Tag Archives: novels

Do the Olympics inspire you?

4 Aug

Proud to be British? With olympic fever grabbing the nation its hard not to be. Watching the athletes compete not just for their country, but for their own personal hopes and dreams, you can’t help but feel inspired. Watching that final push to gold, you feel their desire and it catches you in the throat. What an honour for us to be able to experience their moment.

I have spent time with people recently that perhaps aren’t part of my usual crowd. this has led to variety of conversation, and ultimately talk of where we hope to be in the future. An example of this would be the question posed to me, ‘What needs to happen for you to be ready to retire?’

Ok, so I am only 30 so that is totally a long way off, and maybe somewhat naively, not something I have ever considered. Having at this point in the evening been in receipt of one or two (OK that would be a blatant lie) cocktails, my flippant response was, ‘oh, ok, ultimate dream would be to be featured on Richard and Judy’s book club.’

Now, calm down. It was a flippant response, and I am sure even just to complete a novel would be a nice thing, but for an off the cuff answer, it made me question how  hard am I working towards that?

Woah. I’m not. Not even slightly. I am however, and this is the crazy realisation, working towards my day job.

Whenever I think about my future, my end goal, the point of happiness (like im not crying into my corn flakes each morning but you get what I mean), I am the proud author of a bestselling novel. When I sit down to write each day, I am working on my scripts, my thoughts are consumed by how I can portray my idea within a script, how I will be different, a bit clever, what twist I can add to make it stand out from the crowd.

I am, a script writer. And that is just fine.

But fine is not enough. I can do scripts, I really enjoy doing scripts. I would love to have a script commissioned, but the dream was never to be a scriptwriter. It was always about the novel. the cheesy photo on the back cover, and yes, the well turned dog-eared corners of the pages.

A novelist I may never be full-time, but I can be a scriptwriter. That doesn’t mean I can’t still work towards the dream. It will just be allowed centre stage once I have the day job. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Little steps and all that.

Watching the olympics, I have no idea who these athletes are. I mean, on the first day I had a call saying watch the BBC, your cousins in the rowing race. Really? (fact!) I have not been part of their journey, many I know, have competed in the olympics before, but it never registered on my radar. What is registering is the end of their journey. I feel heartache for them when they go out, and absolute joy when they win. I am screaming at the TV, I’m swearing at the athletes that try to challenge the British (Like seriously, step back guys), I am playing ‘olympics’ in the garden with the kids…I am stealing this enthusiasm and keeping it for my own dreams.

So what about you? are you proud? Regardless of nation (apologies for my step back comment), are you behind your athletes? Can you understand their determination sand apply it to your own dreams?

Taking a side step from your greatest dream is nothing to be ashamed of. I am certain many coaches are supporting the athletes, having never been able to realise the dream for themselves. Side stepping doesnt making you less of a person, side stepping shows you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Self belief is vital for your determination, denial will fail you.

Fear. What is yours?

31 Jul

Fear.

Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks, prevents us from being what we truly want to be, stops us from being great.

I know many writers out there that have fear. They can’t share their work, and as a result it sits there, hidden away, never to be read by another.

I don’t have that fear. I have another one that I believe to be more crippling, and I wonder if any of you suffer the same?

I have never worried about sharing my work. In fact, the first time I wrote anything under the guise of ‘learning to be a writer’, I shared it within the children’s writing lecture that took place two days later. This was within my first two weeks at university.

I am the creature that writes and shares before it has undergone the first edits. I believe in my writing that strongly, that I know if something has ‘legs’ as the words are typed. If it is a struggle, it is wrong.

Of course editing is required, but I just want to share with everyone my latest piece of work. I am proud of what I do, and for that, I have no shame.

I explore genres, techniques, nothing is out-of-bounds. There is no limits to what I can do (and you for that matter). Writing is not just the setting down of a story, it is an experiment, a journey. One which cannot be taken without risks.

I identify my strengths, my weaknesses and I use them equally. Quietly pushing myself for the next challenge.

It is when thinking about that next challenge that I experience the fear. It’s like stepping off the cliff face. What if, just consider this for one moment, what if this time my self belief has blinded me. What if, my safety net, the one that slows my process when it is not simply great, does not catch me?

As I have said before, I do not plan. I do not sit there etching it all out, character bibles, plotting, synopsis, sub plots and the rest before beginning. Oh I think, I think a lot, generally starting with one idea and stretching it across, exploring within my mind the possibilities before I start. It is rare I make notes during this process. I have always believed if the idea has ‘legs’ the story will carry itself. Finalising details, checking the  story arc is there, ensuring character consistency is there all comes later. I believe many call this first part of what i do ‘passion’. I write because I feel it inside, a story bursting, a want, a release of emotions.

