Saturday, 30 August 2014

And the winner is...

A while back, I held a competition to find a blue or yellow story for a second book of Granny Rainbow stories because I was stuck. I said I'd post the winner on the first of September - but I'm posting a teensy bit early because I can't wait any longer!

There were some fabulous entries - I think I could have written a third book, just using the ideas that were sent in! The great thing about all of them though, was the fact that the children 'got' Granny Rainbow and how she worked; her new problems were always fun and sometimes a bit wacky too. I asked Laura to help me choose a winner, because she'll be drawing the character(s) from the story. Fortunately there were no arguments; can you believe, we both picked the same entry?

Although everyone who entered is a winner in my eyes, there is unfortunately only one prize; the winning story idea will be published as a complete story in the new book and the winner will receive not only a signed copy of the book when it's published, but also a unique, full colour picture of the new character they've created. They'll even get a mention in the acknowledgements for their winning idea...

So, the winner is...drum roll, please...

Well, actually, there are three of them! 

Congratulations to Christopher, Cameron and Catherine Cocks, who worked together on their blue story idea while on a sailing holiday! 

It all starts when Old Tom's bees are unwell and their honey doesn't taste like it should - which leaves Tom in a bit of a pickle because the Mayoress is coming for tea and wants toasted crumpets and honey! Can Granny Rainbow help get Tom's bees fit again in time - and will the honey taste right?

Sounds fab, doesn't it? The outline is already planned and I can't wait to see what the Mayoress will look like. Bet she'll have a HUGE chain!

The prize can't be sent immediately as I'm still working on a couple of stories - but it will be sent out as soon as it's ready. Well done, Christopher, Cameron and Catherine!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

We (almost) have lift off!

The stories are all set in Leicestershire pubs - on the day of the first commercial space flight to the moon - and this volume will be available to download from the 10th September, either from the KLiC site or Amazon.

Submissions are now open for Volume 2...

For information about all the authors in volume 1 (you're allowed to skip mine 'cos you probably know all about me already if you read the Scribbles!) AND how you can submit to Volume 2 click here. 

My really lovely author pic for the anthology, taken by Pamela Raith at Hadn't realised just how silver my hair is...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Blood on his hands

If you follow this link, you can read a short piece of FREE flash fiction written by me. It introduces Lord Baraat, a character from my story Thread, published in the anthology A Seeming Glass. Please note; it's not suitable for children.

If you enjoy Blood on his Hands, or any of the other free flash pieces that have been posted on the Random Writers site, you'll probably love the anthology. It's certainly getting some ace reviews over on Goodreads and Amazon - check them out if you don't believe me!

But for now, step into the mind of Baraat...


Monday, 25 August 2014

When a story just won't work

Been working on a story for the next book of Granny Rainbow stories - had the title all sorted: Granny Rainbow and the Pear Tree Pirate.

I had the broad outline, in terms of where the story was going to be set, the problem Granny faced and how she would solve it. Fabuloso!

What I can't work out is how to realistically get my secondary character into a position where he does what he's supposed to, thanks to Granny's intervention. Try as I might, it just doesn't sound...believable. Now, those of you who've read GR will probably say that the premise of some of the first stories were somewhat wacky and wouldn't happen in real life anyway. But they were written in such a way that the solution didn't come out of the blue and have you and your little ones saying 'well, that's just not going to happen!'

So at the moment I'm stumped. I have six stories, but need a longer seventh to match the format of the first book. I have no idea what to write! I wondered whether to have another Black Shadow story...what dastardly way could he use to capture colour next? But you'd see colour disappearing again and know who was responsible straightaway. There'd be no surprise element.

It all feels a bit up in the air...and a bit disappointing because I love the title of the Pear Tree Pirate but it doesn't seem to want to work with the story I thought I was going to write. Never mind. I'll keep thinking...something will crop up.

At the same time, I can't help thinking thank goodness for the competition I held to find ideas for the blue and yellow stories, or I'd be even more stuck. Incidentally, I shall be announcing the winner, as promised, on the 1st September, so do pop back then to see whose idea will be written up. It's going to be a corker!

Maybe Professor Funkelburger's next invention will have to be a Story Ideas Machine...'for all ze very gut stories to be written, ja?'

Friday, 22 August 2014

And Monkey came too...

Remember I mentioned a photoshoot, earlier in the week? Well...been and done it!

