Showing posts from September, 2017

Debbie Young Debates: Halloween or Guy Fawkes' Night?

Cotswold cosy mystery novelist Debbie Young Writing a series of seven seasonal cosy mysteries, it was a no-brainer to make the second novel, T rick or Murder? , focus on Halloween and Guy Fawkes' Night - two traditions that divide my characters (and my readers) into different camps. In Trick or Murder? , the strange new vicar makes his mark on the sleepy Cotswold parish of Wendlebury Barrow by banning the PTA Halloween Disco. Realising he may have alienated his congregation before his first service, he tries to redeem himself by inviting them to an impromptu Guy Fawkes' Night party at the vicarage. Naturally, mayhem ensues, during a fun romp that celebrates both traditions. A fun seasonal read for October Post-publication, I asked friends which occasion they prefer, and why - asking only British friends because, beyond our shores, Guy Fawkes is unknown, which I allude to in the opening chapter of the book. (I also explain what it is during the course of the story

Time to kill: N M Browne

I am having problems with time. For a start, I can’t believe it is blog time again. Nothing says ‘wasted month’ quite like a blog date in which, yet again there is no news from the coal face. Nope, my novel is still not done, in spite of numerous   attempts at setting a deadline, I am learning, like Douglas Adams, to enjoy the sound of them rushing past. I am in the mid book doldrums and time is not my friend.   In the book, I fear (as I always do) that nothing happens for far too long and then when it does happen, it is all over too quickly like bad sex or, as I write more battles than sex scenes, a battle where you don’t ever get quite enough bang for your buck.     My character is on one of these endless quest type journeys in which time should be of the essence, but he is taking so long to get anywhere that he and I are both worn out. It’s a bit better today as I’ve had him fighting for his life. Again. But I am running out of horrible things to do to him and I’m barely hal

Short story as an ebook and macaroons from Paris, by Enid Richemont

  A confession - I have never self-published. All my ebooks are out there because when they went out of print, which to an author is like death, my husband David very expertly re-published them. This has meant that all the cover illustrations were professionally designed (I had to ask permission from the artists involved), so they look pretty good - a great asset for which I claim no credit. However, recently, I've been thinking of publishing one of my many short stories, a number of which appeared in magazines. One of these stories: The Only Way , was given an unusual full page, black and white illustration which I'd like to use as the base for an ebook cover, but so far the artist: Barbara Anne Taylor, seems to be untraceable, and believe me, I've googled her. She was working successfully in the 70s, and this is the illustration I'd like to use, simply by inserting a title somewhere - what do you think? Would it work? And, incidentally, do single short stories

The Mid-Book Blues - Andrew Crofts

Writing books is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways to earn a living and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. That does not mean, however, that every part of the operation is a joy. As with any large scale endeavour, from creating a garden to running a marathon, from being a rock star to being a prince of the realm, there are times where the effort and the monotony of the job feel crushing. The blues usually strike me about half way through the writing process. All too often, I believe, the books which the market has traditionally demanded are longer than their subject matter merits. If you write tightly and edit well as you go along you can often tell a story very effectively in thirty to fifty thousand words. (“The Turn of the Screw”, “Animal Farm”, “Of Mice and Men”, “The Great Gatsby”, “Death in Venice”, “Heart of Darkness”, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” … I could go on). Publishers and readers, however, have been accustomed for many years to books that are eig

Pop It In Your Tummy - by Susan Price

There are some words which, for me, are annoying almost beyond words. 'Tummy' is the worst, especially when used by adults. Even the dictionary defines it as 'childish' and says it derives from a child's pronunciation of 'stomach.' The word to use instead of the horrible 'tummy' is, I think, 'belly.' That's your belly there, hanging out in front of you. It has your belly-button in it. You can do a belly-dance with it. Should you wish. The 'y' ending might suggest that it's just as childish as (I screw my face up in distaste) 'tummy' but it is not. 'Belly' is an Old English word, worthy of respect for its age: belig , meaning 'bag.' That 'g' at the end of belig would have been soft, pronounced like our 'y' and so it's come down to us as 'belly.' I might be wrong about this, but I've been given the impression over the years, that many people think t

