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Novel news and book club visit!

I’ve had a really good summer of reading this year and with one thing and another (read: life) blog-writing decided to take a break in the latter half! However, Autumn is starting to show her face and I for one am looking forward to the new season of fresh, cooling days, darker evenings and furtive scribblings before a crackling fire.

Novel number three updatebible-2989427_1920

Writing-wise, I’ve been busy typing up the first draft of my manuscript for novel number three (in dribs and drabs) but I actually hope to have that completed sometime later today. Then, the fun can really begin, with rewrites, new writing and editing, editing, editing… I do a light edit as I type it up, but really, the typing mostly helps with refreshing my mind about what the story looks like currently as a whole and where the gaps are. I’ve got loads of ideas for extra material that I want to add in and ways in which I can flesh out some of the characters, and this time around, I’ve left myself breathing space to do that, as the manuscript is shorter than it usually is at this stage in terms of word count. So, I’ve got a healthy amount of words to play around with and can add in new chapters and scenes without it becoming a massive tome!dfw-cs-group-nologo

With this being my third middle-grade novel I find that my writing style has definitely evolved since writing Magical Masquerade way back in early 2011. With MM I wrote a sprawling first draft which totalled around 140,000-ish words (yes, really) and which required a heck of a lot of cutting down before the proper editing even began. With Phantom Phantasia, the sequel, I wrote it a lot more swiftly and the initial draft came in much shorter than MM’s first draft simply because I had a clearer idea of where the story was going and I knew better how to approach writing a novel, having already spent years creating the first one…

As a result, PP took less time to write and although the final book ended up being a bit shorter than MM, this was just because I was wrapping up a story and it was as long as it needed to be. This third book will likely be longer than PP – maybe around the final length of MM or somewhere in-between the two. I won’t know until it’s finished but again, it’ll be as long as the story needs to be. (Note: Longer doesn’t mean less concise editing; regardless of length, editing should always be tight for every piece of writing you do).

Anyway, book three is blossoming slowly. I really like the idea of it still, which is always good, as once you immerse yourself in a story for months and more, there’s always the risk of getting tired of it! I’m not giving myself such stringent deadlines with this one, but you’ve gotta have some end goal in sight, otherwise things can just drag on indefinitely. And I do like a deadline. So, once I’ve typed the rest up today it’ll be straight into writing my extra scenes and fleshing it out a bit more, then typing those up and integrating them into the novel.

As this is currently a standalone novel and not part of an existing series my current plan is to submit it to agents when I’m finally satisfied with it. All being well, that will happen next Spring, but we’ll see how it goes. One step at a time.Causeway shop

In the meantime, I recently delivered a few more boxes of Magical Masquerade and Phantom Phantasia to the Visitors’ Centre at the Giant’s Causeway, so it’s great that those books are still hopping off the shelves there and getting read by readers around the world. If you can’t get to the North Coast, however, you can always find them at Amazon/The Book Depository etc. as both e-books and paperbacks. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

We had a mixed bag of reviews from the GC Book Clubbers over the summer, with our July and August reads – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, which scored 8/10 and Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which scored a more middling 5/10 (I gave it an eight myself!!). I enjoyed them both in different ways and found both books delivered fascinating insights into their characters. O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors and I think she excels at writing wonderfully rounded characters. This wasn’t my favourite book of hers (I’ve now read them all!) but I still really enjoyed it.

Levy’s book had a rather shocking ending which I for one didn’t see coming (in terms of who it concerned) and I liked how she achieved that shock without giving anything away in the lead-up to it. I thought she created tension well throughout the book, threading it through with dark humour and, for me, who enjoys delving into people’s minds, I enjoyed seeing things from the different characters’ POVs. They were all pretty unlikeable but getting into their minds gave you some understanding as to why they acted as they did.

September book club author visit!

Our September book choice is The Bones of It by NI author, Kelly Creighton, who is a very talented writer of short stories, novels and poetry. She is also a friend of mine and I read the book a few years ago when it was published, but regardless of that, I am a genuine fan of her work! I’m looking forward to reading this again as there’s been a nice gap since my first read and, what’s more, Kelly will be joining us at our next book club meeting, so everyone can quiz her on the book and her writing. 🙂 

The Bones of ItThe Bones of It is a psychological/crime thriller set in Northern Ireland which deals with the legacy of the Troubles in terms of how it has affected people’s mindsets and how they cope with living in its aftermath. It follows the story of a father and son and if you want to read the blurb in full and/or gift yourself a copy, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/2jYL9d8

If you wish to attend book club, it’s completely free, so just come along to the Causeway Hotel on the last Thursday of the month (in September that’ll be Thursday, 26th) and you’ll find us in the drawing room downstairs. As well as chatting with the group about that month’s read, the National Trust also provides free tea/coffee and sweet treats and of course, in September, you’ll have the added bonus of meeting the author. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now… I myself am looking forward to an event with Lemn Sissay next week in Belfast, having just read his memoir – My Name is Why. I met Lemn about six years ago when he was doing a poetry event in Derry (you can read my blog post on that here: https://clairesavagewriting.wordpress.com/tag/lemn-sissay/ ) so it’ll be great to hear from him again in what is sure to be a very interesting evening.

More as I have it. 🙂

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Bookish snippets…

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

Big Telly Theatre project

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

Big telly

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

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

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

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

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

McGilloway

With Brian McGilloway

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

NOIReland Crime Fiction Festival

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

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

Phantom Phantasia at the Causeway Visitors’ Centre

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

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

World Book Day dress-up!

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

Coffee shop writing…

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

Coleraine library reopened

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

Anyway, more as I have it. 🙂

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Writing 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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A very bookish winter…

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

Book gifting…

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

Reading chapter one…MM chapt 1

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

Memento gift shop

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

Memento shelf

Arts Council NI Christmas Gift Guide for 2017

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

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

Writing update

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

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

Review!

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

‘An exciting, stimulating read’

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

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

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

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