Tag Archives: fiction

Bookish snippets…

The past couple of months have been filled with all sorts of bookish projects and shenanigans, hence the little blogging break… So, without further ado, here’s what’s been happening!

Big Telly Theatre project

Back in January I was one of various Northern Irish writers approached by Big Telly Theatre Company to submit a proposal for an exciting new project called Sea Gods, Shipwrecks and Sidhe Folk – Treasures of the Causeway. Fast-forward to February and I was delighted to hear that I’d been chosen as one of four NI writers to contribute to the project, those writers being myself, Jane Talbot, Moyra Donaldson and Dominic Montague.

Big telly

(L-R) Dominic, me, Jane, Zoe, Moyra, Linda and Wes

Essentially, we’ll be writing original stories about eight different sites along the Causeway Coast, using the archaeology and mythology of each for inspiration. The narratives will then be recorded by local actors, with an audio installation placed at the locations for visitors to enjoy. I’m working on a story linked to the Lissanduff earthworks/raths in Portballintrae, which is close to my home and a location I’m very familiar with. I’m looking forward to seeing all the stories come together soon!

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Since my last blog we’ve enjoyed two further GC Book Club meetings. January saw us chatting about our December/January reads – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by RL Stevenson. We scored the former 8.6/10 and the latter 6.9/10 (being very specific now by including the decimals!) We thought The Explorer was very well written, with strong, interesting characters and an original narrative, while Jekyll & Hyde was atmospheric and interesting, despite everyone obviously knowing the ending already.

For February, our selected book was a modern fantasy classic – Little, Big by John Crowley. Not everyone had finished this one as it’s very long, at over 500 pages, with very small font, but we went ahead and scored it anyway and it got a respectable 6/10. Personally, I loved this book and scored it 10/10 as I think the writing is rich and beautiful, the story infused with magic throughout and the narrative interesting and full of many threads which all kept me hooked. Anyway, for more on these books just click onto my Instagram account (linked to the right).

McGilloway

With Brian McGilloway

Our March read is a crime fiction novel by New York Times best-selling author, Brian McGilloway, who hails from Derry in Northern Ireland – Little Girl Lost. Details in the next few weeks on what we thought of it!

NOIReland Crime Fiction Festival

In keeping with our crime-themed book club read for March, myself and fellow book-clubber Julie went along to the launch event of the NOIReland Crime Fiction Festival at the Europa Hotel in Belfast at the beginning of March. I haven’t really read much crime since I was a teenager, but I’ve interviewed a fair few crime authors from NI over the years and I know lots of local writers, so we had a great time looking for (and photographing) authors at the launch.noireland

We were also gifted a free book (there were a few left over at the end, so we nabbed a second!) and the weekend itself seemed to have gone very well. On the way out, we bumped into none other than Brian McGilloway himself, so we had to get a wee snap with him too. 🙂

Phantom Phantasia at the Causeway Visitors’ Centre

On the day of the NOIReland launch, I also delivered a few boxes of my second middle grade novel Phantom Phantasia, to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, along with several more boxes of book one (Magical Masquerade).

It’s great that both books are now stocked in the shop, so if you’re visiting and want to pick up a copy of either, please do!Causeway shop

World Book Day dress-up!

Keeping with the books… I was delighted when a young local reader decided to dress up for World Book Day as the main character in MM and PP (Felicity Stone). I haven’t included her pic here but it’s over on my author FB page if you want to take a look. 🙂

Coffee shop writing…

Aside from all of that, I’ve also been writing odds and ends of poetry recently and also working on my next middle grade novel. In fact, I even decided to try a spot of writing in a local coffee shop back in February (not normally what I do at all, as it’s too noisy – and it was), and I discovered it had become fully dog-friendly. Ergo, my next few visits to Koko Coffee Shop in Portrush were with my pup and no more coffee shop writing was done!reuben

Coleraine library reopened

Unfortunately, lots of libraries are being forced to close or operate with reduced opening hours in the UK these days, but fortunately for us on the North Coast, Coleraine Library just recently reopened after what I believe was a £2.5m refurb. I haven’t used the library in years, as I do like to keep my books, but I’ve already been along twice now to borrow books and it’s been great! I’m very glad to see our local library being looked after.

Anyway, more as I have it. 🙂

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Writing reflections…

At this time of year, most people like to take stock of where they’ve been and where they intend to go in the next 12 months. I think it’s good practice to reflect on what you’ve achieved in the past year as, generally, it’s a heck of a lot more than what you thought.

