go back later and fill them all in.

And I learnt that I definitely want to keep writing. I want to get a book published, in PRINT, in a real book, on the shelves of Waterstones.

That is what I am working towards.

So now to take a month off, decorate the house, write greetings cards, wrap presents and enjoy Christmas with my friends and family. And then it’s back to the grind stone to re-write my novel.

 

Postcard from the edge #nanowrimo

It must seem like I have deserted my blog entirely. I have been lost in the crazy world of nanowrimo, desperately trying to up my word count day by day whilst holding down my job, bringing up the kids, etc.

We are on day 13, and though I haven’t done a recent word-count check, I would say I have written about 16,000 – not bad, huh? I’m not on target, but I keep telling myself that its ok.

Whether or not I reach 50,000, my story WILL be finished by the end of November. Honestly.

And then it’s going to need a SERIOUS re-write – at the minute my writing SUCKS.

Badly.

Worse than a toothless old man with facial weakness trying to eat a lollipop.

And most days I am not even enjoying telling my tale. Most days I have to FORCE myself to sit down and type SOMETHING on the page. I keep telling myself the fun will be in the re-write, when I try to SHOW my story rather than TELL it; when I spend time concentrating on sculpting beautiful sentences and meaningful dialogue; when I have time to  reshape it and make it more colourful.

Untill then I am a slave to my tale, and finish it I must.

Thank heavens for these wise words from the irrepressible Chuck Wendig. (click on the link. You’re welcome.)

NaNoWriMo, dude!

(I love the way Americans call each other ‘dude’…I’d say it all the time, if it wasn’t for the fact I am British and it would make me look pretentious. And somewhat ridiculous. I might adopt it at work amongst my co-workers, whilst wearing the new reading glasses no-one thinks I should have bought, and see what the reaction is.)

BLEAURGH!!! I’ve left way too long a gap between my last post and this one. Unfortunately no-one is paying me to write yet, so I still have to go to work. I live in hope.

So.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo (the name always makes me think of the Judoon from Dr Who… “RO HO MO HO JO”, or something like that…). Originating in San Francisco in 1999, it now has around 300,000 participants.

National Novel Writing Month Web Badge

National Novel Writing Month Web Badge (Photo credit: ajsundby)

The idea is you write a 50,000 word novel starting on the 1st of November and aim to have it finished by the 30th. That’s 1000-2000 words a day, or 1666 per day according to Chuck Wendig (if you fancy a laugh, enjoy really good writing and don’t mind a bit of swearing, I can recommend this guys website. Here is his take on NaNoWriMo).

You are not supposed to come out with a shiny, well edited perfect piece of writing – the idea is you just WRITE, with a devil-may-care, sod-the-housework (because it’s so often on my mind…ahem….), throw caution to the wind, fly by the seat of your pants approach and just get the thing written.

THEN you can go back in December, once you have caught your breath, had some sleep and repaired all the damage wreaked on your house by your family while your back was turned, and turn the bones of your story into something beautiful. Add flesh, paint it up a bit, bring the wobbly bits into line, and then maybe you will have a knicker-gripping, earth-shattering, mind-changing story worthy of publication. Most publishers apparently look for something of around 300,000-500,000 words, and are not interested in a tiny 50,000 unedited piece that was fueled by caffeine and desperation.

There seem to be lots of pros and cons to this approach. For me, the appeal is having a goal; a finish line; light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not very disciplined  Or very organised. I almost always forget everyone’s birthdays, for example. I lose things on a regular basis (my purse, my keys, my phone, my children and the dog). I am still working on strategies to help me with these every day occurrences  and enjoy the occasional success (I still have my kids and the dog. In case you were wondering.)

I’d really LOVE to get something published, and I know it takes time. The word on the internet ‘street’ is that it takes 6-10 years for the average writer to get their work published. Which is why, I keep reminding myself, I am starting NOW – so that in 10 years time I don’t look back and wish I had started 10 years ago.

But as my husband reminded me recently, if I don’t actually WRITE anything, I will never get anything published EVER.

So I’m giving the old NaNoWriMo thing a go, and I am using October (or whats left of it) to plan. Wish me luck.

 

Here are some other articles I read on NaNoWriMo, if you need more motivation:

Twelve Reasons to ignore the nay-sayers

Why winning isn’t the main reason

Five Good reasons to do NaNoWriMo

and this one again, just in case you missed the link – this one is my favourite:

25 things you should know about NaNoWriMo

 

 

Die, Vampire, die!

Little vampire

Little vampire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is for anyone inflicted with the Vampires of self doubt, those inspiration sucking, confidence destroying, harbingers of doom.

I was having one of those moments this week where you suddenly doubt your own ability to create anything that anyone might be interested in reading. I read some really AWESOME fiction by other writers and just thought – “How can I possibly compete with all this?”

So I moaned and wailed and bared my soul to a few good friends, and one of them (Elizabeth McIntyre – remember that name, she is going to be President of the USA one day) posted this song for me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DDdM66_nSI

This jolly, humorous song describes those vampires that destroy our creativity and our belief in ourselves; challenges us to ignore them, get out there and be all that we should be! After all, what is the worse that could happen?

(NB – the song contains strong language. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

The Casual vacancy


Talking of awesome fiction by other writers, I have purchased JKRowling’s new book this week. I heard that it has had some very mixed reviews. I’ve read the first few chapters, and I can understand why it might not meet everyone’s approval – after all we have been so used to the wonderful, magical Harry Potter series, the tale of a boy wizard and his fight against evil and this new book is NOTHING like those.

JKRowling made it very clear from the start that this book was going to be different, and for ADULTS. It certainly isn’t the sort of thing I would be happy for my children to read – lots of swearing and very graphic images.

But as usual, Jo has created some really great characters, and this is a dark and satirical view of human nature. It’s nice to see that she has the skill to write well in a different genre.

She didn’t have anything to prove, or any money to make; she is a writer, and she just needed to WRITE.

It’s inspirational.

Posts and pages

Does any one else have a problem confusing these two? One of the first things a friend said to me when I was setting up this blog was that I needed to get my head round the difference between posts and pages. I thought I had it all figured out, but apparently not.

I was hoping to have another page on my blog that I could put examples of my writing on, but apparently I have to put them in as posts on my blog page and then categorize them instead. Jolly annoying really, because I wanted to keep my main page just for…ranting about writing.

Sigh. Whatever.

Anyway, if you look at one of the bars above, you will see categories, one of which is ‘stories’, under which I will file example of things I have written. Anything that I deem good enough to send to a publisher I will not post until I know if or when they want to use it.

I will however set up a PAGE where I’ll post links to web pages or blogs I have enjoyed reading or found particularly helpful.    They might be helpful to other writers too.

 

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