Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cottage of Dreams

For the first time in far too long my friend Sue and I managed to escape our everyday lives and retreat to a small seaside crib (batch) for some much needed rest and relaxation.

For approximately three years we have made it a habit to go on a weekend writing retreat every six months or so, but due to bad health, family stresses, work and moving house we haven't managed to get away for over a year.

We had no plans to write this time around. Both of us were just hanging out for the chance to have some down time. We excaped to the Karitane, a little place just 30 minutes drive from Dunedin. There we watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey, went for walks, had coffee with a friend and visited the village of Palmerston. We talked about out books but didn't write a word. It was fabulous!

We could see the sea, and hear its muted roar from our porch. The rain pattered on the tin roof as we curled up in the gloom, sung and warm with our hot cups of tea and chocolate biscuits.

I came away longing for the simple quiet life, free of the rush and bustle, with time to day dream and write and read to my heart's content. I've fallen madly in love with the idea of living in a small tin cottage remincent of a bygone era - with a few of the modern conviences, of course.

It would have lead light windows, tongue and grove walls, a coal range, shelves of glass jars full of all manner of foods on display, cozy quilts, a sand-scrubbed table and worn wooden chairs, a kerosene lamp on the mantle piece and a deep claw-foot bath in the bathroom. Up a narrow stair there'd be a loft bedroom with a steep pitched ceiling and pasley feather quilts on the beds, like Granny used to have.

The sun would spill cross the floor boards, honey gold, and I'd watch the dust motes dance like fairies on beams of light. I'd stand at the door, feel the breeze kiss my lips, taste the changing seasons and perfume of growing things. Sitting before the fire, flame heat warming my toes, my fingers would play over the keyboard turning inspiration into words. Ah, sigh. Dreams are free aren't they?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A BEASTLY Read

I've been reading a lot of REALLY good books recently, so I thought over the next couple of weeks I'd share a few of them with you all. Though, I have to confess, some books which may have been on shelves overseas for some time do take a while to reach our fair shores so you may be fimilar with some of them already.

BEASTLY by Alex Flinn is a take off of Beauty and the Beast which manages to capture the magic of the old fairytale and the bloom of young love, and meld it seamlessly into a modern setting to create a story that mirrors the old while still being unique.

A beast. Not quite wolf or gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature with fangs, claws, and hair springing from every pore. I am a walking monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. And I'll stay this way forever - unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, the perfect girl, and the perfect life. And then I'll tell you how I became perfectly ... beastly.

It is a sweet, refreshing, love story. Once I started reading I couldn't but it down. Now my daughter is reading it and I've promised her that once she's finished we'll watch the movie. Yes! Beastly is now out on video. Though if the trailer is anything to go by some artistic licence has been taken with the the beast's appearence. You can watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Write Me: Pimp that Fairytale!

I thought it might be fun to occasionally put up a writing exercise that might challenge and inspire you. It's amazing how trying your hand at something a little different can improve your writing, help you to pick up on weaknesses, tone your strengths and open your eyes to the various aspects of the craft.

I've been thinking a lot recently about fairy tales, about the magic quality they have that seems to appeal though all the generations. People have been telling fairy and folk tales for thousands of years, and we've never grown tired of them. So how can we as writers capture that illusive magic for ourselves. Why not start with the fairy tale?

The first myth we have to dispel is that fairy tales are for children. This simply isn't true. While we may consider fairy tales children's stories this is a merely modern thinking - Walt Disney has had a big role in perpetuating this myth. You only have to open a book of Grimm's fairy tales to see how dark and brutal the old tales were.

When you pimp a car you strip it down to the essentials, the frame work. You then re-model, re-vamp and re-build the car into something super awesome. We can do the same thing with a fairytale. Strip it down to the basic plot arch ... or take it further still, down to the basic essential elements of a fairytale. Then rebuild. This requires some serious "thinking outside the square."

Lets be honest this isn't a new concept. People have been reworking fairy tales in novels and on the big screen for a few years now, and that's good. It means we have a sources to study. So let's explore a few examples.

The first one that springs to mind is Little Red Riding Hood. Hoodwinked came out a number of years ago and is a great example of a pimped fairytale. The wolf is a jaded reporter trying to catch a break on a story, the Grandma is supergran-meets-superwoman in disguise, and the evil villain is a cute bunny. More recently Red Riding Hood is dark fantasy where a werewolf prowls the night - definitely not for children.

Shrek is another great example. Though the story leans more heavily towards a retelling of Sleeping Beauty it also has undertones of Beauty and the Beast. Fiona is a beast herself, as well as being a not-so-helpless beauty awaiting her Prince Charming. Shrek is a not-so Charming hero, he's a beast, but he's a better man than Charming. The moral of the story? Sometimes true love doesn't wear the face we expect, but when we find it, it's worth every sacrifice to keep it.

Tangled is the latest contribution to a growing fairytale collection. A retelling of Rapunzel where the Hero is no prince, but is in fact a theif. The wicked witch's motivations for taking the child have been changed and are, personally, much more interesting. And Rapunzel is ... delightful.

Okay, so we've looked at a few examples to get our imagination limbered up. (If you can think of any others do mention them in the comments). Now lets consider some of the aspects of the tale we can fiddle with.

Characters
Change their gender, ethnicity, age, or "kind" - maybe to some form of mythological or paranormal creature perhaps. Change the number of characters. Maybe there are ten little pigs instead of three; maybe Cinderella only has one step sister and she's sweet and kind instead of a horrid bully; maybe Beauty is a guy and the Beast is a ghost girl.

Motivations
Change the character's reasons for the things they do and how they do them. Maybe Rapunzel is a vampire and that's why she voluntarily locks herself away in a remote tower. Maybe the Beast is a werewolf or a shape shifter, or maybe he wasn't cursed, but has a horribly disfiguring disease and that's why his family hides him away from the world.

Setting
Generally fairy tales have an old time feel, a gothic or medieval setting, but what if you put Snow White in a future time and gave it a Science Fiction setting? What if the Frog Prince was set in Victorian London or in a Steampunk world?

