Category Archives: Books

Surrey New Writers Festival

Slide from Surrey New Writers Festival
At the weekend, I joined a lively group of writers in Guildford at the Surrey New Writers Festival at G-Live, organised by the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. The mix of discussion panels and workshops made for some insightful debates, including; literary start-ups, creating and nurturing a support network, writing for TV and Film, a panel of agents, publishers and editors as well as a lunch time workshop delivered by writing coach and author, Melissa Addey. There was also a poetry stage going on throughout the day with readings from special guest poets.

It was a great opportunity to network with local writers and chat with students and staff from the University, who invited me along to do a reading at the evening launch of the Stag Hill Literary Journal. As a contributor to the inaugural issue, I was honoured to read an extract from my short story, Habitat, an near-future SciFi story, which appears in the journal. Stag Hill Literary JournalYou can follow the future of the journal on their facebook page here, where you can get a copy of Issue One, read the online version or send in your own submissions. Thank you to M.E. Rolle and the editorial team for the opportunity to network and share my work with a wider audience.

 

 

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Twenty Jobs for Writers

 

Of course, any job is a good job for a writer. We like to think we would be happy in isolation, chipping away at our work in progress, but actually any job that brings us into contact with people provides a rich source of inspiration and character ideas. Nevertheless, writers are wordsmiths and happiest when engaged in the written word, so here are twenty jobs for writers that make use of our skill.

Copywriter
A copywriter writes advertising and product descriptions (known collectively as copy) for print and online catalogues, commercial scripts, brochures, direct mail. Can be freelance or working for an agency. http://www.ipa.co.uk/ 

Blogger
With the rise of content marketing, an increasing number of companies are paying freelancers to write articles for their blogs. A combination of one-off articles or series of articles – useful to have a specialism. Be prepared to chase work.

Reviewer
A reviewer writes an evaluation of the quality of something eg. books, films, food, art, music, theatre. Can be quite lucrative, often work as freelancers.

Editorial Assistant
An editorial assistant provides administrative support for editors, associate editors and writing/editorial staff. They often perform scheduling, filing, note taking, and other administrative duties. They may or may not perform writing and editing tasks. http://www.bookcareers.com/ Read the rest of this entry

Carentan Series Update

Map of Western Isles

Map of the Western Isles

It has been a while since my last book, The King of Carentan, was published and I realise I have been quiet – various reasons for that; the length of time it takes to write a book, the length of time between writing a book and it being fit for public consumption and… new job notwithstanding… multiple other personal distractions. So I owe my readers a long overdue update on progress.

Yes – you heard right, I am eight months into a new job which comes with its own challenges and priorities. But despite that, I have been busy on the writing front (check out my urban fantasy stories featuring Dryads in London).

Book Three of the Carentan Series is due for release in June 2018 and will resolve some unanswered questions from Book One (no spoilers). If you are now scratching your head and wondering what or whom I am referring to, I have provided links below for you re-read the books and refresh your memory. Or if you are new to the series, the first two books will provide you with a good backdrop to Book Three – although not necessary to enjoy the book in its own right. Indeed, I have been most careful to ensure that each book is a stand-alone story – not dependent on reading the rest of the series.

For you die-hard fans and those who badger me at opportune moments (I am not complaining as it keeps me on my toes!) – you may be pleased to hear that I am getting stuck in to another book in the Carentan Series. Completely independent of the first three books, but explores another character’s story in more detail. I’m saying no more.

So, on that note, I leave you with some links where you can buy the books in the format of your choosing to update or if new to the series prepare for the release of the next instalment in 2018; The Prince and The Assassin.

The Prince of Carentan
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple

The King of Carentan
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple

Comments, complaints, compliments and reviews (good, bad or indifferent), are always welcome and much appreciated.

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The Gone Gods

Gone GodsWhen I was a girl, my granda used to take me and my siblings for long walks in Ashridge Forest. We explored acres of glorious beech and oak woodlands, crunching through the bracken and collecting beechnuts and acorns to use as projectile weapons in the eternal sibling rivalry war. Trees have always fascinated me. The garden of my childhood was filled with hardy tree-climbing inspiration; Pines tall enough to see over the town and across the downs, Horse Chestnuts with perfect nooks and crannies for makeshift tree houses and stashing secret conker supplies. So, I guess it’s not surprising for me to link my love of trees and forests with my love of fantastic fiction.

