Friday 24 December 2010

Christmassy Pic of the Week . . . Anne Stokes

My apologies for not posting recently. I've been on holiday. To celebrate my 30th Birthday my husband and I took ourselves off on an 11 day cruise around the Canary Islands. It was fantastic - and warm. Came back on the 21st to snow and a country that's come to a stop because of it. It's embarressing how the UK just can't cope with all this white stuff. One fleck and the whole country goes into panic. But still. I wonder if it will stick around until Christmas Day? I've never actually seen a white Christmas.

Anyway, not only is it Christmas Eve today, it's also Friday, and that means it's time for Pic of the Week. I've chosen a little festive piece by Anne Stokes. Her work can often be found on Christmas cards and she is popular with a lot of people this time of year.

So here it is.

Enjoy, and I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Christmas . . . !!!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

30 Seconds To Mars - Music and Inspiration . . .

I confess. I'm a bit of a rock-chick.

I like music. I have a huge eclectic collection, with anything from soft melodies to head-banging metal. I own the soft tones of Enya, the mystic sounds of Enigma, and the synthesised beats of Jean Michel Jarre. I like trance artists such as Tiesto, Paul Van Dyke, Delerium and the likes.

And then there's the other end of the spectrum and the varying degrees of rock and metal; System of a Down, Korn, Linkin Park, Stone Sour. The list is endless. I own a bit of everything - but my heart will always rest with rock.

I'm blogging about music today purely because I went to a concert last night. For the first time I visited the Dome to see 30 Seconds To Mars. I absolutely love their work - have done for years - and seeing them play live was amazing. I also loved watching the crowd below (we were seated) turn into one living mass enjoying the experience of their music.

Music plays a huge part in my writing. It helps to enhance moods that I'm trying to create, hence why I own music to suit every mood - angry, mellow, sad, happy. And it helps to inspire.

Whilst sitting in my seat last night, rocking away with the rest of the crowd, I felt that inspiration. I've had 30 Seconds To Mars's album 'This is War' for a while now, and despite the amount of times I've listened to it, the chorus of one song suddenly jumped out and grabbed me. I don't know whether it was the atmosphere or the live singing that made it feel different, but I heard it in a completely different way and now have the makings of a brand new novel coming to life. Out of nowhere, and to be honest it's taken me by surprise and completely altered future writing plans.

So a big thank you to the 30 Seconds To Mars crew, Jared Leto, Shannon Leto and Tomo Milicevic.

What about you? Does music have any affect on you and your writing? Has one particular song ever inspired something big in you?

Friday 26 November 2010

Pic of the Week . . . Benita Winckler

Another from the fabulous artist, Benita Winckler. I love her work so much I thought she deserved another viewing.

Hope you enjoy as much as me . . .

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

An Attempt At Book Cover Illustrations . . .

Yesterday evening, whilst waiting for our weekly Writers' meeting, I grew bored. I wasn't in the mood for working on my WIP, and there's only so much you can surf the web for. So I come up with something else to entertain myself with.

I designed a front cover for my novel.

I know if - WHEN (keeping optimistic here) - I get published, the front cover design will most probably be taken out of my hands, but I still wanted to give it a shot for entertaining purposes. So, if I could design my own cover art, it would probably be something like this.

Of course it wouldn't be this exact picture. The art is someone else's that I found on the great wide web - it's just a shame I can't find the artist - but I can create something similar if I gave myself a bit of time. The main image portrays my female character perfectly - well, almost. She's a free-spirited gypsy with fiery red curls and green eyes. (The picture depicts more ginger hair and the original had blue eyes). But as a last minute find, I think it works great.

As for the Lieflund Sagas logo - Lieflund Sagas being my collective title - that is my own design (actually, I have this dragon tattooed on my foot) but this copy is a little rough around the edges and will need tidying . . .

. . . But as a first edition front cover, what do you think? I know they say never judge a book by it's cover, but would this entice you to buy???

Friday 19 November 2010

Pic of the Week . . . Benita Winckler

Brand new artist to the blog.

I stumbled across Benita Winckler and her work by accident during the week, and I instantly fell in love with it. Her work is stunning and possesses that soft hue that gives it an ethereal feel, while still being beautifully intricate.

Amazing . . . and I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of her work in the future.

(Despite the difficulties in choosing the right piece for this week's Pic of the Week, I had to go for this one, purely because of the kittens . . . bless)


Wednesday 17 November 2010

NaNoWriMo . . .

We're now half way through November (technically two days over), and that means half way through NaNoWriMo.

So who's taking part this year? How easy or hard are you finding it? Do you think you'll reach your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days?

I've never taken part in NaNoWriMo, and this year is of no exception - but that's not because I don't agree with it, as many people out there don't. It's just that I'd rather put all my strength and creativity into the piece I'm working on at the moment. If I have to write 50,000 words in a month, I'd rather it be on my novel and not something new.

And so I'm doing just that.

I love the hype that NaNo brings. Everyone who's taking part are all 'pens and excitement`. And their encouragement and enthusiasm is enough to spur everyone else on. Despite the fact that a lot of the work written may be dribble and complete nonsense, it helps prove to some that writing a larger scale piece is do-able, and if you adopt discipline, writing a novel is no longer an unachievable goal.

For this encouragement alone, I like NaNo.

And so I'm taking part in my own little way. NaFinYowNoMo (National Finish Your Own Novel Month). I've challenge myself to write the remaining 10,000 words needed to complete my current work. My progress so far?