Nathan, fellow writer and producer, met me at the station as promised and whisked me off in a taxi because I was late arriving (emergency signalling work on the train lines). Pamela Raith, the photographer, was already at the pub; I was glad to see a distinct lack of photographic paraphernalia like wind machines and light reflecting umbrellas and background screens etc etc. Just a bloomin' big camera with a lens THIS big. *holds hands out as far as they'll go* Well that's how big it felt when it was pointing at me, anyway.

Before we started, Pam showed me some pics of the KLiC authors who'd already been photographed - and they were flippin' brilliant! All very individual - you could almost see the personality oozing out of the pic. So I was fairly confident that Ruth'd be able to make a silk purse out of this particular sow's ear...

It was great fun actually taking the photos - we had a lot of laughs and the finished pics (when I wasn't blinking) were really natural and very 'me'. I think I'd rather be a writer than a model though.

I took Monkey along with me, as my nod to the Blue Monkey Brewery. Their Loughborough pub, The Organ Grinder, is where my story for the anthology is set. We sat Monkey on the table for the photos, next to my cider.

In jest, I suggested we ought to get him a drink too. Cue shot glass filled with the same tipple...

The final author pic might just possibly be the one where Monkey and I are chinking glasses...

If you want to find out exactly how Monkey features in Moon Rocks, why not put the 18th September in your diary? That's one of two KLiCbait launch parties, where I'll be reading an extract of my story at The Parcel Yard, (right next door to the rail station) in Leicester. There's an earlier launch on the 10th at the Western - both pubs are run by the same brewery and they're brewing us our own KLiC beer so we can celebrate in style.

Would be great to see you there...and maybe you can Monkey a drink.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The box of mysteries - and when to reveal them

Can I run a quick question past all you lovely Scribbles readers?

I have a bit of a dilemma. In StarMark, there's a box:

A bit like this one.

The box contains a few items of sentimental value. Their stories can never be told because the owner of the box has died. The reader will 'look' inside this box very early on in the story and 'see' the objects. However, there is one item 'seen' at this point whose significance is revealed much later.

This is a deliberate ploy on my part as the writer: to apparently reveal everything from the start. But recent comments have forced me to rethink whether a big reveal up front is the best way to handle this particular situation.

So - as a reader - would you be disappointed that you'd seen everything straight off? And if you were disappointed initially, would you feel better when the 'Aha!' reveal moment occurred? Or, would you prefer to keep dipping into the box to see a little bit more each time? Prolong the suspense of the reveal?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Say 'Cheese'...

This Friday, I'm heading into Leicester for a photoshoot. I'm sure it won't be as glamorous as it sounds; it's in a pub for a start.

Remember the KLiCbait volume 1 I mentioned a while back? I was one of the lucky ten selected to write a short story to a specific theme for it - Moon Rocks is my title. Well, all the authors are going to have their photos taken for it. Originally, we were all going to be photographed in the pubs we'd chosen to set our stories in, but plans have gone awry and so the ten of us are being split between two pubs and a couple of photographers.

I don't know Leicester city centre that well, so had no idea of where 'my' pub is. I've arranged to meet one of the KLiC folk at the train station. Apparently, he'd always wanted to be the person at arrivals, holding up a placard with a name on it. I, on the other hand, have always wanted to have a secret symbol. Y'know, like a carnation in the buttonhole or a rolled up Guardian under my arm.

We settled on 'Look for a short, silver haired lady with a rainbow bag and a toy gorilla, arriving at 2.30pm'.

Yep. Really. You just couldn't write this stuff, could you?

And the monkey? He features in the story - but you'll have to wait for publication day to find out how...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A rose called 'Miss Piggy'.

In a complete break from writing, I did a bit of flower arranging on Friday.

My mum heads up the flower arranging team at church and we offer to decorate for weddings if the bride and groom would like us to. We ask for the cost of the flowers and charge a small arranging fee on top that goes back into the flower fund, allowing us to provide flowers for the altar every week.

Anyway, Mum tends to be the one talking to the bride/bride's mum about what they want, orders the flowers, collects them, conditions them (you don't just buy them and stick them in the oasis if you want them to look their best and last!) and sorts out the money.

Me? I turn up on arranging day with my secateurs.

I love doing weddings because of the variety. For example, there was the one where the bride wanted bluebells in buckets, one with just greenery and candles, some have monochromatic themes and others are a riot on the senses in terms of colour and perfume. There have been butterflies and bows, wire and beads, tall arrangements, short arrangements... but you can always guarantee that no two weddings are the same.

The most obvious thing to tie the flowers up with is the colour of the bridesmaid's dresses. The bridesmaids yesterday were in black and silver. We've not had black in church before - most people would associate it with funerals rather than weddings - and our first thought was to use artificial black flowers with silver accents. Our second was to have lots of coloured flowers - acid green, orange, cerise pink - on a black base, with hints of silver and diamante. The bride liked the latter idea; 'as long as there's plenty of bling', she said.

