Monday, 9 December 2013

10 Reasons why writing a book is a lot like falling in love

  1. The early stages of a relationship are wonderful. You feel euphoric; excited to wake up every day and see what joy will come your way.
  2. The early stages of a relationship are frustrating and scary and you feel exhausted. 
    Ahhh... love's young dream
  3. Either way, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Your new relationship, (with a book or a person) consumes your energy, focus, and time, to the point where everything else can just wait. You can't stop thinking about this new love.
  4. Normal every day things (eating, cleaning, friends and ringing your mum) start to annoy you because can’t they see this is important? There’s nothing wrong with becoming a recluse. Is there?
  5. You start to obsess, night and day, about your future together. Are you a match made in heaven? Will you go all the way? Is this one they’ll want to make into a Hollywood love story?
  6. Love is blind and you won’t hear a word said against your dazzling partner. You will probably idealise them for a while, magnifying their virtues and overlooking their flaws.
  7. When you first fall out, it’s total disaster! You cry and turn to your friends for help. But they are treading a fine line between critical support and unwanted criticism.
  8. You start to feel insecure and needy. You want constant reassurance. What if all this has been for nothing? You might even rush to seal the relationship deal, just to put an end to these uncomfortable feelings, even though you know there is still work to be done.
  9. Alternatively, you might decide that you need some time apart. But that’s difficult too because even when you are apart you are constantly reminded of the good times you once spent together…
  10. You will eventually go your separate ways. Don’t start a new relationship too soon; your heart is still somewhere else and nobody wants a rebound book…
"You said you wanted to make me happy forever," said Vladimir.
"I didn't expect to live so long..." replied Clara.




Saturday, 7 December 2013

I am on the list...

... of The Guardian Readers' recommended self-published authors! 

Back in June, The Guardian Newspaper asked readers to tell them about the best self-published books they had discovered, and out of over 3,200 authors, they featured just 34 'great authors', including me!

Can't tell you what a compliment that is, after all the hard work which goes into writing a book and then publicising it, so I'd just like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who recommended my book, Bring Me Sunshine. You have made me very happy.

Get your signed copy of Bring Me Sunshine (FINALIST in the Mslexia Children's Novel Competition 2012/13) here...

Also available in paperback or Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon US
and other online retailers.

Have a go at the BRING ME SUNSHINE jigsaw!

KS2 and KS3 Schools' Resources Packs for Bring Me Sunshine also available - FREE!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Free Dog

I am a BIG fan of comedy. I watch practically nothing else on TV and when I do venture out from my writing shell, I like to see comedy live. I’ve never written comedy because a) I don’t know how, and b) a part of me is scared about uncovering a formula which might destroy the magic. It’s one of the reasons I’ve become so picky about what I read – because I read as a writer and can’t help but notice ‘flaws’.

But this week, when someone asked very nicely for my help with a comedy routine I couldn’t say no, and thought I’d better have a proper look to see how it works.

And it turns out that these guys aren’t just funny, they really know how to tell a story. They’ve got it all there – a solid story structure (setting, set up, rising actions, climax, falling actions and resolution) beautiful conflict, well formed characters, bags of show not tell via some rich and hilariously emotive language, and lots of laughs too.

Here’s Bill Burr talking about getting a ‘free dog’.



Bill Burr’s facial expressions are brilliant, and his one liners are very funny, but for me this works as a routine because it is a great story, is perfectly structured, is brimming with conflict and has some properly funny characters.

I’ve got a new respect for comedians after analysing this. I just hope I can still enjoy them as much as I used to.



Friday, 15 November 2013

I’VE GOT 5 REWRITING PROBLEMS AND A SCRIPT AIN’T ONE

Lucy V Hay
Guest post by Lucy V aka @Bang2write

So this week I’ve been rewriting my novel.

Well, I *say* rewriting my novel, what I’ve actually been doing is this:

Reading and re-reading the manuscript
Pacing up and down a lot
Drinking coffee
Baiting other writers on Twitter
Doing other work
Swearing
Phoning my husband at work and leaving him long bleating voicemails about how this book will NEVER be finished
Emailing writer friends and sorting out THEIR problems instead
Freaking out on Facebook

So in other words, I’ve not really got any rewriting done at all.

Why is rewriting so hard? Well, unhelpfully that can depend on the project. For me, this time around, it’s very specific. It’s a problem of tone. As this novel is a companion to another which was very gritty and realistic, this one is simply too … OTT, ie. it’s not based in reality “enough”. (I already knew this before I got the feedback that confirmed it, which made it all the more difficult somehow – GRRR!).

Dealing with writers in my other job as a script editor however, I would say writers’ main issues with rewriting are actually psychological and cover the following:

1) “I’m not good enough”.

You need confidence to be a writer and no one’s going to validate you; you have to believe in yourself. And if you don’t? You find yourself paralysed with indecision or worse, fear. Ergo no writing gets done. So believe in yourself. Do whatever it takes. Only you can know what that is.

2) “I’m so confused.”

Lots is made of getting something down on paper – anything  - and then “just editing/rewriting it later”. And if you have problems finishing (ooh Matron), then this is a good tactic. However, if your central concept does not work or you’re not sure of your motivations for writing that piece in the first place, then you can really flounder later on. Sometimes, doing whatever it takes and putting in the time at FOUNDATION level can mean less rewriting. Honest guv!

3) “It’s up to others to validate me”.

