Walking to Whitby, submission success and an urban fantasy series that I really should’ve read a long time ago

I did it!

I completed my Walk to Whitby! Well actually, I did it a month ago but thought I should mention it here since the last update I provided stopped at Day 12 and you may or may not have been wondering if I’d been figuratively mown down somewhere on the M1 motorway. Final total raised was £205 which is far more than I ever expected to raise for this very worthwhile cause. It’s time we kicked cancer’s arse for good, don’t you think?

In other news, I received a lovely email the other day. ‘Your submission has been successful’ said the title. Woo hoo! My short story A Very Unseelie Act will be included in Gliterary Tales and published by Bridge House Publishing this November. It’s been a few years since my last published story (Night Shift – you can read it online here) so it was very nice to be able to jump up from my chair and do the happy dance again (writers, you know the one I’m talking about). The story is in epistolary format and is written as an email exchange between a disgruntled fairy and a totally inept customer service department, of which we’ve all had experience at some time or other.  I wrote the story about four years ago and initially submitted it to a Writing Magazine competition, for which it was shortlisted. It then sat around on my hard drive until I saw the call for submissions from Bridge House Publishing for stories with glitter or sparkle. I’ve since had an email inviting me and a plus one to Bridge House’s annual celebration event in December, which I’m umming and ahing over but probably shouldn’t be because I know authors should never turn down an opportunity to network.

Buuuuuut…

Firstly, I’ve never been to one of these events before so I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m a total introvert and not very sociable, so the mention of ‘author speed dating’ had me coming out in a cold sweat. That alone is not a reason to avoid it though, and nor would the hubster (or my inner writer) let me. Secondly and more importantly, the event is in London (why does EVERYTHING have to be in London?) and it also falls on the day of my Nan’s 90th birthday party. The train isn’t an option as I don’t live anywhere near a station, so a simple train journey for most would actually be a taxi-train-tube-tube-train-taxi journey. So how much is this going to cost me three weeks before Christmas, when money will already be tight??? It means we’re going to have to drive from Leicester to London and back, on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas. The event is 2pm-5pm, and the birthday party starts at 7pm. Even if I leave early, I’m still not guaranteed to get back on time. In light of my first point I feel like I’m making excuses, but I only have one Nan and she’s only going to be 90 once so there’s no competition. I’m still not sure what to do, so I might reserve the tickets and then just figure it out nearer the time.

Gah. There are worse problems to have, right?

And finally, on the book front, I’ve just read Lee Child’s Persuader (his seventh – I think – Jack Reacher) and also Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called, her first book in the Mercy Thompson series. Lee Child aside (Persuader, I felt, was probably the best Jack Reacher I’ve read in terms of plot and overall writing), I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading Patricia Briggs considering my love of urban fantasy and all things vampire, witch and werewolf. Saying that, I can’t help but compare it to Bitten, Kelley Armstrong’s first book in the Otherworld series, and in terms of the plot I found it a bit thin and a whole lot confusing when it all came to a head. Otherwise, I really enjoyed her style and I like the character of Mercy – she’s not some cliched femme fatale kick-ass in leather (which is what put me off Kim Harrison’s books) but an average girl who lives in a trailer, works as a mechanic and just happens to possess the ability to shift into a coyote. I like the coyote twist and how Briggs has woven it into the general werewolf pack concept, and I’m looking forward to reading more Mercy Thompson (which I intend to do when I get home with book two in the series.) Oh, and Cainsville #4 has just come out in paperback in the UK this week, so that will no doubt be winging its way to me from Amazon some time in the not-too-distant future.

As for the WIP, I’m still plugging away at it and pleased with how it’s going. It’s still following the general plotline but with lots of new or revised scenes. I’m also working on the fourth Riley Pope and another long-short story about a vampire hunter on a mission to flush out a strigoi-trafficking dhampir. Also in the pipeline is a short story in the form of a memoir that I intend to submit to Writing Magazine for an upcoming comp. I imagine that’s going to take me about 5 minutes to write, and 5 days to get over, but then there’s always chocolate!