Quest
Change the quest or the reasons for it. Maybe Sleeping Beauty's prince is a conman and a thief, maybe he only broke into the castle for all the gold and jewels he could steal. Perhaps he steals a quick kiss from a comatose broad and is really annoyed when he finds himself caught red-handed with all the loot he's carrying away.

Conclusion
Change the conclusion, theme or the lesson learned. Maybe Hansel and Gretel never go home maybe the witch is kind and good and makes a good home for them. Or maybe not, perhaps the witch lives in a grand castle and after she's dead they take over the kingdom and rule in her place. Maybe Snow White never wakes and the prince grows old and bitter or dies of grief.

The possibilities for change are endless and it can be a lot of fun to throw different ideas around. Feel free to mash different tales together and re-work them. I encourage you to have a go at pimping a fairytale. What crazy ideas can you come up with?


Monday, August 15, 2011

Observation and Translation

Today's observation:

Sometimes getting the images out of my head and on to the paper is REALLY hard.

I can see the characters and the scenes so clearly in my imagination but translating them into words is no easy task.

I'm writing a kind of fantasy I never imagined I'd pen, a genre I never thought to dabble in, and it ain't easy.

Can't say more now. I have to keep my cards close to my chest. This is for a competition after all. But, boy oh boy, the sweat and tears I'm shedding over every single word!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fantasy: Thinking outside the Square.

As secretary for the Dunedin writer's workshop, it was my turn to take the short lesson at last week's meeting. Our next competition in October will be judged by the fabulous Tania Roxborogh and the theme is Speculative Fiction. Many of our members have never written fantasy or Science fiction and were feeling a little out of their depth with the subject. So our lesson for Wednesday was: "Speculative Fiction - what is it?"

I wrote up a basic definition;

"Speculative fiction is the umbrella term for all of the fiction genres that embrace the “other”, by this I mean stories and novels that are a bit outside the square in terms of the “real world”."
And listed a few genres that come under this wonderful umbrella term including elements or themes that are often an important part of each genre. I have restricted myself to Science fiction, Fantasy, Gothic fiction, Paranormal and Fairy tales.

Note, my lists are very simplistic. If we wanted to be really technical each other these genres can be split up into scores of sub-genres - but we won't go there. The whole point behind this was to introduce Speculative fiction novices to the genres of the fantastical genres, to help them understand what makes each one different to it's fellows and to make them feel that writing something so outside their comfort zone is possible and can be FUN!

Science Fiction

  • other worlds; other civilisations; other universes.

  • often futuristic; often involves space or space travel.

  • may involve magic, but usually uses futuristic technologies


Fantasy

  • often “other” lands, sometimes other worlds

  • often (but not always) in a historical setting

  • sometimes a futuristic or alternative twist on a historical culture (ie: steampunk)

  • usually has quests and heroes who save the world, the land, the princess, etc

  • magic is an important element, but the form of the magic varies

  • sometimes magic and technology are mixed

  • often magical items are involved (ie: the ring in Lord of the Rings)

  • sometimes old fashioned technologies with a futuristic twist (ie: steampunk)

  • often characters are connected to royalty … or from among the lower classes

  • often mythical creatures are used; giants, ogres, dragons, flying horses, unicorns, genies and talking creatures, etc.


Paranormal

  • usual set in the real world, cities and towns as we know them

  • may involve the faerie, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, angels, demons, zombies, shape shifters or other creatures of myth who are semi-human.

  • often involves a journey of self-discovery; a love story which must overcome extreme “paranormal” obstacles; a mystery to be solved.

Gothic

  • elements of horror / terror

  • elements of romance

  • elements of mystery and suspense

  • historical setting

  • prominent features are: supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses, gothic architecture, darkness, death, madness and transgressions, persecuted females, secrets and hereditary curses.

  • may also involve vampires, werewolves, monster, demons, fallen angels, skeletons and ghosts, maniacs, bandits and villains.


Fairy tales and Folktales

  • often (but not always) in a historical setting

  • often teaches the reader something about human character, mostly folktales do this

  • may involve magic or magical items, sometimes quests or tasks must be undertaken

  • evil vs good is a common theme (ie: Rapunzel and Snow White)

  • often mythical creatures are used; giants, ogres, dragons, flying horses, genies, talking creatures, etc. (ie: George and Dragon)

  • sometimes uses bewitched creatures/people (ie: Rose Red and Rose White)


Of course not every story in these genres will have every one of these things is them, but most stories will have one or more of these elements. So for those of you who are new to the fantasy genres I hope this helps you gain an insight into the crazy worlds we write. Perhaps it may even inspire you to try your hand at writing something "other." I hope so.

Enjoy dabbing. Mix things up. Play around with different ideas. Most importantly have FUN with it.

If you're in Dunedin and you're interested in dropping by the Dunedin Writer's Workshop we meet every Second Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. If you'd like to learn more feel free to email me (you can find my details on the "Who am I?" page at this blog).

In other news: I'm proud to say I've finally finished editing my latest fairytale, Bittersweet. It's nice to have it done and dusted, and looking pretty on my flash drive.
I guess that means it's time to get writing something else.

Monday, August 8, 2011

When Writing is damn Hard: Unclogging the Creative Plughole

In my last post I talked about how life had, once again, conspired to distract me from my writing. After a few days of great productivity, I hit a brick wall as circumstances drained all my time and energy and pumped me full of stress and angst. This left me with nothing to put into my writing. It's fair to say I ground to a screeching halt.

Now that all those stresses are gradually fading into horrors of the past I'm wanting to get back into the writing. However, like a sink where the plughole has become clogged with all kinds of unmentionable gunk, my ability to funnel my ideas on to the paper - or to even access them in the first place - is being hampered by stress. At times like this, getting back into the swing of writing and getting the creative juices flowing again can be really hard.

I feel constipated! There's an uncomfortable blockage in my creativity.

The ideas are building up behind a locked door. I don't have the key. I can't access them.

