Tuesday, 29 April 2014

There's a spoke in the works...

Just twenty pages left to edit on StarMark - and I have just been told this morning that I have tendonitis.

So I'm typing this very awkwardly, wearing a splint.

"Rest it," the nurse said. "Keep taking painkillers regularly and at night, take the splint off and give your wrist a good wriggle."


Just twenty pages left. It will probably take me as long to do these last few as it did to do the first one hundred and sixty...

At least my arm isn't fractured, which was my fear after an argument in the garden with a bramble root, spade and buried concrete block...

Anyway - if my Scribbles are shorter than usual ('Hooray!' I can hear you all saying), at least you know why.

And a few hundred words a day on StarMark will still get me to the finishing post eventually - just later than planned.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Where to leave a review of Granny Rainbow?

I had a bit of a surprise today - I received an unexpected email, copied here:

Hi Katherine, hope this will find you, Can't find where to leave a review.
Granny rainbow should be in every kids story box, a lovely selection of stories about someone that could be your own dear granny. My G kids loved it and I thought it was great WHAT NOW! is there more from Granny rainbow 

It's an anonymous comment. At first sight I thought it might be spam, but I don't think it is; it was added to an old post about Granny Rainbow and is too specific for a spambot. 

But it set me thinking about reviews. 

Reviews seem to be very important in selling books. I can have the best cover in the world to catch your eye, the most enticing blurb which promises you a fabulous story, but at the end of the day it's what you, the reader, thinks of what lies between the covers that's important to a book's success or failure. A review - whether by word of mouth (Have you read x? My son really enjoyed the action in it) or on the internet (How many stars? I didn't like it at all!) - is what prompts people to see what all the fuss is about or give a new author a try. 

Amazon is one major source of reviews but as I'm direct selling at the moment, Granny Rainbow is not currently listed there. 

Instead, there are two other options for anyone who would like to post a review.  

1. Goodreads. Granny Rainbow is the only book with that title, so it's not difficult to find - feel free to leave a star rating if you don't want to write a 'proper' review. 

2. Email me. For emailed reviews, I've got to work out whether it's best to have a separate page for reviews and whether it should be here on the Scribbles or over on my website, but I will find a way of publishing them to a wider audience. 

Thank you to everyone who's already told me what they think of Granny Rainbow. The positive response to the book so far has been a huge boost and there are around 160 copies already 'out there', being read!

To everyone who's considering writing a few words (and that can be young readers too - I'd really love to know what the kids think!) please, please do!

And to Anonymous, who sent me the email which sparked this post - YES, there will be more Granny Rainbow stories! Probably next year. (And don't forget to check out the competition on the website, where YOUR idea for a Granny Rainbow story might make it into the next book!)

And if you still need to purchase Granny Rainbow to see what Anonymous is on about...buy it here. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Will this editing never end?

You know I'm editing StarMark? And that it was all going swimmingly? It feels right, it's in what I now recognise as my voice, it's going well, blah, blah, blah?

I take it back.

Like a marathon runner - in spite of all the training - I've hit the wall, about three quarters of the way in.

I'm rewriting so much! Not light editing, folks, oh no. I'm literally rewriting. Yes, it's making the story stronger; the dialogue feels more realistic, I've been able to put more emotional depth into the characters, revisited their motivation for certain actions and tweaked things they couldn't possibly have known...

But it takes so flamin' long!

Now I know I'm a fairly impatient person - not the 'quick to anger' kind, but the 'I wanna get on and see the results' kind. I'm an ideas person, quite happy to come up with the bigger picture, but always needing others who support my vision to achieve the fine tuning and planning which turns my my idea into a reality.

With writing, you can't really do that.

I can't say 'here's a great idea for a story' then hand it over to someone else to write. (Though I'm sure there are many ghostwriters and biographers who can and do, most successfully...) I have to write it myself, at least up to a certain point when I can pull in my trusty beta readers and see whether they think there are plot holes or I've misused en and em dashes again...

I know it's worth the effort to edit - even to rewrite if I think the story needs it - but at this precise moment, I'm tired of StarMark. Tired of only getting a few words 'signed off' each day in the new version and finding there are still hundreds, nay, thousands to still be checked.