Have a blessed Lammas all

X

lammas

 

Shane Ritchie, Reader’s Neck and the usefulness of other author’s reviews

Hello! I’m still here. Working hard on the perpetual WIP (I was struggling with the sheer length of it, and so was Word, so I’m now using Scrivener – not sure now how I ever managed without it!). Two short stories currently in for submission, pending a decision some time after June, and plotting the next Riley Pope tale, ‘The Case of Blue Ben’. Waaaaaaay behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge so in a frantic effort to catch up I’ve developed Reader’s Neck – don’t know if that’s an actual medical complaint but it should be because it bloody well hurts. I’m currently alternating between Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I’m not exactly a fan of this genre of fiction, but I got into the Jack Reacher series after reading a Lee Child interview in Writing Magazine, an excerpt of which can be found here.  The particular paragraph that resonated was this one:

• How do you feel about breaking writing rules?
In general writers, especially beginner writers, are very nervous and insecure. People have a clear idea of what they want to do and there are rules that aren’t rules – they’re just advice, and sometimes bad advice. Showing not telling is one face of bad advice. There is no reason why you can’t tell something in a plain, declarative style. Classic post-war thriller writers just sat down and told a story, and the idea that you should not is very twisted and forces people to pass on information in a very weird way. My main point is always to avoid advice. Books only work if they are vivid and organic and have one imagination in charge.

Always avoid advice?! Unpublished writers are bombarded with advice, and a lot of it is useful and we couldn’t do without it. There’s also advice that’s confusing, conflicting, biased, or just plain unhelpful. Also, if we’re to avoid advice, then do we avoid Mr Child’s advice to avoid advice???

But anyway, I picked up a few Jack Reacher’s on my charity shop rounds and have been steadily collecting them ever since. I’ve struggled with a few – I’d advise anyone to give ‘Nothing To Lose’ a very wide berth – but mostly I’ve enjoyed them, mainly because of the simple, pared-back way in which Lee Child writes; he can conjure the most vivid scene using four or five carefully chosen words, whereas another author (me, for example) might use a paragraph to say the same thing. I’m currently reading ‘The Visitor’ and enjoying it very muchly – I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who the killer is already but I don’t know how she’s doing it, other than by hypnosis. I’ll add this to my notes on ‘interesting ways to kill people’, just as I added superglue to my list of ‘interesting ways to subdue folk’. I’m pretty sure my PC must be flagged to every law enforcement agency in the country by now.

On the subject of Cainsville, I’m also very much enjoying it. It is, of course, written by my favourite author, so go figure. It wasn’t until I finished #3 in the series and read a few reviews on Goodreads that something was pointed out to me, and verified by a lot of other readers – that love triangles occur in pretty much every Kelley Armstrong series. I hadn’t noticed this myself, but there is certainly a love triangle in Cainsville with Eden/Olivia, Gabriel/Gwynn and Ricky/Arawn, and then there’s the love triangle between Nadia, Jack and the guy whose name I forget in the Nadia Stafford series, and then there’s a potential love triangle issue waiting in the wings in the Rockton series between Casey, Eric and her ex-lover who she left behind when she went into hiding, and may reappear in the third installment to shake things up. The only love triangle I recall in the Otherworld series was in Bitten, when Elena was still living with (Philip?) whilst still in love with Clay and was caught between the two. I haven’t read any of her YA stuff so I can’t personally comment, but I’m led to believe there are more… you guessed it…. love triangles.

Apparently this is something of an overused plot device in YA, but it’s probably overused because it’s popular with teens and tweens. Furthermore I am in NOOOOO position to be criticising anyone, and certainly not the good lady herself. I was more interested in reader’s reactions to the use of a love triangle in urban fantasy – and the overwhelming majority were tired of seeing this and wanted something different. It also chimed with something I’d read the previous week about relationships in TV serial dramas – Shane Ritchie pointed out that it had taken over a year for Kat and Alfie to have their first kiss, yet nowadays, TV is all about instant gratification, and drawn-out will-they/ won’t-they scenarios are few and far between.

I don’t currently have a love triangle in my WIP – there is a love interest that kindles during the novel, but also complications that would make a relationship difficult. As it’s currently written, there’s a kiss between the two about 3/4 of the way through the book, just before the beginning of the climax where the protag. and love interest/hero are torn apart on separate quests. On the back of the advice I read from other urban fantasy readers (and also, who’d have thunk it, Shane Ritchie!) I will now remove that kiss and follow the Kat and Alfie formula instead – gaining myself a subplot for the next few books that could go all manner of interesting ways.