Unless you’re a hobby writer, there comes a point when a work has to go out into the big bad world. Others will see it and rate it – and the savvy writer knows that these are only OPINIONS, not facts. So what if someone says you’re a crap writer? But equally, who cares if someone says you’re a GOOD writer! Seriously! The key here is – DOES THE STORY WORK? That’s what you must know. Don’t let yourself off the hook worrying if it’s “good” or not.

4) I don’t want to “kill my darlings”.

Look, I get it. You’ve spent ages over this writing and made all kinds of sacrifices both personal and financial to get it done.  As a result, if you rip out *this scene/ chapter/character and/or return to page 1, you feel like all that time is wasted. But guess what: it’s NOT wasted if it means you get to where the story *should* be. Holding on to flawed pages will never cut it. Doing whatever it takes WILL (are you beginning to see a theme here?).

5) Writer as serial killer: killing darlings TOO MUCH.

Over the years, many of my Bang2writers have fallen in love with the simple ACT of writing and sabotage themselves another way: they rewrite their projects literally TO DEATH. As a result, again: they never finish. Throw those flawed pages away; move on to the good stuff – and RECOGNISE IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. That’s a skill itself. And guess what you have to do to learn it: whatever it … right! See you get it.

So, don’t let these errant thoughts get in the way of your rewriting … Because, as I’ve found out this week, there’s plenty of other ways to derail you, so why add to the list?? Good luck!

BIO:

Lucy V Hay is a script editor, novelist and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is author of the book, WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS (Creative Essentials) and the novels, THE DECISION: ELIZABETH’S STORY and THE DECISION: JASMINE’S STORY, both out in 2014.

Introduce yourself to Lucy on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Authors for Philippines

This is an online auction to raise money for the Red Cross’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday (8 November), causing catastrophic damage. It is the strongest storm ever to make landfall, hitting an area where thousands of people are already homeless after an earthquake in mid-October.

The 300-mile wide typhoon – locally known as Yolanda – has left a trail of destruction with thousands feared dead. The full extent of the damage will become clearer in the next few days as rescue teams reach the more remote areas.

Philippine Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground since before the storm hit, helping with evacuation plans and warning communities. Now, they are getting aid to the people who are most in need and preparing to help thousands more.

The auction is now live and you can bid on the items via the comments on the individual posts.

Once the auction has ended (Wednesday 20th November), the winning bidder will donate the funds directly to the Red Cross and send the confirmation of payment to the Authors for Philippines appeal. When they have received the confirmation, they'’ll ask the relevant author to contact the winning bidder.

If you’re interested in bidding on an item, please see the Browsing & Bidding page.

If you’re an author who would like to offer an item for auction, please email authorsforphilippines@gmail.com

I am offering a read and review of your YA manuscript (up to 60,000 words), plus signed copies of my books, Bring Me Sunshine and Where Bluebirds Fly, plus I will name a character after you in my soon to be completed story – How to be Lucky!

If you would like to bid on my lot in this auction, you can do so here.



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The train now arriving at platform #1...

Do you want to leap on board the train of literary fame and fortune?
As more and more opportunities for social connection spring up on the internet, building a writers platform – the place from where you are supposed to launch yourself onto the train of literary fame and fortune – has never been easier. And as an Indie writer, you need to nurture this platform and wave attractively from it, because if people love you, they're going to buy your books, right?

But what is attractive?

Some people will tell you it’s all about being yourself, being real, and enjoying the interactions you have with people you’ve never met, and never will. Others will tell you it’s all about selling - your books, yourself and your soul. And plenty of folk will tell you to be generous and promote others ten times more often than you promote yourself.          
Is this you?
I can’t tell you which of these is right. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But what I can tell you is that if you are a slave to your social media platforms, rather than climbing on board the train of literary fame and fortune you may well discover a dreadful inclination to throw yourself under it.

You are not alone!

Doctors in the UK are currently treating writers on a daily basis for the following conditions.

SMF – Social Media Fatigue – a common problem, refers to a tendency to pull back from social media when you become overwhelmed.  

MOPS – Multiple Online Personality Syndrome – occurs when you spread yourself too thinly across different platforms.

CBBC – Can’t be Bothered Condition – often sets in when you join a new network and you have the dilemma of whether or not to befriend the same people and post the same posts or whether to make new friends and find new content… and really, like, life is short, you know? Can you actually be bothered?

So what is the answer? After extensive research I have discovered this 5 point plan works every time.

1.      Turn off your computer
2.      Read a book by another Indie Author
3.      Write a review for another Indie Author
4.      Send some fan mail to another Indie Author
5.      Go to bed, feeling like a better human being,

Next day, you should be totally over your social media fatigue, plus you’ll have something of value to update all your followers about.

If you been affected by this post, please leave a comment below. Thank you.

Friday, 11 October 2013

I'll feel what she's feeling...


I’ve reached a crucial moment in my women’s novel. Everything hangs on it. So, no pressure or anything, but I have to get it right. It’s a scene of intense emotional pain for my protagonist, as something incredible is revealed to her. The set up needs to be perfectly executed so that this moment makes complete sense and the rest of the story falls effortlessly into place.

But, instead of writing through the pain, I am tempted to stop here and edit.

On the one hand, my usual style is to splurge it all out, get to the end and then edit. Splurging allows for the unexpected to pop up and surprise you with joyful little twists or connections you might not have made otherwise.

