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Bookish wrap-up and review

This month I have an addition of a short book review, so I’ll try to keep the rest of the blog short!

Big Telly Theatre project

First up, May saw the first professional read-through of my story for Big Telly Theatre (see previous couple of posts for more details on that). Essentially, this means that some local actors gathered together with myself, the Big Telly team and the other writers involved with the project to read through our work ahead of the audio recordings which will follow later on this year. It was great to hear the other stories for the first time, as well as listening to people reading my own work aloud.

We brainstormed feedback on each piece of writing and discussed some other things relating to the overall project too. I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the end, so more details as I have them!

Riverside Readings at Ulster UniversityMD

One of the writers involved with the Big Telly project is poet Moyra Donaldson, and she’s also just launched her latest poetry collection, Carnivorous, performing readings across NI with fellow Doire Press poet, Glen Wilson.

While Moyra was unable to make the reading at Ulster University in May, we were still able to enjoy hearing her poetry, which was kindly read by poets Stephanie Conn and Kathleen McCracken. We also heard Glen reading work from his debut collection, An Experience on the Tongue.GlenW

It’s always great getting out to meet and hear from other writers and especially good when it’s so close to home, so this was a lovely afternoon.

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Our book clubbers met last night to discuss our May read, which was The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland. This medieval thriller scored a fairly respectable 6/10 – I think most of the group felt that it was missing ‘something’ but our discussion revolved around lots of things we liked about it, so I think it went down better than the scoring reflects! Personally, I found it a page-turner and I enjoyed the story and the multiple narratives, which allowed the reader to see from various viewpoints and gave an insight into each of the main characters.June FB cover

Our June reads are the play, Peter and Alice, by John Logan (performed in 2013 by Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw), along with Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Everyone was keen to read this after our April book choice of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit so we decided to read this as well. They’re short books, so will be easily read in a month!

Pan’s Labyrinth book review* (*contains spoilers)Pan

And so, to the book review! I’m a big fan of the film, Pan’s Labyrinth, by Guillermo del Toro so when I discovered there was a novel of this due out in the summer, I just had to ask for an ARC. Thankfully, the lovely publicity people at Bloomsbury Publishing sent me out a review copy and I subsequently devoured it over a couple of days…

First up, the book is being published on July 2 and you can pre-order a copy at the link below if you so wish (or click if you just want to find out more about it): https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/pans-labyrinth-9781526609557/

And so, to the review.

For those who, like myself, enjoyed the Pan’s Labyrinth film, no introduction is needed as to what the story is about. However, if you haven’t seen the film then, essentially, it’s a deliciously dark fairy tale (for adults) set in Spain after the civil war. The year is 1944 and the Resistance has fled to the forests. Our main character, a young girl called Ofelia, moves to an old mill beside one such forest, as her widowed mother has married an army captain who wants her with him when she gives birth to their son (and no, not because he loves her…) When they arrive, Ofelia quickly discovers there’s more to the place than meets the eye, including fairies, a faun and a whole hidden world to which she’s told she belongs and can return to – an underground kingdom where she’s a princess…

There’s more, but we’ll discuss that as we go. I really like the story and on the whole, I enjoyed the novel, which is written by both Guillermo del Toro and children’s author, Cornelia Funke (of Inkheart fame). Each section is preceded by a myth which weaves in the story of the underground princess, Moana, along with other tales which tie in with what’s happening with Ofelia in the present-day. The fairies lead her to a faun who explains that she must complete three tasks to prove she is truly Princess Moana and so return to the underground realm. This involves facing a giant toad who lives in the roots of a huge tree, as well as the terrifying child-eater, or Pale Man, and finally, sacrificing an innocent.

The myths fill in the background to these tasks, explaining their significance to the reader and I think they work well in the book. There are also beautiful illustrations at the beginning of each section, which are always nice to have!

Although I haven’t watched the film for a few years, I could easily picture the scenes from that as I read the book and to my mind, I didn’t come across any material which was truly ‘new’. I had understood that the book would contain a more fleshed-out narrative but in my opinion, it was all as expected. This is completely fine, of course, except that the promo says the book has ‘expansive original material’. On reflection, this may simply refer to the fact that as a novel and not a script, the material is freshly written, but for some reason I thought there might be added layers to the story which I just didn’t find.Pan2

I haven’t read many books by multiple authors and I think that on this occasion, it may have affected the flow of the writing. Personally (and of course, this entire review is made up of my own personal opinions, so make of them as you wish), I found the overuse of the words ‘for sure’ fairly irritating and in every instance (my inner editor says), they could have been cut. I found that they disrupted the flow of the writing and it may seem a minor thing, but for this reader, it irked.

