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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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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.

Timeless Beauty

Wells StreetWhen I was a young girl, my parents bought me a sweatshirt with the words ‘Born Beautiful’ adorned across the front in rainbow coloured abandon. The sentiment was heartfelt and intended to build my confidence, so I wore it with pride and consequently exposed myself to ridicule from my peers. In effect, this bold gesture had the complete opposite result and made me want to hide my ugliness away from the world; shelter the naivety that couldn’t cope with the cruelty of children.

There is something about fiction that scratches beneath the surface of the superficiality of the media’s portrayal of modern life, something about the inner light shining through, the untapped beauty that resides in us all. Only the power of storytelling allows us to reach for that light. The enduring quality of classic Fairy Tales continue to inspire writers and entrance readers throughout time. Based on myth, legends and folklore, they gave rise to the fantasy genre and survive in many different forms. One such example that has gained phenomenal popularity of late is Beauty and the Beast. Not always obvious to the reader, who is nevertheless swept along by the classic plot structures and themes; think Twilight and Fifty Shades.
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Review of The Cuckoo’s Calling

Three months after the alleged suicide of supermodel, Lula Landry, her brother hires a private detective, Cormoran Strike, to investigate her death. Strike and his ardent temp are then dragged into a world of dysfunctional families and highly strung celebrities in their pursuit of the truth.

A great title, interesting cast of characters and an intriguing mystery which promises much more than it delivers, in my opinion. Would I have picked this up in a bookshop had I not known that the author Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling? Perhaps, given that I have a penchant for the London backdrop and that both the cover and the blurb are highly appealing. On top of that is the endorsement by Val McDermid on the front. However, about a third of the way through I began to wish I had bought one of Val’s books instead.

It is not as well written as the latter Harry Potter books or A Casual Vacancy, which leads me to wonder whether this is an earlier work that has been kicking around in a bottom drawer for a number of years. Characters are up to the usual JKR standard – one of her strengths in my opinion – and the plotting was pretty tight, although a bit predictable in places. There were none of the startling revelations and appallingly nasty characters that have peppered her previous works. When I read The Casual Vacancy, it was clear to me who the author was, despite it being a very different book. Had I not known, I don’t think I would have guessed that The Cuckoo’s Calling was a JKR. Perhaps my expectations were skewed by her previous work, but I kept waiting for that unique JKR twist that just didn’t happen. It is very much a traditional detective novel, which is fine, but I do think that the crime genre has moved on enough to accommodate that ingenuity that has made JKR so universally appealing.

Would I read a second Robert Galbraith novel? Perhaps, but I appeal to the author for more development of the relationships between the characters and less of the detailed detective info dumps.

Just my opinion, of course…

 

A life of crime?

Just received news that I have been selected as one of 9 runners up in a crime writing competition run by Pan Macmillan and the award winning author M. R. Hall, who was nominated twice for the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for best novel of the year and is also a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter and producer, having written more than forty hours of prime time drama for BBC 1 and ITV.

The competition was opened up after completing a fantastic online course where M. R. Hall reveals his Seven Secrets of Successful Crime Writing.

Following the online videos, tips and worksheets has inspired me to complete my first crime novel and provided a much needed structure to a story that I have been struggling with for some time.

Thank you, M. R. Hall and Pan Macmillan for this fantastic opportunity!

What does your personality reveal about you?

I delivered a session last week on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on Jung’s personality type theory.

I just love seeing that moment of understanding when a participant realises that something they have been doing all along and not had the confidence to voice is really grounded in psychological type theory. As an MBTI practitioner, it sometimes feels like I am giving people permission to be themselves. It is powerful and it is liberating. It gives the clients I work with confidence in their strengths and a framework in which to describe what they are good at. Not to mention, the understanding of how and why other people behave in certain ways – perfect for demonstrating teamwork scenarios.

This tool has so many other advantages, one of which is applying it to characters in my stories and books. It helps me to keep characters behaving in a way that is consistent and believable, without the need to even reveal how or why. It just is. And it works, as you have a theory in the sub-text of the work, invisible to the reader, but underpinning the elements that make a believable plot. It helps the reader to suspend disbelief without you having to signpost what you are doing. It is a powerful gift; check it out.

The Lost Planet

Kit gets more than she bargained for when her starcruiser is drawn into orbit around the lost planet of Stakis Ventura, where she finally learns the secret behind its mysterious disappearance… (read more)

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