Here's some of what we (myself, Mum and Laura B, my lovely illustrator!) produced...

An arrangement in the porch to welcome all the wedding guests...

Four large window arrangements...

For those who are interested in the details, we used lime green carnations, orange and cerise gerbera, dark pink lizianthus, gypsophila and a fantastic orange-in-the-centre-to-pink-on-the-outside-with-the-most-amazing-scent rose, called 'Miss Piggy'! Not all roses have a scent nowadays, because the flowers are often bred for colour. It's a real bonus when you get a smelly one... Oh, and a bit of assorted greenery; hosta, ruscus and fatsia. 

A Floor standing arrangement that went at the altar;
these flowers went up into the altar window for today's services

Unfortunately we think our bunches of 25 gerbera were actually bunches of 20, so the altar arrangement didn't have quite so much 'zing' in it, but it didn't look too bad. The black voile under each arrangement was scattered with silver heart sequins, and in the roses...

Miss Piggy and friends...wonder if the carnations were called 'Kermit'?

...well, we studded a few of them with diamond pins.

We were just packing up at 4pm after three hours of blissful arranging, when the bride came up to see the flowers - we always try to get them to have a look before the big day as the wedding itself is often a blur - and she seemed delighted. So job done - another satisfied customer. (And by all accounts the wedding itself went really well too; Mum and Laura were in the choir so got a sneaky peek.)

Roll on September, when we're doing the next one...shades of orange and cream then. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Preparing for York - 500 words

I'm off to the Festival of Writing in York again in September. It'll be my third year.

There's nothing quite like spending a whole weekend in the company of fellow authors and folk who are professionally involved in the world of all things literary. I mean, where else can you hear from best-selling authors about their own experiences? Or get feedback on your writing from book doctors and agents - who might, just might, be interested enough in what you've written to ask to see more? Not to mention meeting up with old friends and having the opportunity to meet others who become new friends, all with a common interest - writing.

There's only one thing I really struggle with at York. Not the late night parties. Not the basic student accommodation. Not the migraine that's bound to strike. Not even the temperature of the teaching facilities. (Last year, certain rooms were FREEZING! This time I shall pack plenty of jumpers, just in case. As a result, there'll probably be a heatwave.)

It's the Friday Night Live competition. The idea is that you submit just 500 words and if you're shortlisted, you read them aloud to an audience of festival-goers. The winner, as voted for by said audience, gets a bottle of fizz and the potential to attract the attention of every agent in the room.

No problem! I've written flash pieces of around that mark; specific mini-stories that have gone down well with readers.

Erm, excuse me. *whispers festival organiser* For this particular competition, you take 500 words from your current work.

Oh. Problem. There's no story arc across 500 words in a novel - it's usually across a scene of several pages, a chapter, the whole flippin' book! So it's incredibly hard to find a suitable chunk to submit.

Then there's the subject matter. Do you go for full-on action? Description? Dialogue? (And then practice all the voices...) A mix of everything?

How much do you edit to make it a self-contained portion that is capable of standing alone? To me, it feels like cheating a bit if you've changed it too much from the original. And it also begs the question if you're editing it that much, how good was the original in the first place? Which opens up a whole new can of worms (and panic!) about the quality of the MS...

I picked out a couple of pieces I thought might work...neither were perfect. Both lacked something. My third piece is looking more promising and I've just read it though again; seen a couple of tweaks that will improve it when combined with some feedback from fellow Random Writers. It's certainly heading in the right direction with action, dialogue, a bit of mystery...

Will I be shortlisted? Who knows. Like all writing competitions, there's the judges' own preferences to take into account as well as the exceptional other writing which will be submitted. I shall try not to build up my hopes.

But it won't stop me practicing reading my 500 words aloud in the meantime...just in case.

Monday, 11 August 2014

A little bit of flash from the other point of view...

My 'homework' this month for NIBS (my writing group) was to write a fairytale...from the point of view of the baddie. Worryingly, I enjoyed getting into the baddie's head so much, I thought I'd post what I came up with. It's based on the original Brothers Grimm version: see what you think...

"Unhand me!"

But the guards just tighten their grip on my arms and hold me fast.

"That will not be possible." The lips that frame the words are still as blood red against ice-white skin as they ever were.

