Tag Archives: Short stories

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. ūüôā

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! ūüôā

 

 

 

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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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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

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Bookish bits and bobs….

Well, it’s almost the end of the month and I’m looking forward to seeing The Ghastling journal in the flesh pretty soon, especially as they’ve had my story very beautifully illustrated by this issue’s featured artist,¬†Anouk van der Meer. Here’s a little teaser of what that looks like!

ghastling-1

Aside from this, I’ve been working with my book cover designer to get things wrapped up that end, as I’m hoping to reveal what Magical Masquerade will actually look like in my next post…. Quotes are being added onto that as we speak (from professional authors that I am very excited about), so next time we meet, I fully intend to be able to show this to you at last!

I’m also working on some more promo content for MM – nothing too flashy as I’m on a very tight budget – but hopefully there’ll be a little extra something to help with the online promotion of that in the run-up to publication day. I’ll keep you updated on that one but enough for now because – spoilers. ūüôā

Women Aloud NI

Things are also progressing nicely with the Women Aloud NI events in March and while full details of these will be announced in February, I can share this lovely image below, which the Irish Writers’ Centre has created to promote the Dublin event. (The link to that is here: http://irishwriterscentre.ie/collections/frontpage/products/international-womens-day-women-aloud-ni )

international_women_s_day_-_women_aloud_ni_1024x1024

I’m really looking forward to this – not least because I’ve never actually visited the Irish Writers’ Centre before (geography does¬†tend to get in the way….) and it’s doing lots of great things for Irish writers north and south of the border.

Literary Salon

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Some of the literary salon writers.

This week I also attended the inaugural Literary Salon at the Thinking Cup Café in Belfast.

The idea of this is to connect local writers and run regular monthly events – I’m not quite sure how it’s going to proceed, as the original organiser has since moved on to pastures new, but the group seems willing to connect and create a community, so we’ll see what happens.

It was a great evening of writing chat anyway and I got to meet some new faces, which is always nice, as well as catching up with some I already know.

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With fellow writer, Erin Burnett.

 

Anyway, I think that’s my lot for now. Things are definitely progressing with the book (which is still with the copyeditor and expected back soon!), so¬†I need to go back and reassess my list of things to do, as things ticked off are generally quickly replaced by new things hitherto forgotten or unthought of…

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Lovely artwork at the Thinking Cup Café.

Yesterday morning, for example, was spent on the chilly north coast getting some new author photos taken, so I can have them ready for marketing and promo purposes as needs be (she says hopefully!). For things like this, I’m very grateful to friends and family for pitching in and assisting. It does come in handy when you have a professional photographer in the family….

More as I have it!

 

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Magical Masquerade

ink-316909_1280So … it’s the start of a new year and I’m happy to report that, aside from taking a few days off over Christmas to celebrate the season, I spent most of my time editing The Book. What’s more, my winter whittling shaved off a further 16,000 or so words from that, which I consider a definite result.

My book is aimed at what would be termed middle-grade readers, and is a fantasy story which, my research shows,¬†provides more scope for length. Fantasy novels for any age just tend to be that bit longer, what with all the world-building and so on, so I think I’m on track, though there’s still time for¬†more snipping before publication if needs be. My beta readers¬†also said¬†that when reading a fantasy book, they preferred something chunkier, which signified a¬†story they could really get stuck into. So, we’ll see.

Introductions, please….¬†

Before I go any further however, I thought I’d share something which probably should have been shared a little while ago now. Yes, that’s right – it’s maybe time now for a title??

In truth, my title has been in place more or less¬†since I started hand-writing The Book quite a few years ago. It did undergo a complete revision at one stage, but I ended up reverting back to the original because I just felt it fitted what the¬†story is all about and well, because I’m also an alliteration addict….

I’m still holding back on sharing the cover, as I need to get a further wee thing added onto that and would rather it was in its final form before I make it public (maybe I’m being precious about this but that’s just how I want to do it! Also, if any of you good people¬†subsequently¬†feel inclined to share it¬†when I do put it’¬†out there’¬†[here’s hoping!], then at least the right version will be¬†floating¬†about the internet.)

