Monday, 9 November 2015
Sunday, 8 November 2015
A contemporary once pointed out to me that, in actual fact, the version of my story that they were reading actually felt like an incredibly well fleshed out plot. It was something that hit me in two ways. Firstly, I thought, oh crap!, realising that what I thought was a well fleshed out to novel needed serious amounts of work. Secondly, I saw that, actually, she was 100% correct.
I now have a fifteen chapter outline plot, which I intend to flesh out and then begin rewriting. It's okay, though, I should still finish if I commit to NaNoWriMo! My target word count for the book is about 25,000 as it's a middle grade story. So it should be totally doable, once I know where I'm going.
So for the first time in my life, I'm going to find out what it's like to be a plotter from start to finish ;)
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
But now I've given myself a bit of a problem. My project started out as a nice, Middle Grade Science Fiction story with throwbacks to a few of my favourite books of all time (no spoilers!). Seemed like a great idea at the time and it had the potential to really kick ass. Then I wrote a chapter tonight that has flipped this novel on its head.
I wrote one those chapters. The kind of chapters that makes you think, 'did I just come up with that?' It was seriously dark, surprisingly disturbing and I think if it happened in real life would ultimately cause me to lose all faith in humanity.
But it resonates with the world today in a way that is equally disturbing, so it has to stay in there! And it works. It just does. So the conundrum: do I push the novel up into Young Adult to make the subject a bit more reasonable, or do I risk pushing the boundaries at Middle Grade and hope that the dark side works and is accepted in the context in which is written.
It has definitely moved the book on to a new phase and absolutely demolishes the crappy chapter that I chopped out yesterday in a vent of tired frustration. I guess we see what tomorrow brings!
Happy writing out there to all you NaNoWriMo'ers!
Monday, 2 November 2015
The best laid plans etc, etc, scuppered by a busy day at work and lack of time to write in the evening. Rather than keeping on target with another 1,667 words to build up a buffer for bad days, it appears that I have had my first bad day. I'm now on 50% average of good days versus bad days.
I did manage 1,408 words, which isn't too horrific. However, it means that I need to make up for 659 words tomorrow to restore my buffer. I'm already tired (from work not writing) and tonight is not the night to be staying up late and catching up as I've another busy day of meetings tomorrow and need to be fresh.
My plan for tomorrow is to jump forward a few chapters and escape the doldrums of world building chapters (I'm writing MG Sci-Fi so an element of building is required) to focus on some key action events. Hopefully, I can use it to spur me on to write 2,000 or so words tomorrow to get me back on track. But, to be honest, I haven't got the faintest idea what the scene will involve as yet. One of the joys of being a pantser!
Onwards and upwards!
Sunday, 1 November 2015
I have decided to take on the challenge this year, despite failing to even write a word last year. But, just to add on the pressure of writing 1,667 words per day for a month, I will chronicle my exploits on this blog.
So, 1st November and the first day of the challenge has passed. Was I successful? I am pleased to say that I smashed through the 1,667 barrier and soared on to 1,806 words - ending at a convenient point of the closure of the first chapter.
My aim will be to build up a habit of writing in the evenings, but today was broken up into three sessions due to (a) it being Sunday and (b) opportunity knocking.
I have decided to stick to my preferred category of Middle-Grade with this novel, but have decided on a Sci-Fi/Dystopian genre. I came up with what I though was a great storyline and have bundles of enthusiasm for seeing this one through to the end! I don't want to give too much away, except that the MC is a young lad named Billy Walker.
Billy has found himself landed in a do or die situation. He has the skills he needs to survive, although he may not be aware of it at the moment - I'm not even sure I am aware of it either. There are a few challenges that I have already planned to throw in his way and have even thought about adding another POV - although I'm not 100% sure on that yet.
Day 1 is complete. Day 2 looms on the horizon. If you're reading this, thanks. The opening blog is likely to be a bit dull, but I guarantee you I will hit the wall shortly and things will get a bit more exciting. I may even release a few excerpts!
If you're taking on the challenge too, let me know and we can hook up on the NaNoWriMo site and/or Twitter.
