Cover reveal and catch-up

Underneath the Tree

It’s been a little while since my last post but lots has been happening over the summer and I’m delighted to now be able to share the cover of the Christmas anthology I mentioned in my last blog. Entitled Underneath the Tree the book will be published by Sesheta in November and features new writing from Northern Ireland, with a great mix of genres. The cover was created by Design for Writers and both Kelly Creighton and I are very pleased with how it all turned out. We hope you like it!

The book features short stories from the following NI writers: Gary McKay, Angeline Adams and Remco van Straten, Eddy Baker, Stacie Davis, Morna Sullivan, Samuel Poots, Sharon Dempsey, Stuart Wilson, Jo Zebedee and Simon Maltman, with all proceeds from e-book and paperback sales being donated to the Simon Community NI and the World of Owls NI. Underneath the Tree is funded, with thanks, by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Small Grants Programme, supported by the National Lottery.

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Since I last posted here we’ve had two more Zoom book club meetings, which is working well for our group as ‘you know what’ continues. Both our July and August books (Eva Luna by Isabel Allende and Pet by Akwaeke Emezi) went down well with everyone and we had some interesting discussion around both.

Our September read is a non-fiction travel book by writer, broadcaster and adventurer, Leon McCarron. Although now based in London, Leon’s from the North Coast of Northern Ireland so it will be great to read all about his experiences in the Middle East in his book, The Land Beyond. There’s still time to read it before we meet, so if you’re interested, then go get a copy!

Novel number three…

Aside from the above, I’ve been busy planning a new novel for adults (my first) and have now returned to my third middle-grade manuscript, so I can do a final final (final!) edit to that before publishing it at long last. I’m currently planning to publish it early next year so I’ll keep you posted on that!

Book recommendations

Other than that, I’ve been reading some really good books over the past few months, including two recent prize-winners – Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist which just scooped the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing and Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet which just won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Both are from Northern Ireland which is also pretty brilliant (Maggie was born in Coleraine near where I live, in case you didn’t know).

Some other great reads have included The Wych Elm by Tana French, Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell and The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.

Anyway, that’s all for now. More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Cover reveal and catch-up

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas anthology writers!

In my last post I mentioned that myself and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, were publishing an anthology of Christmas stories this year through a new organisation we’ve set up (Sesheta). The publication is kindly being funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which means that we can pay each writer a fee for their story and can also cover the associated publication costs. We had lots of submissions for the book – which made selecting our writers incredibly difficult – but we now have our final list of contributors!

In no particular order, the writers we chose are:Sesheta logo

  • Gary McKay
  • Angeline Adams and Remco van Straten
  • Eddy Baker
  • Stacie Davis
  • Morna Sullivan
  • Samuel Poots
  • Sharon Dempsey
  • Stuart Wilson
  • Jo Zebedee
  • Simon Maltman

There will be more details on the book over the next few months, as we prepare to launch it in November and of course, the cover will be revealed along the way too. For now, however, we’d like to congratulate the ten writers above and just say thank you again to everyone who submitted their work for us to read.

I have to say, sitting on the other side of the fence as one of the people tasked with choosing the stories for this project has been a great reminder that when you submit your work to publications and agents etc. rejection doesn’t necessarily equate ‘not good enough’. We had lots of submissions for the anthology and ten slots to fill, so you can imagine how tricky it was whittling them all down. To do this, the quality of the writing and the stories was key, but we also had to balance out the genres of the work we were including as well.

As such, it’s good to remember that it really does pay to keep submitting your writing and not to get too downhearted when you get those rejections, which we all have along the way.

Which leads me onto my own recent submissions, as I too, have been sending some work away and am currently awaiting news of rejection or acceptance for a short non-fiction piece and a couple of short stories. We shall see what happens!