On the other hand, if everything is not in its proper place at this point, the editing will take longer. Editing hours increase exponentially with the number of words you write.  

What’s the big deal, I hear you ask. Does it really matter which way you approach it?

And it’s a good question. When I started writing this blog post, I thought it was going to be a ‘help me decide’ kind of post. But now I’ve written it down, I can see that it’s not. What has become clear is that this is much more about a moment of intense emotional pain, and the avoidance of… To get in ‘that’ zone, I’m going to have to feel it too.

If there's an elephant in the room,
you're going to have to hug it.
When people say ‘write what you know’ they aren’t talking so much about the facts and the detail, as to the emotions connected to those facts and details. We can all research brain surgery, flying to the moon, living on the streets; but if we don’t attach the emotional experience of those things to our writing, then we might as well not bother.

So, what’s it to be now? Oh yes, back to summoning up my moment of heart wrenching pain. Jeez, writing is hard sometimes.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

FREE LOVE

Free! Free! Free!
This weekend for five glorious days, BRING ME SUNSHINE is FREE on Amazon UK and US. As regular readers of my blog will know, I am not totally in love with having to promote and publicise my own work. So in order to maximise takers on this undoubtedly magnificent FREE offer, I paid for a bit of promo.

But something went wrong - and I'm not going to name names here - but let's just say that apart from a little bit of successful publicity, the rest just didn't happen. I've spoken to the people involved and they were very sorry and I'm getting a refund and all that, but I still have a book on FREE for 5 days, and that is my total FREE allowance for the quarter.

I wanted to cry, when I realised that not one promo experience had gone pear-shaped, but two.

So what did I do? Well, I went on jolly old facebook, asked for help, and WOW! I got it. Individuals, Kindle Users Group and Free Promo pages all rallied round. And then the folks on Twitter did the same.

So this post is just to say a big THANK YOU to all those lovely writers and writery types who rally round. I love you!

You make the world a better place...

(Oh, and did I mention that BRING ME SUNSHINE was FREE until August 27th?)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

INSTANT STORY

Awww...
I was out walking the dogs, when I met a woman who had a spaniel. Cute thing. Really naughty, but lovely. And she told me a story. It was something real that had happened to her family - and involved the spaniel. It was the loveliest story, or should I say it had the loveliest outcome. From a totally sad and messed up beginning, it had its own little arc; a beginning, middle, dramatic climax, and a really satisfying ending.

And I knew at the time, it was a gift. A kind of instant story - just add characters and leave to set.

I’m not going to tell you the story - at least, not yet - because, I did what any self respecting writer would do; I wrapped that story up in a golden blanket and tucked it safely into some darkened recess of my right brain.

Several weeks have passed - it might even be months - and all the while that story has been evolving, growing, maturing. I’ve met more dog walkers and more dogs, some of whom have helped to feed my little golden bundle with scraps of their own life events. And I’ve spent lots of spare hours reading and researching, making sure I’ve got my facts straight. And each day, my excitement about this story is a little bit more than the last.

But this week, I could resist no longer. The time had come to make a plan, write my first words, and be woken in the night by its cries. I am in love.  

And whilst this is definitely not going to be just a regurgitation of the spaniel woman’s story, and whilst I know there is still much work ahead of me, I wouldn’t be writing it without her timely intervention in my life. 

Where do you get your inspiration?   

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Reasons To Be Cheerful

I’m not an advocate of concentrating on the bad stuff. I believe you get more of whatever it is you are focusing on in life, but every now and then I have a wobble. My insecurities bubble up from the depths of my unconscious mind and swamp me in negativity. I am scared of the blank page, scared of the filled page, scared of my plot, my characters, my ideas, my ability, my future… and so the list goes on.

And then yesterday, in the midst of a thunderstorm, I decided to write down all of those things and turn them into a blog post. I started with a list, and the longer the list grew, the more depressed I felt. My creative urges dried up and I was left in the dark, watching the lightning flash, feeling like it was the end of the world.

This morning, I got up, determined to make something of that list and turn it into a long overdue blog post about writer insecurity. And you know what? The minute I looked at it I felt heavy of heart. What was I thinking? You get more of whatever it is you are focusing on in life…

So here’s my new list, the good one; the reasons why being a writer is the best job in the world...
  • I get to make up stories!
  • Working out new plot lines is fun
  • Weaving them together is even more fun
  • Getting to know your characters is a challenge
  • Every now and again you get a flash of creative inspiration where something just falls into place and it’s as if it was meant to be
  • Eavesdropping and people-watching has a purpose
  • Everything you hear in real life has the potential to be used in a story
  • Researching stuff is cool
  • Extending my knowledge and understanding of a subject is a joy
  • I go to work in my pyjamas and eat cereal at my desk
  • I choose my hours
  • My books are published
  • People like my books and I’ve had some great (unsolicited) reviews
  • People pay money to read my stories
  • I have the BEST writing buddies in the world
  • I’ve made all this happen
  • And I’m going to go on making this happen more, and having fun…
Writer insecurity? Pah, who cares.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Benefits of Time, by Lorrie Porter (Guest Post)

Lorrie Porter
I had a phone call from my agent today. I confess when I saw her name on the phone screen I had a sharp intake of breath. Would she like my novel manuscript? It’s been a long wait since I sent it. Five weeks with no word. I held my breath as I slid the little green phone icon across the screen and listened for her voice.

