Tag Archives: novel

Life between worlds – writing a novel

notebook, pen, laptopYou can get a bit lost in writing a book; it’s a long process and quite isolated too. You spend a lot of time with your characters, immersed in their world. Sometimes the real world is a welcome relief, sometimes it’s an irritating distraction. At times it can seem quite distant. The story grows and develops; it follows you even when you’re not actually writing. Your protagonists and antagonists feed you information, not always at the most opportune moments (mine often decide that the best time to tell me something vital is when I’m driving, usually with nowhere I can pull over to scribble it down). It’s as if you’re living in two different realms at the same time, each as tangible as the other.

You try hard to get the writing right, to let the characters have their say but also to keep the story flowing the way it should be. You cheer when it goes well and the words pour from your fingertips; you groan, procrastinate and drink far too much tea when the plot sticks or your characters decide to go off and do their own thing without telling you. And they do do that. Without so much as a ‘by your leave’ and then you find that they’ve changed the timeline or reconfigured the plot without so much as even conferring with you or asking what you think. Well, why should they? You’re only the author after all.

Eventually, eventually you get to the end.

Of the first draft.

But that’s not the end as a writer. Because the first draft is the basis but it always needs lots of work; editing and reworking paragraphs and dialogue, adjusting timeline inconsistencies, ensuring continuity of all sorts of things from the colour of people’s eyes to who has a dog and who likes what music. And then there are the typos and the grammatical errors and the repetition of words and phrases that need to be corrected.

So you plough through again, rewriting, amending, tightening up the prose and getting it closer to how you know it needs to be. And when you’ve finished the second draft, you go through it all again a third time, just to make sure.

Phew!

You’d think that’d be it then, wouldn’t you?

Alas, no!

It’s usually when I’ve got to the end of the third draft that I ask my lovely band of pre-readers to read through it and feed back to me anything that doesn’t fit right or hold true, anything that seems superfluous or out of place, anything that they think needs altered or adjusted. With these invaluable critiques it’s time for – you’ve guessed it – draft number four.

By the end of the fourth draft, hopefully the manuscript is as near finished as possible and as good as it’s going to get. This is usually the point where, having been living and breathing it for however long and having read and reread the story countless times, I usually think “This is complete and utter rubbish. Why did I bother? I might as well just dump it in the recycling bin and do everyone a favour.”

At that point I know it’s time to consign draft four to my virtual drawer and ignore it for a month or two. When I come back to it, it’s usually not as bad as I’d thought. Usually needs a few tweaks but generally it’s OK.

That’s the scary point. Time to unleash it…

Three Words

Three Words coverOn 14th February 2017 my second book will be making its way into the big wide world. It took me two years to write Three Words and get it to the point where I was happy to submit it to my publishers, Magic Oxygen. They’ve also put a lot of time, effort and love into it, from the editing to the amazing cover photography and much more besides. A big thank you is due.

It’s a romance at heart, exploring love and those things that pretend to be love but are very far from it; possessiveness, manipulation, guilt etc. It also encompasses love and relationships in the wider sense of friendship and family.

And of course there’s a magical element – because how could there not be? It’s very (and I do mean VERY) loosely based on The Little Mermaid, but the fairy tale rather than the film.

If you want to read the blurb on the back cover, click on the picture above. For now, here’s an excerpt to hopefully whet your appetite.

 

Tia and Serena left the cavern and swam through the wild ocean in silence, overawed. Tia was the first to speak.

“Did it hurt?” she asked. “When you gave up your magic?”

“A little,” Serena said. “I feel empty now, hollow. Room for a soul, no doubt.”

“Are you afraid?” Tia’s eyes were worried.

“Yes,” Serena confessed. “But I know this is the right thing to do. The only thing to do, for me. I’ll never meet the expectations of the mer, I’ll always be found wanting. At least this way I have a chance. I know you understand.”

“I will miss you,” said Tia.

“And I you,” Serena replied. “But I will always remember, all of you but especially you, Tia. I think you’re the only one that’s really ever understood me. Don’t think that some of the love I hope to find over there won’t be held for you.”

Tia said nothing but she didn’t have to. The crystal tears that slipped from her eyes told their own tale.

The Magic Of Books

pile of books

Photo by Heather Godfrey

Dreaming The Moon was officially released on 14th February and I’m still dancing on air! Even now I can’t quite believe that there’s an actual official real paperback with my name on it. Much as e-books have transformed the way we can access and read stories, there’s something about a proper book with pages and a cover. Maybe I’m old fashioned but that’s a piece of magic right there.

