Monday, 29 September 2014

The next exciting chapter...

So my completed novel (final title - Haven: Shadowbinder) is put to bed for a while. In the meantime, I'm starting my plan for the next novel in the trilogy. I haven't got a title yet (Haven: something...) but I do have a premise and a couple of A3 sheets of paper.

Drawing from the experience of writing the first novel, I'm attempting to put together a chapter plan. I already know what the first chapter will entail, and the last one too. How the story will get from the beginning to the end is another puzzle to play with.

I have a list of the characters in book one (met or just mentioned), an idea of which of these will appear in book two, and a list of new characters to introduce.

I also have to tie in the story arc that covers the entire trilogy - bringing it from the shadows into a blurred sighting in book two (to be brought into complete focus in the final novel).

My task is to throw around all of these bones until they settle into a coherent, secure skeleton, ready to be filled out with sinew, muscle and skin. I'll be using a mixture of two methods that I've come across through my Tuesday Choice Words posts on this blog.

The first is the Foolscap method by Steven Pressfield, in essence, getting everything down on paper and creating a plan (this is where I'm at right now).

Foolscap Video #1

Foolscap Video #2

A little further down the line, I'll be using something called the 7 Point Plot System - a method I originally saw posted on the Julie Musil blog. It's a seven point plot system to create pace and keep your novel moving.

It feels rather scary to return to this stage after striving to complete the first novel, but exciting too. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

My novel is finished. It's been through a barrage of drafts, beta-read and painfully tweaked into its current form. The next stage is a professional manuscript assessment (need to save up for that). It's been a torturous journey to get here and I wish I'd come across Jeff Goins' 5-Draft Method before now. I'll file it away to use on my next novel. Have a look.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 8

What's in a name? Does a person's name inform us of their character in any way? Can it make us perceive them in a certain manner? Can Cyril or Sophie ever be a believable villain? Likewise, can Victor or Goneril be cute or loveable? When  we read a book, does a character's name create an expectation?

In my plays, I always start with a concept/setting and a list of characters. For instance, Dead Fit began like this:

Exercise class at a community centre.

Mature, glamorous aerobics instructor
Elderly couple
Two young men
Two female friends
Middle aged woman and her daughter.

These are the  bones of the play. At this point, the cast are faceless. I have a silhouette of who they will be but that is all. It isn't until I name them, that I begin to discover their personalities and their patterns of speech.

I want the aerobics instructor to be 'mature' and yet glamorous, pretentious even. She's very 'darling'y and dramatic. The name I finally gave her was Priscilla Vincente.

The elderly couple are traditional in their outlook but spirited. They're working class and funny. I named them Zachary and Willa Grimshaw.

For this month's exercise, I want you to choose a setting and create a cast. Either start with the bare bones of the characters as I do and add names to suit, or do it the other way round, find names and add a personality to match. How do the names inform you of your characters? What was it about those names that you felt matched your cast?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

As soon as I read this article by K M Weiland - The Impact Character: Why Every Character Arc Needs One - I thought of my own character, Hartley Keg. He flags up Steve's inner conflicts, creates all kinds of trouble and adventures by his actions, and generally throws Steve's world up and all over the place. This is a brilliant, well written and informative article that's well worth a read.

'Into The Fire' blog tour

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for the recently released Into The Fire, a YA novel by Kelly Hashway writing as Ashelyn Drake.

If you're interested in reading the other blog tour posts, you can find a full schedule here.

Kelly has been kind enough to answer some interview questions for me, so here goes.

Kelly, I've always been astounded by how diverse your writing is, covering so many age groups, but which is your favourite?

I do love all age groups, but I feel most at home with YA. I'm lucky to say my teenage years were great. Writing YA means I get to revisit them often, and I couldn't be happier about that.

With regard to your different identities, which is most you, Kelly or Ashelyn?

Hmm, that's a good question. I've always loved the supernatural, but I'm also a very emotional person. I think the reason why I love Into The Fire so much is because it's a perfect blend of Kelly and Ashelyn. They're both equal parts of me.

Supernatural and mythical creatures figure across many of your novels but which is your favourite?

That's so tough to answer because I love so many. Necromancers, phoenixes, witches... how can I possibly pick a favourite?

As writers, we so often hear 'write what you know'. How much of your real world do you include in your books?

The emotions I write are all real. My laptop keys get covered in tears when I'm writing an emotional scene. In fact, there's a scene in Into The Fire that made me cry every time I revised it. I pull from my own experiences and relive those emotions to make sure they are genuine in my books.

Finally, can you tell us anything about Cara (and possibly Logan's) journey throughout the Into The Fire books?