Tuesday, 8 September 2015
Then why when we are so connected, can so many people feel so lost? So out of place? We are in the midst of the humanitarian crisis of our generation and we are the ones who must make a difference. Everyone can help, whether you give a penny or a home, every little helps.
Monday, 31 August 2015
Sounds pretty simple, so here it is. 7 lines from my adult, sci-fi comedy, Argyle: An Adventure through Space and Time.
“The bastard destroyed my ship,” continued Argyle, “it was MY ship.”
“I’m sure it was sir, but are YOU Argyle Hartley?”
Somewhat bemused, Argyle turned, “huh?... er, yes I am.”
“Well congratulations sir, it looks like you’ve won the Lottery!” the courier exclaimed, handing over a datapad.”
“I.. what? Really?” Argyle took the datapad, “Just as I thought this day was going badly… erm, hang on a sec, this is addressed to Argyle Huntley, is this right?”
The courier retrieved the datapad and looked at it briefly, “Oh my, I’m ever so sorry sir, it looks like I grabbed the wrong pad in my haste. Please accept my apologies, I believe this one is for you”, he handed over another datapad.
Argyle looked at the pad, astonished, “I’m being evicted?”
So that's it! Now to challenge 7 more writers to do it...
Sunday, 30 August 2015
However, I did come around eventually and removed it from the book. The main reason? The book worked without it, so it didn't really serve a purpose. As it will never probably be reintroduced to the book in any form, I thought I would post it here to give some insight into what Alexandra Frost is all about - if you don't already know. So, without further ado...
The battle raged on. In the distance, the dark dragons approached over the Sawtooth Mountains.
"The southern assault has failed," a wizened old man in a tattered black cloak called as he marched up the path. Behind him a group of short dwarf-like creatures followed into the makeshift village.
Marcus put his hands to his head in a vain attempt to block out the noise.
"How many were," he paused briefly, trying to find the right word, "lost?"
"This is all that's left of the Tykes," the old man replied, sweeping a gnarled wooden staff across the group of a hundred or so short creatures that had now collapsed in the relative safety of the compound.
"And ours?" Marcus asked, the expression on his face betraying his worst fear.
The old man simply shook his head.
"It is time, Marcus," the old man implored, his voice almost drowned out by the sounds of war cascading up the hillside and over the hastily constructed battlements. "We must go, we cannot defend this position."
"I will not abandon this world! Not when so many have given up their souls to try and defend it."
"We are not abandoning it," the old man explained. "We are just... taking a rest, regrouping."
Marcus examined the old man's face, seemingly searching for an alternative solution amongst the myriad lines that had been etched there by time.
"Very well," he resigned, "we fall back to the glade. It is still safe?"
"It will always be safe," the old man replied.
"I will gather everyone that is left and meet you there," Marcus commanded as he changed his form and launched into the air. Behind him, he could hear the old man marshalling the Tykes and the responding groans of protest.
As soon as he was clear of the battlements, Marcus could see the destruction before him. To the west, forests burned, turning the sky a blood red colour and sending plumes of dark smoke towards the heavens. Hordes of black creatures poured from the burning woods like an army of insects flowing into the Golden City.
The city itself was already in ruins. The attack had been so swift that they hadn't time to evacuate. Only those swift enough to flee or strong enough to fight had escaped.
Marcus hovered for a moment, looking from wing to wing. He then dove into a mass of swirling bodies with a roar. A spread of flame burst from his open mouth causing the dragons to scatter in every direction.
He gripped a pair of enormous silver wings and beat his own wings hard, thrusting himself and his quarry far above the melee. The silver dragon struggled against him but was no match for Marcus's greater strength.
“Erbas!” Marcus called.
The silver stopped his countermove and turned to face his captor. He seemed agitated and Marcus noticed a deep gouge running down his torso and fresh blood seeping from the wound.
“General Marcus,” he replied, “shouldn't you be...”
“Find Gorynych, Illuyankas and Ryujin,” Marcus interupted. “Tell them to stage a covered fall back. We need to regroup at the command centre in the glade.”
“Yes, General,” Erbas replied and immediately flew back into the battle, bellowing orders.
