Today, I have an exciting surprise to share with you all.
I’ve teamed up with 35+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy novels to 2 lucky winners!
Oh, and did I mention the Grand Prize winner gets a BRAND NEW eReader? 😁
You can win my novel The Blue King, plus books from authors like Kat Ross and USA Today best selling author, Morgan Wylie.
Enter the giveaway by clicking here 👉 https://www.booksweeps.com/giveaway/july-2022/win-a-bundle-of-ya-sci-fi-fantasy/
Work and life do have a habit of catching up with you and I will admit that after the busy day job, there is nothing more satisfying that settling down with a good read.
My current WIP (work in progress – yes, another Carentan book), has been completed in as far as a first draft has been written and I’m now working on a second draft. Lots of plot holes that need fixing, but I hope to get it out to an editor some time soon.
In the meantime I am getting continually distracted by reading (and work, of course), which I am excited to share with you. I’ve been exploring different types of writing and particularly classics which I have not yet tried. Some of my recent reads, include Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, which is an extraordinary psychological thriller. I’ve also just finished a biography of Angela Carter, whose work The Bloody Chamber has been had huge influence on my writing over the years – particularly my short stories. Deerskin by Robin McKinley (another of my favourite authors), has the timeless quality of a fairytale with the page turning quality that I have come to expect from the author. I’m currently reading Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy.
The curious thing that I have noticed about classics, is that the authors employ a variety of techniques and styles that in time have become out of vogue and in some cases, a red flag for novice writers. Some (not all) of these works are littered with exclamation marks, for example, and a proliferation of adverbs, rambling narratives and over descriptive paragraphs. The other thing that I have noticed as a reader, is that I am willing to forgive these stylistic foibles (according to modern editorial standards) if the author gives me the one fundamental thing that keeps me reading; a damn good story!
So there you have it. Story eats Style for breakfast. But then I may well just eat my own words for breakfast as I’m off now to edit the living daylights out of my second draft.
Kemal’s quote here is quite apt and can be applied just as neatly to story craft as well as martial arts.
The shrieking siren of the police car gets people making the same comment, ‘they’re coming to get you’! Ha ha, very funny, but what if ‘they’ were coming to get you, what if you had a threat of retribution hanging over your head, what if you disregarded the warnings that they were really coming to get you…this set of stories will show you just what some people have been through when ‘they’ were about to interfere with a life…
New horror anthology available from Fiction4All, which includes my short story Just A Woman…
Running from a terrifying past of government experiments and conspiracies, Jade was so close to realise her dream of freedom when they came for her…
27 stories from various authors present you with their unique take on When They Came For You
Available now from a variety of retail outlets – read an excerpt here.
Book 1 follows the adventures of Geriente Andolin, as he grows from a boy prince into a king-to-be. Book 2 sees two new characters arrive in the Western Isles who develop to aid Gereinte in keeping his beloved Carentan from falling into a bloody battle for control of the Western Isles. Stories of love, loss and coming-of-age reverberate throughout.
If you’ve read the first two books, I’m delighted to announce that book 3 – The Prince and the Assassin – has now been re-released with a new cover designed by my talented nephew, Adam Laval. You may still see previous versions of the book cover at various retail outlets, but I think you’ll agree, this one is a huge improvement!
Finally… a sneaky heads up that there is a book 4 in progress – currently with beta readers and if you want to know more, sign up here for my email updates and I will give you priority notice of publication dates. As a special gift, you will also receive a free fantasy e-book.
It is free to join and you can choose to follow all your favourite authors and get regular updates on deals and notifications on new releases for their books. I love reading as much as I love writing, and this is a great way to keep up to date with what is being published and who is new on the scene.
As well as listing my favourites, I am also discovering new authors who write the kind of fiction I want to read. What is not to love about that? As an author, I have also created my own profile so that my fans can easily find me and keep up to date with my books. It is also a great way to do market research, try out book ads and test the market.
Check out my profile here.
I’ve always been fascinated by fairy tales, myths and legends. You might even have noticed a fair degree of inspiration in my stories, so when I saw a course about Fairy Tales on FutureLearn, I jumped at it. There are some great short courses, by the way, in so many different subjects and interests that I challenge anyone not to be able to find something of interest. Anyway, I digress… the course Fairy Tales, Meanings, Messages and Morals, delivered by the University of Newcastle in Australia, was a delightful dip into the world of literary analysis by exploring the meaning of fairy tales.
The course takes participants on a journey from the early origins of sixteenth century French writer, Charles Perrault, through to the more recognisable tales of the Brothers Grimm. We studied some familiar stories, starting with Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard, exploring the significance of cultural context and looking for meaning. It was fascinating to then delve in and discuss the relevance to a modern audience, also spreading our writerly wings with our own versions.
Analysis of my all time favourite, Beauty and the Beast, led me to revisit some more modern versions, including; Beauty by Robin McKinley – an extraordinary retelling that is close to the original, but will enchant fans and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas – a gritty and romantic Fae Fantasy that departs somewhat from the original, but still holds its own. My all time favourite, which also departs significantly from the original, but I deem to be of the same ilk, is Robin McKinley’s Sunshine – a modern version with vampires and a hauntingly romantic tension that grips you from the start and just won’t let go long after you’ve finished the book.
I am currently reading Mageborn by Jessica Thorne, which is a gripping dark fantasy with all the familiar elements that drew me to love this fairy tale inspired genre. Check it out… now I’m off to continue my binge before the workday steals me back to reality.