And speaking of TV, two points to mention:

  1. The hubster and I have been binging on The Man in The High Castle and I can highly recommend it. Nazis, kempeitai, alternative history… and now something very ‘Fringe’ is going on! TV GOLD!
  2. Well…. I can’t say. Due to the TV channel wanting to be all secretive, I’ve had to remove what point 2 said…. but all will become clear eventually.

A final note about the Riley Pope series – they’re all now FREE on Smashwords, and always will be. The reason? Well, because they’re not traditionally published, and whilst they’ve been properly proofread by myself, they haven’t been under the eyes of an editor or anyone else with a professional eye, like traditionally published books are, so viewing this from the eyes of the reader, I decided it would only be right to now offer them for free.

So that’s it folks. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Smashwords – hell, I’m like dog s**t!

Until next time

X

Antisocial media

I saw an advert / call for submissions from a traditional publisher recently, requiring the author to submit a detailed marketing plan with their manuscript.

Really???

Now I get that authors are expected to take a more active role in promoting their work than in previous decades, but unless you hail from a background in sales or marketing and have any knowledge of the publishing industry then where do you start? They might as well have printed ‘Beg, little author, beg!’ right? Well, quite frankly, f*** you Mr Publisher! Without us you’d be out of business. No wonder that more and more authors are turning to self-publishing, even the ones who’ve been traditionally published historically. If we have to do all the work ourselves then where’s the sense in wasting time seeking representation?

OK, so I know there are numerous advantages to having a publisher and many probably don’t require the aforementioned marketing plan – I don’t mean to tar them all with the same grouchy brush.

But.

We authors are, on the whole, inherently solitary creatures. We’re never more content than when we’re locked away, engrossed in our imaginary worlds and conversing with characters that live in our heads. Creating is the fun part of writing. None of us set out to write a novel with the thought of ‘Oh gee, I just can’t wait to market this’ in mind.

As I said in previous posts, it was always my intention to self-publish The Riley Pope Case Files, so promoting them myself was part of the package. I didn’t (and still don’t) expect to make a fortune from the venture. Aside from telling family and friends, my promotional work has solely taken place via social media – my dedicated author page on Facebook, my Twitter account, my Pinterest feed where oodles of gothic loveliness abounds, and Goodreads.

As I made the (sadly wrong) decision to subscribe to KDP Select, I am tied in to selling the first three books via Amazon exclusively, for a period of 3 months. It offers higher royalties in Japan, Brazil and Mexico, (none of which I’ve sold a single book to) and India (total sales: one), and allows you to earn via the Select Global Fund which calculates royalties based on the number of pages read via Kindle Unlimited (these take 3 months to show, so I don’t know what I’ve earned yet – probably a pittance). You also get access to promotions, either Kindle Countdown deals or a Free Book promotion which allows you to offer your book for free for up to 5 days.

I went with the Free Book promotion for all three books. The Case of Walutahanga sold well in this period, reaching No.16 in the Urban Fantasy Top 100 Free chart. As soon as the promotion was over, sales didn’t so much dwindle as dry up completely. The Case of Ahuizotl and The Case of the Brollachan had more modest sales during the Free Book period, and likewise went down to zilch post-promotion. As I write this, my Kindle Unlimited page reads are showing at 659.

I can attribute most of the sales to promotion via social media. On the days that I advertised, sales went up, so it definitely helps. On the flipside, I’m now pretty bored with repeating myself via updates and tweets and creative little JPEGs of book quotes, so I’m damned sure the rest of my audience is. As part of my sales drive I joined up to groups on Facebook and followed other folk on Twitter who either wrote or read urban fantasy, or had a keen interest in cryptozoology. A couple even followed me back, which was nice, but now both my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of other people promoting their ebooks! Good for them! But am I paying them any attention?

Well… no.

The thing is, I don’t respond well to adverts, TV, online or otherwise. I know what I like and if I want it then I’ll actively seek it out. I don’t like being bombarded with commercials and little flashing GIFs, advising that I NEED to get this or that I MUST own that, hence I find myself cringing every time I post an ad, imagining all of those people going ‘God, not HER again! Sod off!’

It doesn’t help that I’m not very happy with the price that I’ve had to set the books at: Amazon won’t let me sell below 99p, which some might find pretty steep for a 9,000 word short story. The answer is to find other platforms to sell on for a lower price BUT – I’m now tied in to bloody Amazon until mid-March!

Gah!

