Thursday, 30 May 2013

Fay Weldon Speaks Up For Creative Writing

If creativity can’t be taught, the invaluable craft of writing can, says novelist and Bath Spa professor
Patrick Welham opinion illustration (2 May 2013)

Read full article here:
Fay Weldon speaks up for creative writing | Opinion | Times Higher Education

My View:

I strongly feel that the best writers are the ones with truck loads of creativity and imagination. It doesn't matter how many creative writing courses you go on, although you may grasp the mechanics of how to structure a story and what gives impact etc, you will only be a great writer if you have a great story to tell. And that takes creativity which comes from something within. I believe that creative writing courses and the experience of writing can bring out the best in you but there had to be some spark of creativity in order to ignite it.

Tell me what you think!

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Featured Author - Ruth Jacobs

It's a pleasure to welcome Ruth Jacobs, a talented writer of fiction as well as non-fiction. Today Ruth talks about her novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable and has news of an exciting giveaway!



What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?

My grandmother was a writer and I am sure that is what made me want to write. I began writing poetry in my teens, and what drove that was trauma. I remember enjoying poems when I was very young. There was a nursery rhyme I loved, Doctor Fell. I do not like thee, Doctor Fell, the reason why - I cannot tell; but this I know, and know full well, I do not like thee, Doctor Fell. I imagine that those three things were what influenced me to start writing.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing?

My debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, was published in April 2013 by Caffeine Nights. A literary agency is now representing the translation rights; so hopefully, there will be more news to come on that. Soul Destruction: Unforgivable is the first novel in the Soul Destruction series. My main character is Shelley Hansard, a heroin addicted and crack psychotic London call girl. In this first book, she and her friends, Tara and Nicole, discover that the same client sent to them by a madam, Marianne, has raped them all, and they plot revenge on the rapist.

Last year, I published on Amazon In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call Girl, which is the unedited transcript from a video interview I undertook with a woman who worked as a call girl in London for my research into prostitution in the late 1990s. The woman I interviewed, referred to as Q, was a very dear friend of mine during that time in my life. Sadly, she is no longer alive so all the royalties from that publication are donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity working to end sexual exploitation.

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

I can only say what has worked for me. After years of writing and never completing a novel, this time, I seriously invested in reading about writing. I think I read more than a dozen books on all aspects of novel writing (plot and structure, description and setting, characterisation, dialogue, editing etc.) while writing Soul Destruction: Unforgivable. It’s also extremely important not to give up, as I had done so many times before. As I constantly doubt my ability to write, I can become frozen. So carrying on writing is essential.

What are you working on now?

I must get on with writing the second book in the Soul Destruction series. I began writing book two some time ago, but then became sidetracked with Soul Destruction Diary, a spin-off series to Soul Destruction that I started writing on my blog last year. Currently, my time is spent a great deal in non-fiction for human rights campaigning and activism. The Merseyside model, treating crimes against people in prostitution as hate crimes, is something I would like to see become UK wide. More about that campaign can be read here http://ruthjacobs.co.uk/2013/03/04/cry-for-the-merseyside-model-crimes-against-sex-workers-must-be-treated-as-hate-crimes-uk-wide/ and for anyone in the UK, please sign and share the HM Government e-petition here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49040/.

What do you draw on for inspiration?

Mostly my own life, which has been rather colourful as well as tragic. I like stealing things from other people too, words and phrases or anecdotes that I can turn into something else. There’s a funny story, which wasn’t funny at all at the time, that I’ve been thinking I’d like to use in my next novel. I had a boyfriend when I was seventeen and I don’t think he could find a way to break up with me. So insanely he told me he was dying and only had a short time to live. We’re friends on Facebook and Twitter now - he didn’t die, and he apologised and made a kind gesture to try to make up for it. But back then (more than twenty years ago) I was completely heartbroken. I was besotted with him. And apart from the time (perhaps a couple of years or more!) it took me to get over him, he also left me with the bill to pay the rent on the digs we’d been staying in. 

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.