Yeah, you could say thing's aren't going too well for me this month (She says, holding her head low with shame). Still, there's the second half of November to work through yet. Things could still change . . .

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Exercise: What inspires you? . . .

What inspires you? What gets your creative juices flowing? What spurs you into writing that best selling novel?

Everything and nothing.

It's a constantly asked question, `what inspires you?`, and most of the time it's answered by a shrug. It's something that can't be answered easily. It differs from person to person, and what someone may think is an inspirational moment may not be for another. This is just how the mind works.

Trucking around Scotland a few weeks back, I thought of a great little exercise, and made a little list of things I saw along the way - be it something on the horizon or something along the side of the road. They were mundane, everyday things, but managed to bring a little inspiration to the writers' group.

Exercise: An emergency phone on the side of the motorway hanging off the hook . . .

He pulled up on the hard shoulder of the motorway, bringing his car to a skidding halt. He was certain he would have caught him this time. He had been alerted of the call only a few minutes before.

A few minutes!

How could he not be here now? How could he have left already?

Opening his car door, he stepped out, conscious of the speeding traffic going by beside him. A mixture of emotions boiled inside. Most of all it was anger; anger at having missed his assailant yet again.

This was no mindless criminal he was chasing, and he only had a limited amount of time left to make the catch.

One sign that his assailant had been here was the phone that he approached. The receiver hung on its cable, swaying to and fro from the orange SOS box. A hunger lurched in him. He had been close to catching the man! He had been here, making the call that warned of the girl's death.

The man they knew as ` the GraveDigger` had no doubt given clues to his victims whereabouts, toying with the CID and enjoying their desperate anguish while the girl struggled to cling on to her life deep in an unmarked grave. She was the sixth on the GraveDigger's list of victims, and no matter how hard the CID worked, no matter how close they got to him, they had never caught him.

Today, however, they had been close. He was so close he imagined he could still smell the aromour of his assailants cheap, sour soap. He could feel the GraveDigger's fear of nearly being captured, never imagining the CID getting this close. It had thrown the assailant, had stirred things inside, and as the receiver was replaced on the hook, it still felt warm from where it had sat in the hand.

He looked around. The gravedigger was on foot, that much he knew, and there was only one way he could have gone without being seen. Up the bank.

Eager to catch his prey, he climbed up the bank with large strides. He had no idea what he was going to find at the top, was certain he wouldn't see his assailant running across the field - even though he hoped he would.

What he didn't expect once he reached the top was the sight of the slightly hunched man with the rifle in his hand. He didn't have time to dart out of the way, didn't even have time to scream in alarm before the deafening boom of the weapon blocked his ears - and he didn't even have time to feel the pain as he drew in his last, final breath.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Halloween Pumpkin . . .

I have to blog about this. I was well and truly impressed, in more ways than one.

As some of you may already know, not only am I a writer (or trying to be) but I also dabble in art. I have a skilled hand when it comes to drawing. This was why my brother-in-law enlisted me to help carve his pumpkin.

`But that's eaaaasy . . .` I hear you say. And indeed it is. Everyone who likes to celebrate Halloween carve pumpkins. But wait! There's more. Here are the reasons why I was impressed:

1: I've never carved a pumpkin before. When I was younger, my parents never bought us a pumpkin to carve, and seeing as I have no children (apart from a teenage step-son) and live in an area where no one goes trick-or-treating, there's no real point in going over the top. Therefore, I had never carved a pumpkin before.

2: The pumpkin was no ordinary pumpkin. It was a monster - a big fat beast! In total it weighed just over 9 stone. It was HUGE! My sister aquired it from a friend which then lead my brother-in-law having ideas.

3: It looked good.

These are the reasons whyI was impressed. Take a look . . .

It includes a headless horseman, a church, numerous gravestones, a hand reaching out of a grave, and a bat. Here are some close ups . . .

And the pumpkin, in light, leaning up against my sister's washing machine (Just to give you an idea how big it truly is)

Thursday 28 October 2010

Edgar Allan Poe . . .

Continuing with the Edgar Allan Poe topic, a little while back we took up an assignment where we had to choose a historic person and write a little bio about them. Despite the fact we all write fiction, this was a great little exercise to see how well we write non-fiction incase we ever decide to broaden our horizons (Despite the fact I am now employed to do most of the web-copywriting for my company).

Anyway, as if by coincidence, I chose Edgar Allan Poe, done a little research, and this was the result.

“Quoth the Raven Nevermore…”

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more."

“The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe, born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, is mostly remembered for his writing in the macabre, works that include titles such as `The Pit and the Pendulum`, and `The Murders in the Rue Morgue`. His poetry was just as dark, with pieces such as `The Raven`, as quoted, and `A Dream Within a Dream.`

He is also credited as being the inventor of the `Detective Fiction`, starring the fictitious C. Auguste Dupin and contributing to the growing world of Science Fiction. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said of Poe, "Each of Poe's detective stories is a root from which a whole literature has developed. Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?"

As well as his interests in Physics, Cosmology, and Cryptography, he was also a well-known literary critic, however this did not make him popular. A fellow critic, James Russell Lowell, described him as “the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who has written in America.” His own work was often under such criticism also, often being described as “vulgar” and “too poetical”.