Cradlesnatch has been a long time in the making. It’s been nearly four years since I sat in Starbucks an hour before work and watched the first sentence appear magically on the screen of my little net book. But the past five weeks felt longer than all 48 months put together.

Writing is a strange profession. It requires a huge amount of self confidence. After I sent the manuscript off I did what all the advice says you should. I started the next book. It would be fine. My agent would love Cradlesnatch. I’d get a publishing deal and everything would be hunky-dory. But as the days turned to weeks I found myself suffering from writer’s block. Not an affliction I have often suffered from. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if she hated Cradlesnatch? The money I’d received from my first publishing contract was running out. What if I had to give up writing and go back to working in an office?

I started to focus on the wrong things. I worried about not putting enough ‘product’ out there. If I wanted to be a writer, I needed an income. I submitted a sample to Working Partners. I tried writing short stories. I even started writing a 10,000 word series starter for 8+ thinking it wouldn’t be such a huge investment of my time if I failed. I began to feel that everything I wrote didn’t meet the exacting standards of publishers. And through all of this, I completely stopped working on my next book.

Fear of failure can cripple our creative journey. Thankfully, last week, I gave myself a stern talking to, and this morning I opened my net book and picked up my new novel where I’d left off a month before.

I managed to write nearly a 1,000 words before my agent phoned.

She loves Cradlesnatch. She’s going to submit to publishers tomorrow.

I’m grateful to her for the time she took to get back to me. Without it I may never have got my head sorted and realised that it doesn’t matter whether Cradlesnatch was ready or if it needed more edits. What matters is that I have the confidence to write what is in me, and that is my next novel. Everything else is a distraction.

About the Author

In a fit of youthful enthusiasm Lorrie Porter graduated from University College London with a degree in Ancient World Studies then went on to qualify as a teacher in Classics. She loitered for many years in a solicitor’s office where she spent a lot of time staring out of the window. However, her fascination for dead languages and civilizations continues to thrive. She has recently graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with an MA in Creative Writing.

Lorrie lives on a narrow boat with her talented husband and impervious cat.

Visit her website at http://www.lorrieporter.co.uk/ or check out her blog: This Craft Called Writing for useful tips and techniques on how to write fiction.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Apparently, I am a beautiful blogger

Me
Beautiful Blogger or what?
Today I am going to break a promise I made to myself long ago; on May 22 2012 to be precise. The promise was not to accept any blog awards (unless Nobel, Bafta or Booker Prize related) on the basis that they damned me by faint praise, singled me out for mediocrity, and worse still, interfered with my rebellious inclination to nonconformity.

A whole year and a bit later, I realise that I was wrong. There is nothing wrong with mediocrity or faint praise. I am in the line of work where praise and rewards are few and far between and I should accept small morsels whenever offered. The nonconformity thing is a different issue, but I have come up with a solution. (See below).

And so it is with great delight, that I now accept the Beautiful Blogger Award, bestowed upon me by the very talented Katie Hayoz, who tells me the award is not so much an award, as a game of tag to let other bloggers know I appreciate them and their posts and would like to know more about them. 

These are the rules of acceptance… 
  1. Copy and place the Beautiful Blogger Award in your post.
  2. Thank the person that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  3. Tell 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 7 fellow bloggers.
So without further ado...

The Actual Beautiful Blogger Award - duly pasted.

Thank you, Katie 
Her blog can be foundhere. (And very interesting it is too…)

7 Things about me
1. I was once terrorised by a cow, after offering her one of my fruit gums.
2. If I tell you "I used to go to school with him (or her) ..." chances are, I am lying.
3. My dogs can speak.
4. I know someone who knows someone who is related to someone famous.
5. I have a cookery o' level.
6. I love wild flowers.
7. I once taught myself to play the clarinet with the mouth piece on backwards and gave up when I found out I was doing it wrong. 

7 Fellow Bloggers
1. The Essential Guide to Being Unpublished 
There are many blogs available that can tell you how to get published. However if it’s literary oblivion you’re after (or a damn good laugh) this is the blog to watch. It comes to you courtesy of Nan Bovington, who frankly, is a literary genius.
2. The Horrormoanal Woman
Maturing like a strong stilton and just on the wrong side of 40, Marnie Riches writes the filthiest blog I dare to read. However, Marnie is a very lovely person and her blog, although X rated, is always good for a belly laugh.
And finally, Matthew Connolly’s unassuming little blog, which is barely a blog at all. But nevertheless, his observations are witty and honest, and if you do feel like buying his new book DANCES WITH DAFFODILS, about the love life of Dorothy Wordsworth, I am sure he would be very grateful.


And now to my aforementioned solution to my predilection for non-conformity.
Instead of seven nominations, I am sticking at three. Told you I was a rebel.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Your life as a fairy tale (Part 1)

It's hard to say who the heroes
and villains were in my life; they
never took their masks off.
When I trained to be a creative writing therapist I had a lot of fun trauma moments of insight when therapising myself. For obvious reasons, I am not going to bear my shocking revelations on this blog, but The Fairy Tale exercise is one I remember as being both enjoyable and enlightening, and I thought you might like to have a go yourself.

It is based on Valdimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale – a theory about the characters and format of folk tales, in which he identified 7 broad character types and a sequence of 31 functions which make up the structure of story. When you place yourself in this scenario, it makes you think about the people and situations in your life and how they have been both helpful and detrimental to your happiness; how you succeeded and failed and became the person you are today.