But I don't want StarMark to be less than it can be - I don't want to give up on a story that I believe in or allow myself too long a break from it that I lose the feel of what I'm creating here.

I mean, I still don't even know whether the changes I'm making now will make it any better. StarMark was rejected by publishers before. What makes me think they'll  be any happier with it second time round? (Assuming of course that it ever got to land on their desks again.) I could be doing all this work and making it worse. I don't think I am, but that could be due to the rather fetching rose-tinted specs I've taken to wearing... I have to keep on keeping on, or I will have failed the characters in this story by not giving them the story they deserve, as well as failing all the folk who've supported me directly and indirectly as this wordy, try-too-hard wannabe writer begins to morph into an author of reasonable quality.

My aim is to get StarMark print - and possibly digitally - ready for next year. Maybe a few hundred words a day ain't so bad after all. I certainly won't get it finished by talking or writing about it.

I'll get there - eventually.

Pic source http://thejosevilson.com/

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Colour of Life and other stories

Delighted to announce that this anthology is now published! And I've got a story in it...

From charity shops to tube lines and stalkers to monsters under the bed, the winning stories in the Retreat West Short Story Competition are brilliant examples of how one writer takes a theme and does something completely different with it to another. There's funny, creepy, sad and downright weird stories in here - and a chance to discover some great new voices and emerging writers.

It's special for me for several reasons;
1. It was the first formal competition I'd entered and been placed in.
2. The title of my story has also been taken as the title of the collection - a huge honour.
3. This publication is the first one I get paid for! (Though hopefully not the last...)

It's available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon if you'd like to buy a copy. Please do...I'm saving up my royalties so I can celebrate all my writing successes of the last year at the Festival of Writing in September!

There are more short story and flash fiction comps available through Retreat West - check out the site for details if you fancy a go yourself...

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The flowers are back!

If you're a regular reader of the Scribbles, you might already know that I am involved with the flowers at my church.

At this time of year we get to go...well, not exactly wild with the flowers, but after the austerity of Lent - a whole six weeks with bare walls and an unadorned altar - Easter Sunday hits the senses in a striking and sweet-smelling display. Today was no exception; for my blog today, I thought I'd share them with you...

As soon as you walk into the porch, you're greeted with flowers...

The window above the altar.

Arrangements of orange, purple and yellow were in every other window bar one,
at the font and in the passageway to the Chapter House. Funny thing was - the tulips had all
started to grow upwards in the light from the windows!

The Easter garden.

Happy Easter, everyone - He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Friday, 18 April 2014

What's good about Good Friday?

I don't usually write about my faith...but today, I feel it's pretty important to do exactly that.

Today is Good Friday. Yet when you look at what the Christian church 'celebrates' today, there really isn't much good about it at first sight.

A case of political intrigue, the flexing of religious muscles, the betrayal and execution of an innocent man... and two thousand years on, we still see similar things happening around the world. Nothing's changed.

Well, one thing that has definitely changed is how we mark Good Friday.

When I was a child, there was a sense of awe for me about Good Friday. The shops were shut for the Bank Holiday but there were always hot cross buns (the only time of year you could buy them), there was nearly always a biblical epic or re-telling of the crucifixion on the telly in the afternoon, and in the evening: church. The service was always a sombre one with all the linen and flowers removed - the only 'decoration' was often a bare cross, draped with purple fabric and a crown of thorns.

More recently, I attended a Walk of Witness through town, when I was very aware of how the approach to Good Friday has altered...diminished in some way by our secular society. On that particular occasion, a crowd of us followed a man - carrying a cross and escorted by 'soldiers' - through the busy marketplace, enacting various scenes from the Bible which culminated in a 'crucifixion' outside the Town Hall.

I was struck by how many people ignored us as they carried on shopping. I wondered if that was how it was when Jesus was crucified? Was the sight of men being led to a grisly death by crucifixion so commonplace that normal life carried on around it? Or did you ignore it because to show any hint of compassion or interest might tar you with the same brush and land you in trouble with the authorities? How many turned a blind eye and opted for the quiet life?