Despite his reputation, Poe’s writing career was successful, but the circumstances revolving around his personal life were not. In 1835 at the age of 27, he married his thirteen year old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Even though the couple were close, their relationship was often described as that of brother and sister, and the marriage was never consummated. A few years into their marriage, Poe was involved in a scandal involving Frances Sargent Osgood and Elizabeth F. Ellet.

In 1845 rumours of an affair between Poe and their friend Frances, a 34 year old poet, began to circulate. These were started by Elizabeth Ellet, who was said to have admired Poe and was jealous of his friendship with Frances. The rumours made it back to Virginia who had for some time been battling an illness. On January 30th, 1847, Virginia died of Tuberculosis, aged just 24, but upon her death bed it is said that she stated `Ellet had murdered her`.

Poe’s life took a downward struggle after his wife’s death. Even though some of his best works were said to be inspired by the tragic event, his behaviour became erratic and he developed a serious drink and drugs problem. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, in great stress, and in need of immediate assisstance. He was taken to Washington College Hospital and died on October 7, aged just 40 years old, and reputedly calling out the name Reynolds. The person to who he was refering to remained unclear.

To this day the cause of his death is a mystery. Speculation has included heart disease, epliepsy, syphlis, and even cholora and rabies. However, biographers state that after his wife’s death, he became increasingly unstable, and even though he had a further two relationships after, he still was not happy. They suggest that his frequent theme of the `death of a beautiful woman` in his works stems from the repeated loss of women in his life, which brings about another speculation that Poe, despite how cold and hard he was reputed to have been, and the number of enemies he made, merely died of a broken heart.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Dream Within A Dream . . .

We set ourselves a little project the other week. We had to take a poem or the lyrics of a song, and convert it into a short story.

I'm no poet, and poetry doesn't hold much interest for me, BUT I do like Edgar Allan Poe. His poems are usually dark and sad (probably why I like them) and his most famous piece was `the Raven`, which inspired The Crow series, films, books and comics. I considered shoosing this, but then I decided against it. Instead, I chose`A Dream Within A Dream`.

A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

There was nothing I could have done. Everyone had told me. She had got it in her mind that this was what she wanted to do, and there wasn’t anyone out there who could have done a single thing to change it.

My love was like that. Stubborn. She had the kind of mind that when it was set, it was set in concrete. There was no dislodging it or dissuading it. It was made and it was final.

No one could have prevented what happened.

As I walked along the shores I pondered the question. My bare feet sunk deep into the wet sand every time they trod. I used to like the feeling. We both had spent hours laughing at the feel of the sand as it pushed between our toes. Now it was just me, and the sand was nothing but irritating.

I had often found inspiration as I walked along these shores. Those inspirations soon found themselves turning to words as I created stories of fiction. Sometimes I even cut our walks short so that I could go home and write. My love never complained. She supported me. She understood when I needed to shut myself away, when I needed to be alone for hours on end, hours that often turned to days.

She had always accepted this, and I loved her all the more for it. But did I ever tell her? I was sure that I had, on many occasions, but now I wonder whether it had been enough. I didn’t pay her as much attention as she needed, and I didn’t realise this until it was too late. The moment I walked into that room I knew. I knew what she had done and what had happened.

My world crumbled the instant my eyes fell upon the sight of her. She had been lying there a while, with me completely unaware as I worked in the other room. I had no idea. She had given me no clues, had shown no indication that this was what she intended to do. But then even if she had, would I have picked up on them? I was so consumed in my world of fiction that everything else was just a blur in my mind. She could have been screaming for help at the top of her voice, but I heard not a whisper of her torment.

On the surf tormented shores, I crouched. I watched the surf as it rolled in over the sands, reaching just in front of me before being swept back. I inhaled the saltiness in the air and listened to the hiss of the sand as the surf washed over it.

I had counted just six tablets from a bottle originally containing twenty that day, and my heart leapt with dismay as I realised where the other fourteen had gone. She had swallowed them. One tablet was enough to ensure you experienced a restful, uninterrupted nights sleep. Fourteen ensured you never woke. My love had wanted a restful peace that she never wanted to wake from. She wanted to live forever in her dream.

She was dead.

Reaching down, my fingers submerged themselves beneath the sand, each grain giving way to my presence. Curling my hand, I cupped a handful and lifted it from the shores, but no matter how tight I held them, I couldn’t stop the grains from falling through. It reminded me of how I had let my love slip through my fingers with such ease. She could have been helped, she could still be alive, but the trickling sands continued to scream of my incompetence and my failure towards her.

As I watched the last of the grains fall back to the sands I couldn’t help but weep.

Monday 18 October 2010

1 Year on . . .

I've just missed my 1 year anniversary of blogging!

My first post was October 9th . . . today is October 18th.

So a happy belated bloggers birthday to WTF's!!! (WTF standing for Writing Thrilling Fiction, of course. What did you think? lol . . .)

And have I had a good year?

Well, I've enjoyed blogging, sharing some weird and wonderful amature fiction with everyone, as well as random posts and Pic of the Week, so yes. I've had a good year. I hope all readers out there have enjoyed it as much as me . . .

Friday 1 October 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

I've discovered a new artist (He may not be new, but he's new to me) and I feel blown away. His name is Ryu Takeuchi, and he specialises fairy art (I call him a he, but I'm only assuming here).

So what is about his work that I love?

Well, you can't deny that even from a distance it's eye catching. The contrast in colours are stunning (in these pieces. Others are fairly subtle), and I love the figures themselves, with their slender limbs and their curved stature. They're delicate and beautiful . . . and, what's more, it looks raw and not digitally remastered.

