27 August 2011

Reading a Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story

Those with sharp eyes will have noticed the work-in-progress meters nestling way down the right-hand column. After far too many delays my non-fiction writers' aid is nearing upload and the cover is available, so I thought I'd give it its first airing.

Covers for non-fiction are worse to visualise than even fiction. I wanted something striking, that would remain striking at thumbnail size as initially it is being launched as an ebook. My own efforts were not exactly greeted with enthusiasm. This is the problem for indie authors: we stand by our writing skills. I can speak long and fervantly on the use of tone, atmosphere and pacing, and do so in the book. What I know about graphic design can be written on the back of a postage stamp. But I know a man who knows lots, and we bartered our skills. It's not what I envisaged, but it's definitely striking. Thank you, Mark.

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction- First Thought to Finished Story is designed to help those wanting to improve their fiction-writing skills. By taking ten stories of different genres from idea to completion, and explaining the decisions made en route, the book offers a clear view of a writer's thought processes that can be replicated to help improve your own writing.

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25 August 2011

La Scala Short Story Competition - Closes 15 September

Following my allowing characters from Torc of Moonlight to chat directly to readers outside the confines of the novel, I thought I'd mention that it will soon be the final chance to enter this year's La Scala Short Story Competition.
La Scala  is a leading equestrian photography studio in East Yorkshire, England, but its annual short story competition is open to submissions world wide for its sections offering cash prizes. For those a part of the horse-riding fraternity, there is also a fantastic range of horse-related prizes including, especially for non-riding enthusiasts, a day trip to a choice of UK race courses, large hat and Chamagne glass to the ready!

I'm one of the sponsors, but you won't be seeing a riding crop or hard hat from me. I'm sponsoring a cut price critique for those competition entrants who want one, and I’m offering the judging panel five copies of my forthcoming ebook Reading A Writer’s Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story. It contains the sort of information I wish I’d had pointed out to me when I was starting out. More about that in the next blogpost.

La Scala short story competition info - Entry form - Rules
Wordcount: 2,000 max
Deadline: 15 September 2011
Prizes: vast selection ranging from £200/£100/£50 cash in Open Section, to horse saddle / day at the races, etc, in Equestrian Section.
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7 August 2011

Torc of Moonlight - Introducing Characters - The Other

And me? Do you ignore me?

You cannot ignore me; I am everywhere. I cling to you in the dew. I caress your skin in the rain. I am the morning mist you breathe. You drink me as you lick your lips.

The old fool set the path for me. The young fool became my beating heart. Alisssss believes she holds the secret. She is the secret. My secret.

Did they speak of Yslan? Yslan the forgotten? No. Yslan with her toad magic. Yslan with her acolytes. Yslan ignored me.

Ignore me and I will tear you apart. I am Ognirius Licinius Vranaun, and I will pass through to stand with you.

Just as I did with them.

Torc of Moonlight - $2.99 / £2.10
Also available in paperback.

3 August 2011

Torc of Moonlight - Introducing Characters - Alice 2

Following our chat with Alice a few days ago, here she is early on in the novel...
Alice closed her eyes, crossed her arms over her abdomen and waited for the spasm to fade. Her back ached, her stomach ached, her legs ached, her head ached. She was three days late.
What on earth was the matter with her? She’d never been late in her life. Textbook regular, had been since the very first. And there was absolutely no reason. She wasn’t ill. She wasn’t run down. She wasn’t under any stress.
A face filled her mind and she snapped open her eyes so as not to see it, but the scarred cheek and staring eyes followed her into the lamplight. For several seconds the dismembered head hung in the night air before dissolving away, to be replaced by a trail of willow fronds and the brick paving of the courtyard.
Alice fixed her gaze on the porch light above the yellow door in front of her, willing her heartbeat to slow. The stillness of the night crowded in as if the darkness were solid planes, and the distances, and the unnatural neon lighting, were no more than illusions in an ebony mirror. She refused to look left or right in case she caught a fleeting glimpse of something she preferred to believe did not exist.
It couldn’t be. Not again.
Yet, it could explain so much.
A pain zig-zagged through her abdomen and wrapped itself around her kidneys. She gasped aloud, hugging herself once more, holding her breath until the cramp eased.
His face swam before her pale and cold. Alice tried to block it out. It was almost as if she were calling him to her.
The activity holiday had been part reward, part gift for her thirteenth birthday. She hadn’t wanted to go, not wanted to leave the house and the Clarksons, but her parents had insisted, as they always did.
She’d seen Andrew that first afternoon, across the tumult in the reception area. His smile had been so warm and full of joy. They’d been teamed together for many of the activities that week. He’d explained the rules of badminton and she’d shown him how to read a map for the orienteering. She’d kept close when his gelding had tried to throw him. He’d insisted on partnering her in the canoe.
The dreams... It had been him in the dreams. The wind, the water lapping against the shore, the overpowering scent of that woman who had hugged her and hugged her until she feared she would never breathe again.
I mustn’t think of him, I mustn’t.
His arm was reaching out for her, his fingers, open and grasping, trying to tangle in her hair. But the hand was too broad, the knuckles skinned. Her gaze ran along the extended arm, across the shoulder. Even before she reached the scarred face she knew it was not Andrew but Nicholas Blaketon.
The splash sounded loud in the still air and Alice lowered her hands to look about her. Despite the lighting, the courtyard was edged with shadows, some surprisingly faint, others impenetrable. She could see no one, but that didn’t mean no one was there, that he wasn’t there. She’d felt his stare in the seminar room. Again in the library. There was no denying it now, no brushing the intuition aside as mere coincidence. If there was one thing her life had taught her, there was no such thing as coincidence.