For the first part of this exercise, you need to examine the characters that have played a part in your life and assign them a role in your fairy tale. You might find it easier to focus on one period or even a single episode in your life.

The characters in your story are

  • The hero - this character is you - also known as the seeker or victim
  • The villain - opposes the hero or blocks his/her quest
  • The donor - the fairy godmother archetype - gives the hero a magical object
  • The dispatcher - sends the hero on their way
  • The false hero - perceived as good character in beginning but emerges as evil
  • The helper - helps the hero in the quest
  • The prince/princess - acts as a reward for the hero - and/or the object of the villain’s scheming.

Primarily it is a bit of fun, but if you do the exercise, I defy you not to go away and think a little deeper about the people who have helped you become who you are today.

The second part of this exercise is coming soon! 

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Holy Grail

Are you brave
enough to go it alone?

I’ve seen a lot of posts recently where people are really stressing the importance of having an agent, and making out it’s, like, really the ONLY way to get anywhere in publishing. And while I’d agree it’s ONE way to get somewhere, it’s definitely not the ONLY way.

I was with my agent nearly three years. She tried hard to get my books out there and gave me lots of help and valuable pointers. But it - that much desired publication contract - never happened. And I know from the feedback she passed on from editors and publishers that it wasn’t about the quality of my writing; the most common issue seemed to be that they already had something similar. Market forces.

(Yes, Dharling we love your work, but it would clash horribly with one we saw earlier….) 

I can hack that. Publishers have to make a living too.

But don’t make out that agents and mainstream publishers are the ONLY option. Because there’s a lot to be said for going it alone. As a self-publisher you control:
  • the rights to your work
  • the content of your work
  • the cover design
  • the price
  • the distribution
  • the speed at which you move 

On top of that, you have higher royalties, the opportunity to learn about the industry from a different angle, the opportunity to learn about new technologies, self promotion and marketing. And let’s not forget that self published writers are happier.

Will you jump for joy?
You might not get an advance, and you might not have the prestige associated with a traditional book deal, but after all your hard work, surely the Holy Grail here is getting your work into print? And believe me, it is possible to have a quality product and an income from writing without an agent or Random Penguin holding your hand.

So if you're not getting anywhere with your agent and wondering if it's ever going to happen, my advice is to think about your options seriously... and if it still doesn't happen, JUMP! What have you got to lose?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

You can take the teacher out of teaching, but you can’t take teaching out of the teacher…

Ahhh, the good old days.
Not.
I left teaching X years ago. Really? That long?

I still miss it. I miss the children mostly, and next I miss the whole creative challenge of finding a way to make learning interesting, and fun! I don’t miss the meetings, the marking, the orders from above about HOW and WHY and WHEN you teach something… No, seriously, don’t get me started on that one, Mr Gove.

And I love being a writer and a publisher and all that entails.

But one day, a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about how MY BOOKS might be used if I were still teaching. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. It became kind of a personal challenge to see if I could write a scheme of work around my writing. Whilst I don’t claim to be William Shakespeare or Morris Gleitzman, I thought my books (and especially BRING ME SUNSHINE) might provide the right ingredients for lessons which are both interesting and fun.

So that’s what I did.

I wrote a teacher resources pack for Key Stage 2, based on the PSHE curriculum, and I wrote another one for Key Stage 3, based on the English curriculum.

You can download either from my website - here - for FREE!

The KS2 pack includes information, discussions, games, drama, writing and drawing activities relating to the issue of young carers. It is aimed at children in year 6.

The KS3 pack includes a variety of activities based on BRING ME SUNSHINE and extension activities which can be used in any KS3 English lesson. I had some help from friend and fellow writer KateHanney with the KS3 pack, because my natural home is the primary school; Kate is a secondary English teacher.

If you do look at my free resources packs, please let me know what you think. I had fun creating them, and I’d be really interested to know how they are received by those people in education who matter most; the children.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

20 Questions to Katie Hayoz


This week, I have donned my interviewers hat to ask my fellow Mslexia Children's Novel Comp runner-up - Katie Hayoz - a few questions. Katie's first book, UNTETHERED is now available on Kindle from Amazon UKAmazon US and Barnes & Noble, and the paperback is due for release on MAY 1st 2013.

Q 1. Tell us briefly, what UNTETHERED is about..
Untethered is a young adult coming of age novel that explores the world of jealousy and obsession when paired with paranormal ability.

Q 2.What was the inspiration for writing this novel?
When I was 17 I read Stranger with my Face, by Lois Duncan, which touched on astral projection.  The whole out-of-body experience thing fascinated me.  I wrote a short story that same year and twenty years after that, I finally decided to expand that original story into a novel.

Q 3.Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
My intended audience is anyone age 14 to 114. Untethered isn’t just a story about astral projection; one of the main themes is self-acceptance.  Everyone - but mostly girls and women - struggles with this on a daily basis.  Learning to love ourselves for who we are, as we are, is not always easy.

Q 4.How did you come up with the title of your book?
Ha! I didn’t come up with the title.  I had a horrible, horrible title that I’m embarrassed to even mention here: Precious Possession. Oof. Cringe-worthy, huh?  A friend of mine was talking about the book to her husband and he said, “Why doesn’t she call it Untethered?”  Whew.  Thank you, Robbie.  I’ll be going to him for suggestions on titles for my next novels, too.