The most consistent feedback I’ve had concerns print books and whether The Riley Pope Case Files are available in print. Sadly, they’re not long enough to print via CreateSpace. The plan is to release an anthology of Books 1 to 10 (when they’re written) in print, which won’t be for a year or two. I have seen a lot of other authors admitting their print sales are much, much higher than their ebooks, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I personally own two Kindles and can’t remember the last time I used either. It’s not that I have anything against ebooks, but I just love print books more. I like to line them up on my bookshelves, I like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell when they’re new.

That’s right. I sniff books. Don’t you?

Liar. 😉

X

 

Three things to do over Christmas that’ll freak out your family

I recently watched the last ever episode of Banshee. For those who haven’t seen it, WHY NOT? I challenge you to watch the first episode and not be hooked by the time ten minutes is up.

As the final episode drew to a close and all of the characters I’d grown to know and love went their separate ways, not a happy ever after but a happy-ish for now, I found myself in tears and wondered WHY I was in tears! Nobody had died (well a lot of folk had, but not anyone I cared about). The fact is I’d come to feel close to the characters, to care about their lives and what happened to them afterwards. Except I wouldn’t know, because this was the end, and how daft does THAT sound when they’re only actors playing roles on the screen?

It got me to thinking just why I cared so much. The lead is an ex-con thief who assumes the ID of a murdered sheriff and goes on a quest to win back the love of his life, who’s now happily married to the mayor (but just happens to be an ex-thief herself, and the daughter of a mob boss who they lied to and swindled). On the surface there doesn’t seem much to root for – but, from the outset, we see our shady lead put himself in harm’s way to save a total stranger’s life. And he keeps on doing it, and keeps on doing it, and other shady characters join the party, and the plot keeps twisting and turning and thickening, and suddenly, just like the book you can’t put down, you’ve lost a whole day in your eagerness to find out what happens.

The strap line for Banshee is’small town, big secrets’, but even though it is a small town, it’s peopled with extraordinary characters. I know that in my current (never-ending) WIP, I’ve been guilty of not getting to know my characters well enough, and now am playing (soul-destroying) catch-up. So, to get to know my cast better,  I’ve come up with a trio of exercises aimed at really getting into their heads, discovering secrets even I didn’t know about, and finding out what their lives were like before they stepped into the pages of my novel. Feel free to try them out, or share them, but please keep a struggling author in biscuits and link back to my site- every little helps!

Exercise 1 – Correspond with your characters!

Everyone has secrets, even the people who live in your head! So why not invite them to spill a few? Write them a letter and let them respond, or, if you’re not entirely comfortable posting letters to imaginary people, then set up an email account for them. If you’re finding it difficult to switch between author and character then try corresponding as author at your desk, and replying as character in a coffee shop / on the commute / in your PJs from the sofa (you could go as far as dressing up as them if that helps!).

So what is the point of this exercise, other than freaking out your partner / parents / dog when they wander in and find you in full period costume, writing to a fictional entity?

Well, that depends entirely on what you want to know. I tried this exercise out with the antagonist of my current WIP, keeping the following questions in mind:

  • Why are you determined to kill my hero (you numpty)?
  • Why did you end up so bloody evil?
  • What drove you to do what you have done / are threatening to do?
  • What’s your motivation and is it rational?
  • What is your background?
  • Are you really all that bad or is there a chance of redemption for you?

I really have written the entire first / second / ninetieth draft of my WIP without knowing any of this important (imperative) information. No one is ever as simple as good guy / bad guy, though. Round out your characters by asking them to tell you a little more about themselves, and you might be surprised by the answers!

Exercise 2 – The Job Interview!

This can work for any character: protagonist, antagonist or secondary character.

Firstly, decide which position you are interviewing for. Secondly, write a brief job spec. For example: ‘Aspiring author seeks heroine for gritty urban fantasy debut. Must be industrious, tenacious and have a few skeletons in the closet. Supernatural qualities desirable, etc etc.”

Write up your own list of questions or pick from the selection below, then put on your best suit and tie and prepare to interview your candidates!

  • Name, age, sex, where do you hail from (these are mostly always essential)
  • List your strengths and weaknesses
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • Why should I consider hiring you for this position?
  • What motivates you?
  • Are you a team player or more of a lone wolf?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?

Or how about some more outlandish enquiries?