In 2018, I managed to get book two out into the world, finishing the writing and editing of it earlier in the year and then launching it in October with a lovely book launch party at the Portrush Coastal Zone. img_2762

With regards to other bookish things, I was delighted to get Magical Masquerade stocked (and restocked a few times!) at the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre, after being accepted as a supplier by their buyers back in December 2017. I also took part in a Meet the Makers day at the centre in October. Meanwhile, MM was also stocked in Belfast bookshop, Books Paper Scissors.

Staying with the National Trust, I was very happy to be asked to host the new Giant’s Causeway Book Club around this time last year, which launched in June 2018 and is still going strong. (Our next meeting is Thursday, January 31st if you’re local and interested in coming along!). I also started my own BookTube channel, though this fell by the wayside a bit later in the year due to technical glitches… I’m not sure if I want to pour too much energy into this going forward, but with a new phone finally on its way to me (!) I might give it another go in the near future and see how it pans out. Watch this space. 🙂GC BOOK CLUB 2

Speaking of BookTube, I took part in an online magical realism writing workshop with the very talented Jen Campbell.  She’s a very skilled writer and editor and I do write a lot of magical realism, so it was great to get her feedback and advice on a new short story which I wrote for this. I don’t always make solid goals to achieve in the year but perhaps one that I would like to jot down for 2019 is to reinvest more in my writing over the next 12 months and do more things like this. I found this particular workshop well suited to me as feedback was provided over Skype and via email so there was no travel involved and it was more flexible. I took part in a group workshop so I also benefitted from seeing the feedback given to the other writers too. I fully believe, of course, that it’s important to get out to events and whatnot in person, but a mix of digital and in-person is good, I think!

I myself was invited to run a creative writing workshop in Crumlin for eight weeks, which I enjoyed doing during October/November last year. I also did some writing exercises with two classes of a local primary school as part of an author visit, which is always fun!

Alongside all of this I also took part in events at Waterstones in Coleraine, the Belfast Book Festival and Eastside Arts Festival, and became an Irish Writers’ Centre member and writing mentor. I received the final instalment of my Arts Council National Lottery grant towards the end of the year and I also saw my poem, written for a collection (Be Not Afraid) in memory of Seamus Heaney and accepted for publication back in about 2014/15, finally published in book form by Lapwing Publications. The project took a few years to get off the ground, but it was great to see everyone’s poems in the collection at last – and well worth the wait!Claire Savage, Bernie McGill and Margot McCuaig at Waterstones.

2018 ended with a nice surprise when MM was included on a KS2 map of middle-grade books across the UK, and the only NI-based book on the map. (See a few blogs back for that). And PP was also included in Books Ireland’s First Flush section of newly published Irish books.

So, all in all it was a good writing/bookish year (I also read 92 books and that doesn’t include my many rereads of Phantom Phantasia during the editing process!!). I won’t go into work-related achievements in terms of my copywriting business, as I think this post is quite long enough, but reading all this back I realise I achieved a lot more than I thought. Indeed, the intention of this post was to reflect on my author-related achievements last year as a means of realising that yes, I did actually achieve things (!) and also, with a view to thinking about what I’d like to achieve this year.

At Christmas, I decided in the end to take a break from writing and simply indulged in a lot more reading… e.g. I finally read the complete Harry Potter series (I only read the first few books over 20 years ago so it was long overdue that I read all seven!). heaney anthology

Although I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on writing-wise this year, I did have an idea for a story back in October/November, and had made some notes re that. However, nothing progressed with it until a couple of weeks ago, when I just took out my notebook one night and started scribbling. (This was around 11pm of course, and I ended up writing on into the night a bit… Always the night owl!)

I do still want to look at writing some short stories and poetry again this year, but for the meantime, this story is now underway and yes, it is novel-shaped. 🙂 Whether or not anything becomes of it is another thing – I like the story that I’m writing so that’s really all I need to write it. However, despite having enjoyed the independent publishing process with MM and PP, if I decide I want to pursue publication, this time around I may look into pursuing the traditional route. We shall see. Early stages…

Other than that, last year I started another bookish project which unfortunately I can’t tell you about, but which is still being worked on as we speak, so my hope is that at some point in the near future I can share details about that… It’s quite a beast of a project, so again, we shall see, but if all goes well, it promises to be very exciting.

