Saturday, 31 March 2012

Three in one

Well, it’s the end of our week off.  Back to the day job on Monday and less said about that the better.  During every week off I remember how wonderful it is to be my own person, to concentrate on my writing and spend time with those I love.  

This week off has given me a chance to sort myself out.  I’ve finished editing Silver and aim to start submitting it to agents and publishers by the end of the next week (hurray for a long weekend) and I’ve found the manuscript of a half finished novel that I intend to complete by May.

That isn’t to say I haven’t had some non-writing experiences this week.  We went to beach where a bug flew in my ear (as previously mentioned), we had our first trip to Longleat Safari Park this year (always wonderful) and we just spent the night in Plymouth.

As a side note, here a video of one of the Longleat otters enjoying a stone...

Although not as much as this naughty otter...

At first I wanted to write a blog post about people watching; something I thought I was a master at until I met my husband.  As he fails to listen to me or pay any attention to me when we’re out and about we tend to listen in to other peoples conversations and Friday night in Plymouth was spectacular.  We sat in a lovely small restaurant with sticky tables but gorgeous food next to the window where I was busy watching people walking past when three Americans took the table next to us.  We didn’t talk much until the American’s left, they probably thought we were a strange stuffy British couple but it was honestly very interesting to learn about their views on British bacon and the iPad app that allows them to listen into police radios (I want that app please, and an iPad while we’re going about it).
The solitary young man, very young, who took their table after they left who was given a pint and sat reading The Times newspaper when he only looked about sixteen was another mystery but unfortunately we had to pay the bill and leave at that point.

People watching is a great thing for writers to do.  Silver is full of real experiences.  Ok, so I may have added any werewolves and a spirit or demon here or there but the some situations and people are straight from my life.  Hopefully no one will recognise them, although my mum read my first draft and instantly told me she recognised both offices mentioned (chapter two actually comes from a short story I wrote during my first job in Bristol when feeling very bored with no work to do).

When we collapsed on the hotel bed and turned on the television, Noel Gallagher was being interviewed on BBC4.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Oasis, I discovered music a little too late, but listening to his story was fascinating.  Coupled with the approach of Monday, however, it was also a little depressing.  Success stories have a way of doing that; spurring you on while at the same time dragging you down.  He mentioned that he never had any doubt that Oasis would be the biggest and the best and I’ve noticed that confidence of that level seems to be required for success.   I know of many male writers who have just self published their books knowing that they deserved success and are now bestselling authors picked up by top publishers.

Confidence is the key which is why I’m actually quite excited to start submitting Silver.  I’m prepared for rejection letters, not because I don’t think it’s good enough but because I’m well aware that there is a recession on, fantasy is an overused genre at the moment, I’m a first time writer, blah blah blah but preparing will make it hurt a little less.  Rejections will not stop me from writing the sequel, or completing my second novel and submitting that or continuing to write every day for as long as I can.

On a final note and a complete change of subject, today we visited Dartmoor Zoo on our way home from Plymouth.  Dartmoor Zoo is the zoo from ‘We Bought A Zoo’, the new Matt Damon film.  While entrance to the zoo is a little overpriced for what is there it was still fun and it was wonderful to see so many active animals.  Sadly we missed the Matt Damon enclosure but he probably would have been asleep in his little house anyway.

I saw bears for the first time, in a large enclosure, all looking quite happy and relaxed.  

All of the animals were beautiful (except the peacocks that wouldn’t SHUT UP.  Personally I wouldn’t have bought the zoo, or if I did I would have rehomed the peacocks) but the tigers were incredible;
Vlad the male tiger saw a sheep in the field behind his enclosure...

While his sisters slept on...

And we got to see the giant cousins of our three guinea pigs, the Cabybara;

Hereth endeth the proper personal blog post!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A beautiful ending

Last Sunday was the day that series 4 of Being Human came to an end.  I just watched the final episode.