The frustration builds and can become quite debilitating if it takes me too long to get the ideas flowing again. I become a bit like a caffine addict who has been without their morning hit for five days in a row! It's not pretty. In fact, it can be down right frightening, let me tell you.

So how do I go about unclogging the drain, or finding that magical key?

Editing. Yes, editing.

Editing is methodical. It is deliberate. It requires creativity from me, but not too much.

Picking up a piece of writing that needs to be edited and dealing with it helps me to slowly work me way back into a creative mind set. It picks away at the scum, allowing a trickle of ideas to quickly become a torrent. Ta-da! the blockage is gone, destroyed by the editing process.

When I edit I'm able to push back the worries and the issues of daily life aside and to re-train myself to focus of my writing. Once I'm back in that world - the "other" world of my writing - it becomes easier to slip back into putting words on the page and before I know it I'm writing again.

This is one key in my arsenal that I use to get though those hard patches. It works for me, maybe it'll work for you too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Distracted?

Are you suffering from distraction?

After two very productive days I've had two unproductive ones. Actually they have been VERY busy but no writing has been done. None what so ever (aside from the blog, but I'm not counting this). Life - as it is want to do - has interfered once more.

On one hand I'm desperate to get back to the writing, on the other hand I'm so exhausted I'm having trouble remembering my name and where I put ...

We are changing our children's schools and so I've been running about visiting various schools talking to teachers, touring schools, listening to philosophies and briefs of what the schools are about; how they can best grow my kids and meet their educational needs. Signing papers and finding old reports and birth certs, buying uniform, and helping my teenage son choose his subjects. So all in all, my head has been rather full of other stuff.

I'd been feeling a bit guilty about my inability to write, in the small moments I've had to think about anything un-school related. Just when I was feeling very glum about it all I read Nathan Bransford blog on Distractions. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Life will settle back to normal soon. Hubby comes back from his trip away on Saturday and the kids will head off the their new schools next week. Hopefully then I can curl up with my laptop and get the creative juices flowing again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Dragon Tattoo

I finished writing Bitterheart yesterday, my writing buddy was impressed - in spite of the many typos. (Poor girl, the things I put her though!)

I also began a new story. It's going to be a bit longer than my usual short stories, maybe around the 5000 word mark, maybe longer. It is a modern fantasy - urban fantasy I guess, though not quite paranormal.

The Dragon Stone is the story of a girl with a very different kind of tattoo. A tattoo that can unlock the secrets of her past.

I've never written anything quite like it but I'm really enjoying the way the characters are leaping off the page. The voice of the piece is very unique for me. I'm excited.

The last two days I have done really well in terms of sticking to my goal of writing a min. of 1000 words. I've managed to average about 1500 a day.

Today my total was zilch.

But I guess we need a down day. Of course I have very good excuses for why it didn't happen today; lots of appointments and visiting, kids and their homework and after all that I'm shattered.

I plan to get back into it tomorrow and aim to write another nice chunk of The Dragon Stone. Hopefully life will co-operate.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Bittersweet Draft

Just a quick note before I go and fall into bed.

It is the final night of the holidays so no more lazy mornings for me. I have to be up bright and early (but not too early) to get the kids off to school in the morning. No doubt there will be a mad scramble to find uniforms, school shoes and school bags - all of which should have been organised tonight.

Once they are gone I'll hit the computer and finish off this fairytale. It is coming along really well. I managed to write 1800 words tonight so I'm fairly pleased with myself.

The story - as they often do - took on a mind of it's own and the result is a much more rounded tale than what I had foreseen. So I'm happy. Admittedly it still needs a bit of work, but it is a very rare story that doesn't need some careful fine tuning beyond the first draft phase.

And yes, a unicorn and a pegasus managed to work themselves into the threads of the story. I can't wait to see what stumbles, glides, leaps or slithers on to the page tomorrow. I've titled the tale Bittersweet.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Wake up Call. A Kick in the Pants. Call it what you Will.

Tonight while I was cruising the internet reading other people's blogs I had a bit of a wake up call.

This year my health has been something of a major challenge, an obstacle to my writing and life in general. However, after my operation at the end of March I felt so much better I decide I wanted to pursue an old dream - to become an ambulance officer. I threw myself into this with everything I had and was working towards the goals I needed to achieve in order to apply, but about a month ago I hit a brick wall - the brick wall of total exhaustion.

Now time is winding down fast, deadlines are rushing towards me and due to physical and financial challenges it doesn't look like this dream will come true for me, at least not this year. It is a hard thing to accept but sometimes you have to be realistic. I am what I am, my body is what it is and my health is a challenge I have to live with.

As with most dreams: when the door closes on one, the door to another opens a crack. Then comes the choice. Will you change direction and push open that other door to see where it takes you?

I'm standing on the threshold of that second door.

The sign of the door says AUTHOR.

Am I really brave enough to step through it?

So I have to ask myself how badly do I want this?

I've stood here before, somehow I wandered away ... over time we lose sight of dreams we were striving for. Discovering one has a life changing condition can do that. And that's okay. In the big picture of things putting dreams like a writing career on hold is understandable, even expected.

But I realised tonight that if I want this, if I want to be able to say "Yes, I'm an AUTHOR" then I need to take this side of my life seriously. I need to get disciplined again. I need to set goals for myself and WORK hard to meet them.

If I really want this I need to take my writing back out of the "hobby" basket and put it back into the "this is what I am" basket.

Last year I was very disciplined with my writing and was averaging 1000 words most days. I wrote a novel in six-seven months. I need to get back to that.

My head is alive with dreams and plans and ideas for my writing. I need to take hold of them with both hands and dive into those deep, shark infested waters. Let's be honest, it's scary out there. It's hard. It takes guts, sweat, tears and patience and perseverance ... and that's just the writing!

I have to be honest the whole publishing thing is frightening. I'm excited and terrified by turns!
One moment I'm trilled by my work, buzzing from the enthusiasm of others, ready to take on the world and the next I'm a quivering mess of self doubt!