The Gone Gods is one in a series of stories that feature dryads, nymphs, wood elves and other magical creatures. Writers have handled dryads in different forms for many years. Such stories are as old as the gods themselves. We find dryads represented throughout literature; Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Virginians by William Thackeray, and particularly as symbols of nature in; On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad and On the Plethora of Dryads by Sylvia Plath.

Dryads can also be found in fantastic fiction; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Belgariad by David Eddings. I am sure that you can come up with many more examples.

This short novelette, The Gone Gods, is three chapters, which explore the juxtaposition between modern urban life and ancient myth; how these wonderful and alien creatures rub up against the modern Londoner. Hope you enjoy it.

 

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Creative writing courses… why bother?

Library BooksI was inspired by an article I read in The Conversation about why the teaching of creative writing matters by Simon Holloway, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton, who says that very few students will earn a living as a writer. But writing is about more than that, and the ability to communicate effectively is a rare and precious thing’.

There is mixed opinion about the benefits of undertaking a course in creative writing; Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia, famously said that creative writing courses are a ‘waste of time’.

By coincidence, I was recently invited back to my university to talk to the MA Writing students about my experience of the course and what I have gained. It is only a year since I graduated, so it is still fresh in my mind, but talking it through with a group of engaging peers at various stages of their careers helped me to reflect on and consolidate my own experience.

I thought it might be useful to share some of my reflections in the hope of reaching out to anyone out there who is at a cross roads and trying to decide the best route to take.

It is unfortunately true to say that few creative writing students will earn a living as a writer, but even as I sat in front of this year’s cohort and asked them what they most wanted to learn from me, many said it was how to earn a living from writing. Although I have a full time day job as well as being a writer, this is perhaps one area in which I can add some valuable insight. I work in graduate careers and employability, and much of the advice that I offer students in preparing for the jobs market is transferable to writers preparing their work for publication. In fact this is the one area where my day job and my writing work find a happy coexistence. Here are my top tips for getting a job and/or getting published. Read the rest of this entry

9 Things You Need To Write A Novel

tobylitt

The first thing you need to write a novel is… Time.

The second thing you need to write a novel is… More Time.

And the third thing you need to write a novel is… Even More Time.

This perhaps seems a bit obvious. But let me explain.

Time, More Time and Even More Time are all necessary.

I’ve divided Time up into three because you need Time for different things.

The first lot of Time is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, Time to write. Time to sit at the desk with words coming out of you.

The second lot of time, More Time, is… Time not to write. Time to do stuff which doesn’t seem to be writing but which, in the end, turns out to have been writing all along. To the uninitiated, this may appear to be window shopping or people-watching, taking a…

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Unheard

The Mechanics' Institute ReviewAs writers we strive to engage in sensory description to bring alive our stories for readers. Through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste we can evoke a sense of the familiar and colour our characters with graphic depth. So, I thought I’d mix it up a bit in this story. Synaesthesia is an extraordinary condition where the stimulation of one sense automatically triggers sensations in one of the other five senses. For example, sound triggering a tactile response, music or voices seen as colours. I chose to play about with touch and taste in this case, but I’ll let you, my curious reader, decide for yourself how well you think that worked.

This particular story was also inspired by the deep divisions in our society that are growing ever wider and threaten our unique and inclusive cultural identity. The story takes us into a near future that is already sitting on our doorsteps. As a writer, you can’t help but reflect what you see going on around you. Whether set in our world, a future world or a re-written past, stories give us the opportunity to take a good look at ourselves and wonder what we can do to make the world a better place.

Thank you to The Mechanics’ Institute Review Online for publishing Unheard.

Walking The Dog

Chocolate LabradorWalking my chocolate Labrador has long been an excuse for me to see this corner of London from a different perspective. I have an ostensible reason for loitering around patches of grass area and parks, where you might otherwise be considered a bit weird. A pretext for watching the world go by and observing the strange behaviour of others; human or otherwise. Some random observations:

Helping Hands is a second hand shop, which has been there, trading throughout the recession when other high street shops had long since disappeared. It never seems busy and yet, the stock keeps changing and it remains in business. Perhaps it is a smokescreen for a secret surveillance organisation, or it is really being run by drugs barons who only pretend to sell furniture.