Although I write fiction, my work is very real. It’s important to me when writing about prostitution that it isn’t glamorized as it so often is in other books, films and on television. I want to show it for what it is. I have seen so much of that life, and known a great many women who have lived it, and although most have survived, they are still paying a price emotionally, psychologically and for some, physically too. It’s a dangerous and traumatic way to earn money. Most women in prostitution have been abused as children. Most women in prostitution have suffered rape multiple times. And most women in prostitution meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. I share many similarities in this, and I hope that enables me to keep my characters real, and my stories true to life. That’s very important to me. Until now, the message sent to society about prostitution at the level of being a call girl has been incorrect. I want to show the truth.
 
Thank you Ruth!
 
Important News... Soul Destruction: Unforgivable is free to download from Friday 24 May until Monday 27 May! (See links below)
 
 
Find out more about Ruth on her website by clicking here!

Soul Destruction is available in the following formats:
Paperback on Amazon US, just click here!
Kindle Amazon US, just click here!
Paperback Amazon UK, just click here!
Kindle Amazon UK, just click here!
Caffeine Nights Paperback, just click here! and
Caffeine Nights ebook, just click here!

In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call Girl is available in the following formats:
Kindle Amazon US by clicking here!
Kindle Amazon UK if you click here!

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Guest Post - Good Enough?

Today's guest post is by Karen Lenfestey - author of A Sister's Promise


Welcome Karen and thank you for guesting on my blog:

How do you know if you’re Good Enough?

What advice would you give to a college freshman these days? Recently I had the honor of speaking to aspiring writers at a Manchester University career expo and I wanted to be honest without quelling anyone’s creative spirit. I only had a few minutes with each batch of students before they visited another table, so I offered statistics: 85% of people feel that they have a book inside of them (according to the New York Times) yet only 1% of authors make a full-time living at writing (according to my agent).

But that doesn’t mean you should stop writing! It’s just that if you depend on book sales to pay the bills, it can kill the joy.” Clad in a fedora and trench coat, one girl smiled and nodded at this. Many of the students, dressed in jeans and button-down shirts, already had critique partners and understood that finding a publisher would be daunting. They seemed wise yet still enthusiastic.

One lanky boy waited until the crowd left then quietly asked, “How will I know if I’m good enough?” My heart went out to him. That’s a question with which every writer struggles. Without reading a sample of his work, I couldn’t give him the answer for which he probably longed. Wanting to offer him encouragement, I took a breath. I assured him if he worked hard at his craft and was open to critiques, then he would become “good enough.”

On my drive home, I realized that writing is a lot like parenting. Many people try it but few truly excel. We raise a child because we love them—not because of money. And sometimes after a snap decision or losing our temper, we silently worry, “Am I good enough?”

I believe if we surround ourselves with other parents doing their best and seek advice when needed, we can confidently answer that question. We are good enough because we want it badly enough.

Whether it’s writing or parenting, give it your all. Do it even though it’s hard. Do it even though people will criticize you. Do it out of love.
35-year-old Kate Hopper worried that she wouldn’t be good enough. That’s why she agreed to a childless marriage. But now her baby sister has a life-threatening illness and Kate is wondering what are the right reasons to start a family. Be a part of Kate’s journey in A Sister’s Promise by Karen Lenfestey, available on Amazon by clicking one of the following Amazon US and Amazon UK
Visit Karen at her website to find out more about her on www.karensnovels.com

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Writing With The Pomodoro Technique!

It seems like ages since I posted. I've been making way for some fabulous writers to talk to you about their work but I've been working too!

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the Pomodoro Technique. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the1980s and has proven to be an effective time management method that can be used for different tasks.

The very basics are that you set a timer for 25 minutes and work at your task consistently until the timer goes off. Then you take up to a 5 minute break. The break must not be related to your task and should be restful and not taxing on the brain. The idea is that our brains work better if given frequent breaks. Hmm...

After applying this method to my writing I have to say that it really works for me! I am strict about not going on-line or watching tv or making phone calls etc during my breaks. The most taxing thing I'll do in a break is make a herbal tea. I've meditated on my breaks, stood on my balcony and taken in the views of Kew Gardens or just gone and sat in a room other than the one I'm writing.

As soon as I come back to writing I feel refreshed and full of ideas. It's a bit like starting to write again for the first time that day. I usually take a 3 - 10 minute break. I use the system when editing too. If you think you need to look something up on-line as you are writing during the 25 minute session, then just make a note and do the research another time and use your results next time you sit down to write.