It's true, there will be people out there who don't like my work, some may despise it even (though I hope not) and I have to be prepared for that. But there'll be people out there who like it too, they may even love it! (I hope so).

So do I want to step through this door and take on whatever I find on the other side?

I think so...

I know so...

Absolutely definitely!

I want to see my name on a book.

I want to hear about how my work captured my dear readers and dragged them deep into the world of my imagination.

I do WANT this!

Do you...?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tales with a Twist

The Dunedin Writer's Workshop has another competition coming up, the theme: Speculative Fiction. A broad theme to encompass Sci Fi, Fantasy, fairytales and folktales.

With this is mind, I'm working on a series of fairy tales. Some are takes on old tales that I've twisted and reworked in order to make them more original.

Others are original stories written in the style of traditional folk and fairytales. One is about a banished faerie and another about a dragon tattoo.

This is really exciting for me. I've always loved fairytales. As a child I spent hours reading (over and over) Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rose White and Rose Red, the Nutcracker, the Princess and the Frog, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel, among others.

As an adult I've collected books of old tales, Scottish, Scandinavian, Irish, Greek and Roman, and take as much pleasure in them as I did as a child.

Reading them with adult eyes is a very different experience, you see the underlying lesson with much more clarity, a lesson which is often overlooked by youthful readers. For them the magic is in the tale of love, in the vanquishing of the monsters, in the "other world" experience of the tale itself.

For myself that magic still has power over my imagination and shows in the shape of the tales I write. Many fairytales, especially the traditional ones, have unhappy endings. Grimm's fairytales are classic for this. These stories always made me feel sad and being a child of vivid imagination those feelings often lingered with me for a long time. As a result my stories always seem to have a happy ending, even if it's somewhat tempered by difficult circumstances.

In other exciting news: I have an audio book - what I'm referring to as eAudio - coming out in a few months. The story is an original fairytale about a courageous maid and three fierce dragons. I'll tell you more about it closer to the release date.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tickling the Keys



I'm back writing Mercy Me and I have to say, it feels FABULOUS.

I didn't realise how much I missed it; the clattering on the keys as my fingers dance across the keyboard; the colourful flow of ideas as they rush through my head, through my fingers and on to the page; the satifaction of seeing my story come to life on the screen.

Ahh, it's magic!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Over Active Muse!

I said a few days ago that Muse was busy playing with the plots of Mercy Me and Tremorgan's story.

Well, this morning he got a little over excited and dropped another story in my lap. One that is screaming to be written.

Maybe he's been at the coffee again. Sigh. It looks like the drought is well and truly over for the moment!

So what's the new story you ask?

Well this blog isn't called TheDragon'sPen for nothing. I love dragons, there is something about the mystical magnificence, the power, grace and wisdom married to the beast-nature that makes it such a fabulous creature of myth.

The story is fantasy (surprise, surprise) and has to do with dragons and magic and ... stuff.

I don't want to give away to much yet, but it's going to be awesome.
Most likely it'll be another YA novel.

I will be finishing Mercy Me first. Then, and only then, I'll begin this dragon novel and work on restructuring Tremorgan's Gift.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Inspiration of Two

First off, I would like to say a big thanks to those readers who have emailed me recently saying how much you liked the blog (though it has been quiet here lately). It has been really encouraging and, as you can see, has succeeded in getting me back in the bloggers seat. So THANKS!

My health has been up and down over the last few months which has markedly slowed the progress of Mercy Me. I am making progress though. I have now mapped the last half of the novel giving me a definite direction or plotted path to follow which should help things move ahead fairly quickly once I get back into it.

I'm so loving writing Mercy Me and I can't wait to get back into it, but assignments and health issues are seriously cramping my style. It's hugely frustrating.

So far feed back on the Steampunk novel is really encouraging. While I haven't actually been writing the novel my Muse has been busy at work, shaping the plot and build scenes in my head. I've mapped out the final half of the novel and I'm excited to announce that I just have to write the thing now. But of course, that's the hard part!

My Muse has also been dabbling with issues in my YA fantasy novel. I'm seriously contemplating breaking down the planned plots of the first two books and putting them together in one brilliant stand alone novel. It looks wonderful in my head, hopefully it'll be just as great on paper.

I'm making notes of my ideas and the strongest short scenes I have so I can free up some creative room in my head. After my initial attack on the Tremorgan's story (the YA fantasy I wrote last year), I'm determined not to touch until I've finished Mercy's (steampunk novel), but at the way things are going resisting the temptation to dabble may take more self control than I possess!

So that is where I'm at. My head is buzzing with ideas and story lines. Now I just need to find the time to write!! Anyone have a gadget to slow time???

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Considering an E-venture

It's been ages since I have blogged here, or at least it feels like ages ago.

As I have slowly recovered from my surgery I've been picking up the pace with my writing related activities. I won't just say writing, because I don't know if I have done all that much actual writing.

My friend Sue (aka JT Webster) and I lead our first meeting as the new President and Secretary of the Dunedin Writer's Workshop this month. We've both been attending there for close to three years and it was interesting to sit on the other side of the bench. The feedback we had was positive at any rate.

It took me this long, but I think I've finally cottoned on to the fact that when people tell you to write what you love it's a big, fat LIE!

I mean, sure go ahead and write what you like if what you love and write are exactly what publishers are looking for, otherwise you're more or less just writing for yourself and your friends (if they like it too). However, if what you REALLY want is to be published you'd better love and write the kind of novel a publisher wants to publish.

I spent almost 15 months working on my YA fantasy only to finally figure out that it is too much like the old school fantasy which is 'so last year'. I wrote it because I love this sort of story. The feed back I got on it was good, people loved it, but that isn't enough. In it's present form it's not what publishers are publishing right now.

So I figured I'd got two choices.

1) Stuff it in a drawer and wait until high fantasy is cool again
or
2) re-write it

My choice? I decided to re-write.