Series 4 of Being Human has been amazing throughout.  I didn’t want to watch it to begin with, I was too angry at the loss of three of the staple characters but the writing is so clever that I instantly fell in love with Hal and Tom. 

Series 4 has been funny, gruesome and sombre.  There have been pointless storylines, fun storylines and the main storyline.  The main plot was one that never truly sat with me well; the end of the world at the hands of vampires and a baby saviour.  It just felt too epic for a series that started off about a ghost, vampire and werewolf trying to be human.  I liked the inclusion of baby Eve though and the meaning that she gave to Annie.

This episode was the climax of this epic end of the world storyline.  The Old Ones, the first vampires, arrive in Barry and set about starting their takeover of the world with only Hal, fighting his bloodlust, and Tom, young and naive Tom, to stand in their way.  Annie is still reeling from meeting a grown up Eve and the horror that she must kill the baby.

The first thing that hit me about this episode was right at the beginning where we see Snow, the Oldest One, and an eleven year old Eve.   The Nazi symbolism was a interesting choice of the writers and I wonder why they chose to use this.  Was it to instil a hatred of the vampires?  Most likely it was to compare the two.  In the penultimate episode we learn about the vampires using camps for werewolves and humans, similar to the Nazi concentration camps.  Nazi’s are often represented as pure evil as are the Old Ones.  However I found the symbolism a little unnerving and unbelievable; why would ancient vampires want to align themselves with humans in this way?  The ideal system is not similar, only the actions and in my opinion vampires are far too full on their own self worth to compare themselves with the insects that are humans, especially ones that lost the war and the world.

What I did enjoy was that Snow’s car was still taxed, even in April 2022 when the vampires had control of the world.  But I supposed a government is still required, as are taxes.  Roads must be kept maintained as must a system.  I think Snow may have overlooked a trick though, surely he runs the world at this point and if I ran the world I definitely wouldn’t be paying car tax!

I don’t want to create any spoilers of this episode, just in case anyone has missed it or is saving it for a rainy day.   Therefore I just want to give you my two highlights;
‘Always be kind and polite and have the materials to build a bomb’ McNair’s advice to Tom.
‘Give me back my fucking baby’

This episode was incredible; I haven’t cried like that since Mitchell died.  Whilst I am horrified and saddened by the ending I can see no way out of it, the writers did what they had to do and it was beautiful.
I cannot recommend Being Human highly enough and I’m pleased to say that the new series will be on our screens next year.  I hope it will be as funny, heart warming and well written as this series.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Inspiration strikes!

Inspiration comes from many different places and is probably different for everyone.  I wondered today how many people have been inspired by the same experience I had this afternoon.

Me and my husband have a week off this week and boy did we choose the right week!  It was gloriously hot today.  I woke late (after having a wonderful late sociable night on Sunday) and planned my day of sitting out in the garden reading through Silver for the last edit.  That was when my lovely turned to me and said ‘let’s go to the beach.’  Hmm, ice cream, sunshine and chips?  Go on then!

We went to Weston Super Mare today, just for a couple of hours.  We walked along the sea wall, sat outside a restaurant and had a lovely lunch followed by a boring walk down the pier (the pier is boring), a walk through the shops where we witnessed the Weston branch of Game closing its doors for the last time (with a gift card burning a hole in our pockets) and then we bought an ice cream each and sat on the sea wall watching the donkeys.

That was when something flew in my ear.  I got off the wall and brushed my ear with my hand.  That normally works when a bug gets too close to your ear but not this time.  I heard it buzzing deep inside my ear and I panicked.  My husband told me it was gone but it wasn’t.  I could hear it buzzing and I could feel it moving around. 

It was a horrible, violating feeling of something squirming inside my head.  I shouted that it was still in there and then he panicked – the shock that something could go so deeply into my ear that he couldn’t see it.  He bravely took me towards the nearest cafe, he later confessed to not knowing where he was going but I had a plan.  Visions of hospital and an episode of Casualty flashed before my mind but I knew that we could go in and ask advice, for a first aider or just some sensible thinking.  Thing was, I wasn’t capable of talking sensibly at that point.

