Category Archives: Books

Online reading!

Following the launch of my latest children’s/middle-grade novel, The Story Forest, in February, I will now be doing an online reading from the book via Zoom this Saturday (March 6), so if you’d like to join that, just contact me for the login details:

claire {at} cseditorial {dot} co {dot} uk

The reading is supported by funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP) 2, which is finance provided from their Exchequer funds via the Department for Communities to help creative practitioners during the ongoing pandemic. It’s great to receive this support and I look forward to seeing you all at Saturday’s event!

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Book birthday!

The Story Forest launched

Lots has been happening since my last post, the most exciting thing being that I launched my third middle-grade book, The Story Forest, on February 3! This book has been waiting in the wings for a while now – I originally intended to launch it last year but with one thing and another that didn’t happen. So, I decided to just get it out into the world at last and launched it on my birthday. What better day for a book birthday also?!

An adventure lies behind every bookcase …

When Freddie finds a mysterious message asking him to save his local library, he discovers a fantastical world beyond the bookcases where stories are more than just words on a page. Guided by a Book-Keeper called Meg – one of the guardians of books and libraries – Freddie travels to the enigmatic Story Forest, where letters grow on trees and adventures abound.

Freddie’s never been much of a reader, but in the Story Forest he begins to understand the true magic of storytelling and why this ancient art must be protected. With a rogue Book-Keeper and a book-hating councillor both intent on destroying stories, however, there are also giant Book Worms on the loose, devouring every book in sight.

Can Freddie and his friends – including two schoolboys, a couple of Silver Surfers and a Book-Keeper – save Portsteven Library … before it’s too late?

The book is aimed at readers aged 8-12 years, like my other two books (Magical Masquerade and Phantom Phantasia) and you can buy it as a paperback or e-book here: https://amzn.to/3q0m7Y5

I hope to do a proper in-person book launch and signing at some stage, once things are back to normal, (like most people, I’m a bit tired of Zoom events and I think, especially for a children’s book, these aren’t ideal), but in the meantime, it’s great to see the support people have already shown for The Story Forest. And I do love that colourful cover by Design for Writers, who always manage to pull it out of the bag for me and create the look I want!

A few copies started arriving with readers on Saturday and already, it seems to be getting the thumbs-up from them, so that’s great!

Robin + Rose Nature Box

Pic by Kay Prestney. @kinship_creativedc

In other writing news, I was delighted to be asked to come on board as editor of the Robin + Rose Nature Box magazine in January. This is a quarterly nature subscription box for women, run by Dr Jenny Evans, and it’s a real treat if you like nature and the great outdoors in any way. The magazine always has a diverse range of articles written by subscribers and I’ve been enjoying editing the current spring issue, which will be shipped out with the spring box mid-March. You can still subscribe to the box up until February 14, so if that interests you, then you can sign up here: Subscribe Now | Robin & Rose Nature (robinandrosenature.com)

GC Book Club

In other bookish news, we’ve also had our December and January bookclubs since I last posted, with good reviews for our Christmas read of Northern Irish authors (see previous post) and middling reviews of Wicked by Gregory Maguire, our January book! This is part of a quartet so it didn’t deliver all the answers, but the group mostly felt let down by all the loose ends and wanted more follow-through on Elphaba’s story. Our February read is the memoir, The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven, so I’m looking forward to that.

Anyway, that’s all for now! I’ve still got my adult novel in the background, but I haven’t been able to work on that for a wee while – and I’ve now had another idea for another children’s novel, so we’ll see what happens! 🙂

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Book-tacular goings-on

Book launches

Since I last posted, we successfully launched our Christmas book of short stories, Underneath the Tree, which features a mixture of festive tales – including ghost stories, romance, dystopia and more – with all proceeds going to the World of Owls NI and the Simon Community NI. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Small Grants fund and myself and co-editor Kelly Creighton have been delighted with all the support this wee book has received to date.

Our book launch for UTT

Our writers and a lovely audience joined us for the Zoom launch at the start of November and we’ll also be discussing the book at next week’s Giant’s Causeway Book Club, as it’s our December read.

If you’d like a copy (e-book or paperback), you can purchase it here: https://amzn.to/3m5tzhz

I also enjoyed an online evening of Crime & Cocktails on November 20 to launch Kelly’s latest novel (featured on my last blog post), Problems with Girls, which was great fun!

RTE Radio 1 feature

In November our GC Book Club also had the opportunity to take part in RTE Radio 1’s The Book Show, which was great. It aired live on Sunday, November 22 but you can still catch it on their podcast if you missed it!