Q 5.Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Nelson, hands down.  He’s just…such a sweet guy. And yet he’s not afraid to be different.  I mean, he’s got blue hair and paints his fingernails.  I think, though, the real reason I like him so much is that he’s partially based on a guy I had a crush on in high school.  The guy never talked to me so I have absolutely no idea what he was really like, but in my fantasies he was how I’ve created Nelson.  Only he had a Mohawk instead of blue hair.

Q 6. When and why did you begin writing?
I don’t know exactly when or why, but I can tell you that some of my earliest memories are of my mom sitting in her recliner with a bowl of popcorn and a book.  She always looked so interested - enraptured even - that I had to find out what the heck was so great about words on pages.  That’s how I was bitten.

Q 7. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Ugh.  I wish I had a schedule.  But it’s all chaos.  Whether I’m writing or not.  I’m completely unorganized when it comes to my time.  One day I’ll write five hours, then next few only five minutes.  Everything depends on what’s going on in my daughters’ lives.

Q 8.How do your family feel about you writing?
My daughters think I’m some sort of celebrity.  But they’re still too young to realize the truth.

Q 9.What’s your best/worst experience as a writer?
Best experience: When my agent took me on, said she loved my book and that it should it sell quickly.  Worst experience: When my agent told me 26 publishers decided to pass on acquiring it.

Q 10. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
Does being able to twist my tongue upside down count?

Q 11. What would your fancy dress costume of choice be?
I’ve always wanted a reason to wear one of those super luxurious dresses from the 1700’s that show off cleavage but hide hips.  Oooh, and I’d  have piles of hair stacked up on my head like a tower.

Q 12.What super power would you like?
That’s easy: telekinesis.  Because I’m lazy.  I wish the apartment would tidy itself up.  But astral projection wouldn’t be bad, either!

Q 13. Do you have any unappealing habits?
I whine.  A lot.

Q 14. Who would you invite to the dinner party of your dreams – and what would you eat?
Margaret Atwood for the intellect, Robert Downey Jr. for the eye candy, Tina Fey for comic relief,  J.K. Rowling for the stories, and Jamie Oliver to cook for us!  I’d eat anything he’d make, but I’d want something chocolaty for dessert.

Q 15. If you could say sorry to one person, who would it be and why?
I’m sorry I didn’t make time for my friend Sue when she called me that one day over 20 years ago.  Maybe we’d still be talking.

Q 16. If you could say thank you to one person, who would it be and why?
Have to break the rules here.  I’d say thank you to two people: my parents.  Because they have always, always, always been there for me through everything.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  They amaze me.

Q 17. Favourite colour?
I know I’m a freak, but I don’t have a favorite color.  I like turquoise, purple, pink and green.  Oh, and red.

Q18. Star sign?
Capricorn

Q19. Who would play you in the film of your life?
Ha ha ha.  I’m laughing too hard to answer this one.

Q 20. What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a novel that involves the devil, a remote village, the missing Roanoke colonists, and some really ugly masks.

Thanks, Katie. Great answers x

Katie Hayoz
And here are those all important links...

To buy UNTETHERED, go to
Amazon UK , Amazon US or Barnes & Noble

Check out the Untethered FB page, where you might win a kindle when you share what you would do and where you would go if you were untethered and could astral project!

Visit the website of the book or Katie's own website.

and follow Katie on Twitter: @katiehayoz

Monday, 18 March 2013

HOW TO DO ANYTHING (#1 in a series of 10) - How to become a best selling children’s author


First of all, think of a jolly good story that lots of children will want to read. And when you've done that, write it down somewhere - like a piece of paper or a computer - being careful to avoid any spelling mistakes. Make sure you have lots of  interesting characters, some cracking descripions and a watertight plot, and be extra careful to make it so exciting that your reader won’t ever want to put it down, not even to go to bed.

And then, when you’ve done all that, send it to a publisher and get them to publish it. Or better still, publish it yourself. Sell it to lots and lots of children, and grown-ups too if you have the time, and then when you’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies you can call yourself a best selling author.

Super. 

Here are some other HOW TO ideas...


Saturday, 9 March 2013

10 things you didn't know about Bring Me Sunshine… until now.

 Mslexia Children's Novel Competition, short listed authors.
1BRING ME SUNSHINE was RUNNER UP in the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition, along with Katie Hayoz's book, Untethered, which I look forward to reading. The lucky winner was Lu Hersey whose book, Deep Water, will also be on my reading list… But you know what? I bet they’re all brilliant. The short list was whittled down to 12 out of 1000 applicants, so we should all feel pretty proud of ourselves. I hope to see all of us in print one day, and then we can have ourselves a fabulous Mslexia Readathon. You can see the full short list here.

My own book, Bring Me Sunshine is of course already available to buy as an ebook or paperback. Regular readers of this blog will know all about my journey and how the bright lights of self pub lured me away from the traditionally long winded and tiresome route to mainstream publication.  

2. Bring Me Sunshine is essentially a story about Daisy, a teenage girl, whose dreams of being a drummer and running off into the sunset with the gorgeous Dylan are thwarted by her Dad’s deteriorating mental health. She’s a young carer. She finds herself looking after her dad and little brother, and her own life is put on hold.

What you might not know is that a recent estimate suggested that there may be as many as 700,000 young carers in the UK, with an average age of 12. And that’s something we need to be aware of. We need to be aware of it because these kids need our support, our understanding, and also our cash to provide the services they need to make their lives just a little bit easier. (See below for suggestions.)

