Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Whispering in Toilets

This is not as weird as it sounds. Honest!
I, like many other people, get ideas at the oddest and most inconvenient of times. Very often I don’t have paper and pen to hand, and though I have my mobile phone, writing anything other than a brief text is excruciating and a lesson in not losing my patience when I consistently hit the wrong key with my obviously overly large fingers.
So, I came up with the idea of using the voice record facility on my mobile. After all, I tend to have this addictive little gadget with me most of the time, so doing a prattle into  it seemed like a great idea.
Then I thought about taking it one step further. I spend my working day typing, and am fairly quick and proficient, however my thoughts, when I am writing, come much quicker than I can type. So, in my infinite wisdom I wondered if I could use the speech to text facility in Windows. And, maybe, just maybe, I could go even further again, and as well as speaking directly into my newly acquired microphone, I could also press the play button on my phone, and let it ‘talk’ to my computer. Therefore, if I was in the car, for instance, where I often talk to myself, as I work through the next scene, I could dictate a whole chapter into my phone, play it back, and my computer could type it up for me. Genius!
Only it wasn’t. For one thing, I still haven’t persuaded my speech to text programme that I actually speak English, so that continues to be a work in progress several weeks later.
Secondly, I get frowned at if I use my mobile in work (and rightly so, too), so I’m having to resort to disappearing off to the loo and whispering furtively into my phone. I could cope with this, if it weren’t for the fact that my phone objects to me whispering, and will only play back a sort of hissy mumble. I didn’t realise this, though, until I had merrily filled up the voice recording bit with lots of brilliant thoughts and ideas,which I can't understand when I play them back, and I've now forgotten what it was I actually said...

Next time I get a great idea, somebody please stop me!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Author interview with Fiona Collins

With the launch of her debut novel 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards', Fiona Collins is an author to watch, and I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed. Here's what she had to say:

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a new writer. I’m married with three children and live in a draughty old farmhouse in the Essex countryside, although I confess I’m more of a high heels and handbags kind of girl than a wellies and wet dog one. I have been a stay-at-home mum for the past twelve years, but in my distant past I have been a television and radio presenter, a scriptwriter and an ‘extra’, as well as an easily-distracted temporary member of staff in various jobs including hospital laundry worker, vacuum cleaner demonstrator and waitress in a Japanese restaurant. Oh, and I once went to university, about two hundred and fifty years ago. 

What are you reading at the present?
Love and Devotion by Erica James. I thought the story might be a little sad for me, but I’m enjoying it. She is an excellent writer. I’m also currently re-reading all the Roald Dahl books with my seven year old son. 

What is the title of your book?
My debut novel is The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards. 

What is it about?
My novel is about Harmony Richards, a forty-five year old wife and mother who discovers that the unromantic husband she adores only proposed to her thirteen years ago because he was dumped by his One That Got Away. This ex-fiancee turns out to be not only much younger and prettier than her, but back in town to throw Harmony’s life into a tailspin. The novel explores what it feels like to be insecure in a marriage and have your looks, which you’ve relied on for so long, start to fade, particularly in the face of a stunning, younger rival. It’s about ageing. It’s about finding value in yourself again. It’s also about how delicious flirting with a younger man can be, when Harmony meets personal trainer, Blake. 

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
Harmony is quite a complex character. She can be feisty and an outrageous flirt, at the same time she’s lacking in confidence, generally, and completely dampened down by her role as wife and mother. Once Melissa arrives on the scene, Harmony’s life takes off on an unexpected and slightly unhinged tangent: in stalking her rival she undertakes a series of eyebrow-raising beauty treatments, she starts the wrong-on-so-many-levels flirtation with Blake, but she also, fairly accidentally, gets a job – something she is surprised to find she really enjoys.   

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I suppose it’s that age is only a number. There is still fun to be had and new challenges to embrace, whatever your age.  It’s also that there’s more to life than marriage and motherhood: YOU are still in there somewhere! And for younger women, make the most of your youth but don’t dread your forties – they can actually be very empowering.

What was the biggest challenge during writing this novel?
I found this novel just rattled out of me like a runaway train. I really enjoyed steering that train in the direction I wanted it to go and I loved writing it. So to be honest, my biggest challenge was keeping the writing of it secret to friends and family. I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it so I didn’t tell anyone. This meant lots of writing on the toilet in a locked bathroom (lid down!) and frantically scribbling things on bits of paper and shoving them in my knicker drawer!

Who designed your book cover?
Pixel Studio via An absolute bargain and I love my cover! 

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new novel about a single mum who, the first to admit she’s never really done much with her life, finds it transformed when she strikes up an unlikely friendship on the school run with an older, female rock star who was huge in the 80s. I’m cooking up lots of adventure and romance for my reluctant heroine who may find herself stepping into the spotlight of her own life for the very first time… 

Do you see writing as a career?
I would love writing to be my career!

