#IWSG Aug: I’ve outsourced my pitfalls ;)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I have to admit that my brain has been refusing to work properly this month, I couldn’t come up with a decent answer, nor could I come up with an alternative subject. So, I decided to outsource the question to the two main characters in my Novel, The Mereford Witches (which is in beta stage); Skye (aged 14, apprentice witch), and Granny (much older, much more experienced witch!)

Skye: ‘So, Granny. Angela has asked us to talk about what pitfalls other writers should avoid.’

Granny: ‘And, you’re asking me because…?’

Skye: ‘Well, you’ve usually got an opinion about most things. Why should this be any different?’

Granny: ‘I don’t hold with writing any more than is absolutely necessary.’

Skye: ‘But what if you were a writer?’

Granny: ‘I’m not a writer, though. I’d understand if you were asking about witchcraft. Are you sure you didn’t hear wrong?’

Skye: ‘Uh–‘

Granny: ‘Although you should be able to answer that for yourself by now.’

Skye: ‘Should I?’

Granny: ‘Get a grip, girl. Think! What have you learned in the last few weeks?’

Skye: ‘Umm… Don’t make impulsive wishes–‘

Granny: ‘Don’t make any wishes.’

Skye: ‘Never trust a pretty face.’

Granny: ‘You really should have figured that one out by now.’

Skye: ‘All right, don’t rub it in. I think I’ve worked out what to tell Angela, though.’

Granny: ‘Oh good. Then we can get on with more important things, like counting how many frog’s eyes we have left.’

Skye: ‘Don’t you want to know what I’m going to say?’

Granny: ‘I’m sure you’re going to tell me, anyway.’

Skye: ‘Don’t over write – less is more, and if you want the answer to a question; ask someone with some experience on the subject.’

Sometimes things make so much more sense if you let your characters talk for you 🙂

(By the way, I’m off camping this week, so don’t be upset if I don’t reply straight off – I’ve no idea what the wi-fi will be like).

 

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Posted in IWSG, Writing | Tagged | 9 Comments

Story Time Blog Hop July 2018

 

Hi All!

It’s time for another storytime blog hop. I don’t have anything this time around as I’m too caught up in my novels, but please do visit these awesome authors and end them some reader-love 🙂

Story Suds and Scales by Eileen Mueller
The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
Under The Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach
Black and White, by Bill Bush
Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield

Posted in Storytime Blog Hops | Tagged | 1 Comment

#IWSG July: Goals (very topical with the world cup and all)

It’s the first Tuesday of the month! And I’m a bit late as I didn’t notice the date change.

Happy 4th July, American Peeps!

It’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month’s optional question is; What are your ultimate writing goals and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

My ultimate writing goal is to have a novel published (preferably more than one), and I’m still working towards that.

What has changed over time is the genre. Initially I thought I was going to write thrillers, but as I progressed and relaxed into writing, my voice developed, and I became less self-conscious about what I wrote and less needy about impressing people (and hopefully more inclined towards entertaining people).

As a result, I’m currently writing a Young Adult fantasy.

I tend to think of writing as a journey. Where you start off is so very different to where you end up. There are many different paths to take and you get to meet all sorts of interesting people on the way.

How’s your journey going?

 

 

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A-Z of Fictional Characters: L is for Lou

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is a near future thriller. (If you read the Amazon reviews there is some debate over how much of a thriller it is – don’t expect high speed action).

I first read it years ago, before I had kids, and was a different person. Why would that make a difference? Because my empathy for Lou, the main character, has undergone an enormous upheaval since then.

I was more self-centred before I had kids. Being a parent forced me to become more sociable; I had to talk to people for my chiildren’s sake, arrange play dates with complete strangers and then fill the silence while the kids were off in the ball pit. It made me see that so many people have hidden talents and fears that are not apparent on the surface.

What does this have to do with Lou? Lou is autistic. When I first read this book, about 15 years ago, autism was something that happened to other people. How on earth, I wondered, did the author manage a writing career whilst bringing up an autistic son? Surely that was impossible! She must be superwoman!

Skip forward to present day. Both of my kids have Sensory Processing Disorder, and one is on the autistic spectrum. (oh – that‘s how you cope!) Life doesn’t stop because you have another set of parameters to deal with.