That being said, there was lots of the writing that I liked, for example:

‘Her mother said fairy tales didn’t have anything to do with the world, but Ofelia knew better. They had taught her everything about it.’

I thing fairy tales help us to understand the world and our place in it and I like how fantasy is used here to reflect the world back at us and Ofelia.

‘But men don’t hear what the trees say. They have forgotten how to listen to the wild things…’

On occasion, there are pieces of writing which I felt could have been reworked to keep in with the old ‘show, don’t tell’ aspect of writing. For example, when Capitan Vidal is listening to playful music, do we need to be told in black and white that ‘It gave away that cruelty and death were a dance for him.’ ?? To me, it’s unnecessary, as the simple juxtaposition of the cruel Vidal shaving himself while listening to the light-hearted music shows us this without the need to spell it out. Sometimes, subtlety is lacking.

However, we always dwell on the negatives, don’t we, and while there are a few things which snagged me while reading, I did read the book very quickly (always a good sign!) and enjoyed doing so. It’s always difficult reading a book after having seen the film and in this rather unusual case, the film preceded the writing of the book. However, if you enjoyed the film then you’ll most certainly enjoy the novel and as I was reading a proof copy, who knows, perhaps those pesky ‘for sure’s will have vanished by the time of publication… 🙂

All in all, Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun does exactly what you would hope it to do, delivering a dark fairy tale which is packed full of myth, magic and murderous men… NB I definitely found it easier to read about the Capitan’s violence than I did watching these more gory aspects of the story on film (but that’s just me!) and I would point out, for those unfamiliar with the story, that this is not a book for kids.

If I was to give it a star rating out of five then I think for me, it’s a solid four. It has all the ingredients of a great fairy tale and is a compelling story which is always moving swiftly onwards, with everything from magical creatures to rebel fighters and of course, a young girl trying to find her way home.

 

 

 

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Balancing the books…

Being a bookworm and a writer goes hand-in-hand. Reading improves writing and exposes you to all sorts of wonderful wordplay, language styles and ideas. It makes you more empathetic and widens your vocabulary and, as a self-confessed bookworm myself, I have to say, it’s my favourite hobby.

However, as a writer, it can’t just be all about the reading – one needs to actually write, too, and over the past few months I’ve found myself consumed more with the former than the latter. I read on average 8-10 books a month but have also managed to write half a novel since the New Year, so it’s not that I’m not writing, it’s just that I think I need to balance my books a little bit better – i.e. spend as much time writing my own book as I’m investing in reading other peoples’.

If my day job wasn’t also being a professional copywriter/journalist then I think this would be much easier to do. I’ve reflected on here before about how the mind often just needs a rest from writing when you’ve been doing it all day long. My novel-writing and whatnot happens in the in-between times, like most writers – squeezed in before bedtime, or on a lunch break; perhaps on a Sunday afternoon or in a snatched hour between other work/chores etc. As with reading, writing comes from making the time to do it. I don’t ‘find’ time and I certainly don’t have oodles more of it than anyone else – we all have busy lives – but if I want to keep being a writer, then I prioritise it above other things.

David Mitchell at Heaney HomeplaceDavid Mitchell

Of course, sometimes we just need a kick up the backside when we feel complacent in our work, and being around other writers helps with that. Indeed, one of my favourite authors – who is a superb writer – said the same himself on Saturday, when I saw him in conversation at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy. David Mitchell had just taken the Homeplace tour, which documents Seamus Heaney’s life and work, and said he felt humbled by the sheer volume of work Heaney had produced, as well as its excellence. He joked that it made him want to run home and get some work done, adding that being around other writers and attending events etc. are good motivators for getting your own writing done.

