Sleep

I haven’t blogged for so long. In truth, I’ve barely written a thing in months. There are many reasons for this, but the main one I wish to share with you. This is a long story about my relationship with sleep. You may tire of it before you get to the end, and I won’t be offended if that is the case. I am writing this as much by way of catharsis as anything. If you do stick it out to the end, feel free to share with me your thoughts and perhaps your own experiences with sleep.

We all have our afflictions, some more than others, some bearable, some unbearable. It’s part of human nature to suffer with aches and pains and parts of our body that don’t work, or break. My greatest afflictions usually err on the mental side of health issues. Mostly these days I’m healthy, apart from one main issue. Chronic insomnia.

For as long as I’ve been alive, I have loved to sleep. Where some people can get by on six hours a night, I prefer to get nine or more whenever I can. Even in my misspent youth, when friends would relish in the newfound ability at the age of eighteen, to stay out in a club until the wee hours, I would go along with them, but by midnight I’d be sat in a dark corner yawning, waiting for the time to tick away until I could go home, and sleep.

I always thought I was an easy sleeper, and to some extent that was true, once out, I’d be out cold for the duration, very little would wake me. But the ritual of sleep was specific. Some people can lay their head anywhere and go off without a problem. For me, I went from a childish need for the soft glow of a nightlight all night long to a specific desire for absolute darkness, one night in my teens, and the ritual has grown ever more specific since. Pitch black is a must – I have black-out blinds at the windows to cope with the summer months. In addition to darkness, I need silence. The slightest sound – a dog barking – a car racing up the road outside – someone shouting in their garden, causes undue stress. It’s as if, once disturbed, I have to reset the entire process of attempted sleep, each time, after each sound. The loudest sounds of all were non-existent. The voices in my head, replaying events of the day, events of the past, conversations with people that had happened, that I planned to happen the following day, or that were utterly imaginary. I obsessively played them out, over and over until, eventually my exhausted mind would find quiet and let go.

Imagine then, what having a child did to this delicate ritual. I’ve gotta tell you folks, it fucked me up no end. Add to that an unhealthy dose of post-natal depression, plus PTSD from the near-death experience of childbirth, I can safely say that the first twelve months of motherhood was a mess. It took all of two weeks before I sat in the doctors office, sobbing, shaking, breaking down into shards of a human, leaving pieces of my mind on his grey carpeted floor that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to pick up again before I left. I hadn’t slept for more than two hours a night for all of those two weeks. Luckily, I had broken down in front of the very best products of any medical training and experience that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I wish I could remember his name so I can sing his praises. He told me simply, to stop breastfeeding at once, to take anti-depressants, and to take sleeping pills.

Zopiclone was perhaps the only thing that stopped me tumbling over the edge of insanity. A heavy sedative that took all of my specific sleep ritual needs and threw them out the window. Take one pill, twenty minutes before bed. Lay down. Sleep. I took one a night for twelve months. Then I tried to stop taking it… what I didn’t know was that I was completely dependent on the drug. I tried lowering the dose, taking one every other night, all sorts of tricks to wean off the stuff. None of it worked. The only way I got off it was cold turkey. It took around three weeks of utterly broken sleep (most nights where I didn’t sleep at all) before I could get back towards some sort of sleep routine.

The World Health Organization assessment of Zopiclone states that since the beginning of its therapeutic use, zopiclone has been found to cause rebound insomnia and anxiety. I can attest to that statement. Coming off the anti-depressants was just as hard, and against all advice on the matter, was only achieved, again, cold-turkey – I DO NOT recommend this approach, I very nearly killed myself as a result of the quick withdrawal of such a strong drug. I am alive only by the skin of my teeth on that point. My reasons for doing so are varied but not pertinent to this post.

My daughter is now almost seven years old. I have spent seven years with chronic insomnia. A lack of sleep affects you in so many ways. Go without good sleep for long enough and you’ll find every part of you suffering. Your head throbs and pulsates. Parts of your body weaken at odd times, you could be walking along then find your knee gives out and you stumble. You forget things easily. I struggle sometimes, even now, with the names of people I’ve known for years, people I work with every day, I look at their face and have no idea of their name. You can have open-eyed micro-sleeps – very dangerous for driving. The list goes on and on.

A few months ago, I’d had enough. It’d gotten to the point where I was having maybe three hours sleep a night. Anxiety was at a peak and so I went back to the doctor. A different doctor this time, since we moved house, but still a good result, I was prescribed with Amitriptyline. A low dose anti-depressant, it’s an older style drug in that it makes you drowsy (most of the modern anti-depressants try to out-engineer this “side effect”) but since drowsiness is the goal, it was worth a try. I was also told it has low-dependency – a definite bonus since the awful experience I had with Zopiclone. It worked. It still takes me a good hour, from the moment I lay in bed to the point where slumber catches up to me, but it does the trick. My mind quietens quicker.

I still struggle badly with sleep issues. I’ve accepted the insomnia as part of me now, I couldn’t cut it off any more than I could cut off my own head. I can manage it with help, and that’s perhaps the best I can ask for.

The worst side effect though? My writing. I’ve found different anti-psychotic medications have differing effects on my ability to write, some enhance it, some quash it entirely. Where I spent a good number of years on a handful of drugs, I wrote prolifically, and though Amitriptyline allows me to sleep, it suppresses my ability to write.

I hope it won’t always be the case. I’d like to find a balance. But working full-time and raising an energetic daughter, and caring for my wonderful husband (who was diagnosed with cancer last year)… requires me to be a functioning human being, and that means I need to sleep.

And so to you dear reader, if you’re still there, tell me of your own relationship with sleep. Are you an easy sleeper, or a fellow insomniac?

I Hate It

It’s been a long while since I waxed lyrical on my own website. I feel like a neglectful parent, leaving my spawn to fester in the abyss while I drink wine and pretend life doesn’t suck. Thankfully it’s just a website and not an actual child otherwise it would have been taken into care and I’d be in jail by now.

Anyhoo, there is a reason I’ve been neglectful. A similar thing has happened to my writing. I guess I’ve hit that dreaded period of “writers block”

*spits onto laptop*… eew

I’ve had it before, and as almost any writer will know it SUCKS. But for some reason this time has been worse. It’s not really that I can’t write, I can write I have just developed an unhealthy attitude towards my own work. I hate it.

I can blame any number of things, perhaps I’m burnt out from writing and publishing 6 novels and 4 short stories in an 18 month period. I guess that was a bit much. I was working for a long time on a reserve tank of “fuck you” juice. I work well when given an unhealthy dose of ‘bloody-minded reason to do something’ just to spite someone. God I sound like a hateful person, but there it is.

Perhaps it was the shock of putting the work out in the world and then having actual real people purchase, read, and offer their opinions on it. At last glance all six books are still holding out at the 4.5 star mark on amazon, which is pretty good going considering the quantity of ratings that have racked up. I should be pleased, but as an eternal pessimist I still habitually pour all my focus into those minority low ratings, the ones we authors aren’t allowed to mention or complain about for fear of appearing ungrateful… *grits teeth and refuses to comment further on that touchy issue*

It was almost inevitable that at some point it was all going to go horribly wrong. So here we are. I can’t write because I hate my work. It’s not that I don’t think it’s good, I mean, within the realms of my limited literary skill set, it’s good, but I hate it.