Anyway, I hope I haven’t built this up too much, and if you’re an eagle-eyed sort of a person, then you’ll know the title already, as it’s also the title of this week’s blog post. Yep, you’ve guessed it. My book is called:

Magical Masquerade

I hope you like it.

If you don’t, then apologies, but that’s what it is. ūüôā

fullsizerender-13

CreateSpace

Back to the business of book-making…. I’ve been re-reading my self-publishing manual over the holidays and New Year (which is Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, for those of you who are interested), and it’s been great. Again.¬†Although there’s A LOT of work to be done in formatting the¬†e-book and POD (print on demand) paperback once the manuscript is good to go, knowing what the things are that need to be done is better than not knowing (or forgetting), which just makes the process seem¬†scary and impossible all over again.

So, thank you again Catherine for (A) blogging about all this stuff in the first place and (B) self-publishing a pretty cool book about it.

One thing I did forget though, was that¬†Self-Printed isn’t written in the order that you’ll necessarily be doing things (which Catherine does make clear at the start). So, there’s some stuff in the final section for example, which is all about selling SP books, which you need to be aware of early on, as you’ve got to get certain things in place re promo etc., rather than waiting until the book is live on Amazon. This is why I read the book last year, but I forget things, hence the re-reads…

That said, I think I’m pretty much on track with most of the prep work, though much still needs to be done. I’m someone who likes to have lists and lists and yet more lists when doing pretty much anything in life –¬†it’s just ordering them into a chronology that will¬†ensure everything happens in a timely fashion which sometimes complicates things!

For example, while I’m going to wait until the finished book is uploaded¬†to CreateSpace and I can order proof copies for myself and hopefully, some reviewers, if I want to get a quote for the cover, then an ARC (advanced reader copy) would be ideal. The book still needs to be in a near-final form to do this, however, so one has to think ahead for that. Have I got someone who’s actually agreed to do this…? Stay tuned my friends, and I’ll keep you updated. ūüôā

The copy-edit

clockAs we speak, Magical Masquerade is back in the inbox of my editor, who will be working on the final¬†copy-edit throughout January. After that I will take a couple of weeks to work through her feedback again and make the required changes. Then, once I’m happy the book is worthy of publication (!) I will format and upload the e-book and paperback interiors (and order my proof paperbacks), wait up to a week for¬†these to be approved and then wait a further week or two for my proofs to arrive in the post.

After that, I’ll be happily spending a few more weeks poring over the paperback and once that’s finally cleared for publication, I’ll hopefully get, at last, to hit that ‘approve proof’ button on CreateSpace and release it into the world. (Though it’ll then still take a week or two to actually appear on the Amazon site).

This is the timeline, and I’m aiming for an April release of Magical Masquerade, BUT, I know plans are all very well, but things don’t often go to plan. The holidays are over and I’ve still got a copywriting business to run, while there’s bound to be some sort of hiccup when it comes to formatting the different book versions. (I just know there will be – I’m not a technical whizz!)

However, I do now actually have a CreateSpace account and have filled out my tax details and completed the required tax questionnaire for that. I’ve also got my trim size¬†confirmed (i.e.¬†the size of the paperback)¬†and have¬†downloaded my interior files template (which I’ll copy my manuscript text onto for formatting later), so it’s all getting more real by the second.

Oh – and I now have an ISBN, so it’s official. The Book is really real. ūüėČ

What’s next?Q

Good question. A lot of stuff, but I’ll need to consult my ever-lengthening list and get back to you on that one. More details are definitely coming soon¬†about my self-publishing journey though¬†and … perhaps also a little snippet about the official launch? Well, maybe, maybe not. Suffice it to say, there will definitely be a launch, but details are under wraps for the moment, though¬†discussions are ongoing, so I’ll share about that when I can!

In short story news, The Ghastling journal should be out this month, so I’ll post a pic of that when I have it.¬†(I’ve got a story in it, in case you didn’t read my last post).

That’s¬†all for now!

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Bookish day out in Dublin

This time last week, I was in Dublin, having made the journey down¬†to meet my editor and chat face-to-face about the feedback she sent about my book. I know that in this day and age with the internet, such meetings aren’t necessary – you can conduct entire business transactions and editorial relationships without ever actually shaking the other person’s hand, but I do like to meet people where I can and with Dublin just a couple of train rides away, I thought, why not?

img_0523My editor, by the way, is Emma Dunne¬†– former managing editor¬†of New Island –¬†and it was great to get the opportunity to talk things over with her in person.