Novels…

In terms of my novel-writing, I may be publishing my third middle-grade children’s novel in the coming months but, realistically, I think it will be early 2021 when that will be available. There’s a lot of other stuff going on over the next few months with various work projects and family things, but I will keep you updated as things progress. One of those other projects is a mini biography like the one I wrote last year. I find these really interesting to write as I love hearing about people’s life stories and turning their lived experiences into books they can keep for their families.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, my sub-heading here says ‘novels’ plural, which means that – yes – another new book is in the pipeline! What’s more, this one is not a children’s novel and that’s about all I’m going to say at the minute. 🙂

NB My short stories are always predominantly written for an adult audience and I did also write a manuscript or two for adults years ago (which have never seen the light of day and are still in notebooks somewhere!), so writing an adult novel is something I’ve always thought I’d do at some stage. Having written three children’s novels, however, I would like to make it clear that no, I did not write those first as a way to ‘work up to’ writing a book for adults. There’s a big misconception amongst many adult readers (and authors) that writing a children’s novel is somehow easy and not on par to writing an adult book. Not so, my friends. Writing children’s books isn’t a way of ‘warming up’ to an adult book – a novel is a novel and they are all of them hard work to write! (And let me tell you, an audience of 10 year-olds will not hold back when they read your book.)

Anyway, I just felt that needed to be said! I still intend to write more children’s fiction too, in the future. 🙂

GC book club june

 

GC Book Club

On to book club and we had our June meet-up last night, via Zoom, of course. Our book was a thriller called Distress Signals by Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard, who also kindly joined us for a chat about the book and her writing. (See pic, bottom right).

This was Catherine’s debut novel from around 2015 and we all enjoyed it, agreeing it was well-paced and kept you reading on, as a good thriller should. She has a few other books published and her latest, The Nothing Man, will be available in August, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!Eva Luna FB cover

Our July book choice is a novel in translation and is Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. I found a variety of lovely book covers for this online and the book itself sounds very interesting, so hopefully it will go down well!

Anyway, that’s all the bookish chat for now. More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Stories, stories, stories…

Submissions open for Christmas anthology

It’s been a few months in the planning but at last I can share the exciting news with you all that myself and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, are editing and publishing a new anthology of writing later this year. And … submissions are now open!

Sesheta logoYou can find all details about the project – and our new organisation, Sesheta – over on our website here: https://seshetawords.wordpress.com/

Essentially, when Kelly and I met for a catch-up last Christmas, we got to talking about writing (of course) and publishing, and from there we had the idea of creating what we believe just might be the first-ever Christmas anthology of short stories in Northern Ireland. It’s open for submissions from writers living in NI only, so if you’re from here and are interested, then head on over to the website!

GC Book ClubJunot Diaz

We’re still Zooming it with the GC Book Club and last month enjoyed discussing the graphic memoir, Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, which went down rather well – and a lot better than I was anticipating for a group who have mostly never read graphic books.

Our May read is a book by an author outside of the UK and Ireland – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz from the Dominican Republic. Our next meet-up is Thursday, May 28, so there isn’t long to go until I find out what everyone thought of it!

Bookworm pursuits

For those who are interested, I’m still going strong with my audiobook journey and am continuing to enjoy some great books in this format, alongside reading paperbacks and so on. I just finished the wonderful 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak and also recently listened to A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French and Here We Are by Graham Swift.

Anyway, that’s all for now. NI writers, get writing and submitting those festive stories, and everyone keep on reading! More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Stories, stories, stories…

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Creative conundrums

In the few short weeks since my last blog we seem to have journeyed into the plot of a dystopian novel which, unfortunately, has never been a favourite genre of mine … ‘Normal’ life has been put on hold – for now – across the world and books have become more important then ever to see a lot of us through the day! That being said, it can also be quite difficult to concentrate on reading sometimes, when there’s so much else vying for out attention right now and so many other things to sort out. My own reading has definitely been affected, which is why I’m now turning to books by authors that I know I love and whose writing I can safely get lost in.

Anyway, leaving aside all of the work and day-to-day shenanigans which have been affected by recent events, in terms of author stuff, there’s both good and not so good news.

Some good news: I mentioned in my last blog that I’d submitted a short story to a journal recently and I was happy to hear that it was accepted for publication. Of course, the launch for that is now off (I’m not sure if they’ll be doing an online/virtual launch) and I’m assuming the journal also won’t be published for the forseeable now either. I had also received word of some creative writing events which I was to deliver over the coming months, but again, these have now disappeared into the ether with all that’s going on.

However, an exciting project which myself and a good friend have been waiting to hear word on is still in the pipeline, so hopefully, we can share news about that soon. Of course, it too has been adversely affected by recent events, so we’re trying to iron out a few particulars. That being said, we’re hopeful it will still go ahead as planned over the coming months. More on that as I have it.