Cara has it rough. She's not yet a full-fledged phoenix so she doesn't have control over her abilities. That puts her in danger. Add to that the fact that she's never fallen in love and suddenly imprints on the new boy in town, and you know things are going to get intense. Oh, and did I mention that she only has one month left in her first life and after she's reborn, she'll forget everyone she loves?

Seventeen year old Cara Tillman's life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she's not exactly complaining. Logan's like no boy she's ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn't used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn't a normal girl. She's a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she'll forget her life up to this point - she'll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another. But that may be the least of Cara's problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he's determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all. 

'Into The Fire' by Ashelyn Drake was published on 9th September this year by Month9Books.

You can find 'Into The Fire' on goodreads here.

About Ashelyn Drake

Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it's rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there's never a bad time for some dark chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Author Links


Purchase Links

Barnes & Noble
Chapters Indigo!

There's even a Rafflecopter giveaway. for a digital copy of  'Into The Fire'. Have a look.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Photo Inspiration for September

This is something we'll be seeing a lot of soon in the UK- a street covered in autumn leaves. My children are almost past the age to kick around in leaves but whenever we pass a pile of leaves like this, there's always the temptation.

What could lie beneath this layer of leaves, beyond the obvious earwigs and worms? Something lost? Something hidden? What could you find if you bent to clear away the leaves?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

As we grow as individuals, in years and experience, most of us acquire the knack of self analysis. I don't mean that term in any technical way, simply that we can begin to recognise our underlying drives and emotions. We can say, secretly to ourselves, 'okay, I didn't do that as well as I could have because...' or 'the reason that this makes me so nervous is that it could work, and then I'd be successful, and then what would I do?'. For me, the emotion of fear has always been an underlying drive, specifically fear of success.  Writer, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses this and more in her wonderful TED talk, Your elusive creative genius. It's almost twenty minutes long but well worth listening to all the way through. She talks with honesty and humour and ultimately, she makes a hell of a lot of sense.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Book Review: A is for Angelica by Iain Broome

As part of my new year's reading resolution, I added this novel to my reading list for the year. It isn't the kind of thing I normally read but it sounded interesting and I'm always ready to stretch my literary experience.

Here's the blurb:

'My life is different now. I don't go to work. I don't have an office. I stay at home, hide behind curtains and make notes. I wait for something to happen.'

Gordon Kingdom struggles with the fate of his seriously-ill wife patiently observing and methodically recording the lives of those around him: his neighbours.

He has files on them all, including:
  • Don Donald (best friend and petty thief)
  • Annie Carnaffan (lives next door, throws footballs over the fence)
  • Benny (the boy who paints with his eyes closed).
And then Angelica, the new girl (42) on the street, with her multicoloured toenails and her filthy temper. It's when she arrives that Gordon's world of half-truths really begins to unravel.

You can find more details, including a video trailer, on Iain Broome's website.

Presented in first person, from the point of view of Gordon, we are shown his world by peeping out of the curtains of his perception with him. I've always found first person to be a limiting way of writing but it fits here, adding to the limited experience of Gordon's life now he's given up work to care for his wife. His world has become smaller with less human interaction.

His days have been reduced to a regimented routine. This routine is self imposed to an extent, Gordon's way of taking back some control in his life. This control, routine and his carefully maintained filing system is further suggested by the labelling of each chapter from A to Z (Angelica to Zero Tolerance).

Gordon can seem a begrudging, judgemental, miserable character at first but as the book proceeds, we see glimpses of his kindness and love - the way he ultimately treats his friend, carrying his dog around in a box when it is ill, and his nursing of his wife. He wants human contact but he also shies away from it.

The use of flashbacks to explain Gordon's family, how he met his wife, and their married days was done incredibly well. Each flashback added to the story and our understanding of the characters and their motivations.

This novel made me feel all kind of things. There was a level of ickiness (bed baths and dog diarrhoea) that made me feel uncomfortable on occasions. I often became annoyed at Gordon's pettiness (his rejection of his friend's kindness). The relationship with his wife portrayed the wonderful, warm companionship of a long time marriage, something that seems to rarely be celebrated nowadays. I wanted to know what happened to the characters in the book, especially Gordon and his wife, and this kept me turning the pages.

A is for Angelica is Iain Broome's debut novel. I found it to be well written and insightful. I'm looking forward to his next novel which he is currently working on. I love my fantasy novels but sometimes, a snapshot of down to earth reality can be just as refreshing.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

The more I work on my novel, the more I get to know and like my cast of characters. My main character, Steve (the protagonist) has grown on me especially. He is the person who discovers the world of  the novel along with the reader. One of the ways I've familiarised myself with him is to ask questions so that rather than the plot leading him along, his motivations and reactions create the story.

Bridget McNulty's article 5 Essential Questions to Ask When Writing Your Protagonist on the Fiction University website takes a similiar approach.