I love them, and it's because of this that I'm posting two for this week's pic of the week. I could have posted more, but I'll stick with two and keep the rest for the future.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.



Thursday 30 September 2010

Progress in Writing . . .

I had a pleasent surprise last night. Working away on my current piece, I decided to do a word count. I usually do this periodically to know how far I've got, and it gives me a rough idea how far I have to go.

I don't know how other people work, and there are so many other writers that I know with working formats that I can't get on with. One person writes a novel like a series of short stories and then pieces them together; works perfectly for them. Someone else may not have a plan at all and find it difficult to stick to one. Their characters drift from scene to scene, and both them and the writer have absolutely no idea what's coming around the corner. It can be an exciting way of writing, discovering what fate has in store for your characters, and it can have some amazing results.

But they're not for me. I'm a planner - of sorts. I know the beginning of my story; I know the end of my story; I know important turning points throughout my story, and the parts I have to drift across are the parts inbetween these. I know where my characters are going. I know where they've come from and I know what's in store for them, be it a happy ending or a tragedy. I know it all. I plan. And while I'm working on one piece, I'm planning the next, although most of the planning is done in my head. I actually have very few notes written down.

Oh yes, I have many novels planned for the future, and I know what one is coming next.

My last novel (my 14th...ish) was the first novel where I implented the skills of proper world building. I must have spent well over a year editing it, slowly bringing my world to life, layer by layer. I did spend a long time editing it and putting it through critiques, but I didn't mind this. All my stories are based in this fantasy world called the Lieflunds, and by spending so much time building it, my job has been made easier for my current work.

But because I spent so long in the editing stage as opposed to the writing stage, I found it quite difficult getting back into the swing of writing something new. Because of this I feel that my current novel has suffered somewhat in it's progress. It was never intended to be as long as my last piece, but it still feels like it's taken forever to struggle up to the point where I am now. I'm aiming for the 80k word limit for this piece (not an unreachable limit, by far), but for a long time the ending has seemed so far off.

Imagine my surprise when my word count told me I had reached the 60k mark. What?! Where did the last 30 thousand words come from??

I'm not complaining though, far from it. My 80k aim is now in reaching distance, and with the end climax to look forward to, I'm sure the last 20k words will appear with no hassle at all.

Just goes to show that persistant struggling pays off . . .

Friday 24 September 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

This week's Pic of the Week is by the talented Anne Stokes. This piece is called "Water Dragon" and I thought it apt to help describe the sort of day we are having here.

WET . . .


Anne Stokes - 'Water Dragon'

Thursday 23 September 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood . . .

We've been going on for the last few weeks about writing book reviews. A colleague of mine is making a big success writing book reviews for Hub magazine and getting his foot in the door of publishing - and a very well done to him. Even though this is actually a good idea, and a way to build a fan base before you even have your beloved work published, I can't help but sit there and think that reviews just aren't for me. And they're not. That's just me being honest.

But I still had to do my homework and write one - despite the fact that it's three weeks over due. Anyway, last night I treated myself to a movie night. I purchased Robin Hood on DVD - yes, the new one with Russell Crowe - and I curled up in my jim-jams on the sofa and pressed play.

Me, personally, I wasn't disappointed, so I thought I'd practice review writing on this. The thing to bare in mind with reviews is that it's the opinion of one person - and people differ, so not everyone will agree with this. In fact not a lot will. I've read some real dismal reviews about this film, and even though some of them state some valid points, I wouldn't go as far as giving it a bad review.


So, what's it all about? A hero coming back from the crusades and robs from the rich to give to the poor? Wrong. The film lacks any of that legendary, romantic hero malarkey - to a point. It's gritty history, not romantic dribble.

Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer on the crusades with King Richard. After the King's death in France, Robin and a few fellow crusaders flea and make a run back for England. On their way they come across an ambush and discover that the party were escorting the King's crown and the news of his death back to the Tower of London. They also manage to catch the dying breath of Lord Loxley, and Robin is made to promise to return the Lord's sword back to his father in Nottingham. Seizing the opportunity, the group pose as Knights and use the crown as their key home.

Alongside all this is the tale of Prince John and his friend Godfrey (Mark Strong). But Godfrey is more than just a friend. He's a traitor to the crown and is liaising with the King of France who is planning an invasion. His scheme is to use the rise in taxes as a way to get the people to revolt against Prince John, thus putting England at war with itself and leaving it open for the French.

But Godfrey didn't count on Robin Longstride.

In Nottingham, Robin is made discover his heritage, is acquainted with Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett) and then discovers the truth behind the invasion. It is he who manages to persuade to people of England not to fight each other, but to unite as a country and stand against the French - which they do and succeed. It is in this battle that Robin finally kills Godfrey, saving Maid Marion in the process. But Prince John is outraged when the people start to hail Robin and not him, thus, in a fit of rage, he classes Robin as an outlaw.

The story line feels like it could be continued, and indeed it could, because this is the point where legend begins; where Robin and his band of merry men hide in the depths of Sherwood Forest, and where they rob from the rich and give to the poor. But never, I feel, has the full reason why Robin was outlawed been truly explored . Now it has, and despite the fact this is still fiction, it paves a perfect path for the legends that we so know and love. And it still has those lovably rogues; the not-so-Little John, Friar Tuck and his love of mead, Will Scarlet, and the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham (who only has a few walk on roles, but a role that paves the way for the bigger role to come).