When I sit down to write, I already know if this is a script, short story, or hopefully the latest bestselling novel. When I try to fight this (see the disaster that was the uncompleted No Way Out Challenge) it grates, it physically hurts, and I feel myself hiding from the crowds. The only situation I can liken this to was taking my son to school when he begged not to go (I pulled him out eventually but that’s another story).

Fear is where I stand now. I have three ideas. all workable. two are scripts, one a novel. The daredevil in me is shouting try the novel. Not only have i never completed a full novel, the idea formulating is romance based, chick lit if you prefer. I have never written chick lit. The scripts are comedy based again, so they feel safe. I am still driven by my confidence in my previous one. Yet that could have just been fluke. Either way, what if I have lost my ability? What if I am the one hit wonder?

So tell me, what is your fear? What is the part of you that makes your writing career stutter?

***Without sounding conceited I am not a one hit wonder. I know this from professional feedback. Likewise I have not as yet been successful. I have not previously completed a novel as each one I have started has been abandoned due to other commitments at that time. The fear I speak of prevents me returning as it is the same psychological thought process***

No Way Out – The First Installment

20 Mar

After several false starts, I finally have the first installment of ‘No Way Out’ that I would like to share with you.

It has not received even what I class as a first edit, as I am not ready, nor have I written enough to begin that process. So take it as you will. I shall continue to write in this format and share it with you. remember this is OUR project so if you can see me heading in a direction that you don’t feel works, or perhaps my characters are unbelievable, please shout it out.

The tears poured down her face. The pain, or was it just discomfort was more than she had ever dared imagine possible. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Surely the guilt of her actions was enough.

The nurses were kind enough. If she allowed herself to think it, she may even say caring, but how they couldn’t be judging her right now she didn’t know.

As she was wheeled into the next room, she kept her eyes closed. Slowly they helped her into a wheelchair, and then pushed her into a lift upstairs to a room to recover. They all spoke to one another, jovially talking about their plans for the weekend whilst she sat there praying for a distraction. The distraction never came, but who would be listening to her right now. They had said when she came in she was lucky, normally the bible bashers were hanging around outside, but maybe, just maybe, that would have made her feel better. At least it would have been a sign that this just wasn’t OK.

***

Steve busied himself in the kitchen. He could hear CBeebies coming from the lounge; the jolly jingles a contrast to his and his wife’s feelings of despair. Gently stirring the tomato soup Steve berated himself. Just the day before, he and his boss had shared a bottle of champagne in the office. Once again Steve had made salesman of the year for the UK, and was shortly to hear if he had indeed been awarded the coveted international prize. Without mortgage, debt, but a beautiful wife, a three year old son and a recently confirmed pregnancy, Steve felt as if the world had turned on its axis.

The celebrations had come too early, just seeing Poppy’s face as he had walked in the door the evening before had confirmed this error.

Pouring the hot soup into a bowl, Steve felt a movement behind him.

‘Daddy’ questioned the small voice of his son, ‘why is mummy crying?’

Crouching down low, Steve pulled Michael into him, ‘Mummy is just poorly, she just needs lots of hugs to make her better’

Seeming to accept this answer, Michael pulled away and went back through to the lounge. Steve followed with the soup, hoping that these little gestures would help make everything OK.

***

‘Will you just go back to work?’ Poppy hissed at Steve, the frustration of the past five week’s nonstop companionship smacking the air

Steve turned to Poppy, confusion on his face, ‘But I thought you needed me here?’

‘Just go.’

Poppy was seething. Unable to return to work herself until Steve stopped fussing, Poppy felt as if the world had been torn away from her. Isolated, lonely yet always in company, Poppy just craved normality. Actually, she just craved her time to be the person she had always been, the person that was only ever allowed to escape at work. The person that since meeting Steve had been locked away. It wasn’t his fault, well, he never asked to change, but when she did, and she lived her life as he did his, he never commented, he never questioned why, he just allowed it to happen. Life was all about what he did and what he wanted. There wasn’t room at home for Poppy.

***

The message on the email read,

My office. Ten mins.

Steve looked through his own office window, across the sea of administrative staff and into Charles’ office. Catching his eye, Steve nodded at Charles.

Steve felt reassured. In the past Steve had fretted over this type of email, back in the day before the awards. Since then, Steve understood Charles had one way of communicating, good or bad he was never anything other than brief. There was no room for additional use of words.

Starred on his electronic calendar was an event one week ahead. It marked Steves ten years service with the company. Within the first two years, Steve had been awarded regional sales rep, by year five; he had won international sales rep. His figures stacked up. The only thing that stood between Steve and his promotion was Charles. His time would come, five years he reckoned on. Sure, he had been offered various positions, with worldwide locations. The type of position most could only ever dream of, but he had chosen to decline. His wife, the sweet, kind yet viciously ambitious Poppy had received her own promotion and there was no chance that Steve would jeopardise her career. They were a partnership and that meant both at home and work they were equal.