I have three books on the go at the moment. I hate them all.

I get this gut-wrenching feeling when I open a document. As if I’m opening the door to a relative I don’t like, there’s nothing wrong with the relative, I just have an irrational temperament towards them.

I can write, and I do on a regular (although reduced to my standard) basis, but only after I force myself over that initial hateful hurdle of frustration and anger. I’m looking forward to the day when I can genuinely fall back in love with the process of writing. At the very least, I am hopeful that those days will return. I long for the 10k days, the chapter complete days, the OMG my character did that? days, the tears when someone dies days. I want it all back. I miss it. I miss it enough to push through these hateful times in the hope that those days are nearby. Maybe I’ll turn a page and find them again. All things are temporary, and such vicious hate can only be sustained for so long.

Has anyone else out there experienced this? What have you done to overcome it? I’d love to hear from you, and as always, write on

To Count Or Not To Count

Word counts are both a bane and a boon for a writer. People living under a rock for the last sixteen days may not have a clue about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). Simply put, it is an exercise undertaken by a collection of people who consider themselves to be writers to pen a fifty thousand word novel in a month or less. I am not currently participating in this interesting practise.  I have tried a few times over the years and “won” once or twice. If I’m honest though, the fifty thousand word splurges (or thereabouts) that have come out of my attempts at Nano, have been generally unworthy of ever showing to the humanoid world and not worth putting the effort into fixing up. One thing that I did take from this exercise is the practise and discipline of tracking word counts.

Some people refuse to count the words they write, opting to just wing-it instead. I am not one of these people. Working in accountancy, I have an odd affinity for numbers. I like certain number patterns, or any number containing a 2 (which is my favourite number incidentally… yes, it’s perfectly normal for someone to have a ‘favourite’ number – don’t judge). I don’t much care for the number 7, although I can’t fathom why. What I can tell you is that I obsess over word count. I have a spreadsheet that tracks progress of each book (as I usually work on several at the same time), over an annual period. So far this year I have written 225,741 words. Bearing in mind that these are tracked words for my bigger novels and exclude things like blog posts, shorter stories and anything that I’m not planning on either submitting to publishers or releasing into the stratosphere of self-publishing, the actual number of keyed utterances is probably far larger (possibly double).

What is the point of this weird obsession I hear you ask?

It’s all about progress. I’m an antsy and anxious person. I need to know that I’m achieving something, otherwise I’ll sit around worrying about how little I’ve achieved. If I can look at a document and quantify exactly how much (or on occasion – how little) I’ve achieved, then I can use the satisfaction of a growing word count to bolster my determination, or contrariwise, use the dissatisfaction of a waning growth rate to kick myself in the backside – proverbially of course. I’m not a contortionist.

I can’t fully explain or articulate the joy of seeing the word count at the bottom of my document hit 1,000. It’s a very satisfying milestone. I actually race towards the number 2,222, which gives me an unseemly and possibly inappropriate endorphin boost. Other numbers give short little bursts of happiness as I see them float across my screen. 5,000 – 10,000 – 22,222. I’ll never forget the first time I managed 10,000 words in one day, I was buzzing on a high for a long while afterward. I could probably go back to my old spreadsheet and tell you the precise date on which that occurred, but I know not many people besides myself would be genuinely interested in such minutia, so I’ll rein it in a little.

The point is, that for me, I cannot function anywhere near as well without a detailed tracking of just how many words I can manage to write on a daily basis. I therefore feel deeply connected to any of my fellow writer friends who insist upon sharing their word count updates with the world. I know it must be tiresome to anyone who doesn’t write, or who doesn’t track their word counts, so I can only apologise if you’re rolling your eyes as you read this. But to the rest of you who find themselves consumed with numbers almost as much as the words themselves, I say BRAVO! Count every one of those suckers you manage to squeeze out of your mind and shout it out loud when you hit an awesome number in your total count and feel free to let me know if you're a fellow obsessive counter. There’s no shame in that.

 

Write on

Lemons

Sometimes life gives you lemons. I hear you’re supposed to make lemonade when this happens. The trouble is, life doesn’t give you the sugar and equipment to accommodate the making of lemonade. It just lumps a pile of mouldy, manky looking lemons in your lap and says “here you go you bastard.”

Life keeps throwing lemons at me lately. I wonder if the universe mistakenly has it on record that I can juggle, and is expecting me to put on some kind of farcical show of juggling fifty lemons whilst riding a unicycle through a pit of dragon fire. If only I could. Even then, I’m not sure if I could manage to make lemonade at the end of it.

What does this have to do with writing? Writing to an author is like brown sugar to junkie.  When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. When I’m not talking out loud, I’m listening to the voices in my head (I’m not crazy I swear…). These things don’t go away when the world sticks a big fat lemon in your life and expects you to put everything to one side to deal with it. In fact, it only makes the desire to write even stronger. It’s escapism. It’s fantasy. It’s a safe place. It’s a judgement-free zone. I can build and destroy a universe in one page and no-one gets hurt. I can fix things in my imagination that I can’t fix in real life. It’s addictive. It’s as simple or as complex as I want it to be. It’s cathartic.

But above all, I can control it.

When the world around me is turning to shit, I can open a document, write my heart out and disappear from that fucking great big lemon that won’t go away. It might only be for a minute, or if I’m lucky a couple of hours, but that’s better than nothing. Some people watch TV. Some people watch sports. Some people socialise (crazy people). Writers write. When I’m away in my own little world nothing can hurt me unless that’s part of the plot, and even then it’s only on my terms.

In times of crisis we gravitate toward comfort and safety. Right now, I’m not writing anything for the purposes of publication. I’ve pushed aside the projects and pleaded where I can for extensions to writing deadlines. Right now, I’m writing for pure personal edification and gratification. I’m writing because that’s all I know. I’m writing because if I don’t write I’ll have to deal with the un-lemonadeable lemon - to focus on what can’t be fixed or cured by me sitting around worrying about it.

Maybe when these lemons stop piling up I’ll get back to the serious stuff, but right now the less pressure the better.

 

Write on.

Imperfect

I am not perfect. No-one is. You aren’t either. It shouldn’t come as a shock, therefore, when we put our creative endeavors out into the world and ask the population to give feedback on it, and some of it ain’t so rosy. “You didn’t do X,” or “Why did you do Y?” or even “It’s utterly shit, don’t make people waste their time looking at it.”

Feedback, reviews, critique, writers love and loathe it. I need it. I crave it. I hate it. Gimme gimme gimme reviews but oh god I can’t stand to read them… it’s like some form of self-torture. Are we writers masochists?  It certainly seems that way sometimes.

I joined a local writing group recently. I told them about my books. These are a group of people, the majority of whom haven’t managed to complete an entire novel yet, let alone publish it. I’m somewhat of an anomaly to them. On my second visit to the group, one of the lovely ladies told me she had purchased my book and was reading it, and wondered if I would mind if she recommended it to her reading group. I nearly threw up in her lap, so visceral was my reaction to hearing that suggestion. Yes, oh my good yes, people reading my book? People wanting to talk to me about my book? Awesome… but, shit, they probably won’t like it. Statistically at least one or two of them will probably hate it. Even if they do like it, there will be bits of it they don’t like.