I think that’s all for now. Nothing like a bit of an essay to start off the blogging for 2019… More as I have it. 🙂

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Festive writing wrap-up …

Christmas is drawing ever closer and for me, that means one thing (in terms of my writing life) – time to get stuck into the scribbling of stories… But first, a catch-up, as I realise I haven’t blogged since just after the launch of Phantom Phantasia back in October!Port PS 1

Portstewart PS visit

As I think I mentioned previously, I was invited along to Portstewart Primary School on November 8, when I spent time with the two P6 classes, reading from my books and doing writing exercises with the pupils.

We created characters and wrote stories and I was impressed with what they came up with – and just how much they read. Port PS 2
The school also has its own lovely library, as well as its very own radio station, so the pupils also get experience in interviewing guests and being mini journalists, which I think is just great!

Crumlin creative writers Crumlin

November 20, meanwhile, saw the final creative writing workshop with the writers in Crumlin, who also produced some good writing over the eight weeks of the course.

They very kindly showered me with gifts at the end, and I gave my own parting presents – a book each (from the local second-hand book shop) – to inspire them in their reading and future writing.

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubExplorer

The last Thursday of November saw our final meeting of the Giant’s Causeway Book Club until after Christmas and we ended on a high, as our November read managed to score highest out of all the books we’ve read since June.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge is a great book – and one I think everyone should pick up – so I’m glad it went down so well and that it ranked highest out of our book choices this year.Jekyll

For December/January we’re reading the multi-award-winning middle-grade novel, The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell as well as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by RL Stevenson (which we picked from a ‘hat’ out of various classics). Jekyll and Hyde is a very short read, but that’s maybe a good thing, with two books to discuss at our January meeting!

Books Ireland listingBooks Ireland

Back to my own books… and it was great to see that Books Ireland magazine included Phantom Phantasia in its ‘First Flush’ section of new Irish books published in the November/December issue.

I love the cover of this edition and am very pleased to see PP inside. 🙂

KS2 book map!

As well as this, I was delighted to discover that Magical Masquerade has been included on a KS2 literary location map alongside various other middle-grade titles – including books from a few authors who are just a BIT better known that me…like Philip Pullman, for example!

I’m listed on this currently as being Belfast-based, but the story takes place a little further up the country – on the Causeway Coast. However, the main thing is that MM is on the map, so big thanks to the guys for including it.

KS2 mapThe map has kindly been compiled by Mr A, Mr C and Mr D – three primary school TES-recommended authors who create educational songs and resources for this age-group. If you’d like to download it for free for your classroom/school, then you can access it here: https://bit.ly/2BdJ4yv

Christmas scribbling…

If you’ve read either Magical Masquerade or Phantom Phantasia then it would be lovely if you left a wee review of the book/s over on Amazon. You don’t need to have purchased them online (I know various local readers bought theirs at the book launches) and a few words is more than adequate – you don’t need to write loads (unless you want to!). I just thought I’d mention that, as it all helps! Also, if you want to gift one to a young (or older) reader for Christmas, that’d be great also. 🙂dfw-cs-group-nologo

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write after PP came out, but inspiration strikes when you least expect it and a few weeks ago I had a bit of an idea for a new story… So, I’ve been scribbling down some notes and plotting a bit, which I hope to build on over Christmas, with a view to getting some writing done. That’s the plan anyway!

I’ve sort of let my earlier tradition of writing a festive short story at Christmas slide a little the past year or two, but who knows – perhaps the mood will take me to write one this year. We will see.

More as I have it. 🙂

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All about books

It’s been a busy old summer so far and I’ve lots to share with you all, as there have been lots of bookish goings-on which I should have been blogging about!

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubGC book club 1

First up, the Giant’s Causeway Book Club has enjoyed two meet-ups since last we spoke, with the next taking place on Thursday, August 30 at the Causeway Hotel (7.30-9pm). Our first book was Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things which we scored an average rating of 4.5 out of 10 (with scores ranging from 6 to 3/4). The general consensus was that it was a light summery read but maybe a bit too neatly tied up for our readers and perhaps a little too schmaltzy. We also wanted more about the lost objects and their stories!