With the benefit of hindsight, I know how the story ended - or rather, how it continued. As a Christian, I can 'celebrate' the events of Good Friday because I know there is something beyond the death of Jesus that opened up a whole new world of possibility for a personal relationship with God.

In spite of how any of us mark this day, the essential truth of why it happened remains the same; that's what's good about Good Friday.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My fingers aren't green...

I am lucky enough to have a fairly large garden and I love spending time in it. What I don't like is the gardening.

Mr Squidge cuts the lawn but on the whole, the rest of it falls to me. I suppose I'd describe myself as a pot-luck gardener; if it grows where I put it, it was meant to be. If it dies, so be it. We had the garden landscaped about ten, eleven years ago. The blank canvas was great - I had a ball picking my flowers and bushes and planting everything up. It looked fantastic.

But then everything started growing - as it does - and over the last couple of years the garden has gone to pot. Not sure why, exactly...

Our neighbour had a HUGE bramble growing between our fence and his brick pile (a pile now converted into a garage, thank goodness) which has given us the most wonderful berries for the last three years. The neighbour, having access to the roots, has cut them. Which left a massive dead bramble for me to sort out on our side of the fence. Done today - there are scratches all up my arm to prove it.

And the nettles...they're sneaky little blighters, running their roots under the ground and popping up somewhere totally unexpected, usually in the middle of another plant so they catch you unaware when they sting you.

Stickyweed...ugh! I try to catch it before it seeds, but end up covered in a rash.

And ground ivy...it's ruined the fence down one side of the garden; we're going to have to replace no end of the topping strips.

There are lots of a feathery leaved red flower (a bit like a campion) which self seeds and grows like the clappers, suffocating everything in sight. Very pretty, but extremely rampant.

It sounds like the garden's all weeds - it's not, honest! At the moment, there are patches of forget-me-nots and bluebells, the lavender's sprouting and the lilac's forming on the tree. I've got aquilegias all over the place - and the caterpillars haven't found them yet! There's a lovely yellow-flowered bush under the blossom-filled pear tree, and the forsythia is just going over. Today, I've bought a few sweet peas, hoping to put them in next weekend when the threat of frost goes...and I've got some dahlia tubers from Mother's Day to plant out. I keep saying I'll get veg seeds in and bulbs...but I never have much success as I'm too impatient to prepare the ground properly.

I really envy folk with lovely looking gardens. I have to keep telling myself I could have a nicer looking garden; ultimately, it's down to how much effort I'm prepared to put in, isn't it?

I just wish my fingers were naturally a little greener...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

That 'squeee!' feeling...

I have to share...

I've been getting verbal feedback about Granny Rainbow and so far it's all good - thank heavens! But there's nothing concrete yet for people to see, apart from two rather lovely reviews on Goodreads and one on mumsnet.

I've been asking folks who've read the book/read it to their kids or grandkids to drop me a line and let me know what they think, with the idea of putting a selection of comments on the website...nothing's come through as yet, but I have several promises of 'when the book's finished...'

Well, today, I received two bits of feedback that made me go 'squeee!' But not very loudly or the vicar (in the first instance) and my neighbours (in the second) would've thought I was mad!

The first...remember I said I'd been to my local primary school for World Book Day? I left a copy of Granny Rainbow with each of the classes I'd visited. I was informed today by a member of staff at the school (who goes to my church) that whenever it's storytime in Year 4, the current book of choice is...Granny Rainbow! Squeee!

The second...a friend bought the book for his son. I'd already been told that this lad had elected to take my book in the car last weekend *big smiles from me* but today...the friend and his son popped round and I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to write more stories because the book has been read twice and it's so good! Squeeee!

Add to that another nine copies sold this week...my day could not get more 'squeeee-ly' if I tried!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Plenty of scribbles - just not on the blog!

Blimey - it's been a week since I last posted a Scribble! *hangs head in shame* Apologies.

I've not been idle - oh no! But what have I been doing instead, I hear you ask? Well...for those who remember The Fast Show...