It’s easy to forget that even very talented and accomplished authors like Mitchell still need that inspiration/motivation and that, just like any writer, they fret about the quality of their work and how it will be received. Poised to send his latest manuscript (which is about music and takes place in the late Sixties) to his publishers, Mitchell told us that he was nervous about what they would think of it, particularly as he always tries to make each book markedly different from the last. To give readers the same thing over and over again would be, he said, unfair to them, so he constantly challenges himself to reinvent his writing with every book (rather like Queen, if we stick with the music theme! They have a distinctive sound but always sought to create something totally different with each album, sidestepping the formulaic). DM books

I think this reinvention is certainly evident in Mitchell’s books and is something which I, as a reader, enjoy, along with his writing style, which can be very poetic and always conjures up vibrant imagery and ideas. I always tend to describe his stories as ‘sprawling’ (in a good way), as they weave together so many different threads to create writing which is rich and intense and very exciting to read.

As someone who’s always working on various copywriting and other creative writing projects, I like the variety in my work and, by the time I finish writing a manuscript or even a short story, I’m generally looking ahead to the next project. So, it was reassuring to hear that Mitchell, too (and other writers I know) have the same compulsion. He jokingly likened it to being “in the final throes of a decaying marriage” – or something to that effect. Make of that what you will! In all seriousness, however, once a longer-form piece of work is finished, you’ve already spent so much time working on it that it’s only natural to relish the thought of getting stuck into something new. Variety, after all, is what keeps us sane. 🙂

The skill of any good writer is, of course, to make their work appear effortless and Mitchell’s readings at Saturday’s event demonstrated this perfectly as he shared some very lyrical lines with us. The final polished piece shows no sign of the word-whittling and tweaking; of the deletions and additions and the rewritings and rewritings and rewritings …

All in all, it was a great event and one which I had been particularly looking forward to for a while. It was lovely to get all my books signed afterwards too, and to have a chat with the man himself. Homeplace always has a great programme of events (all-year-round), so if you’re in NI and a bookworm, do check it out!

Giant’s Causeway Book Cluboranges

Last week also saw our latest meet-up of the Giant’s Causeway Book Club, where we discussed Jeanette Winterson’s novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. We scored the book 7/10 and enjoyed it so much that we now all want to read her actual autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, which we will do very soon!

I would describe Oranges as ‘faction’ – a blend of fact with fiction – and I found it very quick to read and very enjoyable. Indeed, I intend to reread it, as it gives you a lot to think about, despite it being rather a short book, and has a wide range of themes, symbols and whatnot woven throughout which I’d like to ponder a bit more.

I was surprised that it actually focused more on Jeanette’s (the protagonist is also called Jeanette) general life growing up with Pentecostal parents as opposed to her later coming out, which is of course featured, but doesn’t dominate the novel as much as I thought it would. With Jeanette trying to make sense of her life as she grows up by writing fairy tales and myths, the book is punctuated with these stories of hers – something which, when you understand what she’s doing, really adds to the overall story (for me, anyway. I know this element jarred with a few people). The writing is beautiful and I’m definitely going to get onto her backlist of books!owl

Our May book choice is a historical fiction novel called The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland. We have five weeks until our next meet-up (and a Bank Holiday within that!), so I thought a chunky story like this would be ideal. I’ve only ever read Maitland’s first novel, which I loved, so am expecting this to be another page-turner.

The whole point of the GC Book Club is to read beyond what’s being published at the moment and delve into the many books which already exist, as well as exploring a range of genres. It’s very easy to be consumed by reading only what’s on the current bestseller lists and to forget about the wealth of great writing not being promoted in the Top 10, so that’s why our book choices are quite varied. That being said, we do also read recent books – the idea is to cover all options.

Anyway, that’s all for now… Still also working on my Big Telly Theatre story, with a feedback session on that due soon, so … more as I have it. 🙂

 

 

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Phantom Phantasia …

Usually [well, ok, the one other time I published a book 🙂 ] – I reveal my book cover on this blog, but a few days ago I decided to share it on my Facebook page and the response has been wonderful. So, without further ado, if you don’t follow me on social media and haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

dfw-cs-pp-cover-large

The title, as you can see, is Phantom Phantasia and again, this time around I did things a little differently. Last time, I announced the title before the book cover reveal but this time I thought I’d do it all together. 🙂

Design for Writers created the cover for Magical Masquerade and did a great job on that, so of course, I went to them again for Phantom Phantasia. I do tend to have a very specific idea of what I want the covers to look like and for this novel I was keen to continue the silhouette style, to ensure continuity with book one. Also, because I think it looks really good. I also wanted to split the cover to reflect the story – portraying the underwater element (yes, spoilers, but secretive though I like to be, I realise we have to give some things away to entice readers, lol!) and the starry sky.