It was hard not to check emails the first time I started trying this method but let's face it, the emails aren't going anywhere. So far I've done 4 x 25 minute slots before stopping for a longer break of about an hour. Usually for lunch or something but I think I will keep going with this method for now. I love it and may well let use it in other tasks.

The 5 basic steps to implementing the technique can be found here the above is my interpretation and how I make it work for me!
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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Featured Author - Olga Godim

Today a I spoke to author, Olga Godim.

Follow her journey from the first sparks of inspiration for her writing and see what Olga is working on now!

What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?

I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for three decades. I’m also a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I always made up stories and played them in my head, like a one-woman theatre, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret, and I didn’t write them down. To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed, afraid of ridicule. I was a serious professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer but I couldn’t get rid of my daydreams. They felt like a vestige from my childhood. And like a child, I loved my dream-world’s heroes and heroines. Sometimes, they felt more alive and precious to me than the living people around me.

As my children grew up, I grew dissatisfied with my computer job. Then, in 2002, I got breast cancer. Obviously, my case was successful, but during the long recovery months, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and at last let my daydreams out. Cancer has that effect on some people. I started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school. I didn’t know if it was a short story or a novel. I didn’t know anything about publishing. I just wanted to write.

Everyone in my family was flabbergasted: they hadn’t known about my daydreams. But I didn’t care. Writing liberated me. I felt like I finally woke up from a long hibernation, free to explore my stories and myself. I felt happy.

I also discovered that I didn’t know how to write, how to translate my daydreams into the written words, plot, conflict, and characters. It took me years to learn: I read writing textbooks, took classes, enrolled in workshops. I’m still in the process, still learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop: there is so much to learn.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing 

Success stories? You know, I’ve done several interviews by now, and nobody asked this question. So I went to my tracking database and counted. Here are some stats:

Published newspaper articles (since 2007)                                                 – 186

Published short stories (in various online and print magazines)             – 18

Published novels                                                                               – 1

Written novels (finished and unfinished)                                       – 7

 I’m also in conversation with a publisher for my second novel. I hope the contract will follow soon.

And all of the above in 10 years. It’s not an instant fame but a gradual build up on a very steep slope. And I enjoyed every step, which is a success story of its own. 

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

I have a favourite quote – my motto in writing:

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

― William Feather

That would be my advice to any aspiring writer. Persevere. Don’t give up. If one route to publication doesn’t work out, try another. If nobody wants your novel, try to write for a newspaper or a magazine, even if they don’t pay. Blogs don’t count; your friends are already reading your blog. You need to find readership that don’t know you. You need to convince people who are not interested that what you write could be interesting for them. And write, write, write.

A writer friend I met online once said: you can only consider yourself a professional writer after   
you’ve written one million words or more. It’s true. An average novel is about 60,000 to 100,000 words. If I toss in all the writing and re-writing I’ve done for all the short stories and novels, plus my newspaper articles (I’ve been writing for a local newspaper for over five years), I’m somewhat over one million mark now. And I finally got a novel published in February.

Self-publishing doesn’t count either. Most self-published novels I’ve read are amateur and badly edited. I understand the urge of many first-time writers to get their beloved story in front of the readers. But writing is a long process, and you can’t skip the apprenticeship phase. Skills come from years of practice, like in music. Of course there are exceptions, but they only underscore the rule: instant gratification doesn’t exist for writers. Your first novel isn’t good, believe me. My first novel was terrible. It’s still hidden in the bowels of my computer hard drive. It will never be published, although I have revised it at least ten times. It was my school. Your first novel is your school. Don’t publish it. Learn from it and move on.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on a novel which is part of a fantasy series. The heroine is a young and very powerful magician. In the story, she finds herself in a foreign kingdom, where female magic is anathema. The acolytes of the local god, all men, confine any witch or sorceress they can find to a ‘nunnery’, where they suck the magic out of the women with a special spell and use that magic for their own purposes.

My heroine is in this kingdom in secret, at the request of her queen. She is not in danger from the local god or his monks, but she is very angry at the plight of the local female mages? Should she interfere? Try to help the poor, abused witches? Or should she maintain her incognito status, complete her assignment for the queen, and leave. If she interferes, she might cause a diplomatic incident, maybe even a war, between their two kingdoms. If she does nothing, the imprisoned witches will continue to suffer. The choice she faces isn’t nice or easy.