Why do you write?
I love it. For me, it’s just enormous fun. I write when my children are at school and although I may turn up for the afternoon school run looking rather dazed and confused after writing for six hours straight, I have a big, satisfied smile on my face. I also find it tremendously gratifying to put all the mad, random thoughts that whizz round my brain down on paper.

What are your writing habits?
Drop the kids off at school, throw some washing into the machine, flick a duster around then write, write, write! I write on my laptop at the kitchen table in complete silence, interrupted by the occasional meow from my cat or the rumble of my tummy.

Which writers inspire you?
I am a massive chick lit fan. I love Adele Parks, Jane Fallon and Sophie Kinsella. The more you read, the better you write, so I try to mainline as much chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction as I can. When I fancy something different, my more literary hero is Graham Greene.  

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’m new. I don’t feel qualified to give any! But I’m always happy to receive it :-)

I'd like to thank Fiona for her time, and if she's piqued your interest check out her book below:

Link to The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards on Amazon:

@FionaJaneBooks on Twitter

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Keeping the plates spinning

I really need to stop taking so much on! It’s not only the time issue, though that does play a part, it’s the fact that I am often confused.
Let me give you an example. So far last week, I critiqued chapters 1 and 2 of a novel on Scribofile. I finished an alpha read on a full length manuscript. I critiqued a middle chapter for another author on Scribofile (this was no random chapter, I have been following the progress of her novel for some time). I critiqued a short story, again on Scribophile, and was sent the first four chapters of a piece of work which I beta read a while ago and this is the next draft.
I also managed to read Kate Wrath’s new novel, Evolution (excellent, by the way), as a treat in the small amounts of time when I can fit reading for pleasure in (ie when I’m in the bath, or stood stirring a saucepan of something for dinner).

When I list it like this, no wonder I get confused.  And it’s no suprise, if after sending feedback to an author and they email me asking further questions, that I stare at said email, with no idea which piece of writing they are referring to! I honestly have trouble remembering which main character belongs in which author’s work, and as for plot lines…? Is there really an astronaut in the jungle, fending off an elderly woman with dementia, whilst battling a deadly virus and who lives in a tower block? Oh, and don’t forget the mermaids and the drug baron. No? I thought not…

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Supporting cast - Joan, Lady of Wales

Born in 1191, the illegitimate daughter of King John and a common-born woman named as Clementina, it is thought that Joan spent her early years in Normandy. She was brought to England in 1203 prior to her marriage to the Welsh prince, Llewelyn the Great in 1204.She was wed to this most formidable and famous of Welshmen when she was just thirteen. He was thirty-two.

Joan fast became a confident, outspoken and passionate character amongst Llewelyn’s people, far different to most wives of the kings and princes of the time, who had little or nothing to do with politics or the government. Joan managed to win much of the land in Gwynedd under Llewelyn’s reign, quickly making a name for herself within the political world at the time.

They had at least four children, the eldest of which was Gwladus Du (‘du’ means ‘the dark’) and Llewellyn already had several children by his Welsh mistress, Tangwistyl. It is uncertain whether he broke off relations with her when he wed Joan.

Although their marriage showed no troubles in the beginning, Joan betrayed Llewelyn with another man. Furious, Llewelyn had the culprit, William de Braose, hanged in a field behind the palace known as Garth Celyn in Abergwyngegyn, North Wales. In his heartbreak and outrage, Llewelyn imprisoned Joan in a tower, for twelve months.  Llewelyn forgave her for her adultery and took her back as his wife. She restored her title as princess and once again became the Lady of Wales.

Joan died in February 1237. In his grief, Llewelyn founded a Franciscan Friary near to the shore of Llanfaes, on the island of Angelsey, where he had Joan buried. From his castle on the mainland he was able to look across the waters towards the Friary, remembering Joan as he did so

Joan’s Friary was destroyed in 1537 as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in Wales. Joan's tomb was desecrated by the English army and the whereabouts of the coffin were unknown for many years until it was found in the town of Beaumaris, where it had been used as a horse trough for some two hundred years. Today Joan’s huge stone coffin lies in the church porch at Beaumaris Church where flowers are still displayed to celebrate this great Welsh Lady.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Busman's holiday? Anyone else feel the same?