For me, getting an editor’s feedback is utterly welcomed and embraced – it reminds me of being at school and reading the comments in the margins of your English essay. Maybe I stand alone in this, but I always loved reading what my English teacher had to say about my writing – the good points and the constructive criticism. After all, if we can’t take on board comments designed to help make us better writers, then I really don’t know why you would bother asking someone to review your work.

Perhaps because of this, and because as a journalist and copywriter I know the value of editing your work, I’m really enjoying working with a professional editor, which is the first time I’ve done so with my prose writing. I want those red flags to be held up for me; I want the fact that I’ve created a fair amount of magical portals in my book pointed out because, guess what – I hadn’t even noticed. And yet – it’s clear as crystal to the professional reading the book. (Of course it is – this is why you need an editor!!)

img_0571I was at a writing event on Saturday in Belfast which was put together by Words Ireland. The focus was on how best to sustain your career as a creative writer, with a panel contributing to the discussions (poet Moyra Donaldson, publisher Patsy Horton, children’s author Sheena Wilkinson and author Ian Sansom). I chatted briefly with Sheena afterwards and when I mentioned I was working with an editor on my book, she looked relieved and said she was very glad to hear it. Her reaction, of course, was because so many self-published authors still think they can publish a book without hiring an editor. And, well, they can, practically speaking, but it will just never be as polished and professionally presented as an edited book. That’s just the way it is. I make a point of mentioning the editing process when I speak about my book now, as I want to make it clear that I am not one of those writers who dismiss editors. Yes, they cost money, but if you’re expecting people to buy your book (and you want to give self-published authors a good reputation), then they’re just necessary.

Anyway, I digress.

 

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Unicorns at The Marvel Room at Brown Thomas.

Back to Dublin, and myself and Emma spent a couple of hours chatting about those beta readers, plotlines, scenes that could be cut, and¬†scenes which could be kept. I think we’ve agreed that if the passage the betas loved is given¬† more of a reason to be there and moves the story on better than it currently does, then it could stay.

 

We also discussed some of the changes I’d already made in the week since I’d received her report, as I’ve tightened up on certain elements of the story and made the rules of my magical kingdom a little more clear.

Reviewers also popped up in the conversation. I’d be interested to find out more about anyone who professionally reviews self-published¬†children’s books, and also, anyone who runs a blog dedicated to this. Self-publishing is gaining a better reputation, I find, but there are still barriers to getting your work in front of people and one of the problems in someone not hiring an editor is that many reviewers understandably aren’t prepared to read a book that hasn’t been professionally produced. We’ll see what happens on that one anyway.

img_0536I also had time to pop into one of the local independent bookstores while I was in the city, and they’ve agreed to stock a few copies of my book, which is great. Another shop up north has agreed the same, so that’s all very positive. I haven’t really been doing the rounds in that regard yet with retailers, but when I find myself in a store and there’s the opportunity to ask, well, I do. ūüôā

Since getting back home, I’ve been doing rewrites and whatnot, and am keen to get more time for this over Christmas, though I’m trying to fit it in where I can up until then.

Some other good news, is that one of the short stories I submitted to a journal recently has just been accepted for publication in their next issue. It’s based in Wales¬†and they haven’t announced the contributors yet, so I’ll post more details on that soon.

 

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A cosy nook at The Winding Stair bookstore.

All in all, it’s been a busy week or so and it’s set to stay the same, as I want to get the¬†manuscript reworked in time for the New Year. I’ve also finalised my blurb, which I’d been rewriting, so I hope it does its job… (To be honest, I will probably always think I want to change bits of it, but there comes a time when you have to just make a decision and let it go!).