I read an interesting article in The Conversation the other day, linking the similarities of our current lockdown and the thirst for reading with book clubs in the Second World War during the blitz. Interesting parallels, although I think these days, it is much easier to get hold of books than it was in 1939. Today, bookshops on the high street might be closed, but the online book industry must be booming. Got to love your e-reader; instant libraries at the touch of a button.
Personally, books are my current choice of drug, having recently quit alcohol. I am hearing stories all around of people stockpiling booze to get through this crisis, but I have found that reading is a much more effective and safe way to get out of your head. It has the power to transport your mind to somewhere completely different, and at the same time aids reflection on your current life, situation or quandary. On the plus side, no hangover, no headaches, no tiredness or depressive thoughts. What’s not to like about that?
So, what am I reading during lockdown? On the fiction side, I am chomping my way through Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy, starting with Red Sister. Having read his previous two trilogies – The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War – I like his style of writing, which is quite dark and intense, but with a subtle black humour, which is timely and uplifting. I also can’t resist a good fight and a kick-ass female lead, which ticks all my boxes in Red Sister.
On the non-fiction side I am reading Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari; a fascinating look at the history of drug prohibition and addiction. This is a book that everyone should read, and deals with issues that touch all of our lives one way or another. The stories here are powerful and real; they resonate on a level we can all identify with. If you cannot or don’t want to read the book, at the very least, I urge you to check out his TED talk Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.
So, what are you reading to keep you happy and grounded in lockdown?
Looking forward to attending Surrey New Writers Festival on Saturday 8thJune in Guildford. Fantastic programme of events for the day including; panel discussions, readings, masterclasses on pitching to an agent and building your career as a short story writer. There will be a wellbeing table, with the opportunity to chat about your work, a poetry stage, headline readings and an evening soiree. Phew! That’s a lot to pack into one day, but well worth the price of the ticket (with lunch included). Check out the link above to find out the finer detail.
What I’m really interested in is a panel that I will be chairing on the theme of ‘Female Futures’. We will be discussing the future of women’s writing, as well as women writing the future in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I will be exploring this theme with Kate Potts, whose second poetry collection, Feral, sets out to explore and trouble the boundary between ‘animal’ and ‘human’; Stephanie Saulter, who is the author of novels Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, a science fiction trilogy which uses the lens of an altered humanity to take a new look at the old issues of race, class, religious extremism and social conflict; and Kerry Drewery, the YA author of Cell 7, Day 7 and Final 7, a dystopian trilogy which takes a sinister look at the future of the justice system. Join us on the 8thJune for what promises to be a fascinating discussion.
During the day, we will also be launching our third print issue of the Stag Hill Literary Journal, carrying the same theme of Female Futures. My story, Shooting Stars, will appear in this issue; a time-travelling alt-history look at one hundred years since British women were given rights to vote. Copies of the issue will be available for purchase and we will also be doing readings during the day.
Look forward to seeing you there!
Very proud to have my work featured on the Newham Writers Workshop – published authors page. I was a member of the group in the early days of my writing career, when I was just working out what kind of a writer I wanted to be. It was an inspirational experience and one that I could highly recommend to any writer who is looking for a like-minded group of people to hang out with. I would also say that getting feedback on your writing progress is fundamental to the journey – wherever your writing goals may take you and is essential to the creative process. As a writer, you are often blind to failings in your own work that others with a more impartial view are able to see.This is how we improve our work.
Here are my top tips for receiving and using feedback from anyone and it is relevant to any genre of writing:
- If someone tells you that something is wrong, they are probably right. If they try to tell you how to fix it, they are probably wrong.
- Try to forget feedback at least for a couple of days. If you can’t forget it, then there is probably something in it. If you can’t remember the feedback, it probably wasn’t useful.
I’ve been a member of a few different groups over the years, always seeking out the opinion and expertise of others and sometimes, it is good just to know that other people face similar challenges and setbacks along the way.
These days, due to work commitments, I mostly hang out online – the British Science Fiction Association has some very good online groups, as well as regular face-to-face meet ups. I also used to spend quite a bit of time with the wonderful folks at the Litopia Writers’ Colony, which I can heartily recommend. But Newham Writers was my first experience of giving and receiving feedback in a workshop environment. So I am especially delighted to have my books listed on their website.
Last Friday, I attended a fascinating workshop facilitated by Caitriona Fitzsimons, the creative practitioner behind One Fine Morning. The workshop was designed to explore creativity through techniques traditionally used to teach drama that have been adapted for writing. The technique used is called ‘given circumstances’, which is particularly useful for character-driven stories, as it has been adapted from the Russian theatre practitioner, Konstantin Stanislavski, who is well known for his unique system of training actors, often referred to an ‘method acting’. Stanislavski believed that in order to convincingly portray a character, an actor should prepare by immersing themselves in the situation of the person, fictional or otherwise. As a fiction writer, it is also necessary to profile your characters and their circumstances in order to be able to walk in their shoes. During the process of writing, you become the character, and as such your descriptions are richer and more convincing.
The Story Development Workshop enabled its participants to map the process of character development across a story arc from beginning to end, using global themes, thematic statements and ‘given circumstances’ for the characters in the story. It was an immersive process which involved collaboration and interaction between participants that resulted in an agreed final story, told by the participants to each other as a group.
If you are struggling with an idea and are not sure how to structure or develop your story, this workshop will give you some practical tools in order to move your creative thinking forward. I particularly liked the interactive nature of the session, as writing can be quite an isolating endeavour. This approach allows you to explore ideas in a safe environment and often, one comment or observation from another participant can open up your mind to all sorts of possibilities. It also gives you the opportunity to road test the credibility of an idea from a global story perspective, and see how each individual story element fits in to the whole structure. An inspiring experience and highly recommended!
Check out One Fine Morning for future workshop dates.