  • You win a million quid on the lottery: what would you do with it?
  • What do you think about when you’re alone in the car?
  • What were you like in high school?
  • How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?
  • You’ve been given a giraffe. You can’t sell it or give it away. What would you do with the giraffe?

What will you learn from doing this? Well, assuming you have a great plot and your protagonist is now up the tree, you’ll know exactly how he or she is going to react when you start throwing rocks at them, and how they might intend to get themselves down.

Exercise 3 – Let’s go shopping!

This is another time-consuming exercise, so make sure you have at least a few hours spare.

We challenge our characters with endless choices: the choices they make decide the route the story takes, but they also say a lot about the character.

Decide which character you’re going to get to know, then head off to your nearest town centre / supermarket / mall and take them shopping!

You can, if you wish, grab a basket or trolley and physically collect all the items that your character would buy. It does mean, eventually, you’ll have to put them back though. Or buy them. Or dump the trolley or basket in the shop for someone else to clear up, but even if your character would do this, I don’t recommend or condone it!

The easiest method is to browse as your character would browse. Would they go for the Heinz baked beans or the Tesco Value option? Would they eat baked beans? And what about alcohol? Are they a drinker or do they avoid it, and if they avoid it then do they have a reason, perhaps one that they’re hiding?

Champagne or Lambrini? Have they ever had champagne? How about fashion? Are they more of an All Saints or a Matalan girl? Do they even follow fashion or are they more of an alternative type? How about thrift shops? Do they rely on them to make ends meet, or would they rather walk around naked than wear other people’s cast-offs?

Hopefully, by the end of your shopping trip, you’ll have learned a little more about your character’s likes and dislikes, background, attitude, strengths and flaws (and hopefully you haven’t been arrested, or disowned by your partner / mother / best friend for acting like a weirdo – because they know we are anyway, right?)

If you try out any of these exercises, enjoy! I’d love to hear how you get on!

Blessed Winter Solstice to you all, happy holidays, and don’t forget to check out The Riley Pope Case Files, just 99p each from Amazon now!

The story behind Walutahanga…

Where did the idea for the story come from?

I’m not exactly sure – where do story ideas come from??? The original suggestion to set the story in a pub was – unsurprisingly – made in my local, inspired by a bottle with a snake inside that lives on a shelf behind the bar.

Where is the story set?

In my home town of Coalville, Leicestershire (well they do say write what you know). The pub in the story is based on my local, the Vic Biker’s Pub.

So it’s a real pub?

Yes! And you can go and look for Walutahanga if you like, she’s still behind the bar! There’s nothing supernatural about the bar staff, though (as far as I’m aware!)

What about the cat in the story?

Helen is real, known to the locals as Helen, Queen of the Vic. She turned up as a stray many moons ago and is now part of the Vic family. I didn’t intend to include her in the story but there’s tons of intriguing feline mythology to draw from so I thought, why not?

Who is Riley Pope?

Riley is a Remnant – a being possessed of magical ability. She uses her talents to seek out cryptids who are trapped in the human world – referred to as the New World – in order to relocate them to the world beyond The Rift, and safety. The magical powers of cryptids can be, and often are, abused by humans and Remnants alike, so this is why the work that Riley does is important.

And who is Bastien Cort?

Bastien Cort is the human vessel of the fallen angel better known as Azazel. Many, many years ago, Azazel was sent to Earth to watch over the humans, but soon began to lust after human females. He and a number of Watchers became the Fallen, and were banished to Earth for their sins. As for how Bastien and Riley became lovers, and how it all went wrong for them, well, you’ll just have to read the books to find out!

Download ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ now!

Available NOW! Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files!

Woohoo! I’m officially a published (indie) author!

Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files are now available to download exclusively from Amazon, or if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited you can read them all for FREE! I’ll be running a free book promotion on ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ from tomorrow which lasts for five days, so please spread the word and drop me a review, good, bad or indifferent. Here’s a little overview…

The Case of Walutahanga

Riley Pope inherited her talent for cryptozoology from her father. As for her penchant for vice and a weakness for dangerous men, well, she can’t blame that on him. Now that Riley is young, free and single, she’s determined to clean up her life and make amends for the sins of her past; if her past will let her.

