Showing posts from February, 2016

Ten ideas for getting ideas: N M Browne

I don’t know about you but the question I get asked most often is: Where do you  get your ideas from?  I usually make some facetious remark about leaving chocolate out for the idea fairies or mining the subconscious with miniature drilling equipment. The more interesting question is how you go about getting ideas if for any reason the normal sources have dried up or given up chocolate for Lent. I was asked about this recently by another member of my newly formed crit group and these were my top ten solutions. 1.First go for a walk – ideally somewhere you don’t know but your own neighbourhood is fine. Check your watch/phone. Walk for ten minutes exactly – what ever you find there is the setting for your story. The first person you meet next is either your protagonist or your antagonist. If its an adult they may not have to interact with your protagonist they may just be the person who decides that their house is being pulled down/they are being deported/ they can’t go to the sc


This odd little image is of a fake snake artfully placed, by me, on the remains of one of last year's hanging baskets, in the hope that it will scare off marauding and destructive magpies. From my kitchen window, I've been watching them swoop down and make off with the last of my little over-wintering plants plus chunks of the container, so having had enough, I went online and discovered this amusing deterrent - irresistable, at least for me, so I walked up to our local toyshop and asked to be shown some fake snakes (I chose the most aggressive and poisonous-looking one). But of course, being in one of my writing personae a picture book author, the two words grabbed me, and I fell instantly in love. 'Fake' rhymes with SO many words, and I began playing. How about a 'fake cake', made from pink and green kitchen sponges topped with white emulsion? A 'fake hake' made of silvery fabric and caught in a net could hang from my ceiling. A 'fake lake'?

Abused Children Find a Voice - Andrew Crofts

At the beginning of the nineties I started to receive phone calls and letters from people who wanted to write about abuses they had suffered in their childhoods. These were not people who had had the misfortune to be born in countries that were enduring brutal dictatorships, civil wars or ethnic cleansing campaigns, these were people who had been born and bought up in democratic, peacetime Britain , a country that prided itself on being civilised, with developed social welfare services. Their calls seemed to be cries for help and as I talked to them I became aware of just how much courage it had taken most of them to pick up the phone in the first place. These were people whose experiences did not lead them to expect to be listened to or believed but they had the courage to keep on trying to tell their stories. Many of the things they told me tore my heart out and I felt sure there would be a readership for them if I could just get them out into the bookshops. I

Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow's Ear by Ruby Barnes

I'm not the most romantic person on the planet. I do try and remember to buy the long suffering Mrs R a card on birthdays, Valentine's, wedding anniversary and Christmas, but the finer detail of celebratory arrangements often passes me by. Meanwhile, my fictional characters are happily getting lovey-dovey and doing all the right things. But this year was different. I had finished book three of my Zombies v. Ninjas trilogy (which anyway contains minimal romance) and had no active WIP to distract me. So Mrs R was given a (modestly) better birthday deal this February. The celebratory dinner didn't involve the kids but just the two of us. The restaurant was the award-winning Zuni , her favourite in Kilkenny, and the choice was kept secret right up until we stepped out of the leather-seated taxi. The maitre d showed us to a quiet corner table which ideally suited our mood and we kicked off with a glass of Prosecco, as is our habit. Mrs R looked gorgeous and I had even remembe

The Long Drove Road - by Susan Price

"I don’t think those dogs ever mistook me for their master. They were good herd-dogs and I think they knew exactly what I was — a little calf, lost from the herd. A lost little pup wandering loose. They knew that what they had to do was take me in charge, and herd me along, and watch over me, until they had brought me somewhere safe." It’s a long way home — from East to West across Scotland’s mountains and lochs.           Sandy’s mother is desperate for money. So she ‘bonds’ ten-year-old Sandy to a wealthy farmer until he’s twenty-one.           Sandy is miserable — bullied, ill-fed and beaten. He runs home, and is heart-broken when his mother makes him return, to another beating.           So Sandy runs away, though he fears he will be caught and hung for breaking his bond. Alone, on the road, he longs for a safe, loving home.           Then he falls in with friends: two drover dogs, making their way home, by themselves, to a distant crof

Sorry, I'm not here. Well, not very sorry.

When you read this, I'll be climbing off a boat in the Galapagos. I shall have been snorkelling, gazing at exotic fish and corals. I shall have been tramping on tropical islands and gawping at giant turtles and blue-footed boobies (that's a bird, just in case your imagination was taking you elsewhere). And I shall have had no phone nor internet connection for a whole week. (I don't, as I write this, know if I'll be connected by the time you read it.) So here's the dilemma. A week on a boat, sailing among the most exotic islands in the world. Or faffing about on social media, marketing a book or few? For me, the answer is easy. Travelling comes first, then writing about travelling, and finally the delights of blogs and Facebook and Twitter.  (Actually keeping in touch with my daughters and grandchildren comes very high on that list - and they know that.) As writers we are told we should be out there, all the time, reinforcing our brand. Being generally witty a

Lev Butts' Comic Count Down: Interlude

Or Why Moonlighting Was and Remains One of the Best Shows in Television History This month, I had planned to continue my countdown of the five best metafictional comic books . I really had. For those of you who have forgotten (or are too lazy to go read the previous posts), though, I wanted to preface it with a brief recap of metafiction . However, the recap got away from me and kind of became the whole post. But, hey, it's educational and funny, and it has lots of great clips of David Addison and Maddie Hayes playing Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. So sit back and enjoy. Metafiction, as the previous link explains, is any work of fiction that is, either overtly or subtly, aware of itself as a work of fiction. There are essentially three types of metafiction. There's the metafiction in which the characters are literally aware that they are works of fiction. This is, perhaps, the type of metafiction that is by far the easiest to spot. Characters often "break

If it’s Monday it must be Muscat – Ali Bacon offers some tongue-in-cheek advice on taking a cruise

So we recently succumbed to the siren call of all those fellow retirees who live their lives on the high seas by taking a short cruise around the Arabian Gulf .  We loved the sunshine but if you’re thinking of doing it, you might want to take this short test to decide if cruising is for you! 1. Time to pack! So do you: a)    Start planning your wardrobe a month in advance, using a printed timetable of which nights will be formal, casual, or themed and with your favourite weather app to hand. (You can always pay for extra baggage). b)    You assemble most of last year’s summer wardrobe and your one posh frock, throw in a few panic buys then throw them out again in case you go over the baggage allowance   c)     Your Rohan gear is light and crinkle-proof. You share a rucksack as usual 2. After an overnight flight you’ve been embarked (yes, this is a transitive verb) but have yet to be  reunited with your luggage. Embarkation day - now where are those fl

The Author's If - Katherine Roberts

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.. . The famous poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling needs little introduction. But did you know this poem was originally published in 1910 as a mere introduction to a chapter in a book of historical fantasy stories for children called Rewards and Fairies ? (I didn't, and I write historical fantasy for young readers myself.) Several other poems and short stories by Rudyard Kipling appeared in that collection, and yet "If" is the one most people remember today. The poem is now in the public domain, so you can read it in full by following the link below. CLICK HERE TO READ RUDYARD KIPLING'S "IF" There are obvious lessons an author can take away from "If" - not the least that a single story or poem buried in a collection might turn out to be the most important work of your entire career... so watch those contracts, people! I've been having the kind of