Lots of book launches have also been cancelled and one which I’d been looking forward to was Kelly Creighton’s event to release her latest crime novel, The Sleeping Season, into the world. It should have happened last Friday so if you enjoy crime fiction and would like to support her in buying the book, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/3bzujXw

GC Book ClubGC zoom pic

This month we enjoyed our first-ever online book club, taking to Zoom to discuss our classic March read – The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins. We had a smaller gathering than normal, but as the months go on I’m sure some more might join us again (online meet-ups can seem strange but they actually work pretty well) and if not, we still have a nice number for discussion regardless. Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy it. This is regarded as one of Collins’ best works, along with The Woman in White, which he wrote next, and it was definitely suspenseful and had a cast of engaging characters. We scored it 7/10, which I think is a pretty good rating!

Fun HomeOur April read is another new genre for our book-clubbers as it’s a graphic memoir and our chosen title for this is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’ve read a few graphic novels and memoirs myself and I do enjoy them, so hopefully this will go down well. I’ve heard really good things about this book (which I believe was also performed on the stage) so I think it’s a good one to read as a way of introducing the book club to this genre.

NN3

And finally, NN3 has undergone a further edit and is nearing that time when it should be flitting out to agents. The plan remains to publish it independently later in the year (all being well…) but I still want to see about sending it out, so that will be done this week. I gave myself until the end of March to email some agents so I’m now giving myself to the end of this week, as of course, that too has been pushed aside in favour of sorting out work stuff relating to you-know-what.

Anyway, I think that’s about all for now. It’s a tricky time to be a creative and I don’t think we should be putting pressure on ourselves to create more than usual right now (if you want to great, but if you don’t, also great). I for one am just trying to do as much as I’ve always done and, if I end up doing a bit more or a bit less, then that’s OK. I’m not giving myself ridiculous goals, as I wouldn’t do that ordinarily and am not going to change things now! I’m looking forward to reading some good books and getting some writing done where I can and for me, that’s enough.

Keep well. More as I have it. 🙂

 

Comments Off on Creative conundrums

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Words with sparkle …

Chris Packham at the NI Science FestivalCPackham

Having ended my last post with a hopeful mention of meeting naturalist, environmental campaigner, author and award-winning photographer, Chris Packham, at the NI Science Festival, I’m very happy to report that this did indeed happen! I also got my copy of his memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, signed, so that is now an even more prized possession. It’s full of poetic and very visual writing and if you haven’t yet read it, then I recommend you give it a go.

The event itself was in two parts – the first saw Chris show examples of his photography and explain how he set up the shots, giving us an insight into how his mind works, which was fascinating. The second half then focused on the global climate and environmental crisis we’re all facing, with discussion on a range of issues and how we can help practically.   sparkle jar cover

All in all, it was a great event and definitely gave everyone much to consider and hopefully, to put into action afterwards.signed

Book three edits

I’ve now completed the latest edits of Novel Number Three (NN3), which essentially means I’ve transferred all the new pages of handwritten narrative onto the computer and jig-sawed everything together into what is now a more well-rounded story. I enjoyed this way of working, which is new to me in terms of novel-writing. With my previous two books I wrote in a pretty much linear style, in that I started at the beginning and wrote straight on until the end. Of course, I added in new bits here and there in later edits, but not as much as I have with this third novel.

With this particular manuscript I first wrote a rough narrative, which I knew I wanted to return to and add bulk, so the initial draft came in at around 30,000-35,000 words. It’s now around 45,000 words, so is more novel-shaped and still has a little more wiggle room if I feel I need to expand on any further plot points. For those who don’t know, middle-grade fiction (for 8-12 year-olds) can vary from anything between 30,000 – 50,000+ words. Modern MG books tend to be a bit chunkier than when I was growing up but I always believe that your story should be as long as it needs to be, so I don’t worry too much about word count, especially at the outset when I’m just starting a new novel.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed having a basic book structure drafted and then being able to jump back in and add new sections and characters, working them into what’s already there and bringing more flavour to the overall narrative. (Well, I hope!) It’s a little like how William Boyd writes his novels – he’s told interviewers before that he too handwrites his initial drafts, but that he doesn’t write in a linear fashion – he writes different scenes at different times and then knits them all together later.

It’s fun to experiment with different writing styles and this way has worked well for me with NN3. It may or may not be what I do for the next book (whatever that is), but for now, it’s certainly been a method I’ve enjoyed.