When a small English town is beset by unusual weather, Riley’s employers, the enigmatic Firm, despatch her to investigate. She soon discovers that a cryptid is involved, but the creatures holding it hostage won’t give it up without a fight, and thanks to a charming but deadly fallen angel, Riley isn’t sure how much fight she has left…

 

The Case of Ahuizotl

Riley Pope has seen some strange things in her life – as a cryptozoologist, it comes with the territory – but this could be her strangest case yet.

When the bodies of two naked men wash ashore on the sands of Whitby harbour – both missing parts of their anatomies – Riley is despatched to investigate. The only scrap of evidence of cryptid involvement is the drunken account of a local trawlerman – who quickly disappears.

Riley finds herself in a race against time to identify the cryptid and save it from the murderous intentions of The Firm’s hired kill squad, but Agent Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, has other ideas, putting Riley in the kind of danger she’s been trying to avoid since escaping from her fallen angel lover. Bastien Cort is never far from Riley’s thoughts; but this time he might be even closer than she fears…

The Case of the Brollachan

Cryptozoologist Riley Pope is used to tracking down otherworldly creatures: from serpents to shapeshifters, boggarts to Bigfoot, she’s pretty much dealt with them all. But this time, it isn’t a cryptid she’s hunting…

Riley’s employers, the clandestine Firm, have received reports of terrifying creatures frightening the children of Castlebay, Scotland. Sent to investigate, Riley confirms the presence of a malevolent spirit of the otherkind that preys on its victim’s worst fears… and Riley has a lot to be scared of.

Out of her depth and in fear of what’s lurking in the hills beyond Castlebay, Riley does her best to contain the situation – only to draw the attention of Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, who ends up putting his life and that of his team in mortal danger. Faced with leaving the reckless Mulhoon to his fate, or confronting her own private fears, Riley must make a decision… whatever the consequence.

Expanding my genres – I found a new favourite!

So I started reading Tenderness of Wolves on Sunday. I chose it because of an article in last month’s Writing Magazine on the author, Stef Penney. It’s not my usual fare and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a novel that was set in 1860’s Canada without a wizard or vampire in sight.

350 pages later on Sunday evening…

Wow, what a novel! I only stopped reading when I did because my eyes refused to work anymore. I finished the rest in two sittings and now I’m off to go and buy her other two books, because sod buying Christmas presents, I need more fiction by this lady.

Tenderness of Wolves is filled with characters you probably shouldn’t like but can’t help falling in love with. The lead, Mrs Ross (you never learn her first name), is a complicated woman who you end up rooting for. Her son, who disappears the same night that a murder takes place, has a secret that is slowly uncovered as the search for the murderer unfolds. The harsh, remote setting just leaps off the page – I feel like I just spent the last four days in a remote, snowy wilderness, living amongst trappers, voyageurs and Indians – but still found the prose to be pleasantly uncomplicated: the author uses every word to maximum effect.

Long story short, gush, gush, gush, go and buy the book!

So now this little experiment is over. I’ve discovered a new favourite author and reaffirmed the suspicion that crime fiction isn’t for me, and if I took nothing else from reading One Day then at least I now know which date St Swithin’s Day falls on. I’m sure it will be useful for something.

So back to writing. It’s December, the month in which the first three Riley Pope stories (technically novelettes but I bloody hate that word) will be released on Amazon. I’ll be sending out an update (or ten) just as soon as they’re available.

Have a happy ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’ day folks

X

 

Who are these people and how do I apply to become one?

Firstly, a Blessed Samhain to you all.

I’m fresh from a weekend at the Bram Stoker Film Festival in Whitby and a damned fine time was had by all. Sadly, I returned to the news that my mother is in hospital – entirely self-inflicted but we won’t go into that, and no sooner was through the door with my suitcase and jar of garlic chutney from Transylvania than I was turning around with my car keys in hand, off to drive my father to the hospital. My parents can’t drive, and I’m the only child, so ever since passing my driving test ten-or-so years ago, I’ve become the family taxi. I returned from the hospital four hours later to find that the hubby had unpacked the cases and done all the washing (no, you can’t have him), so I put my feet up for an hour and settled down to wade through the last three issues of Writing Magazine that I haven’t yet found the time to read.

I’ve moaned about WM before and have wondered on occasion if I shouldn’t just sack off my subscription. On the other hand, I do find some of the articles useful or inspiring, I’ve discovered new authors in their pages, won a competition, not won many others, and He Who Shall Be Served finds my giant stack of back issues pleasing to sit on.