I started working on it two days ago. I've tweaked the first two chapters, re-written the fourth and totally scrapped about eight. More will join the heap I'm sure. The middle will be tweaked, but it will more or less remain as is (that's the plan at this stage), while the end will be expanded and added on to.

The result? A different sort of fantasy novel, one I'm hoping will be more 'the thing' and one publishers will want to publish.

I've also decided to focus on making the book a lot more self contained rather than it having to be a trilogy.

In addition to working on this, I'm still writing my Steampunk story. I'm enjoying writing it, even if it's progressing in fits and starts.

I'm also working on an anthology of short stories set in the 1930-50's and I've had good feed back on those compiled so far. (Isn't the photo above just charming? Hat tip to Michele Dyson)

I'm also seriously considering an E-venture - an adventure in e-publishing!

This is not something I ever thought I'd do, but recently the opportunity has come up. It's a children's story in the tone of a medieval fairytale. A wonderful graphic designer who worked at Weta will create the cover art and illustrations. I'm really excited about this publishing adventure and the possibility that it might lead to other similar - or bigger - publishing opportunities.

So there's lots going on in my little writing corner of the world. How are about you? What adventures of the literary kind are you embarking on?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Steampunk Secrets

I've had a few days off, doing assignments and other stuff. It is amazing how much simply having the holidays start (even though it is still only the first weekend) can disrupt the usual rhythms and routines of life.

I've been picking away at the Steampunk MS today and have added another thousand words.

The scene is set now. I've introduced all the family members and built up the sense of mystery around this secretive family.

Now Mercy must undergo a Test. Will she pass?
How can she pass if she doesn't know what she is being tested FOR?

And if she does what then?

What is her father working on and why is it a secret?

Why is there so much mystery surrounding her family and why won't anyone tell her what it is all about until AFTERWARDS?

And who's side is The Duchess on anyway?


Can you tell I'm having fun with this...?

In other news:
I placed Second in a local writing competion and received two Highly Compendeds as well.
At our most recent meeting of the Dunedin Writer's Workshop I was nominated and voted into the position of Secretary. Yay!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clockpunk meets Steampunk: Inspiration Abounds!!

Steampunk. Clockpunk. Clogpunk. Cogpunk. Oooo the inspiration!

I have started writing again.

I spent much of yesterday re-immersing myself in the world of my Steampunk novel, drawing up a family tree for the Von Lovenstein family and writing short profiles for the main characters. I'm having heaps of fun with the names and eccentric personalities of my characters.

I'm all inspired and really enjoying the freedom of the Clockpunk/Steampunk genre. Being able to add a dash of magic to my Victorianesque world is an added bonus.

The plot is slowly ironing itself out and taking on more shape as I get my head around the characters. I still haven't quite decided what form the mysterious contraption is going to take (the theft of which throws everything into choas) but I do know what plot points lead us to this point and - vaguely - what needs to happen to get it back.

I also been having fun Googling antique guns. I found a couple of wonderful specimens. The above is a genuine ring pistol. To the right is an antique blunderbuss. Aren't they great?!

I love, love, love writing!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Post Op Inspiration

I've had my operation and I'm slowly regaining my strength, though given the nasty twinges in my side I might have over done things over the last few days. Naughty me! So I'm more or less keeping to my comfy chair today and it seemed the perfect opportunity to blog again.

My muse has crawled out of whatever corner he's been hiding in while I was feeling rotten. He's back, sporting a waistcoat, cravat and a top hat at a jaunty angle. He leans on his dragonheaded cane. Every so often takes out his sliver pocket watch, flicks the lid with a kidskin encased finger and raises an eyebrow in my direction. His expression clearly says "haven't you started writing yet?"

No, I haven't but I will ... very soon.

I'm feeling all inspired. My hubby makes music and has been working on a piece for a Steampunk movie. The piece he has put together is great. Listening to it over and over got my creative juices flowing again.

Did you know there is a sub genre of Steampunk called Clockpunk? I didn't, but it totally fits with my story Mercy Me. The novel is Steampunk with a lot of windup gearwork etc and is a more Gothic or Regency-esk rather than Steampunk's traditional Victorian type setting. I guess I want the best of both worlds. :D And now that I know Clockpunk exists I feel like I can legitimately go where the winds of inspiration take me.

I spent some time this morning trolling the internet looking at Clockpunk images and feeding the muse with ideas. I'm very excited, inspired and looking forward to getting back to writing some more of Mercy's story.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Popping In

This month seems to have gone so fast. It seems only a few days ago that I was facing the reality of having to have surgery in a bid to try to fix a medical condition that reared its ugly head last October. My parents arrive this afternoon and tomorrow is the big day.

I've been really busy working, with assignments for the work related Certificate I'm doing, with competitions and editing for Mad Scribblers (my crit group) and life in general (read: trying to get the house sorted so my Mum won't be walking into a disaster zone!) so I've hardly had time to give the up coming op any really serious consideration, which is probably a good thing. I've

Post-op I have six weeks off work so I'm hoping get back into my writing again. It has been much too long, but with everything going on my head has just not been in the right place. Still I've been reading and the imaginative juices are flowing slowing once more.

I've decided to take a little break from editing Tremorgan's Gift. I've been over it and over it and think it's time to give it a little space before going back at hack at it once more. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and the editor's eye sharper - or so they say. So I'm going to have another go at Mercy Me (my Nano Steampunk novel).

I'm happily reading Operation Typhoon Shore, the second in Joshua Mowell's series. I recently read the first, Operation Red Jericho, for the second time. They're great and really inspiring my muse. Thanks to a bunch of thoughtful friends I have a big stack of books to read while I convalesce, including a few more of Bernard Cornwall's books among others.

In the meantime, keep writing and reading, and let me know what you've been delving into.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crawling Back

I feels like it has been ages, but I'm finally, slowly, dragging step by dragging step, getting back into the writing.

My medical issues, looming surgery and the earthquake that shook Christchurch last month really shook me out of my writing zone. Meanwhile the Muse escaped out the back door and has refused to return, which hasn't helped matters. It is frustrating, but my head just hasn't been in the right place to write.