As for the film itself - I have to agree with some reviews that this isn't Ridley Scott's finest moment. It's no Gladiator. The last battle scene on the shores of Dungeness feels stifled. I'd imagine that if the French were to invade England, they would have had a larger army. The battle itself would have been bigger and bloodier. The scene's main focus isn't the battle itself, but Robin's flight against Godfrey. However, you can't help but be aware of the sparseness of everything around you as the battle to save England supposedly rages on.

I also found it a little odd how everything that happens to Robin is due to coincidence. He promises to take a dying stranger's sword back to his father - coincidence. The stranger's father happens to know of Robin's mysterious heritage - coincidence. The stranger's father and his father plotted together - coincidence. Some people believe everything happens for a reason. There's a name for this: Fate. For those who don't believe in it, it can begin to look a little unbelievable and pretentious.

BUT . . .

Life is full of coincidences. The world back then wasn't as populated as it is now. In a land ruled by one monarchy, why couldn't one Lord know the name of another? So the fact that Lord Loxley Sr knew of Robin's father could very well have happened. That's the thing with this film. It's not filled with the romantic fairy tales we grew up with. It's based on English History. I know it's something that shouldn't be taken as text-book gospel - it is purely fictional - but it's probably closer to the real story of what actually happened 700 years ago than anything else that's been told.

As for the film? I found it enjoyable with a steady pace - and if you're like me who doesn't delve too far into the 'hows' and 'whys' of a plot, who is quite happy to sit there and let the DVD entertain a couple of hours away, then you'll probably like it. I did, and if you ask my opinion? I think the Crowe still has it.


(So, how did my first review go . . . ?)

Friday 17 September 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

I haven't published a Pic of the Week for some time now. Yes, you can slap me down and punish me as you see fit. I deserve it.

Anyway, today I thought I'd go for something a little different. This is a picture that I drew a good few years ago, but I absolutely love it. Basically it's copy of a piece by Leonardo Da Vinci, and is a study of Neptune and four sea horses. The actual piece is very sketchy and very busy. My copy is lot tidier, believe it or not.

I sketched a larger copy of this, framed it, and now have it sitting on a wall in our office. I've never lived the fact down that there's a naked man involved though . . .

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover . . .

Our theme last night was 'never judge a book by its cover'. Each brought a book with them, we chose one, and then wrote a short piece inspired by the front cover, regardless of what the actual book was about.

The book I chose was 'According To Bella' by Sally Murrer. The actual story is along the themes of a detective novel, but with a journalist doing all the interrogations and fine tooth combing around the murder before the detective could get there.
Strange how my imagination works.

Exercise: Never Judge A Book By Its Cover . . .

The hieroglyphs on the letter didn't make much sense to me - in fact they made little sense at all. To me it looked like a child had grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, and then scribbled something that vaguely looked like one of mummy's letters. Each symbol looked unfinished and unmeaning.

I studied it harder.

Something struck me as wrong with it. The note paper didn't have any creases in it. It was smooth and flawless - except for the precise crease down the middle where it had been folded in half and slipped in the envelope. A child would have creased the paper in its careless attempt to write the letter. This had none of those characteristics.

Something didn't fit.

I studied it even harder.

Working in the spy industry, I'm faced with many conundrums, and it's my job to figure it all out and turn it so it all makes sense. But this one had me baffled. The letter had arrived this morning, opened, and then passed straight to me. "What is it?" they had kept asking. I didn't know. They had to give me time.

And time I had.

I studied.

I studied each hieroglyph carefully. I turned the sheet of paper one way then another, but they all looked the same. Unfinished. After a while something flickered in my head, like a light flickering to life. I wondered what I would find if I held the note under a black light. Heading into another office, I grabbed one and shone it down. The paper glowed blue, but that wasn't the only thing that glowed.

The hieroglyphs completed themselves with white streaks of light. I felt elated with my success at deciphering the note - but then I read it.

It stated that there was a bomb placed somewhere in the building, that there was no use in looking for it because we didn't have time. The rest was a countdown. Five - four - three -

The person who sent this must have known me, must have known that it would be me deciphering it, and must have known how fast my mind works. As I counted down I became the clock, ticking ever closer to the explosive end.

Two -

They couldn't cut any wires in me. They couldn't defuse me. I knew exactly what would happen once I continued, and there was not a single thing I do about it.

One -

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Exercise: Bringing a Setting To Life . . .

I was lucky enough to have a whole week of holiday last week. I spent a week in the sunny West Country known as Devon – even though it was a cheap week because my folks live out there – but none-the-less. We done so much stuff that I can hardly remember any of it, but one thing that did stick in my mind was our drive through Dartmoor. I’m one of those strange people who prefers and appreciates the countryside more than the beach, and for those who are like me I’m sure you’d agree that Dartmoor is a beautiful place.

As we drove past wild moors, littered with thousands of sheep and wild ponies, and rocks and Tors, it really got me thinking about the setting and location of my novel. There’s a section in my story where my two MC’s are travelling across the open plains. Now, I’m ashamed to admit this, but I hadn’t actually put much thought into what this place was actually like. What is there apart from miles and miles of . . . grassy fields? The odd tree dotting the horizon maybe? A rolling hill?

