Tag Archives: Short stories

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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Dreaming in words …

Books, books, books

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

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

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

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

Dreamer’s Space

Dreamers space1

Inspired by Lissanduff

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

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

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

Novel number three (NN3)

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

dreamer's space3

Wilbur!

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

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

Music and Packham 

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

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

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

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

More as I have it. 🙂

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Summery artistic delights

Max Porter and Sarah Moss

Max Porter

With Max Porter

In my last blog, I chatted about a recent visit to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy for JLF Belfast, which took place at the end of June. Just a couple of weeks later, I returned for another great event, this time an evening of conversation and readings with the authors Max Porter and Sarah Moss, interviewed by Sinéad Gleeson. I went along to this with friend and fellow writer, Kelly Creighton, and we both very much enjoyed listening to all the bookish chat, as well as meeting the authors afterwards.

Both Max and Sarah were very friendly and I was given a wee look at Max’s notes and doodlings in his copy of Lanny as he signed my copies of both this and Grief is the Thing with Feathers and chatted about the writing process. He told us during the discussion how Sarah often deletes entire manuscripts as well as other bits and pieces she’s written, if she’s not happy with them, while he (like myself!!) prefers to hold onto his work in case it later proves useful. Sarah added, however, that she’s a very fast writer, so it doesn’t worry her to get rid of work as she’s going along.

Sarah Moss

With Sarah Moss

Both Lanny and Ghost Wall, Sarah’s latest novel, hold a mirror up to today’s society, as Sinead Gleeson pointed out during the event. Both deliver tension in different ways but are reflective of what the world has become/is becoming and look at how (and perhaps why) people are the way they are. Def worth reading if you haven’t!

All in all, it was a really enjoyable evening and I look forward to reading The Tidal Zone, which is the book I bought by Sarah Moss at the event. I’d already read Ghost Wall from the library and have read both of Max’s books, so I await his next one!

Art in the Garden

Dali

Lady Godiva with Butterflies: Dali

Another great event I got along to at the end of June was Art in the Garden, which took place at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast. (Click the highlighted text above for more info.) I just got along to it the day before it ended and was very glad I did, as there was a wealth of wonderful artwork on display both inside and out, including pieces from Salvador Dali – flown in from Switzerland – as well as Andy Warhol, Banksy, Picasso, Freud and many more.

I’m not in any way an art expert, but even I recognised most of the artists on display and I discovered lots of others too, including Northern Ireland’s Eamonn Higgins, who had a beautiful ghostly horse sculpture in the gardens outside, and Sicilian sculptor Giacinto Bosco, whose lunar sculptures were also amongst my favourites of the day.

Eamon Higgins

Legend of the Lough: Eamonn Higgins

It being Northern Ireland, the rain was pelting down as we arrived but we toured the interior exhibitions first, had a coffee and then walked around the garden exhibits in lovely sunshine! It was a great exhibition and I for one would love to do it all again.

I have so many fabulous photos from the visit, but just have room to share a couple here!

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

The last Thursday in June also saw our monthly GC Book Club meet-up, where we discussed our very short play – Peter and Alice by John Logan – which was our main book of the month, along with Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? We scored them 7/10 and 8/10 respectively, and I was pleased to hear how well the play had gone down, considering most of us there never really read plays. (Must rectify that!)

Giant's Causeway Book Club_one year birthdayIt was also our first birthday, so as well as tray bakes and tea/coffee, we had to have some chocs and cookies too. 🙂

Our book for July is Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave, so we’ll see how that is received on July 25!

Writing snippets…

As for my own writing, it is ongoing! I’m almost finished the first draft of my next novel… I had planned to get that tied up by the end of, erm, May, but my self-imposed deadline drifted away into June and now July. It’s simply because I just haven’t put the time in to complete it, as I’ve been distracting myself with editing a short story I’d written a while ago (which I’ve since submitted to a journal, having not sent anything off for absolutely ages), and have also written a new short story. I haven’t written short stories for a wee while, but I had something I suddenly felt compelled to write, so it’s being edited now and we’ll see what will be done with that once it’s done!

lunar

Altalena: Giacinto Bosco

(I’m still reading copiously, of course.)

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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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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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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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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Countdown to launch…

It’s just TWO days until Magical Masquerade launches at the Belfast Book Festival – Saturday, June 17 if you’re interested.

Tickets are free and you can book here: https://crescentarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873573911/events )

Also, I can now also share the news that BBC Radio Ulster will broadcast the interview I did with Anne-Marie McAleese on their Your Place and Mine programme on the same day. So, if you’re near a radio on Saturday morning, the show kicks off at 8am and at some point I’ll be on it! A wee taster for the launch event later in the day. 🙂

Book festival round-up

Page to stage picI’ve already enjoyed attending some BBF events – I also had fun interviewing authors Jane Talbot and Hilary McCollum last week about how their work went from page to stage. They shared some great insights into the creative process, along with info on what they learned along the way and what it was like working with theatre companies.

Jane’s short stories were adapted from book form for the stage by Big Telly Theatre Company in NI, while Hilary has written specifically for the stage, creating verbatim and more traditional stage productions. FullSizeRender (2)

It was great, as well, to catch the launch of Ciaran McMenamin’s debut novel, Skintown. He was interviewed by Belfast author, Paul McVeigh (author of The Good Son) on the day, but if you’d like to read an interview with him, then I also spoke with the actor-turned-writer myself ahead of the event for Culture NI. You can read that here: http://bit.ly/2rQQXHu

 

Tonight, meanwhile (so there’s still time to get tickets if you’re free!) I’ll be reading some of my work at another BBF event: Lagan Online presents 12NOW – New Original Writers.

12NOW BBF

Six of the 12NOW crew will be reading their work so there’ll be a mixture of poetry and prose and genres… all for just £4! You can book here if you want to come along: https://crescentarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873573897/events

Launch day…

Aside from that, I’ll be spending tomorrow prepping for the MM launch on Saturday, IMG_1277making sure I have all my books packed and ready to go, along with my MM bookmarks, author biz cards, nibbles and whatnot. I also have to double-check what bits of the book I’ll be reading during the Q&A/chat with Jane Talbot – all in between the day job of course. 🙂

Looking forward to Saturday and seeing all who can come along! I’ll update you about how it went as soon as I can! 🙂

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