When we put down our pens for the last time ... Jo Carroll

Last week I spent a few days looking after someone who is terminally ill so her partner could have a break.  It was a quiet, reflective few days - for both of us. She spent a lot of time talking about her working life, the friends she has made and the legacy she leaves behind in her field. (I'll not tell you more than that as it would make her identifiable and I don't have her permission). She is - rightly - hugely proud of everything she has achieved and has been able to live long enough to see that systems are in place for her to be remembered, and celebrated, for all she has done. She has no children. I have no idea if there were decisions behind that or if it is happenstance - though it did make me wonder if her need to talk about her working life would have been as urgent if she had children and maybe grandchildren to pass her baton to. Which set me wondering. As writers, we will - inevitably in this digital age - leave our words behind. But, when stripped aw

On Writing Good Bad Guys by Lev Butts

One of the things I am asked most often on writing panels and workshops is how to create intriguing bad guys. What they are really asking me, I've come to understand, is how to create antagonists as interesting to the reader as the hero. An effective protagonist needs to have a worthy antagonist. The antagonist needs to present our hero with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle such that the audience can reasonably expect failure and be impressed with the virtues of the hero once he or she overcomes them. This antagonist can come in all shapes and sizes depending on the plot of your story. According to current narrative theory, there are  only six basic conflicts in Western literature : Man v. Man  Man v. Self  Man v. Society Man v. Nature  Man v. God  Man v. Monster* If your antagonist is Society, Nature, or God, your antagonist is pretty much set for you. You need only tweak the characteristics that are germane to your plot. If your antagonist is also the protagonist

Is your prologue hook, line or stinker? Ali Bacon considers the chances

Prologues - why not jump right in?  Prologues in fiction are popular with writers, though less so with readers, and I am of that very ilk. There’s nothing more likely to raise my hackles when I pick up a book than a few pages headed Prologue ,  Before, Then , or In the Beginning . And regardless of the fact I have read many good books with prologues, there’s always the suspicion that here comes something not strictly necessary, something holding up the story we’re about to step into. So why take the risk of putting your reader off on page 1? Let’s think about the nature of the conventional prologue. First of all why is it there?   1)      To create atmosphere and suspense – my mystery takes a few chapters to set things up,  let’s flag up what's coming or get a bit of creepiness/excitement in at the start. 2)      Because it’s in a different timeline – if the reader is going to understand the plot they need to know something that happened a long time before (or p

Life, uninterrupted - Katherine Roberts

Since the beginning of August, I have been without incoming calls on my landline . I can call out with no problem, and the broadband is (mostly) there when I want it, but hardly anyone can actually call me. Ringing my number results in a message saying "you have dialled an incorrect number" or "invalid number" or  - rather more cryptically - three electronic beeps. The only exception to this rule seems to be when my phone provider rings to test the line or to apologize - they can get through just fine. Rather annoyingly, as it turns out, so can other call centres (so far a couple of random telemarketers and a robot survey) - although I have to admit things have been rather peaceful on the unsolicited calls front lately, so I assume most of them are getting blocked, just like my friends and family. The saga of investigations into this mysterious phenomenon could fill a whole book. Suffice to say that I have almost forgotten what my landline phone sounds like, to s

Development by Sandra Horn

I’ve always loved working with small children. From nursery age up through early primary school years, when their world is expanding rapidly and they are working at making sense of it, talking with them is a delight. They vary so much in the conceptual   paths they take along the way. For every child who is sad when the autumn gales destroy Tattybogle , there are several more who ‘love the part where he gets blown all to pieces’! While most children accept that, in The Moon Thieves , the cat, the rat, the boy and his Gran don’t know what the moon is when they first see it, I remember one solemn little boy saying, rather anxiously, ‘But surely the Gran would know?’ We write the stories, the readers make of it what they will. Excellent. I have sometimes asked a class what they would think the moon was if they didn’t know it was the moon. It’s a question Jean Piaget would have said they couldn’t answer, but in any class of 5 and 6-year-olds, there will be one or two who ‘g