Anyway, the next stage is going back to edit the manuscript again, now that all the new material has been added to the typed version, and make sure it reads seamlessly and does what I want it to do…

I haven’t written very many short stories recently, but I did do a light edit of a story I wrote a few years ago and submitted that to a journal in February, so we’ll see if anything comes of that. I’ve been a bit lax on sending work out to publications these past couple of years, but it’s something I would like to do more of again.

GC Book Club March book

Onto reading, then, and I’ve read lots of great books so far this year, one of which was our February book choice for the Giant’s Causeway Book Club – the first in the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden, entitled The Bear and the Nightingale. This is an historical novel set in Russia and is rich with Russian folklore, mystery and adventure. It offers a fascinating insight into medieval life and conjures up lots of great imagery with its vast, snow-filled landscapes, although it certainly doesn’t shy away from the hardships of living through a Russian winter. Beauty sits right alongside brutality in this novel and for me, it was just a really great read.

Our March selection is also historical and is a gothic classic by Wilkie Collins – The Dead Secret. He wrote this novel just before his perhaps more widely known title, The Woman in White, and I believe it contains similar themes to this, so it promises to be packed full of intrigue and seems like perfect reading for the tail-end of winter…

The Sleeping Season book launchkelly

In other bookish news, my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, is launching her latest novel – and her first police procedural – on Friday, March, 27 at No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast, so if you’re a crime fiction fan, then do come along! It will also feature discussion from crime writers Simon Maltman and Sharon Dempsey, so you can look forward to an evening packed full of all things crime-related.

Kelly’s book is called The Sleeping Season and is the first in her new DI Sloane Series, featuring Belfast Detective Inspector Harriet (Harry) Sloane. You can pre-order your copy here:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Season-Sloane-Book-ebook/dp/B081K8QQSR/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+sleeping+season&qid=1583256779&sr=8-1

Bookish surprise from Savidge Reads …

My last bit of bookish news relates to an unexpected windfall from Simon over at Savidge Reads (you can find his brilliant book-related YouTube channel here).

compSimon ran a giveaway competition over on his Instagram account a little while back and I’m delighted to say that I was randomly selected as the winner of that, so I’m eagerly awaiting the postman delivering my copies of two Stacey Halls novels. The giveaway included a signed copy of her first book, The Familiars (which I’ve already read, but I borrowed it from the library, so I’m excited about having my own copy as I really enjoyed this book), along with a proof copy of her latest novel, The Foundling, complete with Simon’s annotations (he interviewed Stacey at a recent event in England).

Suffice it to say that this bookworm loves getting free books, so thanks again to Simon for organising the competition!

Anyway, that’s all for now. More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Words with sparkle …

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Dreaming in words …

Books, books, books

In my last blog post (way back in early December!) I mentioned that I might list my top reads of 2019. However, we’re a little beyond the ‘end of year list period’ at this stage, so if you’d like to see what some of my favourite books from last year were, you can hop over to my Instagram account (linked in the sidebar to your right) as I did a wee post about it there. I read 115.5 books in 2019 and most of them I really enjoyed, so it was a good reading year! Here’s to another one.

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Bear andOn the subject of reading, we’ve had two GC Book Club meetings since my last blog, including our first-ever December one, which was suitably festive with our book choice of Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium. Overall, everyone enjoyed the book – it was a nice cosy one to read at Christmas-time and the cynics in us forgave all those happy endings because of the season!! Our January read was a wildcard book as we all put a book title into a hat (because it was Christmas) and selected one randomly from that. As a result, we read Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and I have to say, it went down a treat with the book clubbers, even those who weren’t very familiar with The Handmaid’s Tale (book or TV series). It’s not a book I was personally planning to read but I did enjoy it, though for me, it won’t be a top book of the year.

Our February read is an historical fantasy novel called The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – inspired by a Russian fairy-tale. It sounds great, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this one soon.

Dreamer’s Space

Dreamers space1

Inspired by Lissanduff

You might recall a project I mentioned last year that I was involved in with Big Telly Theatre Company and three other writers called Sea Gods, Shipwrecks and Sidhe Folk – Treasures of the Causeway, for which I wrote a prose poem inspired by the legends of a local historical site called Lissanduff earthworks, near my home. The poem has been recorded by local actors and will be installed at the site for people to hear, which is pretty cool. The project was slightly delayed but is set to launch this spring.