Andrew at Design for Writers is great, as I knew down to the exact creature what I wanted on the cover, and he conjured up a fantastic design based on our chats. I absolutely love it – the style, colours and how it all comes together. I hope you do too!

One of the things I love about publishing independently is the complete control you have over every element of the process (sales aside). As I knew exactly what I wanted for the cover I’ve ended up with something that I’m delighted with and while I took advice from Andrew on various aspects, the overall design is what I’d envisioned (only much better of course!). It does take time to perfect, though it was quicker this time as the title font was the same as book one, but you still have to consider the colour scheme, general design and layout, write the tagline, source any cover quotes (I have one pending), write the blurb (see below) and also, any other taglines.
dfw-cs-pp-cover-wrap

I’m a copywriter and journalist and I still found myself musing for days over the tagline on the front of the book and the tiered one on the back. It’s easy to glance at a book and think it’s straightforward to come up with a one-liner that draws the reader in and makes them want to read the story. It’s a tricky old business and takes time to craft, with multiple revisions – even for creative people used to doing it! It’s all that behind-the-scenes stuff that no one else sees which makes up a lot more work in creating your book cover. Personally, I find mulling over it all on my evening dog walks very beneficial. Anyway, I hope it all works, but I, at least, am happy with the content!

In terms of where PP is at now in the publication process, well, it’s been edited, edited and edited some more…

It’s been sent to a reviewer for a cover quote.

I’ve formatted it for my paperback so I can send off for my proof copies as soon as I get the cover quote through (this will be checked, however, before publication by a professional formatter, as those pesky words always end up creating chaos and don’t fit the corners of the page where they should!).

Once the proofs are with me, it will be proofread by a few pairs of eyes before I approve it for publication and then…

I hope to publish it in October, with a book launch at the start of October. I’m planning this out as we speak as well, so it’s all go! Although I did all this just over a year ago, it’s surprising the things you forget, particularly with timings. I probably booked my cover designer a little early again but he had certain slots available and I knew the next one would be too late. I also have to consider delivery times from the US for my proofs and final print copies, so I have them for the launch in time, and I need to ensure that the main sales channels are live before I go announcing that it’s published.

It’s a long process – enjoyable (for me) but also a bit stressful!

It might seems like a fairly fast turnaround for book two, but part of this is because I’ve done it before. I was keen to publish my sequel to MM about a year or so after book one and by October it will be a year-and-a-half since MM came out. Once I started writing Phantom Phantasia, however, the story came to me quite quickly and I was writing more concisely as I subconsciously knew how many pages I needed per chapter. Which isn’t to say I wrote analytically at all – each chapter is the length it needs to be and some are shorter or longer than others – but I got into a rhythm and it seemed to work well for me.

The other thing is that, as I said before, I’m a copywriter and journalist by trade – I write a lot of words/stories every day so I’m used to writing quickly and writing well (which I think I’m ok to say without sounding precocious because I wouldn’t be earning a living from writing if I wasn’t good at it!). So, there’s that. 🙂

Anyway, this has turned into a really long post, which I didn’t intend at all! If you’re still with me, then thanks. Stay tuned for more bookish news soon! I have the inaugural meeting of the new Giant’s Causeway Book Club tomorrow evening, which I will be hosting for the Causeway. (If you’re interested, the book we were reading for this is The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan:)). I’m also planning to record a few more BookTube videos soon and there are some other things in the pipeline too.WA Lit Crawl

I also forgot to share details of a recent event I did with Women Aloud NI members at the Belfast Book Festival, as I haven’t blogged here for a few weeks… We read at Belfast’s very first Lit Crawl and it was lovely to hear new work from other writers and soak up the atmosphere. 🙂

More as I have it!

 

 

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Whittling away …

Women Aloud NI Community Day

Women writers everywhere – and lots of bookish talk. 🙂

WAagm

WANI board members

That was basically the premise for a recent meet-up of Women Aloud NI, as we had our very first Community Day at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast last weekend, kindly supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

It’s always good to take the online, offline, and, while we run regular writerly events and the like, we’ve never had a day of our own like this to chat about the organisation and our plans for the future.

Suffice it to say that we had a lot to talk about but ultimately, it was just rather cheering to see so many women writers from Northern Ireland gather together to see how we can support one another going forward. Watch this space, I think…

NN2

With regards my own writerly news, I’ve been quiet on the blogging front these past few weeks because I’ve been very busy finishing off NN2 (Novel Number 2). Yes, the notebooks are finally full of their scribbles, the computer has been fired up for typing and those words are being edited as we speak. Things are coming on well with the sequel to Magical Masquerade so hopefully all will continue as such!