We were able to put our book club questions to author, Sarah Crossan, about her YA book, One, which we really enjoyed reading last year and it was lovely to hear her responses to those. Thanks also to host, Rick O’Shea, for mentioning Underneath the Tree as well!

You can listen again to the show here (we’re on for the last 13 mins): https://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/share/radio1/21869942

Creature Candy blog

This month I also contributed a blog post to Creature Candy, a wonderful small business which supports local wildlife by donating 10% of the price of every product they sell to various British wildlife charities. My chosen topic was barn owls, which also tied in nicely with the launch of their new barn owl range.

If you’re interested, you can check that out here: Building a Brighter Future for Barn Owls — Creature Candy

My books

With my fiction writing, I’m excited to say that I’ve now signed off the cover for my next children’s/middle-grade novel (for 8-12 year-olds) and am currently awaiting my proof copies of the book in the post! I won’t be revealing the cover, however, until sometime in the New Year, but I really love it, so I hope you all do too.

I’m also still whittling away at my novel for adults, which is progressing bit by bit…

Anyway, that’s about it for now. More as I have it and if I don’t post again before Christmas, I hope you have a merry one, whatever you’re doing, and a Happy New Year. 🙂

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Guest blog with NI crime writer Kelly Creighton

What better way to while away these dark November days than by reading some gritty crime fiction and, if you need some inspiration, then do check out NI crime author Kelly Creighton’s latest novel – Problems with Girls. Kelly herself is a guest blogger today, so I’ll hand you over to her …

Crime writer, Kelly Creighton

Hi Claire. 
Thank you for having me over on your blog. 
I’d like to share the opening pages of Problems with Girls with you. 
PWG is book 2 in the DI Harriet Sloane series set in East Belfast. Book 1, The Sleeping Season, was released in March. Problems with Girls sees DI Sloane about a year and a half later. It is now May 2018 and Harry’s personal life has changed dramatically. In work she is investigating the murder of a young female political activist called Chloe Taylor. Over the course of the story, Harry and her colleagues in Strandtown PSNI discover that there is someone out there specifically targeting young women, hence the title of the book.
I hope you enjoy the extract.

Extract from Problems with Girls

It is early evening. We are coming home. 

Flying over the lights of London, past the horizon of clouds that looks like a mouth, lips parted. Flying away from the glowing teeth of an orange sun. I am the only one awake for the turbulence warning. I grip my armrest and wish I’d ordered that glass of Merlot. I don’t know when I became so afraid of flying.

The young boy in front, whose unselfconscious burps have been the elevator music of this flight, is my distraction. He reaches his hand back and pulls the shutter down on my window. The snap awakens Rowan. The plane dips then straightens, less obviously this time. I breathe my relief into Rowan’s dry fragrant head. He doesn’t know we are not on the ground anymore, that we are no longer in America, no longer in England. 

‘We’re almost home,’ I tell him, although he is not listening but is looking at the iPad while we fumble in the sky again. I open my shutter to look out at the clouds. Jared is asleep on Paul’s knee. Paul is sleeping too. He hasn’t even felt that turbulence.

Rowan reaches for his twin, paws at his hand. I encourage him to sit back. He is strapped to my lap by the loop around my seatbelt. Who are they kidding that this will save anyone, if it needs to?

The woman who has dozed beside me cuts across to look out at the clouds. ‘That was hairy,’ she says in a soft Northern Irish accent. 

‘I hate flying,’ I say.

‘I can tell. Did the babies like the big smoke?’  

‘We were in Florida,’ I say. ‘My partner suggested we do this for their first birthday. One last hurrah before I go back to work after maternity leave.’

‘That’s nice,’ she says and smiles at Rowan, who lifts his head from my chest to look at her. He smiles coyly, both hands coming up to hide his face.

‘Sweet boy,’ she says. 

The plane plummets, this time waking Paul. ‘What’s happening?’ he says.

‘Turbulence,’ the woman says. 

Paul rearranges himself, holds onto Jared as he fixes his shirt. ‘At least this flight is short,’ he says.

Most of the people around us are without children. They are in business suits and reading papers, tapping on laptops or sleeping, and gradually waking. The woman beside me wants to talk, trying to distract me. ‘I haven’t been home in years,’ she says.

‘Where are you from, originally?’ I ask her. Anxiety creeps up on me.

‘Belfast. Have lived in London for thirty-odd years,’ she says.

Jared wakes. He cries, was already asleep when we boarded and now he doesn’t know where we are. I keep looking at Paul for reassurance, but he is dealing with the baby. The woman beside me takes my hand in hers. ‘It will be over soon,’ she says. 

‘I know,’ I say. But I let our hands stay like that. 