3. If you’re a teacher, you might be interested to know that schools' activity packs are available for both KS2 (PSHE) and KS3 (English), focusing on the issues raised in the book. These packs are FREE to download at my website. www.wendystorer.ws

4. Bring Me Sunshine was originally called Ladder to the Moon. It underwent many rewrites, including changing the main protagonist from boy to girl, adding a little brother, changing the narrative from past to present tense, introducing a ‘love’ element, ditching a couple of sub-plots, and giving Dad dementia instead of the M.E. But despite these changes, the core of the story was always the same. It was always going to be a story about a child caring for a member of his/her family and finding a way to live with him/herself, happily.

5. Each chapter is named after a real rock song and the real drummer who played on that track. I listened to hundreds of music tracks to come up with the definitive collection and the names of the 46 drummers, both male and female, who are quoted in the book. This was by far the most entertaining piece of research I have ever undertaken for a novel.

6. The story is set in the real and brilliant town of Kendal, Cumbria, UK, and if you want to visit, you will find all the locations are exactly as described.

7. There’s a theme in the book about living in the moment. I was inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now.  His belief is that, “In the Now, the present moment, problems do not exist. In the Now, we discover that we are already complete and perfect…” and I wanted to explore this idea in a book for young people.

8. Although the book is aimed at young teens (10 -14 year-olds) the oldest person who has read Bring Me Sunshine (to my knowledge,) is 86. But it has quite a few fans from across the age spectrum so if you are creaking at the joints or developing laughter lines and grey hairs, don’t let the CHILDREN’S BOOK label put you off.

9. You can read the opening chapters for free here...

10. ...Or buy the complete Bring Me Sunshine as an eBook or paperback from Amazon.

Or better still - why not donate to one of the charities who could use a little support to help Young Carers:

Help, advice and support 24/7

A supportive, online community of young carers. Discussions and advice from qualified
youth workers.

Young people caring for someone with cancer.

Information and resources for professionals working with young carers.

THANK YOU!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

I, the Publisher (or - How long is a piece of string?) - an inconclusive post.

Geoffrey finally got to grips with
self-publishing.

If you think writing a book is quite time consuming, consider this question.

HOW MUCH TIME IS INVOLVED IN PUBLISHING A BOOK?

And the answer is … *drum roll* … (answers on a postcard please.)

You might as well ask the question - How long is a piece of string? Because there is no answer. It depends. It depends on how long you want it to be.

If you are new to publishing your own books, you will probably already have factored in some time for:

1. Editing - crossing the ‘I’s and dotting the ‘T’s as it were. Enough said.
2. Cover design - making sure your book gets the cover is deserves.
3. Formatting - every platform you publish on seems to have different formatting requirements.  Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, et al, are one thing; yer actual real books, like, paperbacks, are another.

But all these activities are finite. When they’re done they’re done. Time to make a cup of tea, put your feet up and relax. 

With the easy bit out of the way, it’s time to turn your attention to answering the following questions.

1. Who is going to buy your book?
2. How will they know you've written it?
3. Why would they choose you over Fred Bloggs?

The answers to all three questions can be found in that piece of string called Publicity & Marketing. And know this: time spent on P&M is less quantifiable. P&M can be likened to housework, painting the fourth bridge, working towards world peace. YOU WILL NEVER GET IT DONE. There will always be something more you can do. And once you've done it, you need to do it all over again.

Whether it’s time spent...
  • Visiting (schools, prisons, mental homes, libraries, bookshops, literary conventions etc)
  • Blogging (your blog or someone else’s),
  • Doing interviews (local papers, national papers, radio, TV),
  • Tweeting
  • Facebooking
  • Getting read on goodreads
  • Organising book parties
  • Book signings
  • Setting up a website
  • Updating social media
  • Getting reviews
  • Running competitions
... Or a whole lot of other stuff I haven’t even thought about yet; you need a very long piece of string.

I am but a new born in the world of publishing. I've done some of these things and I plan to do others. But I’m going to admit now, being a writer is one heck of a lot more straightforward than being a publisher.)  If you've got any sure fire ways of reaching your 10-14 year old audience, please feel free to share your ideas! 

BRING ME SUNSHINE - Short listed for the Mslexia Children's Prize 2012, now available in paperback via my own website, Amazon UK, Amazon US, The Book Depository and others.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Deep and Meaningful Conversation with my Dogs

Once upon a time there
was a dog called Bodger...
Recently, my dogs asked me why I liked writing stories.
“It’s fun,” I said.
“Do you write about talking dogs?” they said.
And I said, “No, I write about things in real life.”   
“Why would you do that?” they said.

And you know what? I didn't have an answer.

So I've been thinking and googling and reading a few books about it
since, and what I've learned isn't rocket science, but it has helped me to put this whole why-I-am-a-writer thing in perspective.

Telling stories is the language of being human; always has been and always will be. We are hard wired for story. We think in story. We talk in story. We make connections in story. We want to know what happens in the end.

... who met a dog
called Summer...
Take these real life episodes…

1. A man walks down the road and falls into a hole.
“Where? How? Was he hurt?” I hear you ask.

2. The kid next door to me left her tooth under the pillow and her dog ate it…
“Was the kid upset? What happened to the dog? Did the tooth fairy still visit?”

3. There was a woman on the bus, crying into her shopping bag.
“ But why? What about? Did anybody help her?”

See? We want to know all about it. We want to know if things can change. We want to know the outcomes.