This week, I 'ave been mostly editing.

Every spare minute, the laptop's been on, I've plugged the memory stick in, and set to work on StarMark. And you know what (sorry if I'm banging on about this) - it feels pretty good. I am currently at page 120 of 190ish and going strong.

There are certain things in the process that I've noticed are very different this time. Perhaps, having left this story for three years in a drawer, my writing ability has improved over time...Perhaps I'm more familiar with the storyline...Perhaps...oh, I dunno!

You be the judge! (And I have no idea why the text has gone doo-lally later on - apologies again! I've tried to sort it but without success...)

1. I seem to have found my writer's voice - the real one, the one that says 'Katherine wrote this.'

The strange thing is that I seem to be taking out all the big authorly words and simplifying the text. I find myself looking at the text and thinking 'That sounds so pretentious! How would you say it to get the important bits across in that scene?'

Irvana looked to where Matild indicated. The trees appeared to be thinning, the green gloom giving way to dappled sunlight, until suddenly the forest lay behind them and a magnificent view was revealed. She shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun, and gazed in wonder.

The road wound down from the forest edge through fields of swaying corn, towards the foot of an imposing cliff. At its base, fortified walls contained the hundreds of buildings which clung to the steep slope sweeping up from a busy harbour towards the rock. Where the gradient became almost vertical, there were no houses, but the natural fortress this created was topped by walls of gleaming stone. Excitement sent shivers of anticipation through Irvana’s body. So this was the city….it surpassed everything that she had imagined.

Irvana gripped the sides of the jolting cart and leaned round Matild. The trees appeared to be thinning, the green gloom of the forest giving way to dappled sunlight, until suddenly the trees lay behind them. She squinted in the bright glare of the sun and gazed in wonder at what lay before them.
The road wound right from the forest edge and down, through fields of swaying corn, towards the foot of an imposing cliff. At the base of the cliff was the city, its fortified walls wrapped tight around hundreds of buildings. The houses clung to a steep slope which swept up from a busy harbour, towards the point where the gradient became almost vertical; the natural fortress this created was topped by walls of pale gleaming stone. 

2. Certain characters are acting differently

Irvana, my MC, isn't quite the nicey-nice and two-dimensional girl she used to be. There's more depth to her, we know more of what she's thinking and experiencing; that infamous psychic distance that is so hard to do but so brilliant when you get it right! Mind you, I'm not saying for one minute that I HAVE got it right, but it certainly feels more right than it did before.

Irvana stared at the rows of bottles stacked behind the bar, feeling stupid and small and fighting to contain the panic rising in her chest. Of course Matteuw would be an old man by now – just like Gwendara had been an old woman. Gwendara had died...was he dead too? Her one chance to discover more about her parents was slipping away, and Irvana realised just how much she had hoped to find Matteuw so that he could tell her all the things Gwendara never had. But more importantly, if she couldn’t find him, what on earth was she going to do?

He wasn’t here! Irvana stared at the rows of bottles stacked behind the bar, seeing none of them. Why wasn’t he here? She felt panic rising in her chest, tightening its hold on her lungs and making it hard to breathe. Was Matteuw old, older than Gramma? She’d died...was he dead too? Irvana gripped the bar tightly as her knees buckled, desperately trying to stay upright. Her one chance in the city, her opportunity to find out about her parents…gone. What was she going to do now? 

3. It's easier!

Before, I'd have approached editing as a way of making the writing sound right...which isn't actually the same as making it sound how I'd probably say it if I was to tell you the story verbally. See - that's the voice thing coming through again. I can't really give you an example, except to say that in a week, I've edited 2/3rds of a 64,000 word manuscript without going back to tinker! Except for a last look-through in the 'read' layout; making the words look like a real book page does wonders for picking things up. I've even managed to sort out my 'm' and 'n' dashes and apostrophes, especially as one character in particular will keep dropping her aitches! (Also discovered that if you write h'er and delete the h afterwards, the apostrophe's the right way round and saves you having to copy and paste! Joy!)

So what now?