It doesn’t work, does it, and I didn’t realise this until my drive across the moors. It’s supposed to be wild, untamed lands, and I haven’t been pulling it off, so I decided to give it a practice last night, to see if I could bring my lands to life. The exercise was to choose a location in your novel and describe it. This is what I churned out:

Exercise: Bringing a Setting To life . . .

The hill was steep and long, but by the time he made it up to the top it was worth it. The hills were no longer green, but the warm, welcoming shades of purple and yellow, of the heather and the cowslips that blanketed them. Trees dotted the distant hills in gatherings of five or six, their shapes casting individual and interesting shapes against the blue sky.

Behind him, the way he had just come, the hills were levelled and the lands lush and green. The horizon appeared miles away from the altitude that he stood, and he could follow the exact path he had just trekked with his eyes.

The scene in front of him told a different story. The land was rocky, with boulders littering his path. Most boulders were large and obvious to see and steer around, but some hid in the long grass and heathers, promising to make his journey treacherous.

A gathering of rocks sat on a distant peak, piled high as if a man-made structure, but this a natural Tor, and one of many that he was to use as a landmark to direct his way. He was grateful for these Tors, knowing that without them his travels would be difficult. Without them the weeks of crossing the open, rough terrain that sat in front of him would prove fatal, and he would be helpless against being swallowed by the wild expanse . . .

*I got good feedback from this but the one thing I failed to mention was SMELL. This is the one sense that always gets left out, but is an important element to include when trying to bring your world to life. I slap my wrist and promise to use it in my actual writing – but I smile at the fact that I wasn’t the only one to miss it out . . .

Thursday 19 August 2010

Writing Exercise: "Oops!" As Last Words Go . . .

We participated in yet another writing exercise this week. We had an opening sentence, and we had to let our minds - and pens - do the rest of the work. Here's what I churned out in the 10 minute gap we had allocated.

Exercise: "Oops!" As Last Words Go . . .

"Oops!" As last words go it's not inspirational, but it is apt as I've just pushed the wrong button.

I was only supposed to slap him. The torture device had been designed specifically to give different levels of torture. The basic was a slap. Push the right button and a synthetic hand appears and slaps the fellow inmate. This could be anything from the threat of a slap, one stinging blow, or an entire period of being slapped senseless.

Next to the slap button is the big red button that completely obliterates the fellow inmate.

I had never been left in control of this contraption before - had never even been left in the room on my own with it - but today was the day I was to take my first step towards that responsibility.

My commander had explained everything to me. He had explained about the slap button and all the levels in between, and he also told me about the big red button.

Now, when someone presents to you a `Big Red Button` and says to you that you mustn't - no matter what - push it, something in the mind triggers, and all you want to do is put your finger on it and press.

I had one job to do - to press the slap button and give my fellow inmate a single stinging blow. I didn't exactly do that. My fingers tricked me. Just millimetres from the slap button it changed direction and exerted its pressure on the big red button.

My fellow inmate was obliterated, and all I could do was stand back, look at the empty seat, and say "Oops . . ."

Friday 6 August 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

This week's Pic of the Week is by an unknown artist. I'm not a hundred percent sure who they are, but I'm certain after a little investigation across the great wide web, that person can be found. This is on my 'to-do' list, but unfortunately today I don't have the time.

I will, however, give the link from which I found this piece. It also provides you with a few more pieces that are quite interesting. You might like them just as much as this piece - if you like this piece, that is . . .

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Creative Selling Tactics . . .

I have to share this blog with you. It's one of my favourite work blogs that I wrote about a year ago . . . and I think it's a shame that it's now disappeared into the deep blue depths of cyberspace.

Let me enlighten you on what I fill - or used to fill - my professional time with. I work for an internet retail company, and after they discovered my passion for writing, they handed me the company blog to nurture and nurse back to health after a slow start in life. (I can now call myself a web copywriter. I just love that title . . . lol).

But what they didn't bargain for was my creative juices. Occasionally they were flowing with a vengeance, and so on some days the company blog become slightly . . . fictional. But the challenge I loved was writing something fictional about a product we sold.

I've always had a love of the mythical legends of ancient Greece, and so when I decided to blog about our Hot Stone Massage Kits that we were selling at the time, I just couldn't resist it. And you know what? It must have worked because we soon sold out . . . lol. So now, presenting to you the creative selling post I once wrote. (The facts may not be quite true with the original legends, but when you only have a short section of time in which to write something, they were the best that I could remember.)

The Greek Legend of Hotstones . . .

Once, many years ago, there was a Seer, who foretold a tale of a brave young man who would travel the lands and slay the beast Medusa. Medusa was originally a beautiful woman who used her long tresses to woo and seduce men. Outraged that her temple had been violated, the goddess Athena set a curse upon her, turning her luscious locks into snakes, and making it so that if her eyes were to fall upon any man again, they would instantly be turned to stone. People feared this vile beast, and so preyed that the Seer's words would become truth.

One day, upon his travels, the Seer came across a curious young man, basking in the sun. This
man was called Iydalnis Basalt, and instantly the Seer saw his hero within, despite the sneers from his neighbours and rumours of his stubbornness and laziness. He tried to persuade Iydalnis that he had a destiny to fulfill, but all Iydalnis wanted to do was lay in the sun. Eventually the Seer had to resort to burning his home down on a quest to get Iydalnis into action, and it worked.