As we walked towards the cafe the tickling in my ear intensified and I thought it’s coming out!  I said so to my husband who shouted that he could see it. 
‘Well get it out!’  I screamed and my beloved husband smacked me in the head and we watched as a little black thing fell out of my ear.  I walked quickly away before the insect could pick itself up and chase me down the promenade.

I have since endured an afternoon of berating from my darling husband about having insect eggs in my ear.  I admit I had to google this when I got home and found out the ear eggs are very rare and, after thinking it through, I don’t think the bug had a chance to lay any eggs.  It sounded just as panicky as I was!

I want to diversify into horror stories and Writing Magazine is currently holding a Horror short story competition.  I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with something suitable and have a go at proving myself.  Today’s incident may just be the inspiration I need...

On a separate note, we just watched the finale of The Walking Dead series 2.  Looking forward to series 3 in the autumn.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I love being a turtle!

I have just read the shocking news that Michael Bay is working on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and that the turtles will be aliens...

Words fail me.

He has defended this decision after a backlash from angry fans.  It’s brave of him to want to change the back story of the turtles.  Wait, do I mean brave?  I might mean stupid. 

The turtles have a special place in my heart and I grew up watching the cartoons and original films.  It was one of the first things discovered in common with my other half.  My favourite turtle has changed throughout the years and still differs depending on my mood.

If you don’t know about the turtles (where have you been?) here is a quick back story.  A rat escaped from his martial art expert owner as he was murdered.  The rat ended up in the sewer where he found four baby turtles and some radioactive ooze.  The ooze mutated the five of them and made them big, walking on two legs and intelligent.  The rat (Splinter) taught the four turtles, raised them, taught them martial arts and named them from a book on Renaissance art that he found in the sewer;
  • Donatello (the intelligent one)
  • Raphael (the angry one!)
  • Michelangelo (the dude)
  • Leonardo (the leader)

Their arch nemesis is Shredder, the man who killed Splinter’s owner.

Then of course there’s April, the reporter who discovers the turtles existence as they fight crime under cover of darkness.  And of course Casey Jones, another vigilante. 

The original films are amazing and I grew up with them (don’t watch the third film though, it’s no match for the first and second films) and they are available on DVD right now!

When I met my lovely other half, we watched the new TMNT film.  I wasn’t sure at first; it’s an animated film which is fine but the turtles have no eyes!  You have to remember that these guys may be hard core fighting ninjas but they’re also teenagers who love pizza.  I needn't have feared, the latest TMNT film is just as good as my old childhood favourites.

I believe they recently introduced a sister into the turtle clan.  God knows why, probably for the same reason as getting rid of Christopher Robin and making Winnie the Pooh’s best friend a girl!  Completely unnecessary and political correctness gone mad.

See?  What’s wrong with the turtles as they are?  Aliens, indeed.  As a child I never once questioned the turtle’s back story and I’m proud that so many people are so passionate to keep the turtles as our own.  Don’t fix something that isn’t broken. 

On the right is a new list of my childhood favourites – what are yours?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The joys of the R word

One of my New Years resolutions for 2012 is to enter as many short story competitions as possible. Now, given my full time job and everything else this doesn't lead to many short stories but I'm still writing 1 or 2 a month.

A while ago I got my first rejection letter. I knew that story would be rejected, it was appalling. 

Today I got a letter in the post.  I didn't look like a bank statement or anything else boring so I got excited.
'Look piggys,' I said to the three eager balls of fluff beside me.  'Another rejection letter.  Yay.'

I meant this with sincerity.  I was excited about another rejection letter!  Rejections letters mean that I'm a writer, I'm writing and sending my writing out there into the world and someone I don't know is reading it and one day, maybe one day, it won't be a rejection letter.  It'll be an acceptance and I'll have made it.