 

So, that’s what’s been happening with The Book and I. Now, back to work and then, back to book work… ūüôā

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Publishing and promotion…

As a writer in today’s digital world, you’re expected to do a certain amount of self-promotion to connect with readers and to gain new ones. Getting the balance right in this is crucial – do it too much, or in an overtly aggressive or ‘salesy’ way,¬†and you risk alienating people – promote too little, and you can simply sink into the ether with no-one giving you a backward glance. Sure, there’s always another writer to keep¬†people entertained…

img_0278As a soon-to-be indie author, I know that promotion and marketing and just connecting with potential readers is important if I want to get my book into the hands of, well, anybody. Add to the mix¬†that it’s a book for children and we have a double conundrum – I’ve got to connect with both parents and kids, as the parents will no doubt be making the purchasing decision, but the kids will have to want to read it (or be intrigued to give it a go anyway).

It’s all trial and error and I’m already planning how I’ll go about getting my story ‘out there’, so this week’s launch of Lagan Online’s 12NOW project was perfectly timed. You can read more about this¬†at the link above, but essentially, this is what Lagan Online is all about:

“Central to Lagan Online is the aim of nurturing new talent to build careers in a new environment. Lagan Online is committed to being a leading voice in the area of Reading Development and new writing on the island of Ireland.”

Formerly known as Lagan Press, which published physical books, the rebranded Lagan Online is instead, now channelling its energies into supporting and promoting up-and-coming writers without the publishing element. A controversial decision for some… a few other local publishers have already taken to social media to express their disappointment and regret at this decision. As an indie author about to benefit from this promotion however, I’m really just seeing the silver lining.12now-collage

Over the next 12 months, Lagan Online will support and promote reading and writing by supporting and promoting six poets and prose writers, myself included, sharing our stories and poems with various reading groups in Northern Ireland.¬†For the past few years, the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry has been running Reading Rooms, which exposes people of all ages and backgrounds to new writing. The idea is to nurture readers – to introduce the pleasures and joy of reading to new audiences and to dig deeper into what they’re reading, discussing themes and so on. This is what the 12NOW (New Original Writers) will be exposed to, as our work will subsequently be read and discussed by these groups.

I’ve been chosen as one of the prose writers for 12NOW, so a selection of my short stories will be circulated to the Reading Rooms groups and I’ll have the opportunity¬†to visit a few of them to hear feedback on the writing. (Which is a little¬†BIT SCARY! I do hope they like them, or at least, that they don’t HATE them…) With¬†there being a¬†children’s reading group as well, I’m also hoping that along with¬†the short story for kids that I’ve written, my children’s novel will also have the chance to be put before some young eyes. As I’m intending to publish it next spring, the timing couldn’t be better.

I’m still a big fan of traditional publishers and if I was ever picked up by one then I’m pretty sure I’d sign on the dotted line with great delight. However, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of getting my first novel out there by myself – and of course, with the help of a team of other independent businesses, which¬†will ensure that it’s the best it can be.fullsizerender-4

I’m planning to meet with my editor in Dublin before Christmas to discuss her feedback on the manuscript, and my cover designer is working away on the design as we speak,¬†so I hope to see how that’s shaping up at the start of November. I like that I’m guiding the cover¬†art and that I’ll be able to give feedback on this to make it the way I want. I know that with some publishers, you really have to take what you’re given in that regard, so I’m enjoying being in control of how my book is created, from start to finish.

Self-publishing is like any big project you take on – it’s both exciting and scary – but I think the learning gained throughout the process is/will be¬†invaluable. Running my own business helps in some way as well, as I’m better able to get my head around the practicalities of marketing and so on,¬†though it’s always harder to promote your own work than other people’s…

This is where Lagan Online is going to come in so perfectly, as it’s always good to know you have someone in your camp supporting your work. Having a respected publisher promote your work is invaluable, whether they’re actually publishing anymore or not.¬†Of course, I’ll be writing other stories throughout the year and I want to get submitting to journals and the like again, as I haven’t done quite so much of that in 2016. Being part of something like 12NOW will¬†therefore help ‘keep me¬†at it’, as they say, and¬†will make sure that¬†my work-life and creative-life is better balanced…

 

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Autumn inspirations

With autumn comes, for me, an added compulsion to write. There’s just something about the season that’s infinitely more appealing and inspiring to me than the mugginess of summer. I like the coolness, the dark evenings, the subtle shift in ambience.