GC book club 2]Our second book was this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which scored a bit higher at 5/10 (we’re hard to please, lol). Generally, it seemed to divide our group – most felt frustrated by the main character Arthur Less and a bit perplexed by his actions, but we felt he sort of redeemed himself by the end of the story. I quite enjoyed this myself, as I like reading books about authors and I enjoyed his travelling escapades. The scores fluctuated from 2-9 though, so you can see how much people differed in their opinions! iam

Our August read is a book by one of my favourite authors, Maggie O’Farrell, and it is of course her memoir, I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. I’m hoping this will go down much better, but we shall see! If you’re local to the North Coast and want to come and chat about it on August 30, then do! Sign-up details are over on the Giant’s Causeway Facebook event page for the book club here.

Tishani Doshi reading

Tishani

In June I enjoyed a reading and dance performance at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre in Bellaghy where poet/author/dancer Tishani Doshi read from her latest poetry collection, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods. 

I’d heard good things about the collection on YouTube and having now read it, it certainly didn’t disappoint. These are very topical poems and very relevant to women (and men) everywhere – definitely worth a read.

Magical realism workshop

I love reading magical realism literature and some of my own short stories for adults are within this genre. With my next children’s novel, Phantom Phantasia, now complete, I’m now planning to write more short stories again and so, I decided to book myself into Jen Campbell’s online magical realism short story workshop. (You can find out more about Jen here: http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk/)

I really enjoy Jen’s BookTube channel and also, her writing, so I knew this would be a very useful workshop and so it was. I took part in a group workshop, which basically meant that she sent us all some exercises to work on, along with writing our own short story, and then we had a Skype chat afterwards, where we received line edits on our work and general writing feedback. I found this very useful and it was also nice to read the rest of the group’s work. I would definitely recommend her workshops and might do more of them myself in the future!

Irish Writers’ Centre self-publishing workshopScreenshot (6)

Speaking of workshops, I was delighted to be asked by the Irish Writers’ Centre to deliver a workshop in the autumn on marketing for self-published authors. This is an all-day event at the IWC in Dublin, with the morning session covering the A-Z of SP with Castrum Press. I will then deliver the afternoon session on marketing, so it should be an all-round informative day! If you’re interested in self-publishing, are in the process of self-publishing, or have already published books and want to keep learning, then this is for you.

The link to book is here: https://irishwriterscentre.ie/collections/all-courses/products/mindshift-the-art-of-self-publishing-day

Magical Masquerade at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

NT BOOK CLUB 4I also had some exciting news – or rather, I was able at last to share exciting news that I’d been sitting on since last December – in July as well. Which is to say, having submitted Magical Masquerade to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre buyers last September, the order for the books finally came through and it is now sitting pretty on the visitor centre shelves. 🙂

This makes me very happy as MM takes place in and around the landscape of the Causeway and indeed, the Giant’s Causeway also features at the end of the book. It’s the perfect place for it to be and it’s great to have the book supported in this way by the GC team.

Visitor centre

Visitor Centre

I’m also very happy to have a few copies in the lovely independent bookshop, Books Paper Scissors, on the Stranmillis Road, Belfast too, which is great. Again, big thanks to them for also supporting MM!

Eastside Arts Festival reading

Moving on to Phantom Phantasia, the sequel to MM, I did my first public reading from this last week at the Eastside Arts Festival in Belfast, as part of the Women Aloud NI Prose, Poetry and Pastries event. I think it went down well… It was certainly nice to read from it at last! There was a great mixture of readers at this event, including poetry, short stories, novel extracts and the like, and it was lovely to hear such an array of talent from a wide range of local women writers. 🙂

Phantom Phantasia update

dfw-cs-pp-cover-large

Which brings me to my latest update on novel number two aka Phantom Phantasia. I’m pleased to say that I have now confirmed the book launch venue – which is on the north coast and is the location I was really hoping to get! More details on that soon, but it is a perfect place for the launch, in my opinion!

I also now have my cover quote and have sent the book off to have the interior professionally formatted and laid out (I tried my best again – what can I say – but you just need someone who knows what they’re doing to get these things sorted properly!). So, once that is done and I get my cover back with quote inserted, I can order my physical book proofs and then get cracking with the next stage.

I’ve provisionally set the launch for the beginning of October, so hopefully this will still be ok. Shipping books from the US eats up weeks but I think I’m still just about on track! More on that as I have it…

Heaney poetry anthologyheaney anthology

My last piece of writing news is a lovely note to end on, I think. About four years ago, shortly after Seamus Heaney’s death, a call-out was made for poets to contribute poems in memory of – and celebrating – Seamus Heaney, for an anthology to be published in his memory. As with any project like this, it took a lot of hard work by the editors – Angela Topping, Bethany Pope and Grant Tabard – to pull everything together. They sought permission from the Heaney family to go ahead with the anthology, which was granted, and although the original intended publisher was unable to take things forward in the end, Dennis Greig from Belfast-based Lapwing Publications very kindly stepped in to publish the collection.