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. The stories inside their covers transport me to other countries, other worlds, other universes. I am me, and not me. For the brief time I am immersed in a story, I am looking out through someone else’s eyes.
Not even majoring in English Lit at University and the subsequent dissecting of a plethora of classic works, didn’t spoil my love of fiction. But during the last couple of years most of the reading which I do for pleasure feels like a busman’s holiday.
This is for a couple of reasons. One of them is that now I am a writer myself, I am much more conscious of the mechanics of the craft. As I read, I realise I am subconsciously wondering why this character did that, or why this particular piece of information was inserted here and not somewhere else. I also find myself thinking things like, ‘oh, that was a good twist’, or ‘that was skilfully done’.
And another reason is that I spend a considerable amount of time beta reading and critiquing other authors’ work. Analysing a novel in order to submit an essay involves a different set of skills and priorities to beta reading. I have no interest in the motivation behind the writing, or the social and cultural history of the author, which may affect their writing, and which students are expected to comment on. For example, when I submitted an essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I was expected to include details of her private life – the fact that she had lost a child, and how this influenced her ideas for bringing the dead back to life. 
With beta reading, critiquing, and reviewing, all I am interested in is the story, and the things that go into making it work. The more alpha and beta reading I do, the better I hope my own writing becomes because I am constantly analysing what is good and what is not so good. I nit-pick at grammar and typos, spellings and homophones, and at the same time, I am looking for clich├ęs, both in the actual words used and in the concepts. I am looking at believability and consistency, and plot lines and how well characters are drawn, and how they develop.
I hope every book I read adds to my own author skills set, but there is a downside to this: I now find it very difficult to completely lose myself in a book when reading for pleasure.  Even those written by well-known authors are subjected to only a slightly lesser level of scrutiny than when I am critiquing. And in fact, I am probably harsher because of the level of editorial support the major players receive. If a high profile author produces a novel with typos, weak plots, etc, then what hope is there for us far less resource-rich indie authors?

Okay, rant over. But my point is that I now do not get the same level of enjoyment as I once did from reading. And that is such a shame…

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Evolution by Kate Wrath

I am SO happy this book has been published. I enjoyed the first one in the series and can't wait to get my hands on this one. No writing for me for a while, cause I'll have my nose buried in someone else's story!

Evolution, the second book in the E series, is now available! Get Evolution and E for only 99¢ each during release week, November 12th-19th, 2014.
Outpost Three is still standing… barely. But the deadliest threat it has ever faced is on its way-- a violent force that will annihilate every man, woman, and child.
With the Sentries under his control and Grey’s army defeated, Matt is more powerful than ever. Eden is little more than his prisoner, but that line is blurring as her affection for him grows. Now, as the Outpost faces total destruction, Matt must sacrifice the possibility of attaining Eden’s love in the vague hope that her past might hold the key to saving them all.
Eden’s journey will begin to unravel the mysteries of her previous life, reveal dangerous new questions, and change not only the future of Outpost Three, but shape the course of history.
This eagerly anticipated sequel to Kate Wrath’s E begins an epic quest into the dark, dystopian landscape of Eden’s world.

Get both books in the E series, E and Evolution, for 99¢ each on Kindle for a limited time only: November 12th- 19th, 2014.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Llewelyn the Great - supporting cast

Been doing some research on the supporting cast for my next novel - A Familiar Situation. I'm still working on The Medium Path, but I want to have everything ready to go with the next one. Talk about multi-tasking!

Llywelyn the Great, Llewelyn Fawr in Welsh, was a Prince of Gwynedd in north Wales and eventually ruler over most of Wales.
Born in 1172, Llywelyn came to power in the classic way of Welsh princes bedevilled by the dividing rule of Welsh inheritance - he seized it from his uncle, and he proved to be the greatest and most constructive Welsh statesman of the Middle Ages.

Llywelyn the politician raised his head in 1201 as he concluded a treaty with King John of England. In return for John's recognition of Llywelyn's territorial gains, he was to pledge fealty (allegiance) to the English monarch. In 1205 he married John’s illegitimate thirteen-year-old daughter, Joan. He benefited from this relationship with English royalty when Gwenwynwyn, his main rival in Wales, was arrested and stripped of his lands by John, and Llywelyn took the majority of his lands. He also fought alongside King John in a war against King William I of Scotland.

But things were not to remain rosy. He fell out with John, but military defeat was mitigated by Joan, who convinced her father not to strip Llywelyn of all his lands. Over time Llewelyn formed alliances with the other rulers of Wales, until he became the leader of the free princes of Wales, and was ruler of the vast majority of the nation.
King John died in 1216 and Henry III (John’s son and Joan’s half-brother) became king. Llewellyn, through marriage, was now brother-in-law to the King of England. He further entrenched his position by marrying his daughter, Gwladus, to Reginald de Braose, one the Marcher lords, (English/Norman lords who held lands along the Welsh/English border), and planned to marry his son, Dafydd, to Isabella, Reginald’s daughter by his first wife.

Llywelyn seemed to be unable to avoid conflict with Henry, however, and mounted regular incursions across the border into English lands or picked fights with the likes of William Marshall and Hubert de Burgh, two of the most powerful men in England. Largely, though, his position remained unchanged and he was able to exert a political power possibly never again reached by a Welsh prince. By a combination of war and diplomacy he dominated Wales for 40 years. He died in 1240.

Not sure about the moustache...