So, it was an added bonus that this autumn kicked off with a few special literary events, as the new Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre opened its doors in Bellaghy. What better way to be inspired than visiting the home of one of our finest-ever poets and immersing oneself in both his words and those of other great writers? img_0157

Last weekend was filled with more than a few poems from the past with the launch of All Through the Night: Night Poems & Lullabies Рan anthology edited by Marie Heaney Рwith Michael Longley and Marie herself reading from the book, along with Gerarld Dawe. Bronagh Gallagher also sang some of her songs, before putting one of the lullabies to music.

There was also¬†Bach to Broagh, which saw Christian Poltera play on a 300-year-old Stradivarius cello, with Fiona Shaw reading Heaney’s poems in between. There was also a heck of a lot more, but these are the gems I¬†managed to¬†take in¬†anyway.

Today, there’ll be Beethoven‚Äôs Opus 132¬†to enjoy in the atmospheric settings of St Mary’s and St Tida’s Churches in Bellaghy – the former church being where Heaney is buried. Both Heaney and TS Eliot were inspired by Beethoven’s music and we’ll hear The Play Way being read, while Eliot’s Four Quartets will also be put to music.

What could be more enchanting and inspirational than that…?fullsizerender-3

Poetry inspires all of my writing – the prose, the poems – and I think that not to read poetry, or indeed, not to read fiction as a poet, would leave my literary life just that little bit bleaker.

It’s just a few weeks until my novel will be in the hands of my editor and I know that once I get that back, there’ll be lots more to do with the manuscript. So, in the meantime, I’m thinking that some new poetry or a short story or two might just be what’s needed in the interim. My cover design for the book is also pending – all details have been sent to the designer so hopefully I’ll see how that’s taking shape soon. There’s lots to do – and lots more to be inspired by…

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A changing wind

Sometimes, you just have to read a really good book (or three) to make you want to pick up your pen and get to work. Yes, great books can also have the opposite effect, where you think the writing is so good there isn’t much point attempting anything yourself, but usually,¬†reading something I love¬†inspires me to get back to the notebooks.

After all – we should acknowledge our own style and story as being unique and stop comparing ourselves to others. Whatever you write needs you and you alone to write it.

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Anyway, I’ve now finished the Fillory¬†trilogy¬†(the books that is – the TV series continues), and it has blown some more wind into my writerly sails. It has reignited my desire to finish the story I’ve been working on since last year and which has been set aside for lengthy periods since then (it could well¬†have been finished long ago). However, I’m not too worried about that, as I’ve written shorter stories and poetry in between and am a firm believer that you need to be in the right frame of mind to write particular tales. I’ve also realised that I find it much easier to write in the winter, when the days are short, the evenings long and chilly, and the fire warm at my feet. I’m by no means a ‘sun person’; I think I just find the atmosphere towards the year’s end more inspirational to my story-telling! (Which is perhaps reflective of the kind of stories I write…)

Anyway, having moved on to¬†a very different type of book for my next read – an Arab novel which is very firmly set in reality – if I want to meander through a more fantastical type of landscape, then at this moment in time, I’ll need to conjure it up myself. And that’s quite ok – it’s like I’ve just¬†been doused¬†with inspiration and I’m ready to let the ideas flow from my head into the pen. I’ve been reminded of what we can achieve with our words and I’m back on form again. And – maybe it’s because our Northern Irish summers sometimes resemble winter,¬†but the mood right now seems just about right…

Now – where’s that notebook…

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Submission success

Good news this week… one of my short stories has been published in the latest edition of the SHIFT-Lit Derry magazine.¬†I’m looking forward to seeing what other writing¬†lies within and adding it to my reading list! My own story is inspired by the coast and also by someone I know,¬†so let’s hope it goes down well…shift

Summer here in NI heralds the arrival of more than one literary festival and event, though I haven’t been able to get along to much of these so far this year due to work commitments. However, submitting to journals and interviewing authors all helps to keep one inspired and I won’t let the summer pass without making sure I get along to some sort of literary occasion.

In the meantime, I’m still scribbling bits and pieces here and there, and I WILL get that short story finished for the end of June –¬†if only to enjoy the satisfaction of having submitted another piece of work…

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