Anyway, in the meantime, Flowerfield Arts Centre’s first Springhall Artist in Residence – Corrina Askin – was inspired by my description of the site and went to visit it. She then incorporated the essence of Lissanduff into her own artistic project, entitled Dreamer’s Space, which is currently being exhibited at Flowerfield in Portstewart, with a permanent installation of her work also now in place. Dreamers space 2I enjoyed meeting up with Corrina in January to view her beautiful work and to hear about how my own work inspired a little of hers, which was lovely. It’s really nice to hear how creatives can influence each other’s work and the exhibition is something definitely worth seeing.

I’m currently working on another exciting project with Big Telly, but more on that to come …

Novel number three (NN3)

And so, to The Novel. Since my last blog I’ve edited a couple of short stories but writing-wise, I’ve really been focusing on editing my third novel – and adding more material into it. I’d left myself space to do this as the initial draft was much shorter than those of my previous books and inspiration has come at the usual odd moments and resulted in some very interesting ideas … As per usual, this work is done in the wee hours and on Sunday afternoons where it can be done, but it is still progressing and I’m happy with its shifting shape.

dreamer's space3

Wilbur!

My plan is still to send it out to some agents – the original goal was to do this in January but January has been stuffed full of copywriting projects and whatnot so I’m now gearing up to do this in February. However, it’s very possible I may publish the book later in the year (unless an agent snaps me up!), so watch this space.

There may also be another exciting bookish project in the pipeline, but more on that soon if it takes off as planned …

Music and Packham 

As writers, we always have to make time to work on our creative projects in and around our day jobs and whatnot, but if you really want to do something then you’ll prioritise that thing and just get on with it. Something I’ve let slide over the past *few* years has been my violin playing, so in December, I started practising again and have been taking lessons since then. It’s tricky, I’ll admit, fitting in lessons and practice on top of trying to fit in writing and reading, but guess what – most of the time I manage it and I love playing the violin, so this time around, I want to make sure I stick at it, so I don’t get out of practice again.

For me, music is just another creative pursuit which I enjoy and you can’t have too many of those, can you?!

Anyway, that’s about it for now… At the end of this month, I’m really looking forward to attending an event as part of the NI Science Festival in Belfast: Chris Packham – Pictures from the Edge of the World. I’ve been a fan of Chris since his Really Wild Show days and watch him and the team on Springwatch etc. throughout the year, so this will be a great event. I think his work as an environmental activist and wildlife supporter is fantastic and I really enjoyed reading his memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, a few years ago. So, this particular event is both a bookish and an environmentally-related treat for me, as we’ll be seeing some of Chris’ great wildlife photography as well as hearing him chat about all sorts of related (and possibly unrelated!) things.

Hopefully my next blog post will include a photo of my signed book and me and the man himself…

More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Dreaming in words …

Filed under Musings on writing

Winter writing

The festive season is upon us and, normally at this time of year, I’m blogging about the joys of curling up with a good book (or a notebook and pen to write) beside the fire … All of this is still relevant as we speak, but the real wintry weather isn’t yet upon us, despite it now being December, so the season feels a little out of kilter to me.christmas-tree

That being said, the fire is crackling in the evenings and today, the wind has picked up again here on the north coast so, although it might be reading 12 degrees (in December!!), I’m sure ‘winter proper’ is right around the corner…

Editing, editing, editing…

Since my last post in October (I somehow missed blogging in November!), I’ve been busy finishing off writing and editing the biography I was doing for a client and have also completed a structural edit on a fiction manuscript for another client. Now, that’s no excuse for not working on my own novel, as there’s always work on the go, but I haven’t done as much editing on that as I had planned. However, the edits are ongoing and I’m still happy with my progress on this – my Christmas ‘break’ will allow me more time to work on the book and get the first three chapters into shape for sending out next year to agents.

However… Having already published two novels independently, part of me is leaning back towards that option again, as I do like to be in control of my work! We’ll see how it goes, but at the minute, I still intend to send it out to a few people, anyway.

GC Book Club 

Since October, we’ve had both our October and November book clubs, reading The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley and One by Sarah Crossan. Of the two, One was much preferred by the group, as we felt The Loney promised more than it delivered and wasn’t really creepy enough for our Hallowe’en read! It had lots of atmosphere but the group was also dissatisfied by the ending and the various things left unanswered in the story. One, meanwhile, is a YA novel written in a poetic form and tells the story of conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace. The group was very surprised to find that they loved a YA book and, not only that, but one written in poetry, which I was very happy about!