What do you draw on for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from different sources. Sometimes, a book I read or a TV show sparks an idea: I want to explore what could happen if a different hero, one of my own, got into a situation the author describes. Or if the same situation was transferred to a different genre: let’s say from a modern day police procedural to a medieval fantasy. Could they use magic instead of DNA and fingerprints? Sometimes certain events of my life or my friends’ lives prompt new stories. That happened with “Lost and Found in Russia”. Mostly the book came from my daydreams, my personal experience, and the people I met.

Please tell me anything else you’d like the reader to know about you

Many writers admit that they dislike revising, but I love revising and editing as much as I like writing the first draft, maybe more, and that was a big surprise for me. When I write the first draft, I’m in a rush. I use the first word that comes into my mind just to get my idea across. But when I revise, I play with words and expressions, search for the best ones, use a thesaurus, juggle paragraphs. I love that process, even deleting pieces, when it improves the story. It feels like I’m a gourmet at a feast of words. I rejoice in every word, every clever turn of phrase. I add a pinch of this and a dollop of that, and the resulting brew becomes better.

Although I must confess, I keep everything I delete. Sometimes, I reuse those snippets of text in another story. I’m a hoarder, I don’t discard anything.  

Another tidbit: I use a pen name for fiction – Olga Godim. My newspaper articles all have a different byline. When I started submitting my first fantasy stories to magazines, I was still working at my computer job and I felt slightly embarrassed by my fantastic tales. Women of my age and profession didn’t entertain themselves with magic and fairy tales. Or so I thought. So I decided to use a pseudonym. Olga is my first name, and Godim was my father’s first name. He died before I published my first piece, before I even started thinking about writing, but I wanted him to be a part of my writing life, so I chose his name as my nom de plume.  Now, he’s always with me, a witness to my successes and failures as a writer. And I think the name sounds good, like a small cheerful bell.

 Thank you so much Olga and the best of luck with Lost and Found in Russia!
 
Olga writes for a blog called Silkscreen Views to read it just click here!

To find out more about Lost and Found in Russia and how to purchase just click here! and here! and here!
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Friday, 10 May 2013

Featured Author - Melanie Schulz

During the month of April I took part in the A-Z April Challenge and met a world of new bloggers writing about several different topics and with a myriad of interests. I met quite a few writers, like me, along the way and one of them is my featured author for today - Melanie Schulz.

Melanie was kind enough to answer some of my questions:

What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?
 
I just got done finishing a really good series that had me pretty emotionally charged. That was part of it, but the rest was I was out nature journaling one day and just started. I have no idea why.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing?
 
The Newstead Project is my debut novel, so I guess the success is still up in the air. I love the book and the characters, so I guess that alone makes it successful.

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?
 
Don’t hold back. I didn’t realize how much I was doing that until I went with Black and White Publishing. That first revision showed me how much I was holding back, afraid that if I wrote some things that maybe I wouldn’t get published.

What are you working on now?
 
I should be getting The Bashan Agenda (book 2 in the Newstead Trilogy) back any day now from my editor. Until then I’m revising The Revenge of the Rephaim; which is book 3 in the trilogy.

What do you draw on for inspiration?
 
For these books, I did an in-depth study of the Holocaust.

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.
 
I’m not a polished writer as some would see writers. I’m a storyteller and I had a story to tell.
 
Thank you Melanie
 
To find out more about Melanie Schulz just click here!
The Newstead Project is available on Amazon and on Amazon Kindle
 
 

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Featured Author - Ripley Patton

A little while back I re-posted Ripley Patton's very useful tips for writers and here she is today, talking to me about her life as a writer and more...



What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?

In eighth grade, I was given an assignment to write a short story, and I wrote a sci-fi tale about a future where the sun was slowly moving closer to the earth. I think it ended with someone dying gruesomely hiding in their own refrigerator, but my teacher loved it, and praised me, and an author was born.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing?

