Sunday, 22 January 2012

Kilts, naked chests and swords

TIME CHILD and other stories features in the Amazon genre chart, Romance Time Travel, so I went to have a look.

Browsing, I was struck by the prevalence of covers with hunky men wearing the kilt. Fourteen of them in the top 100. None of these guys have a shirt to their name, let alone the woollier clothing necessary for the chilly weather you get in the Highlands most of the year. A bit of jewellery, a Celtic tattoo and a draped female will be of little assistance when gales are roaring down the glen. (Bit like those sci fi women who select a skimpy bikini as suitable battle wear.) Maybe that's why the ones with heads are all glaring morosely out of the covers - they are wishing they'd thought to put on a jumper and padded jacket before leaving the house.

My father was half Scottish, clan McGregor, and wore the kilt now and then. I still have it in my wardrobe. On the beach, he even wore it without a top. In August, on the south coast of England, on hot days.

Clearly there is something compelling to writers and readers here that I don't get.  How odd fiction is.

Friday, 13 January 2012

TIME CHILD and other short stories

I don't write a lot of short stories, largely because I haven't sussed out the market for them (though some writers, like Cally Taylor, have found publication by that route) and I've concentrated on novels. But every now and then I get an idea, or am asked to write a story or go in for a contest, and I write one. I've now gathered seven into a collection.

The title story is the longest - I thought for a while it was going to turn into a full-length novel. It's about a young woman who is visited by herself as a child, and recklessly gives her younger self good advice. I bet most of us would do the same - I don't see how one could resist. We all know exactly what mistakes we made and what we should have done differently...

I noticed recurring themes in the stories; angels, death, heaven and hell, plus a bit of time travel and even the odd vampire (so not me). But all of them are pretty upbeat.

You can buy TIME CHILD and other stories on Amazon UK for 77p, or Amazon US for $0.99.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

From a Top Writing Blogs Award Nominee

I was pleased to get an email last week from eCollegeFinder informing me my blog is in the running for the Top Writing Blogs Award. They look for "nominees that will inspire and teach our student readers to find their writing style and improve their skills, whether the students are writing an essay or starting their first novel". They suggested I might like to do a post answering the question, What advice can you offer students aiming to improve their writing acumen? 

So here goes (geared to novel writing as this is what I do):

  • Read a great deal, but only for pleasure. Reading books you don't like will only make you grumpy.
  • Get it right: correct spelling, grammar and punctuation matter. Its and it's, your and you're used interchangeably are unforgivable. If uncertain, Google the rules and learn them.
  • Cut into the scene when it becomes interesting, cut out when you have achieved what you set out to. 
  • If you get bored when reading your own writing, this is a Bad Sign. And you will need to read it a lot as you tweak, polish and hone.
  • Brood about your characters - I do this in the bath, driving or walking. Even minor characters like the hero's mother or the dog have their own agenda.
  • Remember the villain thinks he's the hero.
  • Readers are smart - trust the reader. Never repeat yourself, and let readers do some of the work. They like that.
  • Pay attention to criticism in case you can learn from it, but don't feel obliged to take advice. It's your novel.
  • And most importantly: Never, ever bore the reader.