Thousands of dragons of every colour flew over the forest. Marcus, resplendent with his golden scales, led them over the lush green trees. A stark contrast to the black and red and grey of the battle they had just abandoned.
Before long, a break in the trees opened before them. In the clearing were row after row of tents. A refuge away from the war that was tearing apart the rest of the world. Humans, Dwarves, Tykes and other races milled around, fetching firewood, bringing food. One tent housed the sick and wounded, a number of whom lay on stretchers on the ground outside. One or two covered from head to toe with black blankets.
One by one, the dragons landed in the clearing and shifted into humanform. Marcus and four other dragons landed near the largest tent, towards the centre of the glade. The old man walked from the tent to greet them. A beautiful woman with flowing golden hair followed him and moved directly to Marcus.
“Marcus, you're okay,” she called, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight.
“I'm fine Claire,” he replied. “But we lost a lot of good souls today.”
“General,” a burly man with jet black hair approached from the tent. “The council is assembled in tent. You need to hear this.”
“Oh Marcus,” Claire looked up at him with tears welling in her eyes. “Something terrible has happened. It is the worst thing.”
Marcus looked from face to face, trying to read the situation.
“What? What is it Gorynych?” He looked to the burly man.
“You should come inside,” was all Gorynych replied.
Marcus marched into the tent, with Claire, the old man and Erbas in tow. Gorynych pulled the tent closed behind them. The leaders of the various dragonclans were present: Ryujin of the whites. Smey Gorynych of the reds. Erbas of the Silvers. Apalala of the blues. Illyunkas of the greens. Ladon of the black. Marcus, himself, representing the golden dragonclan.
Also represented were the other races: the tree dwellers, the Elven lord Horen, the Dwarven king Mynan and the Tyke supreme counsellor.
The old man stood before them, a table with an ancient map spread out and a number of markers dotted around.
“Merlin, what has happened?” Marcus demanded. “Where is Lord Kur?”
The old man sighed and stepped toward Marcus, placing a steady hand on his shoulder. He looked up at him and then turned, shook his head solemnly and walked back to the table.
“The reports are... sketchy, to say the least,” he began. “It appears that this is not an invasion at all. We were wrong. I was wrong. It's a civil war Marcus.
“The Citadel has fallen and with it so has Kur, we believe.” There were mumblings of disbelief amongst those present.
“Who could have killed Lord Kur?” Erbas demanded angrily. “He has ruled peacefully for thousands of years!”
“Balaur...” Marcus collapsed forward, the palms of his hands slamming onto the table.
“Yes,” Merlin confirmed, “as abhorrent as it sounds, I think you are right. He tried to steal the Kur-stone and was to be punished. But, before Kur could restrain him fully, Balaur had amassed support from within the Citadel. He turned Kur's own guard against him.”
“But how?” Erbas lashed out at a pitcher on a nearby table, sending crockery and water flying and making no attempt to hide his fury. “Those were good dragons. They were my friends. There is no way they would betray Lord Kur!”
“I am unsure,” Merlin answered. “But Ryujin may have an answer.”
The leader of the white dragons stepped forward.
“We caught one at the Imperial City. A dragon, not the other kind. He was not in his own mind. We think that Balaur has some kind of control over them. They do whatever he commands them to do. Those that do not bend to his will become the other kind. Those abominations that we faced on the battlefield. Neither dragon, nor human but something in between.”
“This is madness,” Marcus exclaimed. “We do not kill our own kind! This rule has been enforced for over a thousand years!”
“Rules can be broken,” Merlin interjected. “What is clear is that you are not safe here. The cities are being razed. The children are…”
“What about the children?” Marcus demanded.
Claire moved to his side and took his hand. As she spoke, she turned his head to look her in the eyes.
“Marcus, some children have vanished. But it’s not just the children, entire clutches of eggs have gone.”
“She is safe,” Claire said in a calm manner. “But for how long? We have few places left to hide.”
“There is one place you can hide.” Merlin offered. “All of you and your children. The one place he cannot go.”
“You mean Earth?” Marcus replied. “But how can we travel there? Only Kur can open the doorway between the worlds and he's...”