Cue “Why did you do X,Y,Z?” type sentences. Or “I thought Character A would have reacted differently in Chapter 19.” Or “What happened to Character B midway through the book was abhorrent and you are a bad person for even thinking it.”

I’m surprised I didn’t just throw up in her lap to be honest. That chain of thoughts went through my head in about a millisecond and my actual reaction was to just smile and mutter a lot of incoherent “um” and “uhh” type sounds. How eloquent.

I have to remind myself frequently that I am not perfect. My books are not perfect. As it is, another online reading group is currently reading The Machine, 60 or so perfect strangers looking, reading, JUDGING my words, my work. I started reading the book myself having not looked at it for at least six months and I cringe at the first few chapters. They are not well written. The writing improves markedly about a third of the way in, but I accept that some people might not make it to that point. What should I do? Pull the book for a rewrite? Do you think other far more famous and successful authors would do that? Would Stephen King consider rewriting Carrie all these years after? We change so much, so quickly as authors, as artists, as we grow and work. The improvement in my ability is evident within the chapters of my debut novel, never mind the others that have come afterwards. Is it fair to judge my ability as a writer now on something I wrote two years ago when I was far less experienced?

I don’t know. I’m still not perfect. I’m better than I was, but not as good as I will be. I think that’s why it’s so hard to take the negative feedback. The nit-picking comments. The snide remarks. “I’ve improved!” is a pretty poor response. I can’t really expect people to take that into account when reading the book I wrote two years ago.

But what I would ask people to remember is that I’m human. I wrote a book. It’s not perfect. It was never meant to be perfect. The only intent behind the endeavor was to write something that would be enjoyable to read. You can pick it apart, pull it to pieces and put it back together again as much as you want, but all I really want to know is “did you enjoy it?”

If the answer is no, then never mind. Thanks for taking the time to read it anyways. You can’t please them all.

If the answer is yes, then that’s good enough for me.

The critique I will take. I will listen and consider. I may absorb some of it into my future literary endeavors. Then again I might not. After all, nobody is perfect. Not even you.

Magic in Fantasy

I’ve read a lot of fantasy stories, some of them are good, and some are are awful. The thing I’ve noticed about the good fantasy stories is the care an author takes when they build magic into the narrative.

It is far too easy when you have magic in a story to use it as a crutch - a get out of jail free card for when you’ve written your characters into an inescapable corner. This can be the definitive Deus Ex Machina answer to any problem. Character on the verge of death? Fix it with magic. World is about to implode and kill every living thing? Just say abracadabra and wave a wand. That is when fantasy stories start to go wrong.

The best approach is to consider magic as a form of physics. For a writer to lay out what things magic can do in their story, and perhaps more importantly, what it cannot do. Magic with rules is far more believable than unlimited magic.

To offer some examples, I’ll begin with the Harry Potter universe. It is filled with magic, it being the very essence of the story, however, JK Rowling was careful to build in rules. Spells that only last for a limited time. Potions with side effects. There are many spells that help the characters out of certain situations, but they are specific and have various other uses rather than one-time band aids.

To pull from a classic, consider Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Gandalf and his buddy wizards use magic, but their strength is limited, even Sauron's magic is restricted - I guess being stuck as an eye at the top of a tower will do that to a guy. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, magic is more often the cause of trouble than it is the solution.

The history of magic in folklore is fascinating for anyone who wishes to look into it. There is a wealth of ideas around, some more known than others.

When it comes to writing a story that contains magic it is important for the writer to focus on the system they wish to use. Who can use magic? Is it just a certain set of characters or is it open to everyone in your world? How is magic obtained? Is it naturally occurring, a sort of inherent magic gene, or must someone study and learn it, or even obtain it through some foreign object (finding a hidden chalice or magical orb or similar). The rules are paramount. You need to decide if magic can affect the physical (making objects fly or change shape) or mental (mindreading) and stick to your own rules.

When I chose to include a magical element in the steampunk series, I sat down and wrote out some basic structures. There are two kinds of magic in the world, one is caused by ingestion or injection of Anthonium, a rare element. The element is actually a poison and if taken in too large a dose it will kill someone, but just the right dose and a person gets some unique physical abilities, such as enhanced healing, becoming impervious to heat, or invisibility (only one ability per person). The other magical component comes from priests studying a specific branch of the religion of my world. They can obtain the skill to build illusion objects, such as an orb that can change the physical appearance of something. Very skilled priests can perform a sort of mind-link to another person. These elements, while important to the story, are very limited in their nature. I didn’t want to have magic devices all over the place giving the characters easy answers to the problems that come up.

Taking time to build the structure for magic in your world is how you make magic appear “real”, and more believable.

 

Write on

The Curse of the Introvert - a short true story

Whilst the kiddo was in her gymnastics class the other day, I and a bunch of other parents were sat in the reception area. Normally I take my laptop with me and knock out a few words, the other day, a chatty lady began chatting. She was nice, we got on well. Then she asked me what I do for a living. I was brave for a change and instead of just telling her I'm an accountant (which usually ends the conversation then and there because that's boring as fuck) I said, "I have two jobs, I'm an accountant and an author".



Of course, I should have known that would lead to more questions. "What sort of books do you write?"

Me internally: oh god I can't say erotica, I'm in a room full of people I don't know and there are little kids playing nearby and I don't know this woman, she might be a bible thumper who hates that kind of stuff and then we'll have to spend the next hour sitting opposite each other in awkward as fuck silence... then I can't say steampunk because I'm pretty sure she won't know what the fuck that is and then I'll have to try and explain it and I really can't be arsed to do that, I just want to fucking write.

Me: "Fantasy."

"Oh. Have you published anything?"

Me internally: you gotta be fucking kidding me? I mean, I want to make a sale, but shit, I don't want to spend a whole hour of my life trying to sell one fucking book. Besides, I still can't explain what my books are about without people giving me totally confused looks... fuck, shit, fuck...

Me: "I have published 5 books with a sixth on the way... What do YOU do for a living?"



Having successfully deflected the conversation for the next five minutes where I listened politely as she told me about her photography business and showed me the pictures on her phone (which were actually very good) then her daughter came out of the class and moved the conversation away. I opened the laptop, wrote for an hour while they played chess (she had two kids so her son was still in a class)



At the end of the hour I closed my laptop down and was about to go collect my daughter when she hits me with...

"So can I buy your books online?"

Me internally: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Me: "Sure, google E.C. Jarvis and you'll see all you need to see."

I disappeared as quickly as fucking possible after that.



Oh the plight of the introverted writer.

My Process - Travis Martin

The deep dark abyss has spewed up a gem of a man for you guys to read today. This guest blog is from the multi-talented Travis Martin. Travis also makes awesome hand bound journals which you should check out.

 

I wrote Sweet Adaline about eight years ago, give or take. Before that, I never considered myself a writer. The title seemed outside my passions. Outside my construct as an artist. I was a dick adolescent with grandiose theatrical self indulgence. I muted all that with a military stint that tainted my artistic ambitions. That went for half a decade. But somewhere in there I started fixating on music, and one album from a band called the Afghan Whigs, Black Love, got under my skin and in a way reignited my passion for creation.