My critique group met again last week which forced me to face the MS and tackled the next chapter for submission.

This week the other writing group I attend is holding one of their three annual competitions. I haven't had time to write anything new and the Muse is stubbornly hiding somewhere, so I dusted off, tweaked and re-worked a couple of stories I'd written awhile ago and submitted those. It can't hurt and I have to confess they needed the work.

It's amazing what time can do for a piece of writing. It does wonders to show up glaring typos and generally ugly sentences that were simply "hidden" before.

I've been doing a bit of reading and have been enjoying the pace and taste of a couple of historical novels.

Prophecy by M K Hume, which I really liked. My friend reviewed the book for our local newspaper and passed it on to me. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the next books in the trilogy and for her Arthurian series.

Bernard Cornwell's Harlequin, which I'm reading and devouring on the recommendation of another friend. I'm really like the brisk, quick, detailed action of the story.

Have you read any good books lately?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Off on another Tangent

I haven't been doing much fiction writing lately. No. Let's be honest, I haven't done any.

My health has deteriorated over the last couple of weeks. My medical condition has come back to bite me on the bum ... and when we were doing so well too.

So I've not been writing stories or working on my novels or even doing any editing at all. Instead I've been working on a new and totally unrelated blog about my health and medical journey. If you're interested you can view it here.

In light of all this disruption I might not be blogging here as much as I usually would. Though even if I'm not writing I'm still reading and will, no doubt, have a few words to say about the latest literary treasures I'll be hiding in while all the medical nastiness unfolds around me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BOUND

Last Wednesday night I had the privilege to attend Vanda Symon's book launch for her fourth Sam Shepard detective novel, BOUND. It was a lovely evening out, hosted by Dunedin's own fabulous University bookshop.

Many of the reveiws I'd read said how un-put-downable this latest edition was and how they'd stayed up until the wee small hours because they just had to keep reading. So in spite of the fact that I was dying to read my new book, I decided to put it away until I had a few days off work which I could devote to Sam's latest adventure.

That day was today.

I shooed my kids out the door, ate breakfast, checked my email then curled up in my comfy chair with my feet up and opened the book. I took my nose out from between the pages only long enough to eat, do a bit of house work, help kids with homework, chat to a friend who stopped by, do some shopping and cook tea.

I finished BOUND this evening.

Evidently I was immersed!

Bound was a very enjoyable read. I was hooked from the first page and loved the twists and turns that complicated the plot.

I'm something of a fan of Vanda's (I now have all four of her books and all sighed by her. lol!). It has been fun watching Sam's character grow and mature and also to see Vanda's talent increase with each new book she has written.

Bound was a effortless, exciting read. The characters are so well drawn; genuine, flawed people. And of course, as ever, Dickhead Johns is fun to hate. Sam's feisty personality leaps off the page and her love of Dunedin is wonderfully evident.

I've no doubt that fans will in time come to Dunedin simply to visit the places that Vanda's characters go. The Fix for coffee. The Nova cafe. The Chinese Gardens. Marlow Park (the park by the beach, which my kids affectionately call "the Dinosaur Park"). Maybe even the police stations ...?

Here's the blurb for Bound:

A home invasion shocks the nation.

A man is murdered, his wife bound, gagged and left to watch.

But when Detective Sam Shephard scratches the surface, the victim, a successful businessman, is not all he seems to be. And when the evidence points to two of Dunedin's most hated criminals, the case seems cut and dried ... until the body count starts to rise.

Meanwhile, Sam is in big trouble again ...

So what next? Vanda is taking a break from Sam's adventures to write a dark thriller set in Auckland which is set to come out next year. So while I can't wait to read this new book, I hope maybe one day we'll get to see more of Sam.

If you haven't read Vanda's books, Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound, I urge you to give them a go.

If you have, what do you think and which one is your favourite thus far?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wicked Lovely

As I mentioned in my last post I've been doing a fair bit of reading recently.

I just have to tell you about this author I've discovered. Melissa Marr.

She's a little ... alternative, I guess that's the right word ... and it comes through in her writing. Her characters are fresh and interesting with their body piercings and tattoos. She paints the teenage angst and the awkwardness of new love so well.

She weaves the modern world with the dark and dangerous world of the fey so convincingly you might believe for a time that it could be true after all - that they're really there, we mortals just don't see them.

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.

Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.

But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning 21st century faery tale.


It's a gritty, sexy, edge of your seat, page turning read.

Do hunt out a copy and so you don't panic when you've read that last page, the series continues with Ink Exchange, Fragile Eternity and Radiant Shadows (all very cool titles).

There's a detailed and very good review of Wicked Lovely at Teenbookreview.

You can find out more about Melissa Marr and her books by visiting her fan site.

If you are into ebooks you can buy Melissa's books here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reading, Writing and Editing

I've been picking away at my editing. It's coming along slowly. Slowly, because I've found myself so engrossed in the books I've been reading that for the last few days I've done little except read and do necessary house work.

The two books that have held me spellbound are two of Juliet Mariller's tomes, Wolfskin and Foxmask. History mixed with myth and seasoned with magical imagery. Great stories if you like a little history with your fantasy or vice versa.

I also read The Princess Plot. A modern day, YA adventure of political intrigue, deception and friendship.

And Paladin, a YA fantasy/SF novel about two friends who find themselves caught up in another world's war with a very significant part to play.

My daughter was watching the twilight movies today, while I sat reading the end of Foxmask. As cheesy as you might think these movies are there's something about them and the relationships between the characters that always inspires me to write.

By the time I'd finished reading the last page I was desperate to get to work on Tremorgan's Quest.

It has been quite a while since I'd touched the second book in Tremorgan's journey and I'm excited to be getting back into it.

Tremorgan is a character that feels things deeply. She internalizes a lot and as a result her joy, distress and guilt often find expression in her dreams.

This would be fine if things were going well - but as I'm a very cruel writer this isn't often the case - and more often than not Tremorgan is haunted by disturbing dreams and nightmares.