Kelly_me_MACI did find a bit of time over Easter, however, for coffee and a catch-up with my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton (also a WANI board member), to chat about our books and bookish plans…  I also discovered Kelly is a rather talented artist – not just a fantastic writer, then! (See the portrait she whisked up for me below.)

As this is a follow-up to book one, I will be publishing it independently again as I did with the first, so when I’ve worked out my dates for this I’ll let you know… I’ve certainly found that this second book has taken less time to write and I think that’s for various reasons.

First of all, this time I actually knew I was writing a book! With MM I started off with a short story and then just kept going – and going and going and going – and ended up with a monster of a book that was probably actually three novels, in terms of length. Not so this time. I’m continuing my story and know better now how much notebook space I have to fill and, while I’ve written enough to tell the story and wouldn’t penalise it just to keep things short, experience means I’m writing more succinctly from the outset, so it’s already more on track in terms of word count and so on.

I’ve also given myself deadlines for this manuscript where I didn’t for the first, and I understand the publishing process and how long that takes, so am bearing all that in mind. My audience is predominantly young (although adults – you really can read my books as well! If you’ve read HP then you’re already in my target audience 🙂 ), so I’m keen not to delay the sequel for too long.

Reading notesportrait

Writing aside, I’ve also been flying through some great fiction this month as well, and will record a video for my BookTube channel about those soon. I plan to give each book a star rating and to choose the best book of the month from what I’ve read as one which I’d recommend you pick up (if you haven’t already read it that is). I’ve discovered so many good books through YouTube so I’d like to help other readers uncover a few new gems too.

Anyway, it really has been a good reading month in April and I’m hoping the rest of my TBR pile will deliver the same greatness. 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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Writerly bits and pieces …

When it comes to writing, you just have to do it when you can snatch the time and keep at it, for life will surely get in the way otherwise and before you know it, weeks will have passed and not a word will have been written! Having now passed the halfway mark for NN2 (novel number 2) I’ve found myself engrossed with a few other writing projects recently which have demanded a lot of focus and which are up against tight deadlines, so my attention has been split.

However, in theory I now have less left to write of my next book than what’s already written, so I see myself as being on the downward slope, heading towards the finishing line. The pace may have slowed, as was expected once work recommenced mid-January, but I’m happy with how things are progressing.bible-2989427_1920

Irish Writers’ Centre member and mentor

In other news, I’m very pleased to say that I’m now a member of the Irish Writers’ Centre, having been accepted as such as part of its Professional Member Support Scheme for Northern Irish writers, which also includes a stipend to use towards courses and events throughout the year. So, that was great news last week and I look forward to getting along to some of those events!

I’m also going to be listed as a mentor (for children’s fiction, fantasy fiction and feature writing/journalism), so that should be on the website soon too.

Story

I’ve also just submitted a short story to a journal, one I wrote a little while back, as I really like said journal and it’s been such a long time since I sent any stories out, what with the book taking centre stage last year.

And … I’m still planning more Book Tube videos – in fact, there’s one that I’ve been meaning to record for the past month but I’m having to prioritise other things and it just hasn’t happened yet! Soon, though.

Anyway, more as I have it … 🙂

 

 

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Writing things in 2018…

It’s been just over a month since my last post here but while I haven’t been blogging, I have been making headway with NN2 (that’s Novel Number Two) – and reading copiously of course.

Reading

I keep a book journal and was pleased to see that I read 51 full books in 2017, with various others started and not finished (I no longer persevere past a certain point if a book doesn’t grip me). I didn’t count a few poetry collections either, as these I dip in and out of. So, all in all, that was a good reading year. I’m presently on book six I think so far this January, so let’s hope the reading frenzy continues! Though it may be inhibited a bit by some writing things…

Copywriting work has recommenced with my business, alongside the novel-writing, and I’m also working on a couple of other writing-related projects which may or may not come to anything, but require a good bit of prep work to see if they do. Fingers crossed they will happen but we will have to wait and see. (I like being cryptic but also, I don’t want to jinx things by mentioning what they are!)