            I hadn't been on stage since College and even though I aspired to be an actor with a recognizable name, I still wasn't pursuing it. But that album was digging deeper into me, beyond the words, beyond the melodies. It became this anomalous thing that I was sure had a story to be told, and I became sure I was the only one to tell it. Not the story that the musicians had in mind but, I guess you'd call it Fan Fiction, it was a story that needed to come from me.

            So as I said, my writing career didn't come from some pre-teen epiphany. It just started to boil in me. So I struggled to pieces the images of dreams and day dreams and songs I was writing and new music affecting me, into a construction someone might want to read. Some two years after all that started, after various beginnings and outlines that never took hold, after a divorce and into a new career, and after my final return to the stage in a semi-pro staged production, a play I actually got paid for, I sat the fuck down with a revelation about one character and his impact on another.

            The words that drizzled out were imagined from a traumatic idea, and it felt good. I realized right there that this was not a cozy story and kind of accepted that what ever this thing became, it was to be niche at least. And I didn't really care much at all about genres or marketing or even how to get it out there. I only knew that I had to get it out of me. It took more than a year, and dissolved an engagement with an incredible girl. Writing this thing was akin to heroin, and I had to get to the end. I was as infatuated with it as I'd ever been with a woman or a performance. New ideas took me to darker places, further from parochial marketability, and it was my gift only to myself. My Everest. My own Private Idaho, whatever the fuck that is.

            I finally got to an end. I didn't count words, but I counted pages. Just over three hundred, double spaced. And pages I was proud of every one. I knew where I ended to go back and foreshadow to supplement my out come. I'd developed that delusion that this was Lit and it didn't matter what I'd done to my characters, my only real loved one's. This was the next great whatever.

            And when all was said and done, and I was alone again, the editing started. And that's where the shit hit the fan. These were the micro-breakdowns. Entire pages of shit. An entirely implausible chapter here and there. I cut it up like a Freddy flick. I had, again, countless Final iterations.

Finally, I blurbed it and submitted to agents, and one after another, was turned down. All until I just boxed it up like another skeleton, Focused on my career and told myself I'd moved on. But it was an event, a child of sorts. Already I'd begun to find a more appealing story line. A few years later I moved to Portland, wrote a few plays that I did nothing with. Took the title of writer because, fuck them, that's what I'd become. I was obsessed with my stories.

            Here I am again, eight years later, two valid novels in the chamber, scouring to find those old iterations of Sweet Adaline. Because that was a story I needed to tell. Those are are the stories that define us. Those are the stories we tell. The stories that make us writers are the things that need to be told. The rest is superfluous brain candy. And that's what I dig for when I force myself down to the keyboard to write.

            Write what you need to. Not what's marketable. That will come.  

 

Follow Travis at:

Deliciouschance.wordpress.com
Polydataverse.wordpress.com
Bindingprinciples.etsy.com
@bndngprinciples

FEAR

Achievemephobia

Sounds fake doesn’t it? The fear of success. Who in their right mind would fear such a thing? Well therein lies the issue, it’s an irrational fear and by definition, if you have it, you aren’t in your “right mind”. It’s a new one I’ve discovered that I have. I’m close, so burningly, ball-achingly close to finishing the steampunk series. There is but a heartbeat, a few pages, some mere explosive splurges of imagination onto the page remaining before I can call this series complete. And yet these last few chapters have taken longer and longer to pen. It’s not that I don’t know what to write – I’ve had the ending plotted out for some time now. It isn’t that I don’t have the motivation to write. It is that I have a fear of finishing.

To a writer, their books are like children. We give birth, nurture them to maturity, provide them with everything they require to gain life and then at some point we let them go out into the world. Just like a parent does with their grown children, we can check in on them periodically, see how they are doing, maybe give them a boost (think marketing) to help them out once in a while, but really, they are beyond our reach. We have done all we can, and can only hope that they don’t fall over so far that they never get up again. Is this the reason I’m struggling to write these last few pages? Probably.

There are other factors to consider. What do I do once I’m finished? Well, I have my other series of course, and I intend to write many more things, but there is no doubt that this epic monstrosity of a world that I’ve created will leave a gaping hole in my life when I have no reason to go back and visit it any more.

I don’t want to let go.

I don’t want to finish the series. I’m afraid of losing it.

Just like a reader who falls in love with the characters in a book – so to have I fallen in love with these products of my imagination. I don’t want to say goodbye to Larissa and Holt. I think I might cry when I write the last few paragraphs containing Cid. I can’t let go, and some part of me is fighting back, drawing out the process. I’m like a mother standing at the school gate for hours after my kid has gone inside. It hurts to say goodbye.

So to any fellow writers who have found themselves in the same position, please let me know how you cope with such a loss when your books are done? Because right now, I need some reassurance that I’m not going to end up curled in a ball screaming “I CAN WRITE BOOK FIVE”…

I really need to finish this series, and quick!

Write on! 

The War - Release Event!

Today’s the day!

In case you’ve been living in a hole for the past few weeks and have no idea what I’m talking about (or perhaps you just have a mind like a sieve… that’s ok, me too) then let me clarify, the third book in the Blood and Destiny steampunk adventure series, The War, is released today!

But this blog post isn’t really about that. This is about the awesome event we have going on and all the wonderful authors who are attending.

Check out the event here, free to enter and loads of great freebies up for grabs. Read on to find out more about these lovely authors.

https://www.facebook.com/events/269833253355303/

Event opens 15th May 2016 at 2.00pm BST – 9.00am EST

 

BST---------EDT
2.00pm-----9.00am E.C. Jarvis
2.30pm-----9.30am Dana Provo
3.00pm----10.00am D.S. Wrights
3.30pm----10.30am Kate Bonham
4.00pm----11.00am Stephanie Ayres
4.30pm----11.30am Renee Marquis Grace
5.00pm----12.00pm Helen Bright
5.30pm----12.30pm Kat Hutson
6.00pm----1.00pm Tasha S. Heart
6.30pm----1.30pm Karina Katnas
7.00pm----2.00pm Tom Atwood
7.30pm----2.30pm Jazzmine Anderson
8.00pm----3.00pm LK Scott
8.30pm----3.30pm Elizabeth York
9.00pm----4.00pm JF Holland
9.30pm----4.30pm Virgina Carraway Stark
10.00pm---5.00pm E.C. Jarvis

 

 

Attending 2.30pm BST – 9.30am EST

DANA PROVO

Dana Louise Provo always loved books and reads everything from young adult fantasy to adult historical romances. When she's not reading or writing her next novel, she can be found riding her horses and getting ready for competition. Dana also loves an assortment of chocolate, coffee, and teas. She lives with her husband, Kyle, and two house plants in Richmond, Virginia.

 

·  Bleeding Hearts, a new adult, romantic suspense is her first book and getting published by Clean Reads in the summer of 2016.

·  Whisper, a young adult, science fiction is her second book getting published by Rambunctious Ramblings Publishing, Inc. sometime next year.