As I read through the August issue, I once again found myself gritting my teeth with a mixture of annoyance and (yes, I’ll admit it) jealousy at all of these authors who seem to just breeze through their days with little or no sleep, minimal distractions or commitments, and manage to knock out a novel every 6 – 9 months whilst sharing such  original advice as, ‘Write every day!’ and ‘Learn discipline!’. Just as an example, here’s a piece of advice from the issue: ‘Try to write every day, whatever your mood and whatever you write. This is the professional approach.’ And then further on: ‘Life is full of challenges and you need to learn the willpower necessary to produce words every day no matter what’.

I accept this advice; it’s good advice. However, life is full of challenges, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, hours in the day and gas in the tank are finite quantities that no amount of good advice can alter. Out of curiosity, I visited said author’s website to see if it included a bio. From it I gleaned that he lives with his wife and teaches an MA novel course at uni. All of his previous jobs are writing-related too: teacher, bookseller, editor, copywriter, journalist – a wonderful career for anyone with a passion for writing. I can’t of course comment on his personal circumstances and wouldn’t presume to do so, but none of what I read on his website surprised me; the tone of his article suggested exactly the professional background he hails from. It’s also why I don’t believe his article will resonate with much of the magazine’s readership.

In contrast, I hail from a working class background, chose an NVQ over further education, purely because it provided me a wage and my family were hardly well off. I’ve had various uninspiring admin jobs and now spend eight hours a day, five days a week, on my arse in front of a computer screen, trying not to stab my colleagues in the face with my letter opener. By the time I get home I’m mentally exhausted, but then have to force myself to exercise, and mostly I manage it. Then I have to eat, and shop, and clean, and run around after the family when required, which is often. Sometimes I even get to sleep.

There are days when I don’t write.

There.

I said it.

But according to the article, that makes me a bad author. It means I’m not ‘professional’. It means that I’m just not dedicated enough to find the willpower required to follow my dream.

No, Mr Article Writer Who Shall Not Be Named, it does not. But that’s how I felt, for a moment. Guilty. A fraud without commitment to the passion I’ve held since I first sat down and wrote ‘Once upon a time in a land far away…’ (I just checked the Novel That Shall Never See Daylight, and the first line is actually, ‘I grasped the iron bars so tightly that my knuckles turned white with the strain…’ – poorly written, but not a bad hook for a writer who knew diddly-squat about writing – at least we’re in the middle of the action from the start).

I think what I’m trying to say is that everyone is different. We all have varying commitments and lifestyles. Some of us write for a living full time and some of us work in offices, factories, supermarkets, hospitals, whatever pays the bills whilst we squeeze in the writing in what little time is left. Some of us come from a publishing background: journalism, teaching, editing. If you read through the pages of Writing Magazine you’ll find a host of authors from just such a background. Can they accredit some part of their success to their knowledge of the business, their contacts, or did they just naturally gravitate towards those kinds of professions through an early love of writing? Does that put those of us outside the bubble at a major disadvantage? I have read articles in Writing Magazine from authors without a university education, authors who have worked as bank clerks and cleaners and drivers, folk with a pure love for literature that drove them to sit down and open up the laptop or pick up a notebook and pen and start scribbling, despite a lack of formal education or a knowledge of ‘the craft, but they’re few and far between’. As part of this circle I’m obviously biased, but it’s articles from these kinds of writers that I find the most honest; they’ll freely admit to having days where they don’t write a thing, and don’t pretend there’s anything wrong with it, or wrong with you for allowing yourself a break.

But hey, Mr Article Writer, I just sat down after an eight hour shift where I caught up on a two day backlog of emails thanks to my holiday, and thrashed out a 1000 word blog post, get me! Now I’m off to go and buy some food to fill my pathetically empty cupboards, not before doing another hospital run, and then I might fit in an hour on the treadmill, and then I might fall into bed. I hope that’s quite enough willpower for you, but if not, please feel free to write another article condemning me for it. I may not read it, though. I don’t think I have the time.

samhain_large

 

Day 1 of editing – not the best start!

Well it’s Monday, it’s 11.53am and it’s the first day of the two week holiday I booked in order to edit my now-completed novel.

I had intended to be up and at my desk around 9am. Not very early for some, but I’m a night owl and I didn’t want to set myself up for a fall, especially considering I didn’t get to bed until around 2am.