We are emotional beings, and stories are about negotiating emotions in a never-ending number of scenarios. Stories give us a framework to understand what’s going on.

Beginning - Middle - End
Conflict - Climax - Resolution

Stories are like a map of the unknown, showing us a path through experiences and emotions that might otherwise leave us feeling lost.  And the world’s a scary place, right? All sorts of shit can hit the fan when you least expect it. And if we don’t have a model of how to deal with it, then what do we do?

Us humans, we don’t like change. We’re goal driven and don't take kindly to detours or dead-ends, and some of us resist more than others. But in all cases, stories help us to plan change, to imagine a different future and how to deal with it. They help us solve problems and develop empathy. And they open our minds to new possibilities and new ways of seeing the world. They may even alter our perception of reality…

But that doesn't really answer my dogs’ question. Why we do I write real life stories?

And I guess the answer is, that I like real people. Escaping into a fantasy world just doesn't work for me. I’m the stranger who sits on the train and watches what others are doing, thinking, and feeling about their life. I’m the weirdo who never forgets a face, and remembers every piece of information I've ever heard about your personal life. I can tell you who ate what at play group,  who was friends with whom, and who bit Toby’s bum. I can tell you who's related to him, what he said when her  mum died, and who's bringing up their baby now. I can even tell you what star signs they are. 

I've got a qualification in psychoanalytical observation, so people watching is just grist to the mill for me, a writer. 

...and 9 weeks later,
Bear was born.
In a previous life, I was a teacher and a hypnotherapist, because I genuinely want stuff to work out for people. I want them to be happy, even though I know that sometimes that’s really not on the cards in the short term. In real life, I don’t always know the way to help a person be happy.

But in a story? I do.

“One last thing,” said my dogs. “Why children? Why write stories for children when there are so many dogs out there looking for answers?”

And do you know what? I'll save the answer for another blog post.



Monday, 14 January 2013

My Life as a Zebra, by Arthur Dog (The Catch 22 of Planning)

After writing my last book using the Splurge Method, I decided to do something different this time. My new book was going to be planned to the last detail, because proper and meticulous planning is surely the short-cut to success...

The inspiration for Arthur's
 new novel
I had a title, and an idea; all I had to do was fill in the blanks.

And so, in the post Christmas brain drain, I sat down with my pen and paper and an empty space in my head, raring to go; raring to plan. I was excited about the possibilities and wondered what marvelous thoughts would flow onto the page.

But then, instead of writing down a hundred genius ideas, I found myself staring at a blank page whilst slowly losing the will to live.

How could I plan if I didn't know what the story was about?
How could I plan the actions and reactions of my characters if I didn't know them?
How could I get to know them without writing about them?
How could I write about them if I didn't know what the novel was about?

Also by Arthur Dog
"My Life as a Panda" 
Getting, nowhere, and fast, were the only words which sprang to mind.

Other writers don't seem to have problem writing detailed plans, sticking their plot points on an ever increasing number of little cards and putting them in order. Other writers re-arrange those same little cards as more plot points emerge, and alphabetically file the unused cards for later books. Other writers plan in fluent prose, with detailed lists and elaborate pie charts, flow charts, Venn diagrams, plot chains, event bubbles, picture boards, character studies... and so on.

And in the end, I decided to throw rules, planning and caution to the wind and do just what I've always done. I.E. Let my imagination run wild and SPLURGE.

After five days of early mornings and a realistic target of 500 words per day, I  reached the giddy heights of 2,737 words. I kind of know where I am heading with this book now, and as I write, the characters and the plot are taking pretty good shape. I know it will need a massive edit when I get to the end, but hey, writing is re-writing whichever way you start the ball rolling. 

How do you kick start a new writing project?
         
Just be yourself, Deer. Do whatever
comes naturally...



Monday, 7 January 2013

Reading Out Loud


(This post was originally published on my Magic Beans Blog, but is repeated here because it's so darned important.) 

Before you get to the point of paying someone to edit your manuscript, here is my number one tip for helping you to take your own edits as far as they can go.

Top Tip #1 = READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD.

You don't have to read your work aloud to an audience,
but if you do, pay attention to their reaction.

Doing this will allow you to see (and hear) all sorts of potential problems. When reading out loud, you must read every single word; when reading silently to yourself, there will be words, sentences and even whole paragraphs you skip over. You might not even realise you are doing it, but you will.

When reading aloud you will (in no particular order):
  • pick up on the natural rhythms, language, speech, sense of time and place and so on
  • get a sense of what feels right and wrong, much more readily than if you keep the words to yourself
  • notice the words you overuse
  • become acutely aware of clumsy expressions
  • know which sentences are too long when you run out of breath before you get to the end
  • have a more immediate feel for the pacing, either because it moves too fast or too slow, with not enough beats for you to take a moment’s rest from the plot
  • notice problems with your characters (eg, are they distinguishable from one another?) 
  • notice information dumps; the places where you do too much telling and not enough showing
  • feel bored if there are no, or too few, variations in tension
  • know if you really like and identify with your protagonist, over and above your minor characters
  • notice if major plot points are not given enough prominence
  • know if you have tied up loose ends
This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but it should give you a better sense of what you are looking for, and hopefully convince you that reading out loud is a good thing.

Of course, you might not find any problems with your manuscript and feel that the whole experience of reading aloud was a waste of time… but then you have probably written the perfect novel. Well done.