 

Other social media links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanaProvo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/authordanaprovo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/icehorses12/

Blog: https://authordanaprovo.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordanaprovo/

 

Attending 3.00pm BST – 10.00am EST

D.S. WRIGHTS

D.S. Wrights was born and raised mostly in Germany. 
She speaks three languages fluently: English, German and Dutch.
Her name is a pen name and she describes writing as her passion and calling.
Two short stories were published during high school, one as a school project and one in a regional newsletter.
Later she worked at a publishing house where she earned insight into the work, process and production of publishing books.
In the last few years she has published several fan fictions to which the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The Beast And Me is her first published novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Beast-Me-Book-ebook/dp/B01F749SLU

 

Attending 3.30pm BST – 10.30am EST

Kate Bonham

Kate grew up in Western Sydney, Australia, hoping to one day have a pet dragon and castle to roam around in. Then the Khaleesi stole her life and she was forced to reinvent herself. 

It was around the age of 15 when she really thought she could make it as a writer, and after course after course on different writing styles, she finally gulped down her fear and pursued independent publishing. 

When she's not writing, she's spending time with her boyfriend and their zoo of pets that include snakes, spiders, lizards, an axolotl and a bird. 

http://www.amazon.com/Kate-Bonham/e/B00T24EJSE

 

Attending 4.00pm BST – 11.00am EST

Stephanie Ayres

Stephanie Ayers is the Creative Executive Officer (CEO) of Our Write Side, author of fictions, and wears many hats with OWS Ink. She is also a full-time world-building ninja, seven-time published author enjoying country living in central Virginia, while crafting her own story and resisting to grow up at all costs. She mothers her children, loves her husband, attends church, and avoids all things zombies.

During the event she’ll be giving away a free signed print copy of Til Death Do Us Part, and also giving away a free subscription to the OWS literary journal, plus some extra goodies for one lucky winner!

http://literaryjournal.owsink.com

http://literaryjournal.owsink.com/current-issue

 

Attending 4.30pm BST – 11.30am EST

R.M. Grace

R. M. Grace was born in Australia in 1986 and grew up in Coventry, England where she still lives with her partner, two children and dog.
R. M. Grace has been making up stories since childhood when a note book would accompany her everywhere. After suffering a brain tumour at an early age, she found solace in creating characters and whole new worlds inside her mind. Now, she has an even more intense passion for writing novels that will captivate readers. She writes everyday and has folders full of stories piling up on her desk, just waiting to be brought to life.
She is the author of psychological horror novel "Inside the Fire", the dark fantasy series, "Fall of Hope", the horror/romance novel "Paper Kisses" and sci fi/ horror "STWOAS" due out later in the year. Also, she is working on writing and illustrating two children's books with her own children.

You can check out her books here:

Paper Kisses: https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Kisses-R-M-Grace-ebook/dp/B01BRNIN7U

Inside the Fire: https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Fire-R-M-Grace-ebook/dp/B00KB3CYPK

Fall of Hope (Book One): https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Hope-Book-Heroes-Capes-ebook/dp/B01FIS2N80

Website: rmgrace.com

 

Attending 5.00pm BST – 12.00am EST

Helen Bright

Helen Bright is forty three, married, mum of two grown up daughters and has one grandson who she absolutely adores. She lives in a South Yorkshire village and has based her paranormal romance series around the Yorkshire area.
The Night Movers Vampires live and work with the humans they employ in modern day Yorkshire, and Helen creates scenes that show the 'normal' in paranormal.

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Secrets-Night-Movers-Vampire-ebook/dp/B014RIIREQ

https://www.amazon.com/My-Love-Forever-Movers-Vampire-ebook/dp/B00X8XJIF4

https://www.amazon.com/Gregors-Reason-Night-Movers-Vampire-ebook/dp/B01D921TN2

http://www.helenbrightauthor.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/HelenBrightAuthor

 

Attending 5.30pm BST – 12.30pm EST

Kathrin L Hutson

Born and raised in Colorado, adopted by South Carolina, and at home in California. Kathrin Hutson has been writing fiction for fifteen years, editing for five, and plunging in and out of reality since she first became aware of the concept. Kathrin specializes in Fantasy and Sci-fi, with a splattering of short stories that weave in and out of literary fiction. 

In addition to writing exquisitely dark fiction, Kathrin runs her own independent editing company, KLH CreateWorks, for Indie Authors of all genres. She also serves as Story Coordinator and Chief Editor for Collaborative Writing Challenge. Needless to say, she doesn't have time to do anything she doesn't enjoy.

Kathrin keeps a vast collection of single earrings (and wears them), has fulfilled her dream of naming one of her dogs Brucewillis, and can't remember the last time she didn't laugh at one of her own jokes.

www.kathrinhutsonfiction.com

www.facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

www.klhcreateworks.com

www.facebook.com/klhcreateworks

Twitter: @KlhCreateWorks

 

Attending 6.00pm BST – 1.00pm EST

Tasha S. Heart

Tasha S. Heart has been writing as a hobby with the ambitions of having her work published and enjoyed by a public audience. After leaving the workforce to become a stay at home mother, her dream of becoming a published author of erotic fiction novels and short stories has been realized. As a new author, she writes to stimulate the imagination of the reader and to trigger their desires and fantasies.
Aside from dazzling her readers, Tasha is busy raising three young children; two girls and a boy with her loving husband. She enjoys spending time at the beach, swimming and the search for new material for her stories. Tasha has many talents other than, but not limited to arts and crafts, scrapbooking, nail tech and baking. She has a love of movies and doesn't mind a good scary movie or action flick to keep her on the edge of her seat when she's not watching animated movies with her children. 

http://www.amazon.com/Tasha-S.-Heart/e/B016WG5MLC

 

Attending 6.30pm BST – 1.30pm EST

Karina Katnas

Karina Kantas is the author of the popular OUTLAW series. 
Thrillers involving outlaw motorcycle clubs. 

She also writes short stories and when her imagination is working over time, she writes thought provoking dark flash fiction.
There are many layers to Karina's writing style and talent. As you will see in her flash fiction collections. And in UNDRESSED she opens up more to her fans. Giving them another glimpse of her warped mind.
When Karina isn't busy working on her next best seller, she's designing teasers, book trailers, recording audio or videoing small readings and then working on Twitter and FB posts.

Karina writes in the genres of fantasy, romance, sci-fi, horror, thrillers and comedy.

Her inspirations are the author S.E.Hinton and the rock band Iron Maiden.

You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, where she loves hanging out with her readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Karina-Kantas/e/B0034P98EW

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Illusional-Reality-Karina-Kantas-ebook/dp/B01AZYUH3A

 

Attending 7.00pm BST – 2.00pm EST

Tom Atwood

Tom Atwood is an awesome writer from Colorado Springs. He’s the best kind of guy and I can’t wait for you all to meet him.

https://www.facebook.com/tatwood2

 

Attending 7.30pm BST – 2.30pm EST

Jazzmine Anderson

This lovely lady lives in Memphis, Tennessee, but she’s a little mysterious… Want to find out more? Pop along to the event!