Part of my eagerness to get this edit done stems from the fact that there are several open submission months coming up for agents and indie presses...and I'm toying with the idea of sending StarMark out again. I know I said I wouldn't, but I want to see whether this version gets the 'too nice' response again.

The other reason is that publishing Granny Rainbow has given me the confidence to publish a full length novel as well. Sure, it could still crash and burn and folk might hate it. But having published once, I know I can do it again. Even if this time, there are different problems. I'm already toying with ideas for the cover...

So there you have it - a quiet week on the Scribbles, but not a quiet week for the Scribbler herself. And there's still 1/3 of the MS to go, so if I'm a bit quiet over the next week or so, at least you know why...

Friday, 4 April 2014

Music, maestro!

Yesterday was a very musical one for the Squidges.

I love music - if I had to describe my taste, it would have to be 'eclectic'. On my CD shelf, you're just as likely to find Madness or Muse, 80's electric pop, rock'n'roll, Eurythmics, Ray LaMontagne, carols or Taize chants. It all depends on my mood... I'd have to say I'm a singer rather than an instrumentalist, though. I can just about read music (in that I know where to go up and down and roughly how long to hold the notes) but I learn most pieces by ear, copying what I hear.

Anyway, Squidges Junior were both appearing in a school Spring Concert last night. Between them, they were in the orchestra, Rock Club Band and Singing Club Choir, playing bass guitar, violin and singing. We'd heard nothing but Spring Concert stuff for days, they were so excited - and we weren't disappointed.

The drama studio was set up the 'wrong way round', so the audience were on the floor and the artists up on the steps which usually provide seating. There were flowers and chocolates on the tables, refreshments being served, and enough time before the performance to chat to other parents and teachers. The programme itself was pretty varied, with pieces performed by clubs, GCSE music students and soloists - there are some very talented young musicians out there. My favourite (and I admit, I'm probably biased) was Rock Club's version of 'The Final Countdown', complete with rocket launch projection and the music teacher, Mr P, rocking out on his guitar for the solo.

Plans are, I believe, already being laid for the summer concert and a twenty minute Rock Club set at another school's summer fair. I think I'm going to end up being a groupie...

But it didn't end there. Mr Squidge and I thrust the kids into the waiting arms of a babysitter and headed off down to our Town Hall straight afterwards to see Suggs.

Have I mentioned Madness is on my CD shelf? I've always enjoyed their music, so a chance to hear Suggs, their frontman, talk about his life and early Madness days was not to be missed.

It was abso-flippin-bloomin'-lutely brilliant! Not just because Suggs is a consummate showman, whose personality oozes through the mix of words and music and theatricals, not even because the show was a perfect balance of humour, dark moments and character observation which wove together past and present in a seamless mix, but because I have never laughed so much in a long time. Even the programme (and goodness me, it weren't cheap!) was a work of art; I sat and read it in the interval, and found this little snippet...

'I think it's the Icelanders who say there are only two real things in life; love and a good story.'

Sounds pretty good to me.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wednesday already?

My week is flying by...I woke up this morning convinced it was Thursday!

I've done a lot of writing so far - mainly bits and pieces which are completely unrelated to any of my novels. Like a letter of introduction to schools, in an attempt to encourage them to request an author visit. A blog post for Stories for Homes, detailing the Andover event which raised £479 for Shelter. A short piece for the Cloud's monthly comp which got me an honourable mention (hooray!). A bio for an anthology of twisted tales and a biog for the website of the same, as I found out at the weekend that two - yep, TWO - of my short stories have been accepted for publication in the same book. (Another hooray!)

I have managed to snatch some time to work on StarMark. The more I look at this novel, the more I see stilted writing wrapped around a good story. Perhaps, more accurately, I ought to describe it as a less developed style of writing; it's certainly coming out quite, quite different in places post-edit, because of how I've changed as a writer.

I'm hoping that the work I'm doing will make the story more convincing character-wise, more pacy, just...more than it was before. However, the fear is that I'm actually taking out some of its charm and dumbing down what I wrote three years ago.

Only time (and readers) will tell.

Which is why this post is going to be cut short and I'm about to pull up the StarMark file to do a bit more work...