(With Sensory Processing Disorder, one’s senses are substantially more or less sensitive than for ‘normal’ or ‘neurotypical’ people. Certain smells can make you leave the room, sounds can be unbearably loud, concentration impossible when your chair is too prickly, the light is too bright, or the label in your shirt is really annoying. These aren’t things you’re taught to look out for as a parent, so it’s been an uphill learning process.)

But back to Lou. Lou is pretty amazing. He’s in his 30’s, so you see someone who has come out the other side of learning to ‘cope’ in a neurotypical world. He’s completely self-sufficient, with a job that his skills are perfectly suited to. You see how his autism makes him such a brilliant individual, and how his friends wouldn’t want him to be any different.

But you also see the drawbacks and frustrations. He has to work through his own specific logic processes (A->B->C->D). And while that’s what makes him able to come to the blinding conclusions that most others would miss, his brain wouldn’t be able to cope with leap-frogging from A->B->D, even if that were actually a more efficient process.

We see how Lou feels about this. How his friends accept it, his enemies won’t, and how ‘normal’ isn’t truly measurable. Or, at least, it’s only measurable according to some rather unfair parameters.

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Enter title here… umm, yeah… title…hmm

It’s the first Wednesday of the month already, and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Do stop by their blogs and say hello (especially Ellen – she usually has cake 😉 !)

This month’s optional question is; What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

As you might guess from the blog title, titles are hardest for me, without a doubt. Character names mostly just roll out of my head and onto the page, but titles? Damn, they’re difficult.

You can spend hours sweating over the perfect title, only to have it completely ignored by the publisher. Here are some examples of my own stories;

Sleeping Beauty became Different Dreams,

Jenny’s Legacy became Family Heirlooms,

Not Just for Christmas became The Birthday Girl,

The Direct Approach became No Time Like the Present, and

The Perfect Christmas became It’s Got to be Perfect.

(Witch’s Knickers stayed as Witch’s Knickers though 🙂 )

I’m fine with that. I get it and I bow to the superior knowledge of the magazine publisher, who not only knows their target audience, but also the titles of every other story in the magazine.

Novels, though? That’s trickier. First you need something to get the attention of the agent or publisher (unless you’re self-publishing). After that, you need something that will attract (and not put off!) the reader because, let’s face it, humans are fickle creatures and although ‘girl’ is probably offputting by now, there’s as much likelihood that ‘the bagel seller’ or ‘elephant in my pocket’ might also not work because the reader had a traumatic breakfast time trip to the zoo.

Relevance to the story may not be necessary though! I hear that The Concubine’s Secret, contains neither a concubine nor a secret, and although I haven’t read it, that little snippet of info makes it instantly more memorable to me!

How about you? Titles or names, what’s your bugbear?

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#IWSG May: What would you do?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month already, and time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

This month I’m having a bit of a whinge, an is it just me? moment.

I did hesitate for a while, just in case of the outside chance of the person concerned reading this and starting some kind of flame-war. But, in retrospect, I doubt it as I’m not very important in the big scheme of things, and (if you are reading this – I meant it in the nicest possible way).

I read this really good book. I loved it. But it was marred by a LOT of typo’s. Not just one or two, but LOTS.

Not only that, there were some missing lines of dialogue too, where you realise that a line has been skipped and you only get the end of a comment. Again, this happened a few times. Fortunately it wasn’t enough that I missed the context, but still, it threw me out of the story each time.

Now, I could have ignored it. But it was such a good book that I felt it was a crime to do so.

I could have written a review on Amazon and mentioned it there, but I felt that was unfair to the author – could result in lost sales when all they needed was a heads up that it needed correcting.

So, I contacted them instead.

Unfortunately, as I also follow them on social media I caught their complaint about people who read their books and only feedback that there’s a typo on page 86.

Now I feel a bit pissy about the whole thing.

As writers, how would you feel about this? Should I keep my mouth shut in future?

 

Posted in IWSG | 16 Comments

Storytime Blog Hop April 2018

It’s time for another story hop, when writers around the world get together to share some of our speculative tales.

My story this time is Trick or Treacle, featuring characters that some of you may be familiar with (from An Alternative to Frog). This story was shortlisted in Writing Magazine a couple of years back, but unfortunately it didn’t meet the requirements for any of the fantasy magazines I tried submitting it to afterwards. However a story needs readers, and although I’ve incorporated it into the novel I’m working on, this version still wants to be read. I hope you enjoy it.

 

TRICK OR TREACLE.