Suffice it to say, the anthology – entitled Be Not Afraid: An Anthology – is now available to purchase, with official book launches in the pipeline – both in Northern Ireland and also in London, I believe. I’m delighted to be one of the contributors in this anthology and am awaiting with anticipation my copy in the post as we speak. If you’d like to order a copy then you can do so here: https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/editors-angela-topping-bethany-pope-grant-tarbard

Anyway, I think that is all my news for now! I’m also working on a few other things which I will share at a later date, including some writing workshops and whatnot, so hopefully I can tell you about those in the near future.

More as I have it. 🙂

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Celebrating women writers

International Women’s Day events

This time last week I was in the midst of celebrating International Women’s Day with a collection of women writers from the North Coast, so this week, I thought I’d reflect on how it all went.

Claire Savage, Bernie McGill and Margot McCuaig at Waterstones.

With Bernie McGill and Margot McCuaig.

 

All of the writers taking part were members of Women Aloud NI, which you will know all about if you read this blog regularly but if not, just click the linked text above. Basically, it aims to raise the profile of women writers from Northern Ireland and last week’s events are one example of how this is done.

Anyway, we gathered at Waterstones Coleraine, where the staff once again kindly hosted us for the afternoon, talking about our work and sharing it with members of the public by reading short extracts. First up was a panel discussion entitled A Sense of Place which saw myself and Portstewart author Bernie McGill discuss how the local landscape has influenced our work with Glasgow-based filmmaker and novelist, Margot McCuaig. Margot splits her time between Scotland and Rathlin Island on the North Coast, where she has her roots, and is also heavily inspired by the rugged landscape on this northerly part of Ireland.

Back (L-R) Claire Savage, Elaine Donnelly, Antoinette Bradley, Hilary McCollum, Anne McMaster, Bernie McGill, Yvonne Boyle. Front (L-R) Julie Agnew, Mandy Taggart and Jane Talbot.

Some of the read-a-thon crew.

 

It was great to have the opportunity to chat about this and to hear from Margot and Bernie about their writing processes, but of course, all too soon, our time was up and it was on to the next event – a read-a-thon filled with everything from poetry and prose, to memoir and travel writing.

If you’ve never been to a read-a-thon before then you really should give it a go as it provides a flavour of a wide variety of writing and introduces you to lots of great new work. We each read from our work for up to five minutes, with timing carefully controlled by Women Aloud NI director, Jane Talbot. It was lovely to see a healthy crowd assembled for each of the events and hopefully, some of them will have been inspired to look up one or more of the writers in attendance and check out their work.

Magical Masquerade in the library

Claire reading

Reading from MM.

Women Aloud is a great support for women writers and, as well as our public Facebook page, we also have a private members group, where we can chat about all sorts of writing-related things. And so it was that, during a chat last week about getting books stocked in our local libraries, I was reminded that my own book is available in branches throughout Northern Ireland and I’ve never really told anyone about it!

You may recall that I took part in a Dublin Book Festival event last November, which was held at Portstewart Library. Libraries NI very kindly bought in 35 copies of Magical Masquerade, which were given to a class to read before the event. Those copies were subsequently dispersed throughout the Libraries NI branches so, if you’d like to have a read, then please do call in and pick up a copy! And … if your branch doesn’t have any, then feel free to request that they get some in. 🙂

The sequel…

Which brings me onto the next instalment of Felicity’s adventures. Writing is continuing to progress with NN2 (Novel Number 2) and I’m on the downward slope to completion of the first draft. My aim is to be typing up the completed handwritten manuscript in April, which will see the first cycle of editing, as I find that once you start typing it up, you make little changes along the way. Once typed, it will then rest a while, before the serious editing, re-editing and, well, editing again commences.

The story has taken another turn recently into an area that I just hadn’t predicted and to me, this is all part of the joy of writing. I know my destination, but my pen continues to present me with fabulous new ways of getting there. (Well, I hope they’re fabulous – at the minute, I certainly think so anyway, but we will see what future editing Claire says!)