1 August 2011

Torc of Moonlight - Introducing Characters - Alice

My guest today from Torc of Moonlight, is student Alice Linwood.

Hi. I’m at the University of Hull studying History, or ostensibly studying History. I was lucky; I had a choice of offers – Hull, York or Durham, but Durham’s a bit far out and when I visited it didn’t feel right. My parents made me put in for Cambridge, you know what parents are like. The atmosphere was appalling when I turned it down but, as I explained to Nick, I needed somewhere within easy travelling distance of the North York Moors to continue my research, and it simply can’t be done from the south of the country. When I take a First, it’ll mollify them. A bit. Well, it’ll have to do until I write my paper. Perhaps that will mollify my tutors. They don’t think that re-discovering a shrine to a Celtic water goddess a suitable subject for my final year. The atmosphere wasn’t very good there, either, but I’m determined. I’ve held this dream too long.

I became interested in history when I was very young, seven or eight, I think, maybe earlier. There were burial tumuli near to where my parents live, and I used to wonder what life would have been like for the people who built them. Short and hard is the answer to that one, not romantic at all, but those mounds fed my imagination and over the years my imagination was tempered by research. I didn’t have many friends and my parents encouraged my studying. I had an open account at a bookshop at one time. Well, they thought I was becoming obsessive, narrowing the period down to the late Celtic, Romano-British period, but you see, I knew something worthwhile was in my grasp. You’re not the only one to ask if I believe I’m an empath. The notion is ridiculous, of course it is, but I was impressionable, and if the question is asked enough a person is bound to wonder if there’s some truth in it, aren’t they? Ridiculous, of course it was. Anyway, that’s all in the past, my past. Very fluid, the term history. In ten minutes that is just what this conversation will be. History.

Hull? Oh I knew the moment I opened its brochure and saw that the on-campus residences were named after Romano-British sites in the area. The Parisii were here, you know, had an organised ferry system across the Humber before the Roman legions ever arrived to stamp their civitas on Brough. That’s the point, it’s what I can’t get over, that everyone hails the Romans for bringing roads, towns, their ubiquitous under-floor heating as if the people here had been living in caves. One of my teachers even told me that the invasion brought civilization to these islands. Can you believe that? Talk about propaganda!

I’m sorry, I can get carried away sometimes. A shrine to a water goddess near Hull? No, I’m not looking so close. I mean, there will have been some, just look for Christian churches named All Saints for deified water courses. No, it is the wild land above the Vale of Pickering that draws me. Malton museum has a lot of artefacts from its Roman fort Derventio. That’s the beauty of the landscape up there, it hasn’t been urbanised to the same extent. There’s so much still to see in the landscape. There was a lot of Roman activity up there, far more than there should have been considering it wasn’t good farming. They obviously had to be there for a reason. And during the Norman period religious houses were built in a line ringing its western boundary; all so very close together. I always thought that odd, but it’s not my period, and you can only do so much.

Nick’s been a great help to me, field trips, and other things, though he knows nothing about the period at all. He won’t mind me saying that. We’re as alike as chalk and cheese; I really don’t know what it was that attracted us. I do worry about him, though. He’s very laddish at times, and he always seems to be getting injured playing sport. I worry about him, I worry how I’m affecting him. He seems to be losing his friends. Leonard Harkin? Isn’t he one of the site’s gardeners? Yes, he built a pond outside the door to my residence. We chatted a bit. I remember because there’d been a peeping tom at the rear windows, near my window – ooh, not nice, is it?  He said he’d report anything unusual to the university authorities. I never heard any more though. You've not heard anything, have you?