Dreams are strange, fickle, illusive things. They're fun to write because almost anything can happen. The rules of reality don't apply in a dream scape.

At the moment I'm working on the beginning of the book and picking away at a series of dreams to torment my MC. I do love her, really I do...

So, no matter what I put Tremorgan through I've promised her (and myself) that she'll get her happy ending.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slash and Burn

My beta reader swung by a couple of days ago and read over the new scenes I have written for Tremorgan's Gift. She gave them the big thumbs up. The tantrum scene is great! But the kiss still needs a little work - I love/hate writing those moments! Sigh. Never the less, I'm excited about the extra pizazz these three scenes will add.

I'm making steady progress with my editing. I've done about 10% thus far, that is averaging a couple of chapters a day.

It would probably be quicker if I didn't insist on editing on paper first, but I feel safer hacking and slashing and moving stuff around on paper. It's easier to see the glaring awkward sentences, the ugly phrases and detect the clunky tone. I can play with the words to my heart's content and if I change my mind nothing is lost.

Also, I find I can distance myself from the fact that this is my book, my baby, when it's in hard copy in a way that I struggle to do on screen. On paper I'm a lot more brutal and a lot less precious about my work; a frequent and necessary evil.

I'm working my way though chapter 11 today. Tremorgan has just had her brother snatched from her and only narrowly escaped with her life...

Poor girl! The things I've put her through, it's cruel really.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sometimes Writing is like Digging for Gold with your Bare Hands!

The muse is back and has kicked into high gear.

I had the weirdest dreams last night and in the lazy hours of this morning (translation: I was being super lazy in bed when I should have been up and acting like a responsible parent) my muse was hard at work filling my head with wonderful scenes for book two.

He also got me inspired to write new ones for book one - as if the book is not long enough already!

So once I'd got up and made myself presentable to the world at large I made some notes in my trusty notebook and sat down to write.

I tried to write the strongest scene, a romantic one between Tremorgan and .... (I can't tell you his name that would be giving away too much!) Tried was the operative word here!

I don't know if it was because I haven't written for so long, or because I'm tired, or the fact that the kids, in true holiday fashion, were arguing and grumping around me (or all of the above) but each word was like digging for gold with my bare hands!

Honestly, it look me about twenty minutes to get down the first few sentences - and they aren't even all that good. Here they are:

Turning my back on them, I clambered over Mace's slumbering form. His marble skin was icy under its dusting of snow.

He opened an eye as I leapt off his knee. “Everything all right, little princess?”


See? Not at all earth shattering.

As the afternoon progressed the words came more easily, which was a relief!

All in all I've managed to finish two scenes today, 1700 words worth. It might be all dross and no gold but at least I'm writing again and the Muse is hard at work once more filling my imagination with ideas.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing Magic

Yesterday was my birthday. I shan't tell you how old I am, after all, a lady never reveals her age.

Hubby gave me a new book. I love books and don't think I could ever have enough of them, but I'm particularly excited about this book.

Written by Gail Carson Levine (the famous author of modern retellings of fairy tales such as Ella Enchanted, Fairest and Ever among others) Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly is, as the title suggests, about writing magical stories. Stories that have that special zing, that touch of gold, that special MAGIC!

Inspired by the creative writing courses for children that she runs, the book is more for children than adults so it's written in a fun and engaging way.

I have already dipped into it a little and really enjoyed the tit-bits I've read. If you're interested there's a really good review of the book here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Editing Process

I'm making good progress on my second edit of Tremorgan's Gift. I'm now working on chapters five and six.

Just for fun and because I enjoy seeing how other people have edited their work. I thought I'd share a before an after shot of some of my own editing.

The first piece is the before shot. It's from the beginning of chapter four.

It's over written and even though the character's father has just been murdered it is a bit OTT (over the top!).

Tremorgan dropped her head against the cold stone feeling dizzy. Realising she held her breath, she forced a deep gulp of air into her lungs. The effort to breathe took all her concentration.

Da is dead. They killed him. The silent scream echoed in her head, growing louder and louder. Squeezing her eyes shut, she choked on a sob. “No!” She shook her head, clawing at her hair as if to tear the hideous truth from her mind.

Her fists pounded the stone as a wave of grief rose inside her, filling her with it's fire. Agony gripped her heart, twisting it, tearing it; as if someone was brutally ripping it from her chest. A keening wail exploded past her gritted teeth in a strangled scream.

She shuddered as her keening died away. She felt nothing. The fire inside had burnt out leaving her feeling cold and void of emotion. The nothing was worse than the agony. She scrubbed her eyes, willing herself to cry, but her tears were frozen in a burg of ice that pressed against her chest and made breathing painful.


Now that is pretty horrible!!!
It is obvious I seriously let myself go when trying to capture Tremorgan's grief in this piece.
So how am I going to fix it?
Well, I moved stuff around and cut quite a lot out.
Here it is again with the chopped bits highlighted.

Tremorgan dropped her head against the cold stone feeling dizzy. Realising she held her breath, she forced a deep gulp of air into her lungs. The effort to breathe took all her concentration.

Da is dead. They killed him. The silent scream echoed in her head, growing louder and louder. Squeezing her eyes shut, she choked on a sob. “No!” She shook her head, clawing at her hair as if to tear the hideous truth from her mind.

Her fists pounded the stone as a wave of grief rose inside her, filling her with it's fire. Agony gripped her heart, twisting it, tearing it; as if someone was brutally ripping it from her chest. A keening wail exploded past her gritted teeth in a strangled scream.

She shuddered as her keening died away. She felt nothing. The fire inside had burnt out leaving her feeling cold and void of emotion. The nothing was worse than the agony. She scrubbed her eyes, willing herself to cry, but her tears were frozen in a burg of ice that pressed against her chest and made breathing painful.


Right. Now we have a clearer picture of what we need to get rid of. But it is a mess. If I was just to remove those bits half the sentences wouldn't make any sense. So I had to do a bit a re-writing. I also had to change this from third person point of view to first person.