Bits and pieces

Other than that, I’m very busy reading and yes, I managed to upload a couple of BookTube videos recently, so you can watch those here if you feel so inclined: http://bit.ly/2HBVYbv 

I may also be getting involved in another exciting bookish project, but more on that if it comes to fruition… Apologies for being cryptic but I’ll let you know when I know more myself!Culture NI pic

And … if you missed it, or are interested, I interviewed NI Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepf, and also wrote a little about my own path to becoming a published author for Culture NI recently, as part of its creative careers initiative for Creativity Month this March, so you can read that here: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/features/literature/why-theres-no-right-way-becoming-writer

Think that’s all for now! 🙂

 

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A very bookish winter…

As the year finally begins to wind down, I’m looking forward to lots of things this holiday season – and most of them involve books; both the reading and the writing of. Also, however, the gifting of, as I’m taking part in a little Secret Santa with a few fellow writers from the Women Aloud NI group, and am of course giving some books to a few family members too.

Book gifting…

On the subject of book gifting, forgive me if I just add in here that, if you have a young reader (9-12) who loves magical adventure stories, then my own book, Magical Masquerade, will still arrive with you before Christmas if you order it on Amazon this week or next! The link to purchase is here if you’re interested: http://amzn.to/2AriG3s  🙂

Reading chapter one…MM chapt 1

Also, if you’d like to get a little taster of what MM is like, then I recorded myself reading chapter one last week over on my YouTube channel, which you can view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN3YK_JFl4U&t=170s

Memento gift shop

A few copies of MM are also now available at Memento gift shop in Portrush, which is just lovely, and Maggie who runs the shop has displayed it very nicely in the window and in the kids’ section.

Memento shelf

Arts Council NI Christmas Gift Guide for 2017

I was also delighted to see that Damian Smyth, head of literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, included Magical Masquerade on his bookish gift guide for 2017. There are a wealth of talented authors on this list, so I was very chuffed to see myself alongside them! More ideas for gifting if you’re that way inclined…

You can read the full list/article here: http://artscouncil-ni.org/blog/christmas-gift-guide-books

Writing update

Other than that, there isn’t very much else to update you on this month. I’ve been finishing up some work projects and writing bits and pieces of book two, but I’m really going to get my teeth into that next week, when I take my Christmas holidays at last (I work pretty much throughout the year so my main holiday is at Christmas… when I end up writing anyway, though it is fiction rather than copywriting 🙂 ).

I’m pleased with the way the story is going, although I have to just keep on with it and resist the temptation to refine it as I go along. At this stage, it’s just all about getting that first draft on the page, and then the fun of editing and rewriting can begin. Notebook one is almost filled!Memento window

Review!

I’ve had some great reviews from young and older readers alike about MM throughout the year, but I thought I’d just share the most recent one from Amazon with you below, as it’s a lovely example of how the story can resonate with a child even if they don’t read it themselves. 🙂

‘An exciting, stimulating read’

‘I just finished reading this book to my seven-year-old and I have never seen her so carried away by a story.

‘The novel has a strong and simple structure, where each chapter is a new episode in Felicity’s journey, usually involving meeting a new character. The different settings and characters are richly imagined and provide constant contrast and fresh challenges for Felicity. I liked the little touches of Irish folklore. Felicity also makes friendships along the way, which gets the child reader even more emotionally invested.

‘My daughter was wowed by the revelation at the end of the story. All in all, an exciting, stimulating read for the younger age group.’

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Hallowe’en happenings…

This spooky season has brought with it a fair few surprises and treats (thankfully, not too many tricks!), the first being that I’ve gone and launched myself on YouTube as a BookTuber! (Of sorts…)

I explain it all in the video (which, yes, was done on Movie Maker and could be better quality but I’ll get to that later. For now, it’s just about trying something new and getting the content out there.) but essentially, I discovered BookTubing earlier this year and have been following a few channels since then. I enjoy the book recommendations and the general relaxed fun and good spirit of it all, so I decided I wanted to give it a go myself.

The end result is this: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOkAIMwEnXrX4j5FieCdePQ/videos

(Check it out if you can; like and subscribe as you wish!)

SBOOKY Hallowe’en Festival 2017 

St Joseph's College Derry

St Joseph’s College pupils.