Semiotics: The Science Of Signs In Your Writing

18 Mar

Semiotics is the science of signs. the study of the denotations and connotations in the media. simply put, it is understanding the way a media message is created.

If that’s not clear enough, if you see an advertisement that shows happy healthy children eating a particular product, you expect the same for your own children. That, is semiotics at its most basic level. I actually feel that bu using that example I am completely disregarding the studys of this fascinating subject, and actually making it somewhat meaningless. It really is not.

Now obviously this is a subject that fascinates me. What I love about the knowledge, is the understanding of when we are writing, what those words, those descriptions ar e leading to. Once we can recognise how we use semiotics as a writer, we can abuse it. We can be clever. We can make the reader believe, or viewer if it is a script, that they are in on a secret, or part of an élite club. We can twist our writing to really screw up that old classic ‘the sting in the tale’.  To be honest, the possibilities are endless.

But what about language? Does the way we tell our story matter? Would it be wrong to use an outdated version of our language? Could it be acceptable if it set the era for which the plot is based? But then again, as writers we are to look ahead to see how the world is changing, to try to fit our writing to certain events several years in advance for marketing purposes – what if we are looking ahead and we only see a world that uses text speech?

Yes, I did just go there.

Even that sentence (above) would have looked strange on the page say 30 years ago. I wouldn’t like to say it would have been unacceptable (I simply wouldn’t know) but I do know I have been corrected on my use of the English language many times, and that one sentence would not be acceptable to many.

(Just as an aside, my spoken English is atrocious. I am a typical writer in that I struggle to formulate knowledgable, clear and concise sentences face to face).

Acceptable language however does depend on where and when it is being used. I have my creative style, my blogging style, my work style, and my friends style. As for texting, I am getting sloppier (!) as each day passes but you will never catch me spelling Wednesday as wednesdaii – I just don’t get that!

(Oops, did you see that? I used an exclamation mark. I should abandon my craft immediately).

Text language does grate me. I believe it is because half the time I do not understand it, both in terms of the message, and why it has been developed. But it is still a developing language, there are no set rules. However, isn’t every language a developing language? I believe so. As speakers, writers and interpreters of the language, we are changing it constantly. So why is text language so wrong?

Simply, it isn’t, it’s just too new. I have been on the outskirts of text language for the past fourteen years or so. My nieces, at fourteen years, are fluent in the language, and openly mock me for my lack of understanding. 

So how does this relate to semiotics?

If we consider the statement that kids do not read enough, one could wonder that on a language level, we are alienating them by simply not writing within their chosen language. The signs we are giving (by using a stricter version of a language many adults do not understand), are saying this is above you. This is better than you.

If you doubt this, think how frustrated you get when you spot a grammatical error in print. Kids that struggle with language won’t even get through the first sentence of a flowery written novel, let alone a paper such as the Independent.

I ma not talking about dumbing down writing (an expression I abhor). I am talking about looking to the future. Understanding that change is inevitable, but is that tomorrow or the year 3,000.

For writers, gauging when that change will take place is crucial. get in there early and the language police will be after you. getting there too late and your readers will have forgotten you.

The Sphinx Project – Review

6 Mar

Today I want to share with you The Sphinx Project a new title that has just been released by self published author Katherine Hawkings.

Lets start with the blurb:

Not many people can say their entire existence has been one big lab experiment: poked and prodded by scientists, genetically modified to be the best and endure the worst, subjected to daily tests and trials that would kill a normal human. All Michaela wants is her own life, to be able to go to school, flirt with boys, maybe eat ice cream now and then. So when the chance to escape finally comes, Michaela and her sister grab it, taking their friends with them.
But they weren’t the only ones to find their way out of those labs. Following close behind are another breed of creature, one that doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, who exist only to feed their own hunger. The appearance of a strange boy who seems too much like them to be a coincidence makes things even more confusing. But as the world begins to literally fall apart around them, Michaela must accept his help, especially when she could lose the very thing she holds dearest: her sister.

Sounds good. Believe me, it does not disappoint. Fast paced, action packed, compelling storyline..even the slightest hint of romance is included in this genreless book.(Maybe I have made that word up – lets run with it!) And it is genreless, its crossover is what holds its appeal, a bit of everything for everyone and it certainly seems effortless, and there is not one point that I scrunched my face feeling that it didn’t work.

Sure, it may predominantly fit YA but i think to pigeon-hole it would detract from its quality.

I just have two negative points to raise. During the first half of the book a couple of times I felt the information was repeated. Just the odd line, but I noticed it, so I have to mention it. The other one is the fact that this book is part of a series, and I need the rest of that series NOW. Seriously, I feel like my iPad has been stolen midway through a book.