“I know of a way. But we can only send a few at a time. We will need to establish some more safe areas on Overearth to buy us some time. Some of you will need to stay here to help us rebuild, but I will send the families away. You must spread out so that he cannot find you. Will you accept my offer?”
Marcus looked at each of the members of the dragon council in turn.
“The white dragons agree,” Ryujin nodded.
“The reds agree,” Gorynych bowed his head.
“The blue dragons concur General,” Apalala affirmed.
“The green dragons agree,” said Illyunkas.
“The black dragons will go,” agreed Ladon.
“Erbas?” Marcus turned to face his companion.
“We will stay,” Erbas stated boldly. “We were entrusted with the safety of Lord Kur and we failed. I will send away the families nut it is only right that we stay behind and clear up this mess.”
Marcus nodded sadly. “The golden dragons agree. Merlin, please make the preparations. We shall establish sanctuaries while we wait.”
Marcus looked at the map silently for a moment. Running his finger along the northern-most edge.
“King Mynan, how does your castle under the mountain stand?”
“As strong as ever, General!” The stout dwarf stepped forward. “It would make a worthy sanctuary for the North.”
“Thank you,” he moved his hand to the west. “Lord Horen, is the Blighted Vale still impregnable?”
“Of course, General,” the slender Elven leader bowed. “And at your disposal.”
“We should use Bebrycg in the south,” suggested Illyunkas. “It is close to the Vale, but is well guarded and impossible to scout.”
“Agreed,” replied Marcus. “Good idea.”
“General,” Marcus turned to the voice. Apalala was pointing to the map. “Here, in the middle of the Dragon Sea. There is an island.”
“It is not on the map.”
“But is is there. I have seen it.” Assured Apalala. “If it is not documented, it stands to reason that Balaur will not know it is there. It would make an ideal sanctuary for the west.”
“Does anyone disagree?” Marcus looked around the tent. The attendees look from one to the other, but no one appeared to have any objections.
“How will we keep in touch?” Gorynych asked. “We need to know when is safe to return. We will need to bring children back to teach.”
“Merlin?” Marcus deferred.
“I will keep contact between the seven dragonclan leaders. Only Marcus and I should know where everyone's whereabouts.”
“Then we are settled,” Marcus confirmed. “Go tell your families, say goodbye to your friends. We leave as soon as possible and who knows when we will see each other again.”
Two figures emerged from the darkness of the woods. The first dragged a wooden trunk elaborately decorated with gold and intricate patterns. The second figure carried a bundle of cloth. Deep inside the bundle, a third, smaller figure stirred.
“Marcus?” Claire placed her hand into the bundle and reassured the child sleeping inside.
“This will work for us, Claire,” Marcus responded without looking back at her. “This will be our home.”
The gate in front of him hung from one hinge. The blue paint was chipped and faded. He pushed the gate open and it protested with high pitched wail. Beyond the gate, he could barely make out a path. It was covered with overgrown weeds, grass and shrubbery. Pushing his way through, Marcus entered the garden and looked upon the cottage in front of him.
If he could call it a cottage. It was barely standing. But Merlin had assured him it was safe for their family and that they would be able to make it fully habitable in very short order.
Saturday, 22 August 2015
In a small unnamed village, north of the downs
Lived a boy called William, the bravest in town.
He looked for adventure wherever its found
But saw nothing he feared for miles around
Then, one day, a dragon arrived
And a cave at the top of Mount Blue it espied
“How perfect,” it said, with its eyes on its prize
Then looked from its cave for some food and supplies.
Next morning it raided the village below
It knocked down some buildings and set them aglow.
It chased all the pets from the annual pet show
And gobbled up all of the veg, row by row.
The villagers met in the town hall that night
To think up a plan that would sort out their plight.
But all were too scared and filled up with fright
To visit the dragon who set things alight.
Then up stepped William and proudly he said,
“I’ll climb up the cliff ,” then nodded his head.
He set off with gear from his grandfather’s shed:
Two picks, some crampons and rope from his sled.
But as he approached he let out a sigh,
He looked up the cliff and said, “Gosh, that’s quite high!”