 

Attending 8.00pm BST – 3.00pm EST

LK Scott

L.K. Scott has always been curious of the macabre and the mysterious side of life. His dark pursuits have inspired him to write many horror and mystery novels. In addition to his published work he has earned a BA in filmmaking. Today he has written, directed, and produced over a dozen films. Born in Sunnyside, Washington, L.K. Scott now lives in Solvang, California with his partner Seth, where they enjoy surfing, traveling, and wine tasting. When he's not writing you can find him tending to his garden of endangered and exotic plants, or hunting down the best Mexican food around.

 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/L.K.-Scott/e/B009D5JPOU

L.K. Scott's Blog Dreadful Notions: https://dreadfulnotions.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/logan.scott.9889

Twitter: @LKScott1

 

Attending 8.30pm BST – 3.30pm EST

Elizabeth York

Up and coming author Elizabeth York has been writing for about seven years. Located in the southeast, she spends her days drinking sweet tea on the porch with her laptop in hand. She has devoted her life to her family and her books. With the loss of her Father to cancer in 2010 she makes "Dear Daddy" dedication pages in each book and donates 10% royalties to cancer research.

Elizabeth was accepted into the Romance Writers of America organization in May of 2015.

Take the time to get to know the characters and you will love them as much as she does.

http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-York/e/B00W2VIR5K/

 

Attending 9.00pm BST – 4.00pm EST

JF Holland

I still live in the small town in Manchester, Uk, where I was born, raised and attended school. Now a wife and mother, I live with my husband and 6 children. We also have a small menagerie of animals including a bully pup (who's also my shadow).

I've always loved the underdog, the fighter. But let's face it, we all want to believe in a happily ever after. As a huge fan of books (book nerd is the endearing term, my children use). I have an immense romance collection (Jill Shalvis, Hannah Howell etc) which also includes paranormal romance (Lynsey Sands, Christine Feehan, JR Ward etc). If I'm not writing, I've got my head stuck in a good book. 

You can't beat reading, watching the plot and characters come to life in your imagination. It's so much better than television. When I was younger, I tended to re-write books and fairy-tales where I wasn't completely happy with the ending. It confused the hell out of my children once they learned to read. None of the books matched the stories I'd read them growing up

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01358PX32

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Only-Dennison-Property-Story-Book-ebook/dp/B012JENJOI

 

Attending 9.30pm BST – 4.30pm EST

Virginia Carraway Stark

Virginia Carraway Stark has a diverse portfolio and has many publications. Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She has been published by many presses from grassroots to Simon and Schuster for her contribution to 'Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible' as seen on ABC.  She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award.

 

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/about/

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/contact-me/

https://starklightpress.com/starklight-press-bookstore/

 

Attending 10.00pm BST – 5.00pm EST

E.C. Jarvis

Yes that’s right, yours truly is showing up at the end to close down the event and issue the final giveaway. I hope you can make it. We should have a lot of fun!

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/269833253355303/

TIME

Have you noticed how much your mood affects your writing – or even your ability to write?

We had some bad news in our family yesterday, not devastating end-of-the-world type news, but it was bad enough to cause stress. When I sat down in the evening to write I just couldn’t. My mind froze up, my chest hurt and my fingers wouldn’t work. I’m a curious mix of pent up aggression and utter lethargy with nothing in-between. It will get better, things always do. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life. You get the highs and the lows with a whole bunch of grey areas in the middle. The writing works best during the grey areas I find.

There is the school of thought that one can use the harsh realities of life and take that into their manuscript. If you can manage to channel your anger and upset into the plot and characters, then it’s almost guaranteed to come out as a much grittier and realistic version of what would be written during a chilled moment. Similarly, when going through a period of good news and happy feelings, you can pump that word count up and pen some uplifting moments in the book.

I find there is a fine line between using real-life mood to enhance a story, and the real-life mood getting in the way of actually writing the story. Right now I’m unable to write. The emotion is too raw and the stress of the moment is too recent. The sensible part of my brain knows this will pass, all I need is a bit of patience and to stay mindful of anxiety levels, and hopefully in a few days I can get back to it.

To all my fellow writers who may go through something like this in the future, all I can advise is this-

Give yourself a break. You’re only human. If you can channel the stress into your work then do so, otherwise close the document down for a while and focus on yourself and your loved ones.

Even the foulest mood is temporary, and the biggest setback can be overcome.

All you need is time.

Write on!

Multiple Manuscript Madness

Life can get a bit hectic at times, with a full-time job, a family, a house, bills, garden, renovation, kids activities and a second career. If you take a step back and look at all the things you manage to do in a day, week, month and year, you might find yourself a little shocked. I know I do. It might seem mad then to actively work on multiple writing projects at the same time.

I currently have three manuscripts in the works - two full novels and a short story that may well stretch to ‘novella’ status by the end of it. Add to that the blog posts, both my own and the guest posts I seem to frequently commit myself to, plus all the marketing and businessy side of being a writer (you know, that boring bit that no-one likes to talk about) and it’s a wonder that my brain isn’t melting out my ears on a daily basis.

If you’re the sort of person who can only focus on one writing project at a time, then this probably doesn’t apply. If you’re like me, with a gazillion different things flying around your head that just keep demanding to have your attention and if you don’t concede to those demands then you wind up miserable and unable to produce anything then these tips might apply.

Set a limit

As I said, I have three things that I consider to be active projects. There are about ten other things that I have buried at the back of my head somewhere that can come to life when one of the three is complete, but I’ve been working with three things on the go for a while now and it works. Start with two and then work your way up to a number that you feel comfortable with, but make sure you limit that number or you become at risk of being a starter but never a finisher.

Don’t fight it

Seriously. If one day you want to work on project A but the characters from project B start chattering away, then listen to them and work on that one. This can get a little tricky if you have committed to writing a piece to a deadline – in that case I can recommend that you always work ahead of the deadline. Say you need to hand in something by 1st June… aim to get it completed by 1st May, just convince yourself mentally that the deadline is a lot sooner and that will allow for the days when your brain won’t comply to your plan.

Switch it up

The best thing about having lots of projects on the go is that there is no excuse for writers block. If you get stuck on one then simply shift your focus to another. This allows for constant productivity and almost eliminates the days sitting around mourning the fact that you can’t write.

Get organised

Have a good filing system on your pc so you can find whichever document you need within two clicks from the desktop. Wipe out the frustration stage of not knowing where that piece you started three weeks ago was saved.

 

Above all, make sure you write every day. A hundred words or so is better than no words. A thousand words is better still, regardless of which novel you add to.

Write on!

Things To Avoid When Writing Erotica/Love Scenes

I've been lazy and not updated this blog for a while.

I'm not going to apologise, sometimes life just gets in the way and that's ok.

Instead I'll share a guest post I wrote recently for Our Write Side

It's a little guide for anyone who has trouble writing those naughty scenes that sometimes creep into their books. Check it out Things to avoid when writing Erotica/Love Scenes

Discipline

“I’ll write a book.”

You know, it sounds nice doesn’t it? Like something one does to pass the time. A hobby. A pleasure. Maybe for some people it may be just that. As easy as a walk in the park on a warm spring day. No stress, no pressure.

Only it isn’t that. Far from it. Most writers write because they are compelled to do so. Like some junkie drug addict, the need to write something is constantly pecking away at you until you obey.