Across the road, a shop called Magic Carpets makes me think of Arabian adventures at sea. I wonder if I bought a carpet from there whether it might take me on a fantastical journey.

The local area has been redesigned with new buildings that look more like prison blocks than residential homes. Was that a deliberate reflection on the social capital of the residential majority?

I often walk my dog in the local park and it has long since been a destination to take my boys (when they were young) on a Sunday morning stroll. For many years I had no idea of the significance of its history. But when the area was being re-developed, a poster history of Steve Marriot, singer/songwriter for the Small Faces, who grew up there was displayed. Its nickname, Itchycoo Park, is said to be attributed to stinging nettles that grew there.

We have streets, blocks and a community centre named after our 16-year-old 1st world war hero, who was posthumously, bestowed the Victoria Cross, for staying at his post in the navy when all others had left. He was the third youngest recipient of the VC.

I have an invisible message stamped upon my forehead. I am convinced that I am marked, as every bizarre person seems to want to talk to me as though I am the only person left on Earth who will hear their story. Over the years, I have collected quite a motley crew, who have made debut appearances in my various fiction. I now carry a public warning; talk to me at your peril, lest you be immortalised in hyperbole.

Every day for a number of weeks, there has been a red fox following my dog and me. It has a weird kind of ‘I see you here and know what you are’ kind of attitude. And it is not afraid of human presence. Perhaps it is a werefox.

The banks of the River Roding are rife with rats the size of guinea pigs and the skies are filled with crows; sinister, satin, black – screeching to one another as though we are all enemies of the state.

The King of Carentan

The King of CarentanYoung twins, Jehanna and Jehan, are abandoned, presumed orphaned off the coast of Tennengaul. Brought up by a poor family in a small fishing village, they set out one day on an adventure that takes them across the country to find their fortune and discover their talents. Jehanna develops a skill for herbs and healing, while Jehan trains to be a soldier in a local garrison.

The new King of Carentan at only eighteen years of age is confronted by a national threat from the Southern Lands that soon becomes a threat to the entire Western Isles. Only months into his reign, it falls to Gereinte Andolin to draw together the combined might of the divided Western Isles to stand up to the threat of the Chevaliers of Arrontierre. But will it be enough? Read more…

Why we love a coming-of-age story

http://www.carentan.co.ukComing-of-age is a genre that typically has a young protagonist who goes on a journey to find meaning to their life. We follow their moral and psychological growth from youth to adulthood with the expectation that they will face significant barriers along the way. They may make mistakes and face life or death circumstances, but the key factor is that the character learns from their experience and changes as a result.

The genre of Fantasy Fiction loves a coming-of-age story. The story arc takes our young protagonist on a journey that often starts with loss or alienation; think Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games. A common theme is the discovery of magical or special powers; Name of the Wind, A Wizard of Earthsea, and part of the quest is to discover how to use this special gift for good. This opens up the genre to that age-old battle between good and evil, often introducing a dark antagonist; Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad.

My all time favourite is The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner and its sequel The Queen of Attolia, which strictly speaking, you might not class as a coming-of-age story. However, it has all the elements that make it so in my mind; a young protagonist who faces a journey which forces him to make moral and psychological choices, love, loss – both physical and emotional – and circumstances that demand him to take responsibility not only for himself but for his family and his nation. Add to that a dash of supernatural powers, a few good fight scenes and I am sold.

We can all identify with the loss of innocence; right from the moment we discover that it is really our parents who are putting presents under the Christmas tree. As adults, our whole lives are coloured by perspectives that do not limit the imagination of the young. Somehow, we long to rid ourselves of the shackles of rational thought and return once again to that age of innocence, when life was so much simpler. So the coming-of-age story allows us to relive a life less complicated and find the answers to our own adult conundrums through youthful eyes. What’s not to love about that?

So what can I bring to bear from personal experience on this well documented genre? Well, I’m still waiting to come of age, so in the meantime I’ll just carry on writing stories.

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