Together, Iydalnis and the Seer traveled across the land in hunt for the legendary fem-fatal, Medusa. Many adventures were shared, until eventually they came across the ruined temple where Medusa was said to reside. Iydalnis insisted on a sleep before entering to fulfill his destiny and slay the beast, but the Seer refused him, and so dubiously and lethargically, Iydalnis entered.

For an hour he silently scouted the ruins in search, and just before he was about to leave he saw her, with a head full of withering snakes. As he approached her from behind with his gleaming sword poised for certain slaughter, she turned to glare at him. Horrified by the sheer ugliness of the creature, Iydalnis froze in mid attack . . . and was turned to stone.

Yep, you guessed it. The Seer had been wrong. He should have foreseen Perseus slaying the beast instead of the lazy Iydalnis.

But one thing he did discover was that Iydalnis Basalt was now made of the smoothest stone he
had ever seen. Eventually he called it Basalt stone, and that once heated, to get it into action, the lazy characteristics with which Iydalnis possessed would come forth. When placed on the body in certain areas, these heated up characteristics would transfer through the skin, and were found to be very calming and therapeutic - and before long these hot stones became famous throughout the world for their fantastic and detoxing relaxation methods.

A much plausible theory to believe as opposed to volcanic rock cooling and scientific blah blah blahs . . .

(Did you notice the name, Iydalnis Basalt? Hot stones are made from Basalt rock, and Iydalnis came from being bone idol and lazy - ie relaxing. Get it? lol)

Friday 30 July 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

Yep, this week - seeing as though I missed last week - we are back to Vistoria Frances. I'm now a sucker for her work. I love it, and I hope you'll love this weeks pic just as much as me . . .

Enjoy . . .

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Exercise: Eventually It Came To Pass . . .

We're not a morbid group of writers, I can assure you . . . but the title of our latest writing exercise would beg to differ. A colleague had a book with them by - someone - and it was a compilation of short stories. A group of them started off with:

"Eventually it came to pass that no one had to die unless . . ."
and then the continuation was different for each; ie, unless they ran out of money, or unless they wanted to, or unless blah blah blah. You get the picture? Anyway, we had to choose one and write a quick, short piece with our chosen sentence as the opening. I chose:

"Eventually it came to pass that no one had to die unless they ran out money . . ."
Here's what I churned out in the 15 minute window that we had.

Exercise: Eventually It Came To Pass . . .

Eventually it came to pass that no one had to die unless they ran out of money. Who'd have thought that our new society could be bought? Life had never been the same since they made the invention of immortality public knowledge.

Those who could afford it went ahead with the procedure. Back then it was as fashionable as plastic surgery. It was something new; something to boast of; something to parade. But after signing the dotted line a price was placed on their heads. Immortality didn't mean forever. Life still ran out - but for a smaller fee a top up could be had every 20 - 30 years.

On and on they went, parading and living, living and parading, until they out-lived everyone who opted not to go for it. All the mortals died, old age taking its arthritic course, but they left behind a new race - a race of people who were so proud, who were so self-devoted. The world never returned to how it used to be.

People never worked and there were no people to work. Immortals were too proud to lower themselves, but they didn't need food and they didn't need water. Eventually there was nothing worth harvesting, nothing worth producing - except more top-up.

But that still had a price, and money doesn't last forever.

It wasn't long before it began to run out along with the collapse of society. No longer could they afford to pay for their top-ups. They went as long as they could, hoping, preying that they would get just one more day at least. And then they started dropping like flies, like their power cords were suddenly being ripped from them without prior warning.

And the worse part?

No one collected them from where they fell in the streets. What once had been a great society filled with pride had become a world of fear. People hid from the truth of what was happening as much as they could - but as much as they tried they couldn't hide from the terrible fact that they had unwittingly destroyed everything . . .

Friday 16 July 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

This week has all been about Victoria Frances. I saw some of her puzzles last weekend and it reminded me that since starting up Pic of the Week, I haven't actually given her a mention (Hangs my head in shame).

She's a wonderful artist, with some extremely beautiful, dark, atmospheric pieces, many revolving around the Vampiric theme. Her work, I've found, has cropped up everywhere, and I've found myself in awe of a certain piece and then, later down the line, discovered that it is a Victoria Frances piece. I've then wondered why oh why did I not realise that before.

I blame it on the fact that I'm blonde . . .

Happy Friday!

Friday 9 July 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

This week's Pic of the Week is by Yuehui-Tang. Here's a link to a gallery of his work (not necessarily his own gallery though).

I chose this particular pic because I thought it surmises pretty well how I'm feeling in my office at this moment in time. Yes, you guessed it. HOT!!! :D

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Writing Exercise . . . Random Sentences . . .

Flicking through an old pad, I come across a piece that I vaguely remember writing a few years back. I can't remember what the actual exercise was, but there are two notes written at the top of the page:

"Our vampires are different . . ."
"Coiled within the shadows . . ."

I'm not sure where these came from. They may have been random phrases pulled out of the hat, so to speak, and so had to be Incorporated into a piece. Who knows. anyway, here was the outcome of that exercise . . .

Exercise: Random Sentences . . .

Everything he saw was covered in a thick, sticky layer of dirt. It coated his finders as he brushed them carefully down the bare wooden banister. It felt rough to touch and he removed his hand in fear of a splinter. Cobwebs hung in between the spindles, and each wooden step creaked under the pressure of his weight.

He hadn't imagined the lab to be like this. He had imagined it to be tended and well kept, but then he hadn't seen the professor in a long time. A dank smell wafted into his nose, dust attacking his senses, and he fought back an urge to sneeze. Now wasn't the time or the place to announce his presence.