Writing an entire novel is not a walk in the park. You can chug out page after page, chapter after chapter, but only if you have good discipline.

It is all too easy to make excuses not to write.

“I’m not inspired today,” we tell ourselves.

“I have writers block.”

“The dog ate my manuscript.”

That’s fine if you want to do that to yourself. Go ahead. Keep making those excuses. It won’t get the novel written though, so don’t come complaining to me when you’re three months down the line and no further towards your dream.

How do I do it? I push through those days when I don’t feel like writing. I might only knock out a few hundred words or so, but I write something. Every.Single.Day

It takes discipline, hard work and determination. The self-doubt is always there. The bad days will come and go. The only way to get past them is to write on regardless.

If you truly have a passion for writing then you can do this. If I can do this, (and I’m a generally lazy person) then anyone can.

The next time you find your hand wandering towards your phone or tv remote instead of typing words on your book, then stop. You can play on the internet after writing 500 words. You can carry on the lengthy text conversation with your friends after writing 200 words. You can binge watch The Walking Dead after writing another 2000 words. AFTER. Not before, not during.

Any excuse you may give is petty and pathetic. Do you want to write a book? Then stop giving in to temptation and go write it, because no-one else will do it for you.

Write on! 

GADZOOKS!

I had an interesting conversation recently. A friend of mine finished reading The Machine, and told me he enjoyed it.  He then went on to suggest that I delete every single swearword from the book because he disliked reading them…

I had to take a step back for a moment.

Said I to the man, “so you were ok with the murder, violence, torture, sex and rape… but not the swearing?”

“Yes,” he replied.

I think I might have bitten my tongue at that point.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not write children’s books. My stories are not for the faint hearted. I (rather unintentionally) broach taboo topics in society within the framework of the plot and characters. They are violent, gritty and while not overly graphic, they are certainly unapologetic about portraying my characters’ lives through my eyes. And yes, they contain swear words.

I am a swearer. I could make a sailor blush with my profanity. Don’t come in the car with me driving if you dislike swearing or you will probably leave the journey feeling queasy. It is part of my world, and part of my voice and naturally seeps into my writer voice as well.

I get it, not everyone likes swears. People dislike the “f-bomb”… to those people I must say, please don’t read my books, they contain swearing, and no, I don’t care if you don’t like it, I will not remove it.

Just be glad I didn’t tell you to f off, the thought did cross my mind.

I am reminded of a great quote by the wonderful Billy Connelly-

“A lot of people say that it’s a lack of vocabulary that makes you swear.

Rubbish.

I know thousands of words but I still prefer ‘fuck’.”

 

There you have it people, the swears stay.

 

Write on!

THAT SCENE

Spoilers below ladies and gentlemen, be warned!

Something happened today. I made my book, The Machine, free for two days, and as a result I had hundreds of downloads and the thing skyrocketed to the number one slot on amazon. I wasn't expecting that. It's frightening to think that so many people now have this book sat in their e-readers waiting to be read. Since it was first published I've had many lovely reviews and comments on the book, but there is one particular part that seems to be divisive.

Let's begin by saying this is not a book for children. I made sure to put a note to say that, along with trigger warnings right at the beginning of the book so there can be no doubt. People of a delicate constitution should not read this book. People who cannot cope with stories that broach the subject of rape, should not read this book.

That said, there is no "rape scene" in this book. What happens is only ever implied and I wrote it that way for a reason. Oddly enough, people don't seem to have a problem with the suggestion of rape, what certain people have a problem with is what follows a short time after. Our lovely Larissa, and her mysterious passenger, Holt, have sex.

There are several reasons I included this, let's start with the physical issues. Larissa is artificially "enhanced" with tremendous healing capabilities from the exposure to the anthonium. As such, any physical issues her body would suffer from after the rape heal almost instantly. There is a suggestion also that she has enhanced ability to cope with extremely stressful situations as well - though this is never obviously stated. These elements do seem to be overlooked by those who don't understand the scene. Perhaps they don't understand the plot at all. Who knows?

Secondly, and most importantly, and in fact this is my main reason for starting this discussion as I feel it is important. There is a misconception that when a woman has been raped, she must curl into a ball and retreat from the world for an arbitrary amount of time. She must cry, and suffer and mourn her experience in an appropriate fashion. The moment a woman does something outside of that expectation then she is frowned upon. This is all part of the ‘rape culture’ that is being discussed heavily these days. Notice that the focus is still put upon the victim after the fact, the judgement is applied to her and everything that she did leading up to and leading on from that pivotal moment.

The reality, ladies and gentlemen, is that most women just get on with life. Life doesn’t stop because a woman has been raped. Yes of course there are repercussions, most people don’t go through something that awful without it affecting them somehow, (and it does affect Larissa) but I will always vehemently disagree with the notion that a person could not go on to enjoy a sexual experience after a rape. Some may be that deeply affected of course, but when you look at the sheer numbers of women who are victims of rape, doesn’t it seem absurd to suggest that all of these women simply stopped having and enjoying sex afterwards?

I’m no statistician. I can’t tell you how many women are raped each year and of those, how many stop having sex, and of those who don’t stop having sex, what the average amount of time that passes between a rape experience and a pleasurable sexual experience is. But we’re not talking about statistics. We’re not even talking about real life. We’re talking about a character within a book.

Now don’t get me wrong. If someone has suffered an ordeal in real life and struggles to read books that deal with that subject, then that is perfectly understandable. That is precisely why I put the warnings at the beginning of the book. I have no intention of purposely upsetting people.

Larissa is a character who is artificially enhanced physically and a strong-headed ass kicking woman mentally – even if she doesn’t seem like it at first. Yes, Larissa can have sex with Holt after she has been raped, and yes she can enjoy it. If you don’t like it, then that’s fine – this is not the book for you. Move along, thanks for stopping by.

I have no doubt that despite this message, a few people will read the book and not make it past that scene. They may leave bad reviews because of that scene. I’m expecting it, but most of all I think it is important that something like rape and all of the issues surrounding it be included in literature. The more we shut it out of society and shoot people down for talking about it, the more we perpetuate the issue.

I won’t ever apologise for writing that scene and the one that follows. In fact the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that it was the right thing to do. I’d be interested to know what other people think. Feel free to comment or ask me anything you like on the topic.

Best wishes

THE OPINION

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions." – Albert Einstein

 

This week I have faced a new challenge in the world of an author. Opinions.

It has been said that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, and all of them stink. Just so you know, I can see the irony in writing a blog on opinions – blogs in themselves are generally the opinion of the writer. I get it. But indulge me if you will as I have reached an important conclusion that matters to anyone who is just getting started in the literary world.

On Sunday I got a disappointing review. I felt a bit down about it (as I am allowed to do). On Monday I was subjected to a spot of bullying. On Tuesday a lovely lady told me I have a unique voice, and a fearless writing style. Less than six hours later I was told the technical aspects of my writing suck and I should take a creative writing course. Across all of those days I had a large group of people who were immensely kind and made me smile through it all.

A writer cannot win.

This sort of thing doesn’t seem to improve as you gain notoriety either. Look at JK Rowling who recently earned the ire of the Native Americans who didn’t like the way they were included in her book (this is the same group of people who frequently complain about never being included in anything).