Granny owns the only treacle well in the Mere-Woods.
She says it’s a right pain because now she gets time-wasters coming to the shop for spells, when they’re really after treacle.
I tell her she’s missing a business opportunity. But she just grumbles and says that it’s my fault it’s there in the first place.
I didn’t exactly plan it.

It was the day Madame Genevieve visited.
“The cheek of it,” Granny had fumed, watching from the door as Madame’s broomstick disappeared over the treeline. “I used the last of the treacle on those flapjacks and she turned them down with the flick of an eyebrow.”
I’d been impressed by Madame’s eyebrow flick. In fact, Madame had been a huge relief all round, since my friend Petra had taken to checking my face regularly, convinced that warts were one of the job requirements for a witch.
But Madame Genevieve was tiny, elegant and undeniably wartless.
“Professional visit, my eye!” Granny held aloft the flapjack plate as I shook out the cloth we’d hastily whisked over the worktable. “As if I’d sell bog-mandrake to the likes of her.”
Until we figured out how to harvest it from the depths of the garden pond, we wouldn’t be selling the bog-mandrake to anyone. But I didn’t say that.
“Why not?” I asked instead. “She just wanted it for a beauty potion.”
“Really Skye, you don’t waste bog-mandrake on anything so trivial. Beauty potion indeed! And don’t think I haven’t seen you searching the grimoires for the like.”
I hadn’t realised I’d been so obvious. “It’s not such a bad idea. It could be a way to attract customers.”
“A decent witch doesn’t need to attract customers. Her reputation should speak for itself, and her’s doesn’t.” Granny waved an arm in the direction Madame had taken. “There’s something about that witch that makes my thumbs prick.” One of the bats chose that moment to streak through the still-open door, piping a complaint, and she dropped the subject.
The bats were behind Granny’s reputation for knowing every secret between here and the Hunterback Mountains. In return for the particularly tasty midges that hung out above the garden pond, they shared any news they picked up on their flights through the forest.
“Oh drat.” Granny peered down the lane as she followed the bat outside. “Someone’s coming. Sort ‘em out Skye, I’ll be back in a minute.” She disappeared around the side of the cottage, leaving the flapjacks balanced on the well coping as she passed.
I think Granny misses the bad old days; she suspects everyone. I admit, I wouldn’t fancy putting bog-mandrake anywhere near my face, considering what it did to the gardening gloves, but Madame had seemed to know what she was talking about.
I checked my appearance in Granny’s magic mirror and, reassured there wasn’t a wart or hooked nose in sight, went to greet our visitor.
It was a pedlar. Granny called them a necessary evil, but I still got as excited as any other villager at the covered wagon creaking along the track.
“Refreshments, good sir?” I asked, when he reached the cottage.
Mum had brought me up to observe the conventions of hospitality. Granny keeps telling me that witches don’t follow convention. I have trouble balancing these conflicting opinions sometimes, so was relieved when the pedlar politely took the plate of flapjacks, but left it next to some cages on the tailboard of the wagon when he thought I wasn’t looking.
He pulled back the coverings to display his wares. The cages held an assortment of creatures; some piskies, a distressed looking water vole and an enormous Hunterback frog among others. I ignored them to look through what trinkets and charms he had before Granny came back.
“Anything you’re after in particular, my lovely?” He had a twinkle in his eye, and what he lacked in looks he made up for with a warm charm that made me feel like we’d met before.
“Perhaps,” I said. “Do you have anything unusual?”
“Who would dare visit a witch’s residence without bringing something out of the ordinary? And for a beauteous maid such as yourself, what could be more appropriate than a wish?” With a flourish he presented me with a delicate papery flower pod. “It’s very fragile, make sure your wish is fully formed before you break it open.”
What to wish for? Everlasting beauty? Perfect skin? Or perhaps—
“Don’t be an idiot, girl. You’re a witch, you can make your own wish spells,” said Granny from behind me.
There was that moment gone then.
I could have told him that the raffish charm that worked so well on me wouldn’t dent Granny’s toughened exterior, but some things have to be learned firsthand. I examined the rest of his wares, listening with half an ear as he tried to flatter her.
“Well?” she asked me, cutting through his spiel.
“There’s magewort, persimmony and hogsbreath,” I reported. “And some purple madder, depending on the price.” I shrugged to indicate that anything else we might want wasn’t in sight.
She gave a slight nod and turned back to the pedlar.
Mum and Dad ran the village post-office, so I’d soaked up barter and negotiation at an early age, but watching Granny took it to a whole new level. You wouldn’t believe what she could extract from a bit of gossip.
Today it wasn’t working though. The pedlar deflected each foray with a wave of a hand or a flick of an eyebrow. You’d think he’d never travelled the Hunterbacks or the Maze fields. He must have done to gather his stock, but it was as if instead he’d sprung into being that very morning. I became more convinced I’d met him before.
I leaned against the wagon and reached for a flapjack as I settled in to watch.
The plate was empty.
The Hunterback frog looked a bit too innocent.
“Why you little—!”
“Something wrong?” Granny and the pedlar had both paused to watch me.
“Ah… no.” If Granny found out the frog had scoffed the lot, she’d have him for spare parts. I preferred my spell ingredients nicely pre-pickled and impersonal, so I kept quiet.
“So, about this bog-mandrake—” The pedlar turned back to her.
“Absolutely not. Harvesting is a very delicate process and it’s just not ready yet. I’ve already had to turn someone away…”
And then I had it. As I watched in amazement, he gave that unmistakeable flick of his eyebrow again. Somehow, the pedlar was Madame Genevieve.
I couldn’t work it out. How? Why? And, the issue closest to my heart, what did this mean about Madame’s beauty? Was she really a toothless crone beneath it all? Was I doomed to a future of warts and cavities?
Fortunately Granny is very sharp witted and I am far from subtle. Sometimes the combination is foolproof.
Madame Genevieve – the pedlar – was still banging on about the bog-mandrake.
“Let me get my almanac,” Granny said, giving me a sharp look before retreating inside the cottage.
“Yes, bog-mandrake, it’s a real pain,” I babbled. “It’s the conditions you see. For it to really flourish it does something to the water that makes it quite toxic to human skin. It’s melted every pair of gloves we’ve tried.”
That was true. I think it was something to do with the midges and the bat-poo. The combination had created some kind of eco-system in the garden pond.
“Now, now, Skye dear, don’t give away trade secrets,” said Granny. She stood in the doorway with the mirror dangling from her fingers, and before the pedlar – Madame – could turn, she cried;