Miss MoonshineI dislike labelling books as I do think it puts people off reading some of them. Children’s and Young Adult novels are just as suited to adult readers as those specifically labelled ‘adult fiction’ and you miss out on a lot if you don’t consider other genres. Also, lots of people don’t even consider reading poetry because of bad experiences at school, but there’s so much accessible poetry out there by modern writers and, again, you miss out on a lot by ignoring the genre. So, the lesson is… read widely and leave those preconceptions behind! 🙂

This year, we’re also meeting in December and our Christmas read is a collection of festive short stories by a group of UK authors (Authors on the Edge). The book is called Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in! It’s also nice to be supporting the writers more directly, as they’ve published the book independently and, as a fellow indie author, I know that’s no mean feat!

More bookish stuff

Aside from all of that, I’ve been reading a lot of good books recently outside of book club and, I know I’m reading more when I might be writing, but the book bug has still got me at the moment and I’m sticking with it. I keep a book journal throughout the year, where I basically just note down each book read and score it out of five (I tried Goodreads but I’m a pen and paper girl and I prefer to keep my hard copy journal!), so I must tot those up and see how many I’ve read this year. I do this just for fun – I don’t set myself a reading goal, as that seems too much like giving yourself homework, even if it is nice reading homework!Santa

Maybe I’ll share my top ten reads of 2019 here on the blog. I’ll try to remember to do that amid the Christmas busyness but if I don’t, then you can keep up with all my bookish activities over on Instagram (link in the right sidebar). Re my own books (Magical Masquerade and the sequel, Phantom Phantasia), I’ve had some nice messages recently from people whose young readers have been loving these, so if you’re looking for some festive books to gift this Christmas, you can get these on Amazon/Book Depository etc. as both e-books and paperbacks. 🙂

Anyway, if I don’t blog between now and Christmas, have a great Yuletide and a happy New Year. Keep reading and writing (if writing you do) and enjoy the holidays! 🙂

Comments Off on Winter writing

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Autumn editing etc.

Novel update

Autumn is upon us at last and with it, my novel editing has begun and is indeed, ongoing. I’ve already completed round one of this on my hard copy printout but have yet to transfer the changes onto the computer. Best get on that!

In my defence, I’ve been hard at work ghost-writing a biography, which has been very interesting and a project I’ve much enjoyed, alongside all my copywriting work, but this also gives my manuscript space to breathe and allows me to approach it with fresh(ish) eyes once I get back to it. All the better for the editing.

I have, however, scribbled out a poem since my last blog and some bits of a new short story (abandoned at the moment but there to return to at some point), so the creative juices are still flowing.

LemnLemn Sissay book event

I did mean to post about this before now (!) but I very much enjoyed attending a reading and discussion event with Lemn Sissay at the Black Box in Belfast on Friday the 13th (lucky for some!), to mark the publication of his memoir, My Name is Why. Always the performer, Lemn kept the audience (it was a sell-out event, might I add) entertained with his witty asides, but also reined in the focus as necessary when discussing the harrowing accounts in his book, which explain how he grew up in care in England, despite his mother wanting him back when he was a baby …

My advice? Go read it, as it’s a powerful book and is peppered with Lemn’s beautiful poetry, which appears at the beginning of each chapter.

I got my copy of the book signed, of course, afterwards and was surprised but pleased when Lemn immediately remembered where we’d met before (at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry) before I could even open my mouth. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubKelly Creighton GC BookClub

I attended Lemn’s event with my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, who was also our guest at the GC Book Club in September, where we discussed her novel, The Bones of It. We had a very interesting evening, with a reading from Kelly and then a Q&A session and chat. The book clubbers scored the novel afterwards, giving it a very respectable 8/10. Again, this is another one I recommend reading, if you haven’t already.

Our October book choice is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley and we’ll be meeting a week earlier this month, as our regular spot clashes with Hallowe’en night itself and, well, the ghouls among us have things to be up to that evening! So, come along to the Causeway Hotel on Thursday, October 24 if you want to discuss this one… I haven’t started it yet myself, but plan to get stuck in this weekend after I finish my reread of the His Dark Materials trilogy (which I’m rereading ahead of the BBC 1 TV series and am very much enjoying again).

mindful-movement.jpgMindful movement 

Aside from all of that, I managed to skip away for an hour on International Mental Health Day on October 10 as the National Trust was hosting a ‘mindful movement’ session at the Causeway Hotel, led by one of our talented book clubbers, no less, Ettaline Hill. Ettaline is a Shiatsu Therapist and Qigong Teacher and she taught us some moves which I have to say definitely left me feeling more relaxed but also energised afterwards. It was a very busy week for me that week, but it was well worth taking time out, especially on that particular day.

