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