My recommendation is that everyone should read this book. Even if it isn’t your usual cup of tea, the drama and action is too much to ignore, you will be at the end before you even know you have started. If, like me, you are impatient, I recommend you follow Katherine Hawkings to keep up to date with new releases so you can get the full series in one hit as soon as it is available.

You can pick up your copy here.

How did this get published??

15 Feb

Taking a break from the No Way Out challenge, I thought today I would discuss the inappropriate use of language.

I say discuss, I am guessing this will turn out as a bit of a rant, but I will let you be the judge.

Now I am the first person to readily admit I often get words wrong, sound like a cockney, and I do tend to use 50 words when one will suffice, not to mention the swearing that tumbles out of my mouth as soon as I am out of work and child free.

Does this come across in my writing? Sometimes yes. You can tell when I have rushed my writing, it tends to be full of insignificant details, on this blog WordPress alarms go off left right and centre over my use of the passive voice, and I often miss my point.

However, when I am writing seriously, and I am taking the time to edit I am freaking amazing. It is no coincidence that I walked away with 84% in my dissertation equivalent. Writing is a skill, one we would all love to have, one many of us strive for. Unfortunately very few have a natural ability.

Most of us, and I include myself in this, have to work hard, understand we are not perfect, and respect the opinion of others when it just isn’t right. We must not just learn from the best, we must learn from each other (obviously in this circle we are all the best so its win win ha!).

From this hard work, for a select few, comes publication, a joyous moment in a writing career. That acknowledgement that you have done something, and done it well. Afterall, if you couldn’t fully develop your characters, have a full plot with natural subplots, have a way with words etc your manuscript would have ended up on the slush pile right?

WRONG!

It is absolutely shocking to me, that I know of so many very talented writers that are still unable to get published, when Waterstones (and all major bookstores, not to mention supermarkets) are stocking the most utter dreadful drivel.

Now before anyone gets on their high horse, I am not talking about genres. Each to their own is what I say, I am talking about writing style/ability/talent…

I have just finished reading a book. It was most definitely chick lit, and it was most certainly a light fun read. However I had a major problem. Well several actually.

The plot focused around a famous family with three daughters. We discovered the life of the parents, the careers and loves of the children, plus the two employees, the boyfriends (and girlfriends), the extended friends and family.

So many characters together resulted in a fight for presence on the page. We never truly got to know anyone, we just accepted the telling of the traits. Momentous occasions seemed to be brushed over, and frequently we were built up expecting something major, for it to just fall flat. Quite often all I was thinking was ‘is that it, all that fuss for this?’

I can’t honestly say we had a protagonist. I don’t believe I truly connected with any of it, but it WAS a page turner…to begin.

I think I was about mid way when I was shocked at the sudden use of the word ‘cock’. It wasn’t that the story hadn’t led to it, it just wasn’t required. It felt like it was on the page because hey this is chick lit and we use language like this, but the reality was, it did not suit the style of writing. After this first incident, it became more frequent the turns of phrase were inappropriately used. I felt that I had this confused expression until the end of story, which ultimately was a let down. It was kinda like reading a celeb mag but having no idea who the celeb was you were reading about.

I think my biggest issue is that I want to stamp my feet like a toddler and shout it’s not fair. Because it really isn’t. This book was poorly executed. It must have passed through so many hands before going to print how was it not picked up that this was just not good enough….and I am certain there are many examples out there that are even worse!

For me it makes a mockery of what us non published writers go through. Why bother plotting, planning, considering, researching, editing…just go write like an eight year old that is trying to impress the grown ups, that’ll do.

Mary Higgins Clark – Let me Call You Sweetheart

21 Oct

I have read Higgins Clarks work for as long as I can remember. I was hooked from the first book, and have quite often sat down to indulge in some afternoon TV for the adaptations.

Each book has the same set up. Each ends the same way, very predictable. However, I am yet to guess the outcome on any book. Oh, and the titles I think are so similar that I almost didn’t read this one thinking I had read it some time before. I guess that’s why this blog features a reading list. Once you have it written down what you have read, you never forget.

 

Anyway, back to this book. Kerry McGrath is a prosecutor. After her daughter is injured in a traffic accident, she visits a plastic surgeon. Whilst waiting to be seen, Kerry spots a familiar looking woman exiting the surgery. When she enquires about who this lady is, the name rings no bells. Fast forward several weeks and Kerry is sat in the waiting room again. the same face appears, but is definitely not the same woman.

As Kerry digs for info, she starts releasing demons from a past trial, putting not only her own life, but her daughters too, in danger. Throughout the twists and turns you think you have it figured, just be surprised by the turn of a page.

Well done Higgins Clark, you’ve done it again.