At 5.15am I was rudely awoken by Cat Number 1 who required me to service his food bowl, which was empty. This is nothing out of the ordinary so I got up and fed him and went back to sleep.

At 7.30am I was rudely awoken by Cat Number 1 who required me to service his food bowl – again. I carried out my duties to He Who Must Be Served and shuffled back to bed. This was my error. I should’ve just made myself a cuppa and gone to the study until I was awake enough to work.

I eventually crawled out of bed around 10.15. I made myself a cuppa and put the TV on, just to check the news. I did check the news, but I also caught the end of Jeremy Kyle, and the start of the cricket. I did the washing up and then decided that the lounge required hoovering. Then I moved my car, which was parked quite a way from the house, to a spot a little closer. Then I had another cup of tea. The hubby went to work and I thought, Right! This is it! I am going to start editing that novel if it kills me! Then I got ambushed by He Who Must Be Served, whose food bowl was empty – again.

11.45am – I made it to my desk. But did I open Word up? Nope. I went on Facebook, just to check what the world was up to, and then I decided I’d write a new blog post. It’s now 12.07pm and I haven’t done a single bit of editing.

I think I know the problem. But more on that tomorrow when I’ve actually done some work.

But just before I start I think I’ll have another cuppa…

welford and mummy
He Who Must Be Served and his ever-faithful servant

A bit about me

Hello again, Treasured Visitor!

So who is Kate Lowe and what is she about?

I completed my first novel at the age of 24. I didn’t set out to write it with any commercial success in mind, which is good because the bloody thing is awful. 160,000 words of awful. One day, when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I may share an excerpt for you all to point and laugh at. When it was finished I got all excited, bought myself a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and started submitting my novel to agents without a single clue what I was doing. I received two generic rejections, and a whole lot of nothing from everybody else. I hadn’t even formatted the manuscript correctly. My query letter said very little about the novel, but a lot about how much I believed in it.

Ha. Hahahaha.

At some point I came to my senses. Realised I knew squat about writing a novel, so sat down and wrote myself another one. That was also very bad, but not quite as bad as the previous attempt. That one came in at over 100,000 words. I rewrote it twice. Then I enrolled on a distance learning course with Writer’s News and began a new novel.

Meanwhile I devoured all the books on writing I could lay my sticky mitts on. Absorbed the advice in Writing Magazine and began to submit short stories. The first one I ever wrote, Lucinda, made the shortlist. I kept on writing novels, learning as I went. Rewrote, rehashed, discarded whole chapters.

I read somewhere once that a writer has to write for at least ten years, or above a million words, before they really know their craft. Well I’ve certainly smashed through the word count and I turned 34 back in April, so I qualify for both. Whether I became any good at what I do is up to you to decide.

I completed (what I call) my first novel in May. Technically it’s probably my eighth, or, if you consider that I used the same characters, the fifth rehashing of my second. (I also wrote another novel, apparently. I found it on a thumb drive a couple of months ago and don’t remember very much about it. It’s 80,000 words though, and with a little polishing I think it’s a keeper).

I’ve blocked out the next two weeks for solid editing, so maybe this year will be the year I get an agent and a deal. Or maybe it won’t be. Most likely it won’t be. I’m under no illusions about how tough this writing lark is to make it BIG. And if I can’t catch an agent’s eye then there’s always self-publishing. Either way, my novel will be out there eventually.

And then there’s Riley Pope, of course. Riley is the lead in an urban fantasy series I began a few years ago, but then put on hold so I could concentrate solely on my novel. Now that its finished I’ve had the time to revisit The Case of Walutahanga, complete it, and write the second story in the series, The Case of Ahuizotl. As soon as I finish the third I intend to self-publish all three, with the aim of completing a Riley Pope story every couple of months.

I’m probably biased, but I think you might like her.

So that’s a little bit about me. A couple of other things you might like to know: my favourite authors are Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Mike Carey and Stephen King. I’ve recently tried to broaden my genres and very much enjoy Gillian Flynn and Lee Child. Bill Bryson is another of my favourites. I like genre fiction, and humour. If a book can make me laugh out loud, great! We all need a lot more laughter in our lives. Dara O’Briain’s Tickling the English is highly recommended if laughter of the side-splitting, tears-rolling-down-your-face variety is sought.

So that’s a little bit about me. Thanks for reading, and I hope you come back soon, Treasured Visitor.

black cats