I tore open the letter with vigour.  It was a spam letter from offering me 10% off...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Trailer for Dark Shadows

I have been a big fan of Tim Burton since my teens.  His dark gothic style has sent thrills through me since I saw Batman while in the midst of puberty.  Lately I've been questioning his decisions - every film stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter but then, these are two fantastic actors so I can't complain too much.

My other complaint has been the number of remakes - Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland.  While I love all three, we've been there and seen it already.

I've just found the trailer for his latest film, Dark Shadows based on a cult TV show, and do believe my faith is soon to be restored.

Dark Shadows is out on 11 May.  Check out the trailer!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Riddled with doubt and a new plan

I’m not feeling quite as down as I was over the weekend.  I still feel like an inadequate writer but I’m not dwelling on this.  This is partly because I drew up a new writing plan, a fresh way to organise myself and decide new deadlines for projects; I have given myself until the end of March to finish editing Silver and write a synopsis and covering letter to go with it.

Another reason for my non-dwellingness is because I’m back at work and have less time to think, mixed with being utterly exhausted and in dire need of a week off (which I’m getting in 1 and half weeks, not that I’m counting down).

Have you noticed that at every interview with a writer, when asked how to be a writer, they always say ‘read, read, read’.  Although this isn’t strictly true (the more important one is write, write, write!) reading is very important when it comes to writing.  It is through reading that you learn about how to write.  You should dissect every book you read – how has the plot been formed, how is the book structured, what makes the characters so believable or so poor, what words don’t work, what words do.

I recently read a review of a fantasy book on Authonomy from one of the editors of HarperCollins.  They told the writer to be careful with the use of love triangles as they have been greatly overused (Twilight’s fault).  This sent a shock of worry through me.  While I won’t admit that the love triangle in Silver is traditional, it does still exist; there are two men in my heroine’s life.  My argument for keeping the triangle is that, while she does love one of them she isn’t necessarily in love with either of them.  Rather, the two men represent the fork in the road at which she stands; should she fight for a normal life or stick with the life she has and knows.

What this has done is warn me that if I am ever lucky enough to land myself an agent, they may want it rewritten.  And if I’m not lucky enough to land an agent, I will have to make the decision to change the novel myself.

I’m working on editing Silver at the moment and I have been warned through reading articles and through feedback given to me via Authonomy that using the passive voice is bad.  Thankfully one feedback giver was kind enough to explain to me what this meant!  I have been reading every sentence of Silver since then constantly reminding myself of the passive voice and this has made me highly suspicious of the word ‘was’.  After only a couple of minutes the definition of passive becomes blurred and my brain begins to ache.

I’m currently reading Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding.  It’s a brilliant book and I highly recommend it.  When I started reading it I was comforted; the writing was similar to mine and the story was just as fast paced.  As I read on, the strength of the writing and plot began to smack me in the face and I suddenly doubted myself. 

I’ve been thinking hard about the plot of Silver for the last few days.  I’ve written it in a different structure to most books, which inevitably would cause doubt on some level, but now I’m wondering if it’s boring rather than innovative.  Does the story move too slowly?  Is the plot and ending not satisfying?  Should I rewrite it?  This last question makes me want to curl up in a corner and cry.

Every writer doubts themselves.  They must each rise above it, remain positive and learn from the experience.  I may have to rewrite Silver, but I will take away plot structuring lessons from it.  I may have to change my heroine’s relationships with the men in her life, but I will have learnt lessons about the market and the downsides to your chosen genre being today’s fashion.  

I have my new writing plan and I have every intention to stick to it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Damned if I do...

This has been a bad weekend.

Actually it's been a great weekend.  We managed to get things done that we've been planning for weeks, had lunch out and sorted out the garden while bathed in glorious spring sunshine.

What I haven't done is any writing. 

I've been feeling down lately.  I'm hating myself for not doing any writing, but at the same time I look back over what I have written and feel that it's all a load of rubbish and that I am a bad writer.  So I don't write, which makes me feel even worse.  A sort of damned if I do and damned if I don't situation.