Not seeing the professor for long periods of time was nothing uncommon. He always locked himself in his lab, working of something. Only his screams of despair or his odd cheers of success indicated that he was still there, but this time it was different. He had been silent for three weeks now - too silent.

It wasn't right.

The professor was Edgar's uncle, forced into guardianship by the sudden and shocking death of his parents. He didn't remember much about his parents, and had been brought up under the strict rule of 'ask no questions.'

He never did.

He had never even been down in the lab before, a lab that had been built in the huge cellar of the house, but now he needed to. He needed to know if his uncle was alright. Silently and dubiously, Edgar reached the bottom of the stairs and slunk over to the desk in the middle of the room. His uncles journals lay open, and he couldn't;t help his eyes as they scanned over the hand-scrawled words. They told of scientific experiments, of failures and successes, but one sentence struck him with horror.

"Our vampires are different . . ."


Something shuffled behind him. Terrified that he had been caught reading something top secret, he whirled around, his lungs gasping for frightened breath.

And there, coiled in the shadows, was a figure. It had an inhuman feel about it and instantly Edgar began to tremble. When he called his uncle's name, no response came, and he began to fear the worst.

But his fear was short lived.

As the creature burst from the shadows, fangs gleaming in the dim light, he knew what his uncle had been doing. He knew his uncle was no more, and knew that this man-made thing had devoured him.

He also knew in that split second that he was about to suffer the same fate.

Friday 18 June 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

Flicking through Google Images as I usually do, trying to decide on a pic of the week. It come to a point where I nearly gave up and went for a safe artist that I already knww . . . when suddenly, out of nowhere, popped a picture that I loved. I clicked on the website, and it opened up this huge gallery of wondrous pieces that kept me captivated for what felt like hours.

The pieces are a mixture of dark, atmospheric, moody, beautiful - and I loved it! I loved them all! In fact, I was so excited that I couldn't quiet decided which one to go for, so I today I'm going to treat you to TWO pics of the week. Aren't you lucky!

The Artist's name is Linda Bergkvist. Flicking through her gallery I realised that I've already come across her before, with a random picture that I once found but couldn't find the name. I was actually given the artists name back then, but never really had the chance to look it up - and then forgot about it. Sorry. But today she's back! And with vengeance!


Thursday 17 June 2010

How To Write A Synopsis . . . I Think . . .

The time has finally come, after the years spent tenderly polishing Gorthian, that a synopsis is needed. I hate synopsis writing, and I get the strange impression that so does everyone else. Everywhere I turn, every blog I read, I'm hearing the same complaints.

Many people don't see the point in a synopsis. Usually they are asked to submit a covering letter, some sample chapters and a synopsis. So if they want sample chapters, why do they need a synopsis? Well, I think that should be clear. The sample chapters are to allow the agent / publisher to get a feel of your writing style, and the synopsis allows them to get the feel of the story as a whole, as opposed to reading the whole thing. Agents / publishers are busy people. They haven't got time to read an entire manuscript to find out whether they like your work. If something is sent in without a synopsis, what do you think will happen to it? Yep, it'll have a date with the bin until the cleaner comes to take it away. They do not have the time.

So, how do you format a synopsis?

Nathan Bransord gingerly wrote a blog post about writing them, but it was a subject he had tried to avoid for a long time. In the end he gave in, battled his fear and put finger to keyboard to type 'How To Write A Synopsis . . .' .

He couldn't give any rock solid advice on how to write them, but did shed a little light on what to aim for. Luckily this isn't the first time I've approached agents, and so I've done research before in the past, and I have a rough idea what is required.

Unfortunately, and as Nathan reluctantly pointed out, there is no right way to write a synopsis. Many agencies and publishers are after different things. Some want one page, some want ten; some want a brief outline, some want a chapter by chapter breakdown. The only advice I can think of giving is do some research into your tended submitee, find out what they want.

But there is a second option and do what I and many others do? Write the outline for your story. Aim for about three pages. If you go over, it's no big deal, as long as it's attention grabbing. Make it heart felt. Don't write 'And then he did this, and she done that...'. Put emotion into it; make the agent / publisher feel what the character has to go through to get to the final climax; grab the agent / publisher; coax them into wanting to take time out of their busy schedule to read and fall in love with your sample chapters. This can then lead to them wanting to read the entire manuscript.

See how much hangs on your synopsis? It's the biggest marketing job for your work; the selling point; make or break. Write a rubbish synopsis, expect a rejection. This is probably the biggest reason why people hate synopsis writing so much. It's not the initial condensing an entire novel into three pages worth . . . We're writers, for crying out loud! That should be a challenge we're willing accept. It's the pressure of getting your synopsis right.

And it's THAT pressure that I'm feeling now. I aimed for three pages, but got five. I tried to cut it down even more, but found that if I did I was loosing the essence of the story. In the end I've come to the conclusion that my synopsis for 'The Calming Of Gorthian' has to be five pages long (well, four and a half - and that's double spaced!).

Only time will tell if it's right or wrong . . . wish me luck.

Friday 21 May 2010

Pic of the Week . . .

Today's Pic of the Week is something a little different. It's a raw graphite sketch, untouched by any digital remastering.

Does anybody know who the artist is? Any ideas? Oh, wait a minute!! It's me!!! lol

Have a good weekend everyone . . .