My story is not your typical road to publishing. I started out (see above) as a speculative short story writer and had my first sci-fi story published in 2005. In 2008, about fifteen published stories later, a New York City literary agent saw one of my short pieces on the internet, stalked me on Facebook, and messaged me to ask if I was writing anything longer. I wasn't at the time, but that was the impetus to push me off the novelist cliff. Three years later, I had a finished young adult paranormal novel, Ghost Hand, but the agent had long since quit the business. After briefly shopping it around to other agents and publishers, I realized that self-publishing was the real ticket to the future (or maybe just the present) so I did a Kickstarter Project for Ghost Hand and raised the funds to produce it. And the rest, as they say, is history. The book has been selling well ever since and getting rave reviews.

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

Your will never be perfect. Your work will never be perfect. But writing is what makes you better. So write the best stories you can, and get them out in the world. Failure only happens if you stop writing.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on book two of the PSS Chronicles series, Ghost Hold. It will be released in September 2013.

What do you draw on for inspiration? 

Everything. When people ask me where I get my ideas, the answer is always "Where don't I get them?" But more specifically, the inspiration for the PSS Chronicles came from the real psychological phenomenon of phantom limbs. Often, amputees or people born without limbs can still feel their missing appendages. They can feel pain. They can feel the wet grass between toes they've never had. And so I asked myself the question, what if those limbs still really existed in spirit form? What would they look like? What could they do? And how would the world react to that?

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.

I live in Portland, Oregon with one cat, two teenagers and a man who wants to live on a boat. I not only write young adult books, I love to read them. Having two teenagers as beta readers and editors helps me keep my young adult fiction real. Besides that, I love animals, chocolate and reality television, and I curse only slightly less often than my characters.

Thank you Ripley!

To find out more about Ripley Patton just click here!
To find Ripley on Amazon just click here!






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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Featured Author - Wendi Nitschmann

Meeting other writers for the first time is always so interesting. I was happy to meet author Wendi Nitschmann (who writes as W S Haggard) as she has some great news to share as well as an insight into her life as a writer.

 
 

I asked Wendi:
 
What was the thing that influenced you to start writing? 
For as long as I can remember, I have loved  to write - whether it was in a journal, notes, a diary, poetry, whatever. I would have to credit my parents, for encouraging me to read (from the age of five!) and a couple of outstanding English teachers, who encouraged journaling. I have lots of stories in my head waiting to be written, but I wrote The Long Engagement first because it is based on a true story - it’s about me reconnecting with my first love - and many of my friends told me I had to write it down. So I did!

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing?
This is my first book, so just the fact that I was brave enough to put it out there by self publishing (I think) makes me a success. I’m sure practically all my sales up to now have been to friends or friends of friends, but that’s okay. The fact that people have bought it makes me happy, and the great reviews it has gotten make the whole experience that much better!

What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?
Have a quiet, comfortable place to write. Eliminate distractions. And just do it. Write. But write what you know - whether it’s about yourself or your friends, places you’ve been or want to go, a dream you had. Start there, and then you can build on it by researching what you don’t know.

What are you working on now?
I actually have four books in the works. One is a sequel to The Long Engagement - because so many people who read it demanded it. And then I sat down one day and a whole different story started to come to life, so I just let it take over and wrote three chapters - it’s about a young woman who is determined not to end up like everyone else in her small southern town, pregnant and married right after high school. She sets out on a trip to Australia to try to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life. I’m thinking that it will end up being a little bit spiritual, because I studied Anthroposophy for several years and I’d like to incorporate some of that into the book. My third project is a book about hostess clubs in Japan. And then I started a children’s book that came out of a dream I had.

What do you draw on for inspiration?
First and foremost, my own experiences. I have had a pretty crazy life so far - I was born in Saudi Arabia, traveled extensively, and done some wild things (like trekking around Australia for six months after college). And then there is a strong desire to help other people try to figure it all out - who they are, why they’re here, what it all means.

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.
I am fascinated by this journey we are all on... .how it seems to be different for everyone. And I truly believe that in the end our experiences will somehow help us to figure out the reason we are here. For me, personally, writing is an attempt to unravel some of my own mysteries, and if it helps someone else with theirs, all the better.

To find out more about Wendi, just click here!
For a copy of The Long Engagement, just click here
To join Wendi on Facebook, just click here!
 
 

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