“By Mephistole and Cullan’s Dritch,
By Hazel rod and Willow switch,
Never underrate this witch,
I command thee, once more, switch!”

She flung something into the air and there was a flash of light.
The pedlar hunched into a ball and began squeaking. Gradually we could make out words.
“Nasty witch… turned me into some kind of rat and stuffed me in a cage… Why can’t you tell, you stupid woman, you’re meant to be a witch— Oh! My hands! My nose! I’m back! Oh thank you!” He fell to his knees and tried to kiss the hem of Granny’s skirt.
“Yes, yes.” She shooed him away and strode over to the cage that had held the water vole. It now held a miniature Madame Genevieve who was shaking the bars in fury.
“Damn you, you meddlesome old witch!”
“Part of the job, dearie.” Granny lifted the cage and examined her. “I can’t go selling high risk products to just anyone you know, I have my reputation to consider.”
“Reputation!” Madame sneered. “Witchcraft is stagnating because of fools like you, too afraid to take risks. But my turn will come.”
“Not for a while yet,” replied Granny. “We’ll let the Coven Committee deal with you. Turning innocent bystanders into vermin puts a bad light on the rest of us.” She turned back to the pedlar. “Unless you want to keep her?”
“No! No! And under the circumstances, please consider everything to be at thirty percent discount today… I mean fifty percent,” he substituted hurriedly at Granny’s raised eyebrow.
“Very kind of you. Skye has a list.”
I repeated the herbs I’d mentioned earlier and added a few more. “We could use the frog too,” I said, wondering if frog-skin stood up to mandrake toxins. I even had an idea of what his weakness might be if he needed encouragement.
“Gladly miss, and here, as a token of my deep appreciation.” The pedlar swept up a handful of the charms and gew-gaws I’d been browsing earlier. In amongst them was the wish spell.
“Skye!” warned Granny.
But it was too late. The papery pod crumpled under my fingers and the wish-dust inside spilled out, taking my half formed idea with it.

It didn’t turn out so badly. The treacle well means we can make as much flapjack as we like, and that frog will do anything for flapjack. Which is very useful when it comes to harvesting bog-mandrake.

But that’s another story.

********************

Don’t forget to check out all the other stories, and let the authors know if you enjoy them!

Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan
The Ghost Fighter, by Bill Bush
Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key

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