I've been told that all writers feel this way every now and then and that, this too, shall pass.  I know what I have to do, ignore these feelings and just get on with it and write.  I miss the days of writing Silver when I was in the zone and the habit of writing 1000 words a day.  So what did I do today to fix it?  I moped around the house feeling bad and thinking about cake and chocolate. 

What makes this type of depression worse is hearing about the success of others.  Yes, in order to be successful I need to work hard and write but right now I feel that there's no point; my writing will never be good enough.

The depression is beginning to lift, just as the weekend comes to an end (excellent timing).  I need to find my determination and discipline again.  I also need to stop eating so much sugar, but that's a different story.  Still, maybe I could start both at the same time; 2 March resolutions starting tomorrow.

And instead of feeling depressed and jealous of people's good fortune, I should take note and be encouraged that amazing things can happen - Fifty Shades of Grey.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The dream lives regardless

When you finish writing a novel (or before) you start thinking about the possibilities, the next stages to reaching your goal; publication.

Obviously, everyone would like to go down the traditional route.  You get an agent and then you get offered a publishing contract from a publisher and bam!  Your book is sitting proudly in Waterstones.

That’s the dream.

However there are so many barricades to stop you reaching that goal.  The recession has made agents and publishers wary of taking risks with new writers.  Not to mention that fashions change quickly.  While I was writing Silver, fantasy was, and still is, very much in the forefront of fashion (Twilight, Harry Potter, True Blood) which means that the market has become saturated.

It was even recently pointed out to me that love triangles in fantasy have been overdone and is, quite possibly, even boring!  Now, Silver is my baby.  I’ve put a lot of hard work into it so of course I instantly told myself that my love triangle was different, but it might be something I will have to look at for the sequel, or if I ever do get an agent who wants a rewrite.  (I dread rewriting that part out of the story though!)

So it’s more difficult to get an agent, the market is saturated and, to top it all off, things are changing in the world of publishing.

There has been a sharp decline in the sales of paper books.  This makes me weep.  I love my paper books, I love the feel of them, I love taking them places to read at work or on the train or the doctors surgery, I love being able to pass them on if need be.  

One comfort is that there has been no decline in the sale of children’s books.  Our children are still reading, and long may they do so!  But adult fiction and non-fiction are being hit hard.  Part of this is to do with the recession but also new technologies.

I’m speaking about these new fangled e-readers.  Suddenly Kindles and iPads are all the rage.  This is something that every writer, whether aspiring or established, must think about.  I’m assuming that if I were to get published the traditional way that my publisher would organise this for me.  If, however, I go down the self publishing route, this is something I will have to organise.  I’ve already started my research, looking into my options, what is required and the costs.

Don’t fret!  The internet and writing magazines are filled with advice when it comes to e-publishing. 
So despite paper book sales declining, e-book sales are rising.  People haven’t stopped reading!  They’ve just changed how they do it.  Evidenced by the fact that e-book prices are rising, something that is currently being investigated and a pricing model is being drawn up.  So hopefully that shouldn’t negatively affect a writers royalties or the public’s desire to read.  Although one consequence might be that e-books become overpriced and trends may return to the paper book and e-readers will be confined to the fad-bin.

There is a lot more to this than meets the eye but it seems to all be in the beginning stages.  E-books are a new phenomenon that have only recently exploded into everyone’s lives and I know many people, including myself, who are yet to convert.

While the rise of e-books will do wonders for the planet, no doubt, saving all of those trees, it doesn’t change the dream of being published in paper and seeing your name on a physical book sat in the bookshop.  E-books even feel a little bit like cheating.

Publishers warned on e-book prices -

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Red Riding Hood

It's been a whole week since my last post.  Oops.  To be honest, I'm exhausted.  Work has been so busy and I spent the weekend working on my writing instead of thinking about blog posts (I'm sure you understand!).

Tonight my eyes just won't stay open but look at what I just found.

This is the sweetest story from the sweetest werewolf ever; Tom from Being Human.  Tom tells baby Eve his father's version of Little Red Riding Hood...