An uneasy feeling filled up his inside
“That’s scary,” he said, “but still, I must try!”
This feeling was odd, peculiarly queer,
It span round his head and bounced ear to ear,
The face of the cliff before him was sheer.
He thought, is this what it’s like to feel fear!
He fitted the crampons, one to each shoe,
Looped up the rope and made a lasso.
He held one end tight and the other he threw
‘Round a rock that stuck up near the top of Mount Blue.
Then summoning all of his strength he set out
To conquer the cliff and his fear without doubt.
He climbed to the top and nearly passed out
From the smoke that flowed out from a scaly green snout.
“What do you want?” a booming voice said,
“What are you doing here, up by my bed?
Give me one reason why I shouldn’t be fed
And gobble you up from your toes to your head!”
William stood with his hands by his thighs
And said with no trace of fear in his eyes,
“You’re very unfriendly for someone your size,
Why must you chase us and swoop from the skies?”
“You’re mean and a bully and very unfair,
You don’t seem to think about others or care
For all of the people down there that you scare.
So please won’t you leave and find a new lair!”
The dragon cried and let out a bray.
It looked at the boy and said “lackaday,
I was only looking for someone to play.
So if I behave, would you mind if I stay?”
William just smiled and said, “I’ve a plan.
If you come with me now, I think that you can.”
So the dragon expanded his wings like a fan
And they flew from the mountain at William’s command.
The villagers thought they were under attack
But as it got closer their tensions went slack
For they saw it was William who was having a crack
At riding on top of the great dragon’s back.
He yelled, “Have no fear, this dragon’s our friend.
He really just wanted to play in the end.
His chase is a game and his flame is pretend.
So if we join in he will make amends.”
After the day that he calmed down the beast,
The townsfolk were glad that the danger had ceased.
The dragon had fun and was happy to please,
while William was made the Warden of Peace.
Thursday, 13 August 2015
I'm a member of the SCBWI (UK) and I also enjoy cycling, surfing and reading... lots and lots.
Why Me?I guarantee you that if you pick me, I will give you my everything. I will pour my heart and soul into the changes you suggest I make, together with some coffee and chocolate sauce. I may even send you some homemade chocolate fondant through the post - if you're not too far away!
I write for my family. It's something that I feel I can create and give to them to enjoy for years to come. But I also write because I love creating and I create best with someone on the sidelines to cheer me on! CP's and beta-readers have been awesome in this respect.
My submission to PitchWars has taken 5 years to get where it is today - with a three year hiatus due to baby arrivals! But it is where I want it to be today and I hope you like it! However, if it takes me another 5 years to get it to where it needs to be to be published, then I will do that too.
What has inspired me in my writing?Everything I have ever read and somethings I haven't! But in particular, the works of Tolkein and JKR are high in my sphere of influence. TH&MW of the DRAGONLANCE series were very influential when I was younger, and Raymond E. Feist's MAGICIAN will always be in the back of my mind. But the one thing that really inspired this particular story is the 1982 animated film, FLIGHT OF DRAGONS - I must have watched it a million times as a child.
People have compared my novel to many different combinations but there are two that I think really catch its character: WINTERLING meets HOW TO TRAIN A DRAGON; and FROZEN meets GAME OF THRONES (with FLIGHT OF DRAGONS thrown in for good measure).
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Now that's out of the way, I've been scanning through the list of Mentors and trying to select the Famous Five that I want to submit my manuscript of Alexandra Frost and the Dragons of Overearth to. Boy, it's been tough! The first selection was easy, narrow down 105 to just those accepting Middle Grade. Done! The section part was easy too, remove all those who are definitely not accepting fantasy (in particular High fantasy).
After parts one and two were complete, I was left with a list of ten or so Mentors who could have been a fit. So now I've been reading through their blogs, twitter posts, eking out reactions on twitter and just generally trying to find out who loves dragons the most! Ten became 7, became 6 and now, I need to make one final cut. This is the hardest part of all, everyone in my final 6 seems open to fantasy and dragons and so I could be cutting the one Mentor who would have chosen my manuscript!