As well as my BookTubing efforts, October also saw me deliver five creative writing workshops as part of the SBOOKY Hallowe’en Festival in Derry – a book-themed festival aimed at getting kids reading and writing, which I really enjoyed. There are more photos over on my author FB page (link to the right!), and details on the schools I visited (Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, St Columba’s PS, Sacred Heart PS, St Joseph’s College and a group of kids who are part of the Verbal Arts Centre’s Reading Rooms project).

The festival was organised by the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry and extended into the Hallowe’en weekend, with events taking place in the city’s Easons store and throughout Foyleside Shopping Centre.

It was a bit of a baptism by fire for me in one way, delivering so many workshops in a short space of time (and asked to do so just the week before), but I really enjoyed meeting all the pupils and was very impressed with their reading and the stories and poems they produced in the workshops.

Arts Council Northern Ireland AwardPrint

With the SBOOKY Festival just over (for me anyway!), some more good news then arrived in the form of a letter of offer from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for a General Art Award. Supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, I’ll use the award funding to draft my second novel (the follow-up to MM) and to create a support structure for Magical Masquerade.

Some of my fellow Women Aloud NI writers also received awards through the scheme, so it was great news all round!

Off to Dublin Book Festival 

dfw-cs-mm-cover-3d-nologoIn between all of this, the Dublin Book Festival bookshop, which is run by The Gutter Bookshop, contacted me to say they want to stock copies of MM during the festival, so I’m hot-footing it down there tomorrow to deliver said books and hopefully also to have a wee coffee at the recently refurbished Bewley’s Grafton Street Coffee Shop, as I always call in when I’m in town and I haven’t been there since it reopened. 🙂

My own DBF event takes place in Portstewart next Friday, so it’s wonderful to have my book included in the official festival bookshop while the rest of the events are going on in Dublin itself. Hopefully they will all find a new home while they’re there!

Spooky short (very short!) story for DBF

Some of the DBF writers, including myself, also wrote some spooky stories for Hallowe’en, which are now up on the DBF website here: http://www.dublinbookfestival.com/category/news/welcome-2015/spooky-tales-by-irish-writers/

Short story on Lagan Online

Lagan Online also published one of my short stories here last month: http://laganonline.co/new-writing-claire-savage-field-mice/

Bodies, Belonging and Borders…FullSizeRender (25)

A cross-border reading tour funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Bodies, Belonging and Borders features two of my fellow Women Alouders NI, who have both recently been published by Doire Press – Kelly Creighton with her book of short stories, Bank Holiday Hurricane, and Emma McKervey with her debut poetry collection, The Rag Tree Speaks.

I’ve already read Kelly’s book, which I thoroughly enjoyed – it’s a really gritty collection filled with beautiful language and straight-talking stories, with some interweaving between characters across the book. I’m just currently reading Emma’s poetry collection, which I’m also loving – so stay tuned for more on that! FullSizeRender (24)

Both Kelly and Emma will be appearing at Waterstones Coleraine on Saturday, November 18 at 2pm (and admission is FREE!), so I’ll definitely be along to that and will no doubt blog (and maybe also vlog…)about it. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, do come along. 🙂

I think that’s everything for now… With the Arts Council NI’s National Lottery grant I will definitely be getting stuck into writing book number two from hereon in, so I’ll be doing updates about that, and no doubt there’ll be other stuff along the way as well!

More as I have it. 🙂

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Autumn update

It’s been almost a month since I last posted on here and I see that that last post was all about my Culture Night Belfast event! Well, unfortunately, I’ve had to pull out of that for personal reasons, but having had a tumultuous August, I’m hoping for calmer months ahead as we ease into my favourite seasons of autumn and winter… Perfect for writing, don’t you think?FullSizeRender

Book two is still very much in the planning stages, as life cannot help but get in the way sometimes and more important things at home have demanded my full attention of late. However, I can report that back at the beginning of August, before everything ‘went off’ at home (basically, if you don’t follow me on social media, then the short version of this story is that my dog took extremely ill), I had a very positive meeting with the Senior Children’s Services Manager at Libraries NI, who loved Magical Masquerade – both the story and the physical look/production of the book. This was brilliant to hear, as you’ll know my thoughts on SP books if you’re a regular reader of my blog – I think they should be as well put together and as well-written as any traditionally published book, so when professionals say that mine ticks all the boxes, it’s a real delight. 🙂

I also just dropped a copy off with a purchasing manager at a top tourist location, who was interested in potentially stocking MM, so we’ll see how that goes…

Suffice it to say, while I haven’t had time to blog of late, I have still been doing bits and pieces with the book! I’ve also been doing a good bit of reading too, and am hoping to get some events lined up for the future with MM.