Anyway, I think that’s my lot for now. More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Autumn editing etc.

Filed under Books, Musings on writing

Novel news and book club visit!

I’ve had a really good summer of reading this year and with one thing and another (read: life) blog-writing decided to take a break in the latter half! However, Autumn is starting to show her face and I for one am looking forward to the new season of fresh, cooling days, darker evenings and furtive scribblings before a crackling fire.

Novel number three updatebible-2989427_1920

Writing-wise, I’ve been busy typing up the first draft of my manuscript for novel number three (in dribs and drabs) but I actually hope to have that completed sometime later today. Then, the fun can really begin, with rewrites, new writing and editing, editing, editing… I do a light edit as I type it up, but really, the typing mostly helps with refreshing my mind about what the story looks like currently as a whole and where the gaps are. I’ve got loads of ideas for extra material that I want to add in and ways in which I can flesh out some of the characters, and this time around, I’ve left myself breathing space to do that, as the manuscript is shorter than it usually is at this stage in terms of word count. So, I’ve got a healthy amount of words to play around with and can add in new chapters and scenes without it becoming a massive tome!dfw-cs-group-nologo

With this being my third middle-grade novel I find that my writing style has definitely evolved since writing Magical Masquerade way back in early 2011. With MM I wrote a sprawling first draft which totalled around 140,000-ish words (yes, really) and which required a heck of a lot of cutting down before the proper editing even began. With Phantom Phantasia, the sequel, I wrote it a lot more swiftly and the initial draft came in much shorter than MM’s first draft simply because I had a clearer idea of where the story was going and I knew better how to approach writing a novel, having already spent years creating the first one…

As a result, PP took less time to write and although the final book ended up being a bit shorter than MM, this was just because I was wrapping up a story and it was as long as it needed to be. This third book will likely be longer than PP – maybe around the final length of MM or somewhere in-between the two. I won’t know until it’s finished but again, it’ll be as long as the story needs to be. (Note: Longer doesn’t mean less concise editing; regardless of length, editing should always be tight for every piece of writing you do).

Anyway, book three is blossoming slowly. I really like the idea of it still, which is always good, as once you immerse yourself in a story for months and more, there’s always the risk of getting tired of it! I’m not giving myself such stringent deadlines with this one, but you’ve gotta have some end goal in sight, otherwise things can just drag on indefinitely. And I do like a deadline. So, once I’ve typed the rest up today it’ll be straight into writing my extra scenes and fleshing it out a bit more, then typing those up and integrating them into the novel.

As this is currently a standalone novel and not part of an existing series my current plan is to submit it to agents when I’m finally satisfied with it. All being well, that will happen next Spring, but we’ll see how it goes. One step at a time.Causeway shop

In the meantime, I recently delivered a few more boxes of Magical Masquerade and Phantom Phantasia to the Visitors’ Centre at the Giant’s Causeway, so it’s great that those books are still hopping off the shelves there and getting read by readers around the world. If you can’t get to the North Coast, however, you can always find them at Amazon/The Book Depository etc. as both e-books and paperbacks. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

We had a mixed bag of reviews from the GC Book Clubbers over the summer, with our July and August reads – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, which scored 8/10 and Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which scored a more middling 5/10 (I gave it an eight myself!!). I enjoyed them both in different ways and found both books delivered fascinating insights into their characters. O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors and I think she excels at writing wonderfully rounded characters. This wasn’t my favourite book of hers (I’ve now read them all!) but I still really enjoyed it.

Levy’s book had a rather shocking ending which I for one didn’t see coming (in terms of who it concerned) and I liked how she achieved that shock without giving anything away in the lead-up to it. I thought she created tension well throughout the book, threading it through with dark humour and, for me, who enjoys delving into people’s minds, I enjoyed seeing things from the different characters’ POVs. They were all pretty unlikeable but getting into their minds gave you some understanding as to why they acted as they did.

September book club author visit!