The final shot.
So here it is again with all the bits I thought were too over the top removed. The grief is still there but it's no longer going to over whelming the reader. I hope.

I dropped my head against the cold stone and forced a deep gulp of air into my lungs.

Da was dead. Murdered. Squeezing my eyes shut, I choked on a sob. I clawed at my hair as if to tear the hideous truth from my mind. A strangled scream exploded past my gritted teeth.

I shuddered as my keening died away leaving me feeling cold and void of emotion. The emptiness was worse than the agony. I scrubbed at my eyes, willing myself to cry, but my tears were frozen in my chest.



It is shorter, tighter. It's still not perfect but it's much better than it was (in my humble opinion). So there you go, a little insight into my editing process.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Help!

I had an awesome day yesterday hang out and catching up with my writing buddy Sue (aka J T Webster). As always by the time she left I was burning to get back into editing and generally polishing Tremorgan's Gift.

Not only did Sue inspire me but she brought with her the first half of my MS which she has kindly been editing for me. Thank you so much Sue, you're a gem!

I've got a few ideas to add to the first chapter which I'm excited about. I'm going to add a bit more carnage and a few more thoughts from Tremorgan that will hopefully help set the scene a bit more.

But I need some advice....

Please note: Tremorgan's Gift is a YA fantasy novel which starts by dropping you right into the chaos of a castle under attack.

What I'm struggling with is how to tell you who "I" am before the carnage starts. Do you need to know my name for instance? Or is it enough to know I'm a princess?

Another question is: Do you need to know where I am any more specifically than that I'm in a castle? Do you need to know where the castle is? ie: what country and where in that country? or is it okay to let you discover this a little later?

And if you do need to know where "I" am how can I tell you this without destroying the pace of the action unfolding at the beginning?

What do you think????????

On the plus side, transferring the book into first person is turning out to be relatively easy since the story is so much in Tremorgan's head anyway. I've adjusted chapters 1 and 2 and they read so much more smoothly already. I'm really pleased.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unpacking the Muse

While I haven't been doing any writing since my failed NaNoWriMo attempt at the beginning of November I have been reading. In fact I've done a lot of reading ... and quite an eclectic and varied diet of books it has been too.

I've feasted on adult fantasy, reading the first three of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series (I know. I was terribly slow to discover these) and Juliet Marillier's Sevenwater's trilogy.

I'd put off reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code for years because of all the hype and finally pulled it off the shelf last week. I couldn't put it down. I have to admit I really enjoyed it, in a disturbing sort of a way.

I devoured Gail Carson Levine's Fairest and Sherryl Jordan's The Hunt for the Last Dragon. I love fairy tales and modern re-tellings. I've read a few others too but I can't remember what they are off the top of my head.

Now I'm wading my way through Michael Grant's Gone, which reminds me forceably of the TV series Heroes with which I have a complicated love-hate-love relationship.

With all this reading under my belt I'm feeling recharged and ready to get writing and editing again. I've dug out my editor's hat from the back of the cupboard. It's a bit dusty and bent and some of it's feathers are coming unstuck but despite that it still seems to be in working order.

The Muse has finally crawled out of the box he has been hiding in, looking pasty and in need of some serious vitamin D therapy.

On the plus side he seems keen to get back to work and help Mistress Editor to clean up, trim down and generally beautify Tremorgan's Gift. He flexed his creative muscles a wee bit the other night when I began converting chapters 1 and 2 into first person POV. He's a bit rusty but with a bit of exercise I think he'll be quickly back in top form.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who is the REAL writer?

My friend and fellow Dunedin writer, Tania Roxborogh wrote a post recently which inspired me to write this when she made this comment:
"It's not easy. Actually that's a weak comment. It's damn hard being a writer. And I only continue to do it because these characters need their story told and they picked me."
There are certain stories that we writers make up where it is easy to manipulate the story. The form and the characters are malleable and happy to play any part our imagination might wish to give them.

Then there are other stories. Stories like the one I'm writing now and like the one Tania is battling with. Stories where the characters come to you and demand you tell their story.

The characters haunt you and bully you until you agree to write it. They fill your dreams and crowd out coherent thought during your waking hours. And once you have agreed? They argue with you when you get it wrong and nag you when you get tired and want to throw your computer out the window.

But eventually they become real to you, unique friends who've chosen you to enter their world. You begin to care about what happens to them, you want to see them succeed, to see justice done, to see them achieve their happy-ever-after. You find yourself laughing with them when something funny happens and shedding a tear when they grieve or fail.

Of course this sort of carry on causes the world to see as mad - and maybe they're right - but I wouldn't give up this gift for anything!

2011

Another year has rolled to a close and another opens up before us full of promise and potential.

Looking back over 2010 I think I'm fairly happy with what I achieved last year. I finished the first draft of Tremorgan's Gift the first book in my fantasy trilogy. I had hoped to have it ready for an agent or publisher by the end of the year but, as I'm discovering, these things take much longer than one tends gives them credit for.

I also started writing Tremorgan's Quest and have been picking away at what I affectionately call The Lore of El, the Agorian religious writings and histories (which some unkind folks might call myths and legends).

I won a trophy for one of my fantasy short stories, which was a total buzz.

I never completed NaNo, but that's something to have a crack at again this year, and in spite of not finishing I have an awesome idea for a Steampunk novel and the first 6000 words already written.

I've also managed to read my way through an veritable mountain of books. Looking back on my reading record for 2010 I've averaged about 7 books a month!

So, all in all I'd say that's not too bad a result.


Enough about 2010, what are my writing related hopes and dreams for 2011?

#1 Rewrite Tremorgan's Gift in First Person POV and edit to perfection

#1.1 Find an agent!

#1.2 Find a publisher!!!

#2 Write first draft of Tremorgan's Quest

#3 Chip away at Mercy Me, maybe finish it for NaNaWriMo in November

#4 Win another trophy :)

#5 Try to get a short story or two published in a magazine or e-zine

#6 Read! Read! Read! Read!


That's me.

What are your writing goals for this coming year? What do you dream of achieving?