Women Aloud NI events WANI event 2018In March, I will once again be participating in International Women’s Day with Women Aloud NI. You can view the updated event listings for 2018 over on the website here: http://womenaloudni.com/

This year, I’ve decided not to do the Dublin event with the Irish Writers’ Centre, as I have other commitments, but I’m looking forward to taking part in two events at Waterstones Coleraine on March 8. Both events are FREE so if you’re local or in the area that day, please do come along!

BookTube Channel

By the way, if you’re interested in what I’m reading/plan to read, check out my YouTube channel here: http://bit.ly/2rdQgJm 

It’s all a bit of fun and I do plan to record more videos re my favourite books and other bookish things, so watch out for those!

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I didn’t manage to write my Christmas ghost story this year, as I decided to just concentrate on NN2 and not get too distracted… My ‘problem’ is that I get lots of ideas for things all of the time and am therefore constantly trying to do all sorts of things all at once. Which does tend to pull one in all kinds of directions and is a little bit stressful. So, I removed that stress this year and stayed focused on the one project. 🙂

More as I have it! 🙂

 

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Festivals, readings & writing book 2…

The time period between my blogs recently has widened a little, but what with starting the BookTube channel (here, if you’re interested), managing a heck of a lot of social media (my own fault, I know, but it’s all fun and games!), working, looking after the pup and yes, trying to WRITE BOOK TWO, it’s all been getting more and more hectic of late. Such is life.

DBF shop

DBF bookshop

Anyway, since the last post, I’ve been to Dublin and back to drop off my copies of Magical Masquerade to the Dublin Book Festival bookshop (run by The Gutter Bookshop for the week at the Smock Alley Theatre) and to The Winding Stair Bookshop (yes, my friends, I got MM on a bookshop shelf!), done an interview with the lovely Kerry McLean on BBC Radio Ulster for her weekly Book Club (listen again here, about 1hr 15 mins in), delivered my Dublin Book Festival event at Portstewart Library with a class from Dominican College, attended a double author reading at Waterstones Coleraine (see previous post for details), and read one of my poems at the CS Lewis Festival in Belfast with a group of lovely writers from Women Aloud NI.

It’s been busy – but in a very lovely way.

Winding Stair

MM at The Winding Stair

Also – book two is now very much underway with the writing of… I’m currently on chapter six my friends, and am very much looking forward to my Christmas break so I can really get stuck into it properly. My National Lottery grant from the Arts Council NI is helping to support me in the drafting of this initial manuscript and I have a hypothetical timeline in place for when I want it finished… We’ll see how that goes. Either way, a first draft will definitely be completed by next October, but I have ambitions to have the final novel all edited and whatnot by then so, as I say – we will see. (Best laid plans and all that….)

Radio UlsterIn terms of the storyline, well – it picks up not long after where MM left off and if you’ve read MM then you’ll know there are some loose ends to tie up, but let me tell you this. What I love about my way of writing (which is loosely planned out in terms of a storyline but is very much driven by a ‘let’s write and see what happens next’ kind of way), is that just like the reader, I really don’t know what’s going to happen next. I mean, I have a general idea of the direction I’m headed in – I have my plot points mapped out – but how we get from A to B and so on is very much in flux.

And so, I find myself going in directions I wasn’t expecting and the main body of novel number two has unexpectedly veered off somewhere quite exciting (well, to me, anyway), and I very much hope readers will like it! Think mysterious, unexplored, perilous and of course, magical, and you’ll get some sort of an idea… Hopefully, it will work. 🙂

DBF event

DBF event

Also, I have taken on board a request from a young fan about including a particular character in book two and I’m finding that character a joy to write. It changes the dynamics a bit and is injecting a little more comedy into the dialogues. Hopefully said fan will enjoy it! It just goes to show that feedback isn’t ignored – I love hearing from readers about what they liked about MM and any ideas they have or theories they want to share about book two. I hadn’t actually planned to include this character in the second book but the comment came back to me and I thought, why not? Turns out, it was a good idea.

DP reading

Kelly Creighton & Emma McKervey

I also hope to write my usual spooky Christmas short story over the holidays – it’s a tradition I started up a few years ago for myself and one I want to keep up – so that’s in the pipeline too.

Also, with the book launch and all sorts of other things this year, I haven’t submitted any stories, poetry or written work anywhere at all (!), so I hope to change that for 2018, and try writing some more short stories alongside novel number 2. (Again, best laid plans – we’ll see how that fits into the schedule of life).