More as I have it!

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Author on air!

Following on from my last post a couple of weeks ago, I can now tell you that my NVTV interview will be broadcast this evening (Sunday, July 23) on the Novel Ideas programme at 7.15pm. It’s on Freeview Channel 7 (just retune your Freeview if you don’t yet have NVTV!), and it’s also available on Virgin and online. You can find out more on the NVTV website here: http://www.nvtv.co.uk/schedule/

I’ve already seen the preview of this and I’m really happy with how they’ve put it all together – though it’s always weird watching yourself and seeing how you come across to other people!! Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing that, then feel free to have a wee look, and I’ll post a link to it afterwards in case you miss it. 🙂IMG_1966

Aside from that, I enjoyed an afternoon at Flowerfield Arts Centre yesterday in Portstewart, as part of the first of two open days at the centre over the summer. There was a brilliant turnout for this, with people picnicking out on the lawns and listening to the live music, kids playing in the park, and all sorts of other things going on inside and out. I was on hand to do some reading from Magical Masquerade, and flitted from the Storytelling Chair outside by the park, to the gallery inside, while there were also a couple of wandering poets, plus face-painters, crafters, a teddy bear hospital and more.

It was a lovely way to encourage people to use the centre more and make it their own, and it was great to be asked to take part as a local author! FullSizeRender (3)

The summer has been a little hectic so far, with one thing and another, and I do find anyway that I’m better suited to writing in the darker days of autumn/winter for some reason (!) but I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently, and I’m also still planning my next little project … In the meantime, I’ve acquired a few more notebooks which need filling, so I’d better get onto that! 😉

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Author appearances…

In my last post I mentioned some upcoming interviews and events … Well, I’m happy to report that I have since visited Northern Visions TV (NVTV) in Belfast to take part in their Novel Ideas programme. 19510322_817633191734311_6052347708625643068_n

NVTV is a local TV station which streams online as well as on Freeview and Virgin (check their website at the link above for specific channels), so I was delighted when Debbie McGrory asked me to come along and chat to her abut my writing and Magical Masquerade. I’m told the interview should air sometime in July, as there’s about a three-week turnaround on these, so I’ll keep you posted as to when it’s available for viewing!

It was an interesting experience in many ways, not least in seeing what goes on behind the scenes during the recording process. As a print journalist I’ve never really worked with cameras etc. so I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the practicalities of it all. Let’s just say – I have a renewed appreciation for people who make programmes or films of any kind as there was a lot of equipment and a lot of work involved just to record one author!

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Aside from chatting with Debbie, I also had the opportunity to read a little extract from Magical Masquerade as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing how everything is edited together for the final programme.

Flowerfield Arts Centre Open Day event

Flowerfield

 

In other news, I’m excited to say that I’ll be taking part in Flowerfield Arts Centre’s open day in Portstewart on Saturday, July 22. This is the first of two open days at the centre, and will include everything from a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, to pottery fun and lots more – including a little storytelling from myself, as I’ll be taking up residence on the Storytelling Chair (if it’s sunny… if it rains I’ll be inside!) to read from Magical Masquerade and answer any questions the kids have about the book or writing in general. I’m looking forward to this as I’m keen to do more events up on the north coast, where I live, and it sounds like a fun afternoon!

You can check out details on the Flowerfield event page for this here: https://www.facebook.com/events/313629819090667/

Books Ireland article and listing19732063_822271447937152_8027612305948428255_n

Yesterday, I was also delighted to receive my copy of Books Ireland Magazine in the post, a publication which features news and reviews of Irish books, and supports Irish writing in general. I wrote an opinion piece on my self-publishing journey to date and Magical Masquerade is also featured in the First Flush section of the magazine, which lists all books published in Ireland within the past two months.

It’s great to see a publication like this supporting all writers – both traditionally and self-published – and I was happy to see that MM was deemed of good quality and design in the First Flush section (which doesn’t review the books listed but records the readership they’re aimed at and remarks on the overall quality of each book).19905148_822271521270478_431312977935644621_n

Plotting and planning…

Aside from this… I’ve been working on some other things in relation to book number two, though life has got in the way a bit over the past couple of weeks, so writing hasn’t really had a look-in for various reasons (other than the day job). That being said, however, I’m still plotting and planning away and looking forward to what might come next. 🙂

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