Because that’s what books are, aren’t they? Little bits of magic that transport us away from our lives for a while and into someone else’s landscape, some other person’s quest or dilemma, an alternate existence with a new point of view. Whether it’s a light, quick read or something deep and challenging, every story will teach us something. And the best ones will resonate with us long after we’ve finished them, the characters staying in our heads, making us think. A change occurs when we read a book, often so subtle we may not really even notice it. But it’s there. We may learn something. Realise something. Understand or empathise more than we did before. Find something that piques our interest or leads us down a new road. Or simply gives us a good laugh and leaves us feeling uplifted.

Every book is an adventure. Each new author is a risk, but also a guide along an untrodden path. Still, the same can be said for life in general, so, if you fancy your next adventure with a new guide, click on the ‘buy my books’ icon at the top of the page and see the wonderful range waiting for you at Magic Oxygen.

A Plethora of New Books

MOLP 2015 Front CoverOn Valentine’s Day I will be in the auspicious company of six other authors and our wonderful publishers Tracey and Simon West , for the official release of our books plus the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize Anthology 2015.

There will be a ‘Meet the Author’ event at the Hub in Lyme Regis, as part of the Lyme Regis Literary Festival, where you can come and chat to Max Brandt, James Dunford-Wood, Sue Hampton, Chris Hill, Rob Windsor, Gordon Strong and me, and have a look at our books (an eclectic mix catering for all tastes!)

Following that will be the announcement of the winners of the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize. This new and ground breaking competition with two categories (short stories and poems) planted a tree for every entrant in the competition (800 trees so far). The winning and shortlisted entries are included in the anthology, and another tree will be planted for each copy sold – and having been lucky enough to be on the judging panel for the Prize, I can assure you that this is not a book you want to miss! Brilliant stories and poems all, they will make you smile, weep and gasp.

The event will be starting at 11 a.m. For more details, go to  http://www.magicoxygen.co.uk/contact/   and drop the team a line. Keep an eye on their website too. Hope to see you there.

Dreaming the Moon release date

So… it’s 2015! Happy New Year! It’s already shaping up to be an exciting one and we’re still only in January! One of the most exciting things for me is the publication of my first novel, coming out in paperback on 14th February.

picture of moon over seaCalled ‘Dreaming The Moon’, it’s a fantasy story set in Cornwall (a land of mystery and magic itself) where Robyn, an ordinary girl haunted by strange dreams, discovers that not only is there another hidden, magical world linked to our own, but that the barrier between the two is failing fast and she is the key to restoring it and preventing the forces of darkness from overrunning both realms. With everyone in danger and everything she loves at risk, can she and her friends outwit the malevolent creatures sent to stop them and fix the shield before all is lost?

Here’s a taste:

By the time Robyn fell into bed that night it was past midnight, and she was exhausted. She curled up under the duvet and dropped into a deep sleep.

It was dark – intensely, terrifyingly dark. The barest sliver of a new moon illuminated a silver thread of sea in the distance, but where she stood the blackness was total and heavily oppressive. Just moving through it was like walking through treacle. She stumbled forward, desperately trying to see something, anything. A branch caught her arm, making her jump, and she stumbled again, feeling her way but not seeming to move anywhere. Eventually she stopped and looked around again, straining her eyes to pick out something familiar, some outline or shape. But she could see nothing except for the narrow ribbon of sea far ahead of her, hear nothing except her own ragged breath. Everything around her was perfectly and absolutely still. She tried again to move, slowly easing her way toward the silvered water, concentrating hard so as not to lose her footing in the inky darkness. And despite the silence, the stillness, the sense of isolation, she was acutely aware that someone or something was watching her.

A Dilemma

Jars of sweetsIt’s been a busy month with one thing and another and last week, as I completed a piece of work for Magic Oxygen (exciting stuff; more information soon), I found myself with a bit of a lull. Just as I was planning to start a) re-drafting the novel I wrote earlier this year and b) finishing a novelette that has been waiting patiently for some attention, what happens?

Two new characters walk into my head and quietly but insistently make themselves at home. I watch as their story begins to take shape, fragments and scenes and information pouring through my conscious. They are difficult to ignore, try as I might, and within a few hours they have been joined by two more characters, some locations and a soundtrack.

They are intriguing and despite my (admittedly rather half hearted) attempts to send them to the back of the queue I am driven to make some notes – a little background information, some scenes, scraps of conversation, . A vague timeline presents itself. So here is my dilemma – do I start writing their story now and make the others wait? Or do I keep making notes and hatching a plan whilst finishing what has already been waiting too long, and brave the challenge of National Novel Writing Month again this November? Hmmm…

As dilemmas go, it’s a pretty pleasant one. A bit like standing in the sweet shop when you’re nine, thinking ‘Pear drops or toffees? Chocolate or jelly beans?’ Such a tough decision! Perhaps the only way to solve it is to indulge in a nice cup of tea and some contemplation under the apple tree…

Dreaming the Moon

crescent moon over seaI am delighted and very excited to say that my first novel, Dreaming the Moon, will be coming out in paperback on 25th August 2014. The fantastic cover photograph was taken by the very talented Alex Smith (thank you so much) and formatted by the amazing web wizard, Simon West (again, thank you).