When you open your work and yourself up to public scrutiny, then you are actively inviting in everyone, including the batshit crazy people who get off on trolling and launching personal attacks. There is no comeback for them, they have no notoriety, they can sit behind a computer screen laughing manically while they pick their noses and scratch the fleas in their groin and it won’t affect their sales or future because they don’t have one.

The author, on the other hand, is expected to take such things with a smile. Like water off a ducks back. Never mind that you spent years working hard on your book and invested your own money into putting out the best possible product that you can. Those things don’t matter to anyone but you. Who cares that your work is like your own child, and when you see someone say nasty things about it, it hurts and you feel like rushing to defend it? No, you’re not allowed to do that.

I’m new to this whole literary world, and I’m learning as I go. I am making mistakes left and right – but guess what? I have a right to do that. I have a right to fuck up, and then learn from it and correct my behaviour in future. That is the mark of an adult. People who go out of their way to attack me and be mean and a bully - that is the mark of a child.

Being a writer is a constant learning process. You never quite reach mastery, someone will always be on hand to point out a flaw, a minor imperfection in your work or your approach to marketing it. I am a far better writer than I was ten years ago, and a far worse writer than I will be in ten years’ time. I am the best writer I can possibly be at this point in time and to all those who think that isn’t good enough – ok, point taken, stick with me and I’ll get there.

I have been lucky enough to have a bunch of really good reviews on my books, and only one or two bad ones. Guess which ones have taken up most of my time and energy? It sucks, but I’m learning to let it go. I will always be happy to take objective criticism from someone who wants to help me learn and grow, but I think I’ll always struggle to accept the real nasties who get a kick out of leaving bad reviews for the fun of it.

For now, I have shed my delicate outer layer that ripped and tore to shreds at the beginning of the week and exposed the thick leather skin beneath. I won’t say its unbreakable, for surely if you were to stab at it repeatedly with a knife, it would suffer somewhat, but really for a person to go at someone with that level of intensity is much more a reflection on them than it is damaging to me.

Everyone is of course entitled to an opinion. Please remember, that I am also entitled to ignore those opinions, or even to tell the opinionated to stick it right back up the stink pipe from whence it came.

Beware new authors, it’s a nasty world out there full of vindictive jealous people who want to hurt you for no good reason at all. Thankfully, there are a far larger number of decent, kind people who will fight on your side and happily hold your hand through the dark days. Focus your energy on those people and you can’t go far wrong.

And to think, all this comes from writing a book.

 

Write on!

THE ART OF THE BLURB

I have recently been offered the opportunity to write blurbs for other authors in exchange for a fee. Now don’t get me wrong, I jumped at the chance, I mean who doesn’t want to get paid for their writing? But it got me thinking just why is it so hard to write a blurb?

To start with, let me explain, the blurb is that bit on the back cover of the book that gives you a little peek at what the book contains (or the short introduction paragraph that you see provided for an ebook). It is not a summary per se, and certainly not a synopsis (which is another evil piece of work). Its purpose is similar to that of the cover - to capture a reader’s attention and draw them in. To give away a little clue as to what awaits inside the cover. Therein lies the difficulty. When you have a full length novel, filled with amazing world building, detailed characters and an intricate plot, how can you be expected to extract just a tiny piece of that beautiful masterpiece to present as representational of the whole?

It’s hard, believe me. I’ve done it myself four times now and I sit there staring at the blank paper thinking “Why? Why must I do this horrid thing?” but there are a few tricks you can use to overcome the moment of despair.

1)      Pick a character (or a couple of your main characters) to mention and consider their traits - e.g. John B knew his habit of collecting newspaper cuttings of serial killers would get out of hand one day, little did he know just how bad a habit it was.

2)      Consider including a mention of the setting of your book – e.g. Sam J spent his life riding the rails on the steam locomotives

3)      Include a hint at a hurdle – a situation that your characters are faced with in the book

4)      Try to keep the blurb below five hundred words, any longer and you risk waffling with information that although no doubt important, is not pertinent to the goal of the blurb.

Also go and look up some of your favourite books on amazon and read the blurb that is presented for them. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and see if you can apply the same formula to your own work.

If all else fails, then you can always pay someone else to do the work for you… I can think of at least one person who offers such a service ;)

https://www.facebook.com/NiteOwlAuthorServices

 

Write on!

PLOTTING FOR NON-PLOTTERS

I do not plot.

That felt like some sort of confession, like I were admitting a guilty secret. Ok so it’s not as bad as telling you that I have some dead bodies stashed under my patio… I don’t… honest. Moving along.

I have tried to plot several times and found one main stumbling block in using this method, the minute I plot it stifles my personal creative process. It feels like the fun has been drained out of the writing when you set specific targets to reach. I enjoy writing for the same reason that readers enjoy reading – the ride and the journey. The discovery of secrets, the unveiling of character traits and the arc they all follow. It’s as entertaining to learn these things as a writer, albeit that the payoff takes a little longer due to the time taken to physically write things out.

If you are a writer who plots vigorously, then I applaud you. You can do something I cannot. This blog post is for those of us who have tried and failed or who just can’t even get their heads around the idea of plotting.

What I have found - being very far into two different series of books – is that the further I go along, the more I feel I need to plot (just a little bit). It’s very easy to lose track when you’ve built a complex world full of rich characters who all have separate agenda’s, so for me, there comes a time when I have to make a bit of a plan.

It’s a lot like Russian dolls. You start with the big picture, you know where you are up to this point and you may have a general idea of where you’re going. Plotting the journey is simply a case of putting aside the big doll and picking out the various smaller dolls, painting them bright colours until you get to the very smallest of details. Once you have worked down to the small level all you have to do is start packing it all back together again.

For me, I start with a new document and a set of bullet points. I will share some of the actual notes that I had on my new book The Pirate by way of example:

·         Have Holt explain his affection towards Rebecca

·         Bring Imago back

·         Walk through the jungle

Now these are very basic notes of things I wanted to achieve. I added to the list as the story progressed and crossed things off when items were completed to my satisfaction. It was not extensive plotting but it served a purpose. Now I’m up to book four of the series I’m finding my simplistic approach needs expansion and I have tried to do the full on chapter by chapter plot approach. You know what happened? I stopped writing it afterwards. Now I will get back to it – I need to get back to it – but plotting took all the fun out of it. It’s like writing out your own list of spoilers.

My advice to those of you with complex stories who aren’t plotters but you feel the need to do something to hold it altogether, try the bullet point list to start with and work your way up from there. I believe you can still call yourself a ‘pantser’ even if you do this, we’ll just keep it our little secret ok? Like those bodies…

I kid.

 

Write on!

The Pirate

I'm letting someone else do the work today as I'm off to get a lovely tattoo so I don't have time to write a blog post, (yes I'm opting to have someone spend hours sticking a needle into my flesh repeatedly over writing... yes I'm odd)

Anyway, I have had the loveliest early review of The Pirate. Check out this blog and all the nice things they said:

https://storiesforcoffee.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/the-pirate-by-e-c-jarvis/

 

 

You can preorder your ebook copy of The Pirate here, 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BO319EW