I will just have to bite the bullet, go with my gut, and many more clichés, hoping that one of the five loves my manuscript as much as some of my beta readers and critique partners!
Monday 17th August is the submission date, so I'll be working on finishing touches to openings, query letter and synopsis before then... as well as stalking Mentors on twitter. Here's hoping!
Finally, I thought it would be fine to meet some new folks through PitchWars so I set up a linky bloghop. Enter your blog below and visit the other links. The community works by helping each other out, so pay it forward :)
Friday, 24 July 2015
A few beta readers & critique partners have kindly read one or two of my picture books and have given relatively positive feedback. I wonder if there is someone out there, who might read this, who knows someone that sat next to some dude on the bus who's sketching on the back of fag packet and could say, 'Hey! I know this guy who's looking for someone just like you! And not in a romantic sense!'
And here's my proposition.
I am putting forward one of my picture books for illustration. I'm looking for someone who really gets my writing and can make my words dance and sing across the page. Bring my story to life. If you think it might be you, please get in touch. I am posting below a snippet from one of my rhyming stories that I would love to see some examples or submissions for. What's in it for you? Well if we get on, we can work together, make a book and sell it online. I'll do all the hard graft posting about it every and trying to get recognition. I'll compile the eBooks and paperbooks and set them up for sale on my distribution account.
The joy for me is just to see my stories come to life. And we might... just might... make something out of it.
As the great band ABBA once sang, 'Take a chance on me!' You won't regret it :)
"Sleep well," my dad said as as he turns out the light,
"Tuck yourself in, pull that duvet up tight.
Don't be afraid that the bedbugs might bite,
There's no monster or ghost to go bump in the night.”
For a moment I'm fine, for a moment all's well.
But... Hold on, what's that noise? Was it dad? I can't tell!
Maybe he tripped down the stairs and he fell,
Or it's maybe a monster who gave that stark yell!
A flicker, a glimmer, a whisper of white.
By the door, now the window, it's faster than light!
It's closer, I feel it, but it's just out of sight...
Then gone without warning, not wanting to fight.
So that's it. Do one picture or a small collection, it's your choice. I may get zero submissions, which is fine too. But I truly hope that someone is inspired and wants to make a go of it. Here's to hope and ambition... every writer's fuel for life!
Thursday, 16 July 2015
So, just as I was beginning to get a decent number of hits to my blog (by decent I mean more than 1 or 2) and May & June happen. As an unpublished, aspiring author, two things usually get in the way of raising my profile: Life and Work - not necessarily in that order.
Work has been busy, busy, busy - so much so that hours have been long, travel has been nauseating and my time at home, writing, has been restricted.
Life has also been busy, but in a good way. If I thought raising one child was hard... two is unencroachable (not sure that is a proper adjective but hey, artistic license et cetera). But at the same time it is full of the joys and wonderment of parenthood.
Full of joys and wonderment of parenthood... yes. Conducive to effective writing... No. But I wouldn't change it for the world.
So, just a few months ago, I was hitting all my writing goals and in an almost euphoric place in terms of creativity. The last two months has seen me confined to scribbling ideas on the back of a notebook while riding a train to the airport; typing paragraphs into an iPad (other quality tablets are available) and emailing them to myself so I can retype them into Scrivener; and dreaming up sequences in my head only to forget them when I wake up upon landing in a different country.
But progress has been made. Much progress. Significantly more than I had realised.
My initial push was going to be trying to get the novel published a few months ago, but after a series of rejections, I decided to get some external input (see Plot Changes and Editing), take on the advice and rewrite.
Alexandra Frost & The Dragons of Overearth is now developing into an Epic/High Fantasy split into multi-book format. I was unsure about this at first, but it is really beginning to take shape and the whole first part of the story now has a clear purpose, obstacle and is driving head first into a proper resolution.
My new goal is to get the book finished ready for My Editor to go through with a fine-tooth comb so I can submit the book to the upcoming SCBWI Anthology in mid-August.
As my favourite record-breaker host famously said at the end of every show, 'Dedication's what you need, if you want to be the best'. So dedication is there, I think a little blood, sweat and tears is all that's left to give.
I may not be a successful writer... but I am still a writer!