Soon I see the festive lights of the runway, then we are on home ground, then collecting baggage at the carousel. I get the boys into the double buggy and leave Paul to wait for our cases when I see the woman struggling with a suitcase. No one else seems to want to help her. 

It is heavier than I would have thought. It takes both of us. 

‘Oh, thanks for that,’ she says.

I realise I haven’t asked her a thing about herself. ‘Are you back for business or pleasure?’ I ask, much calmer now.

‘Neither,’ she says.

‘Well, good luck.’ 

‘Good luck to you, too.’ She nods at the babies who are fussing, pulling hats off one another. She laughs mildly and walks off. 

Paul joins me and we carry on through the airport, to the car park, to our car. 

Outside it is close and warm, cloudy with a chance of rain. Our people carrier looks like a stone at this time of day. How different things will be now, I think, setting Rowan into the car seat, and Paul, putting Jared into his. We start for home. 

I pull down my visor, look in the mirror to make sure everything is as it should be. But I hardly recognise any of this. Least of all, myself.

Check out Kelly’s website: https://kellycreighton.com

Friday Press: https://fridaypressbooks.com

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Festive book launch!

Underneath the Tree

This Wednesday (November 4) sees the publication of a very special anthology of Christmas short stories from Northern Irish writers and you’re all invited to join us in sending it out into the world via a Zoom launch (what else, these days?!)

Underneath the Tree is a collection of 12 short stories which take place over the Christmas period and include everything from the ghostly and gruesome, to the magical, criminal and otherworldly. It has dystopian fiction, historical, speculative and comedy … We’re not lying when we say there really is something for everyone in this book.

Myself and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, have spent most of this year co-editing the anthology, having dreamt up the project last December. Once we got our funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Small Grants Programme, supported by the National Lottery, earlier this year, we were good to go.

We wanted to include a range of new writing from across Northern Ireland, including a variety of genres, which I think is what we’ve got in our final collection. We were also keen to make it a project that supported not just writers (who have all been paid for their stories), but the wider community, so all proceeds from the e-book and paperback sales are being donated to the Simon Community NI and the World of Owls NI.

Our writers are pictured below and are as follows:

Top row (L-R): Angeline Adams, Eddy Baker, Kelly Creighton, Stacie Davis. Second row (L-R): Sharon Dempsey, Simon Maltman, Gary McKay, Samuel Poots. Bottom row (L-R): Claire Savage, Remco van Straten, Morna Sullivan, Stuart Wilson, Jo Zebedee.

If you’d like to attend the Zoom launch on Wednesday, November 4 from 7pm-8.30pm, just email myself and Kelly here to register: info.sesheta@gmail.com We’ll have some readings from the writers so it should be a nice way to launch the book!

You can preorder the e-book here: https://amzn.to/35Xu1st

Paperbacks will be on sale from November 4.

Arts Council IERP grant

In other writing news, in October I was very happy to receive word that I was successful in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP), which is funding provided by NI’s Department for Communities to support creative practitioners in their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be a great help in making up for lost earnings this year, as well as giving me some breathing space to focus on new work, such as my new novel, which will be aimed at an adult audience. More on that to come in the months ahead!

Wedding poem

October was a busy month and it saw me read a very special poem at my brother, James’s, socially distanced wedding on October 23. He had asked me earlier this year if I would be able to write something for the ceremony and my final piece was an Elizabethan-style sonnet which I think he and his new wife, Leanne, both enjoyed! It’s been a while since I wrote any poetry so it was fun to work on this, especially for the occasion that it was for.

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Leon McCarron bottom centre

Our GC Book Club has been going strong on Zoom too and one perk of being online is that we’ve been able to have authors join us to chat about their work.

In September we had Leon McCarron pop in from England to chat about his travel book, The Land Beyond, while in October we were joined by Louise Beech, who chatted about her latest novel, I Am Dust, as well as her other work.

With Louise Beech (bottom right)

Our November read is a collection of nature essays – Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald – which I’m really looking forward to as well.

Other than that, I’ve been reading some other good books myself and filling a notebook with scribblings relating to my next novel, which is starting to take shape, albeit at a steady/slow pace. But I’m excited about it – the blurb would entice me to pick it up right away and I really like my story premise, so lets hope I can do it justice!

Anyway, more as I have it. Don’t forget to join us on Wednesday if you’re free! The beauty of Zoom is that you can pop in at any time, so come along if you can.

You can preorder the e-book here: https://amzn.to/35Xu1st

Paperbacks will be on sale from November 4.

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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. 🙂

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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. 🙂

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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. 🙂

 

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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. 🙂

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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! 🙂

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