It’s a modern fantasy that follows Robyn, heartbroken and haunted by strange dreams, who discovers that this world is not the only one, but is separated from another magical realm by a protective shield that is failing. Thrown into a desperate situation, she and her friends are pitted against time and dark forces in a seemingly impossible task, the search for a lost fragment that will restore the shield and save both worlds.

If you like to look at life a little sideways, if you ask yourself sometimes ‘Was that only a bird rustling in the hedge or was it something else?’, or ‘Did I misplace my keys or is something otherworldly teasing me?’; If you’ve ever thought that the woods seem darker than they should when you’re walking alone at dusk, or wondered if it was just coincidence that you called your best friend at exactly the same time as he/she called you, then I hope that this will appeal to you. And if you’re not familiar with my work, may I (very cheekily) say that I have two ‘snack-size’ stories out as e-books: When Joe Met Alice and Catching Up With The Past, available from Magic Oxygen and Amazon, just in case you fancy an appetiser.

Izzy

Connor Cadellin McKee launches Children of the Crater

I am excited! On Monday 26th May, Children of the Crater, the first novel from the very Connor Cadellin Mckee
talented Connor Cadellin McKee is launched to the world. Lucky world! Having had the privilege of editing this book, I know first hand just how good it is – a dark dystopian fantasy which raises all sorts of questions and will leave you breathless. Here’s what Connor has to say about it

 

 

Children of the CraterFive years ago, my 16 year old self had a dream. One of those really vivid ones that makes you sit up in the night and scrabble for a pen and paper because it was so vivid.
Now, I used to write down an awful lot of these, but this one was special. My recollection was fragmented, but I had the important pieces. A man tumbling down into a crater ringed with riot police. Flying above the night sky, green flames writhing across my skin. A longhouse hidden deep in the jungle. It was fantastic; I wanted to meet these characters, learn their story.
I used to do sketches from the more vivid dreams, and I got to work pretty quickly on this one. I tried making it into a graphic novel originally, but the sheer level of drawing needed for that dissuaded me. It wasn’t until that summer that I had the idea of writing it down on a computer. It weaved and shifted as the years went by; I continually chopped it up, rearranged it, threw in new sections, and it began to materialize from a myriad of different scraps of paper and text documents on my old laptop.
And suddenly the release date is upon me! It feels almost unreal; I had never expected it to come this far. Children of the Crater as it is now called, is a book sitting on my shelf, with my name and the character I once sketched out on an airline napkin. It almost makes me wonder how many undiscovered worlds are out there, sitting in desk drawers.

Camp NaNo

Camp NaNo badgeIn April I was gently coerced (is that possible?) by the newest group of characters that had wandered into my head into starting another novel. They had very kindly presented themselves just in time for Camp NaNo, which is another writing month run by the organisers of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Having successfully completed a novel last November, I decided to aim for the same target as then, i.e. 50,000 words, although in April (and July) you can set your own target and work on any writing project you like, non-fiction, plays, short stories etc.

I am feeling quite proud and a little smug at the moment because I DID IT, with the support, of course, of family and friends (thank you!) and an industrial sized amount of chocolate. Although the novel is not quite finished, it’s great to have the structure in place and the bulk of it written, even if it is only a first draft.

So Camp NaNo, I thank you, as do my characters Serena, Seth, Tallie, Ethan, Gaia and Great Aunt Rose. They are most grateful that I haven’t made them wait for eight years like Robyn, Bryn and Holly (my November characters) had to!

NaNoWriMo and beyond

Well, it’s almost the end of November and I am happy to say that I managed to complete my novel in time – all 50,508 words of it. I have no doubt it’s going to need serious redrafting but at least it’s written and not just in my head. And hopefully I haven’t driven everyone too crazy.

printed text

So after the frenzy of writing, I am going to take my own advice and dust off a few of my favourite rereads this weekend. I can drink tea and eat chocolate just as easily when I’m reading as when I’m writing! These are the books I may indulge in.

Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint – a magical collection of short stories set in an imaginary North American city.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman – the most beautifully written story of loss and recovery I think I’ve ever read.

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery – the classic tale of an orphan taken in by a brother and sister, and how she changes their lives. The sequels are favouites too.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling – an otherworldly tale set in Arizona.

I daresay that as I look on the bookshelves for these I’ll find others that tempt me in. What a lovely thought.

And from old favourites to a new book out for Christmas. You will see an advert for it on my website; it’s called 365 Silly Jokes For Kids and has been published to raise funds for Martha Care, a small but incredibly valuable charity that provides support and advice to parents of children admitted to hospital in crisis with injury or long term/teminal illness. Please buy this book and help them to continue supporting families going through their worst nightmare. Many thanks.

Izzy