Her beauty pains me - the mirror did not lie when it said she was more beautiful than I. My arts have worked an artifice on my own face; hers is a gift from a desperate mother and imbued with a magic I have not been able to overcome, in spite of my efforts. For it is her... we recognised each other immediately.

"Do you deny the attempts you made on my life? The first when I was no more than a child?"

How could I forget? The flavour rushes back into my mouth. Liver and lungs, sauteed and served on a bed of rice. How I savoured the taste of victory - but not for long.

I was betrayed. The mirror revealed the boar that had died in her place and the cottage where my rival lived with some of the little people.

She must see guilt in my face now, for she leans forward. "And the other attempts? Do you deny them?"

My gaze flicks around the faces surrounding me. There will be no help for me here, among these primped and polished wedding guests. They're all agog, with ears only for my accuser. My fingers itch to tighten the laces on the corsets of the women, to squeeze the breath from their bodies as I thought I'd squeezed it from hers. And the jewelled combs they wear - not a patch on the one I jabbed deep into her head, so the poison could do its work...

A curse on the little people who saved her! May their pickaxes rust and their delvings collapse around them!

In spite of my captors, I pull myself straight as I remember the last time. An inspired plan, that, and I have had many over the years. I pricked the apple's skin myself, with a golden bodkin. Whispered incantations over the belladonna juice as it seeped into the flesh beneath. Shrugged off my usual sparkling glamours for the disguise of a rosy-cheeked farmer's wife.

It was the juice dribbling down my chin that finally did it, enticed her to eat. I watched her die.

After so many years uncontested, I thought the new beauty that the mirror announced would be easy to deal with. I only accepted the wedding invitation so that I could study my competition and devise her method of execution.

But it was her. This step-daughter of mine, who refuses to die, who shook off my magics and turns against me...

"There can be no mercy." Her hand tightens on the arm of her throne and her new husband covers it with his own. A look passes between them and I see my future in it.

When the blacksmiths step forward, the metal shoes glow red in the tongs, their heat making the air above them shiver.

A shriek rips from my throat as I realise; they are iron, the metal which binds magic. And they are going to be mine...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Ever wondered what 'editing' looks like?

I realise a lot of readers of this blog are fellow authors. You all know what editing - the process of honing your writing to 'perfection' - looks and feels like.

We each have our own preferred methods; I know people who record themselves reading aloud...others who take a paper copy and red pen to the park...some use the 'read' facility on the computer screen so it looks like a real book...

You're all nodding your heads at me, now, aren't you?

I'm editing at the moment. I shouldn't be, really - I had told myself I'd work on the new Granny Rainbow stories and I haven't done as many as I need to. Instead, I'm working on StarMark. It's had an interesting history so far and I keep telling myself that this time will be the last time I make changes. (Yeah, right). This time is the make-or-break time, before I either catch (another) agent's attention with it, or self-publish.

This edit, (probably about the twentieth so far?) is being done on paper. With a black pen. This is what it looks like:

I have notes to myself, like 'EXPAND', but nothing to say how.

Or 'RETHINK - soldiers need to come later, how Davith sees her, his reaction to Niklos being hurt', which is only slightly more useful.

There are arrows and stars and brackets to show where bits are being shifted to a place where they make more sense. Whole sentences are rewritten: 'The noise of fighting grew fainter and for one glorious moment, Irvana thought they were safe' has morphed into 'The sound of fighting grew fainter. They'd got away! They were safe! But then - oh, gods! A horse, drawing closer. "They're coming after us!"

(Just realised - lots of exclamation marks...*sigh* Needs tweaking yet again. See - never done with it.)

There are new chapter breaks, whole paragraphs to delete, whole new paragraphs to put in. It seems endless.

And will it all, at the end of the day, make the story any better to read? No flippin' idea. But this is StarMark. My first full length novel for children - I will not give up on it. If the story was good enough in its essence for an agent to work with me on it three years ago, then I'm determined to get it out into the world for young readers.

There are only around 100 pages left. On with the editing.

Out of interest, how do you do yours?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Seeming Glass - Publication Day!

It's finally here!

A Seeming Glass: A Collection of Reflected Tales is now available on all major platforms.

Kobo, nook, apple, barnes&noble etc via smashwords 

As a paperback from createspace direct or

AND on Kindle

All the links are also on the BUY page of the Randoms website - and don't forget there are free short stories, flash fiction and artwork going up on the site over the next few weeks. Well worth taking a gander.

If you decide to buy a copy, please consider posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads. There are already a couple up from folk who received an ARC (Advance Reading Copy)...and they're pretty good. Plus, we're shooting up the anthology charts...

*happy dancing from Squidge*