Our September book choice is The Bones of It by NI author, Kelly Creighton, who is a very talented writer of short stories, novels and poetry. She is also a friend of mine and I read the book a few years ago when it was published, but regardless of that, I am a genuine fan of her work! I’m looking forward to reading this again as there’s been a nice gap since my first read and, what’s more, Kelly will be joining us at our next book club meeting, so everyone can quiz her on the book and her writing. 🙂 

The Bones of ItThe Bones of It is a psychological/crime thriller set in Northern Ireland which deals with the legacy of the Troubles in terms of how it has affected people’s mindsets and how they cope with living in its aftermath. It follows the story of a father and son and if you want to read the blurb in full and/or gift yourself a copy, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/2jYL9d8

If you wish to attend book club, it’s completely free, so just come along to the Causeway Hotel on the last Thursday of the month (in September that’ll be Thursday, 26th) and you’ll find us in the drawing room downstairs. As well as chatting with the group about that month’s read, the National Trust also provides free tea/coffee and sweet treats and of course, in September, you’ll have the added bonus of meeting the author. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now… I myself am looking forward to an event with Lemn Sissay next week in Belfast, having just read his memoir – My Name is Why. I met Lemn about six years ago when he was doing a poetry event in Derry (you can read my blog post on that here: https://clairesavagewriting.wordpress.com/tag/lemn-sissay/ ) so it’ll be great to hear from him again in what is sure to be a very interesting evening.

More as I have it. 🙂

Comments Off on Novel news and book club visit!

Filed under Musings on writing

Myth and Memory

Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu in conversation with Paul McVeigh at JLF Belfast 2019 at the Lyric Theatre

Myth, memory and culture were the ingredients for a lively panel discussion between writers Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu, facilitated by novelist and playwright, Paul McVeigh at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast.Myth and Memory

One of the JLF founders and co-directors, Gokhale has written 19 books and has worked a lot “on myth and the constant reinterpretation of myth in current India.”

Naidu, also born and raised in India, has been “very influenced by myths and mythologies” and said they’d helped her to write about history in her fiction. However, for East Belfast author, Carson, her interest in mythology was more about “making up my own myths – contemporary myths.”

Indeed, growing up, Carson was surrounded by stories from the King James Bible rather than Celtic myths, which she said made her feel a bit more disconnected from traditional mythology than her fellow panellists. She added that her reworking of myths was subsequently coloured by this particular storytelling language from her childhood.

Asked by McVeigh why she created modern myths and what they allowed her to do, Carson said her magical realism style allowed her to address topical issues in a more indirect way.

Jan

Jan Carson

“For me, Northern Ireland is a prime candidate for that,” she said. “It amazes me that we don’t have more writers here working in that field.”

She added that in a society where people have “become numbed to the status quo,” surrealist writing was a way to “stop people in their tracks” and help them take stock of things.

During the discussion, Gokhale described how India was steeped in mythology and said there were two epic myths – the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇ – which were originally told in oral form before being written. She herself has retold the Mahābhārata in Mahābhārata, The Book of Shiva.

“It’s a very vital and living topic in India,” she said. “Myths dominate and control every aspect of life [there]… There are many different levels of gods and goddesses in India – and a lot of goddesses who are goddesses in their own right.”

Naidu, meanwhile, who performs epic literature as well as being a writer, said Indians tended to “think in a kind of poetry.” She added that, living as she does now in England, she carried Indian mythology with her as a way of viewing the world.

lyric ceiling“For me, the myths are a memory for how I understand the Western world,” she said. “I won’t give up that way of thinking.”

Each of the writers shared some of their work with the audience, with extracts read by Carson and Gokhale and a special oral storytelling performance from Naidu.

Reflecting on the differences between oral storytelling and writing, she said: “The oral tradition is action-driven. When you’re writing, you’re in isolation – it’s more immersive.”

Going on to discuss memory, Carson, who also works with people who have dementia, said she’d learned that memory was something that wasn’t fixed. “As you grow and gain life experience, it changes your perspective of the past,” she said. “The memory [of things] begins to change.”

Collectively asked by McVeigh if holding onto memory too much could also prevent cultures from growing, Naidu said people could indeed get very fixed into the past. However, she added that, “collated memory can be a transformative thing.”

With Gokhale previously explaining how Hindu icon Radha is “the subject of every Bollywood film,” the event finished rather fittingly with an impromptu rendition of a Bollywood song from another festival participant.

Comments Off on Myth and Memory

Filed under Books, Musings on writing