And before I sign off… I almost forgot to share the fact that, after a LOT of brainstorming and looking up word meanings, and researching one thing and another, I have a working title for NN2 (that’s Novel Number 2). At long last! CS Lewis aslan

I find myself more motivated to write it when it has a name, so I’m pleased that I’ve finally managed to tie one down. The more I turn it over in my head, the more I like it – and it isn’t all that it seems, just like ‘Magical Masquerade’. I’ve looked up the meanings of the words to make sure they work ok together and convey the sense that I want (fear not though, they are easy to understand!), and to my mind they do. So, all will be revealed!

But not now – sure, we have to keep up the suspense! 🙂

 

 

 

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BOOK TRAILER REVEAL!

I’m delighted to be able to share my book trailer for Magical Masquerade this week, which has been created by my talented cousin, Laura Crossett, over at Blurbox Media and Design.

Book trailers are a relatively new thing, I think, and can be done in all sorts of ways. Some authors like them, some don’t. It’s like everything I guess – each to their own. Personally, I think they’re another fun way to create awareness about your book – especially for children’s books – and I prefer trailers which are kept short and simple, and without any spoilers of course.

Anyway, I asked Laura to help me out with a trailer for Magical Masquerade and after we’d discussed our ideas, sourced the music and she put it all together in an animation, this is the final result! I love it – and I hope you do too.

Newspaper coverage

I was also very pleased to have last week’s school visit to Kilross Primary featured in the Mid Ulster Mail newspaper. You can read the story here if you wish. I’ve also been interviewed for another publication this week, with pics taken of both me and the pup, so stay tuned for more details on that!

Radio interview

I’m also looking forward to chatting with Denis McNeill about Magical Masquerade over on Q Radio this Thursday (February 23), which will be airing at about 11.25am to be precise and will last for about four minutes. Wish me luck!

Magical Masquerade book trailer

 

Credits

Animation: Laura Crossett from Blurbox Media & Design

Book cover design: Andrew Brown from Design for Writers

Book trailer soundtrack: Music from 3KTrack-Exclusive, purchased from Envato Market

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Author visit…

So, this week’s blog post is coming to you a little later on a rather blustery Sunday evening as I’ve just finished going over the final copy-edited manuscript of Magical Masquerade! (I say final, but we’ll not speak too soon…)

Anyway, it feels good to have that done as it’s getting closer to the time when I discover the joys of formatting and get to send off for my proof copies!

img_2281

With Principal Anne Crossett and the P5-P7 pupils of Kilross Primary

 

In the meantime, book proof or no book proof, I’ve already enjoyed my very first school visit as an author and I do say enjoy, because I found it really fun. On Friday I visited Kilross Primary School just outside the village of Tobermore, where I spent the afternoon with pupils in the P5 – P7 classes. They had prepared lots of questions for me and also came up with a good few on-the-spot ones as well, which was great.

img_0954I explained about the writing process and even got to act as teacher for a while, using the whiteboard to explain basic story structure and character profiles.

The kids then had a go at creating their own character and the beginning of a story, and I gave out a couple of notebooks and pens to the top two. Hopefully it will inspire them to keep writing! My attempts at homemade bookmarks for Magical Masquerade also seemed to go down well and each pupil got one of those to take away. The blow-up cover I’d printed off for them to see also seemed to go down well… Oh, and I read a couple of extracts from MM as well.

Next time, they’ll get a copy of the book for their school library. 🙂img_0964

This week I’ve also been working on another promo element for the book, which I’ll be sharing with you soon, so that’s something else to look forward too…

Meanwhile, aside from working on my own book, I’ve also acquired a fair few new books for my TBR, thanks to getting some vouchers for birthday and discovering a great book-tuber called Piera Forde, whose recommended reads are now (mostly) piled up in my living room.

I’ve also ordered my very first FairyLoot YA fantasy-fiction-themed subscription box, which will arrive in March and will contain a new release HB book along with a lot of bookish goodies. It also happens to be their one-year anniversary box, so is going to be that little bit extra-special. Can’t wait for this to arrive!img_0925

Going back to MM, I’m really very happy about all the lovely comments I’ve had since last week, when I shared the cover for Magical Masquerade, so thank you everyone for that. Although the countdown to actually getting my hands on a physical book is now closer than ever, I still won’t actually believe it until I see it. On that, however, I’ll definitely keep you posted. 🙂

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