Thursday, 23 February 2017

In the Zone

Hope everyone is having a productive February. Despite fierce storms in our neck of the woods, we're getting patches of sunshine and it feels like spring is around the corner, a time of renewed productivity and new beginnings.

I'm just here to give a quick update on my writing progress and also talk about something that's been on my mind. While I've been making fair progress on finishing off the draft of the last part of my trilogy over the last few weeks, with a good few thousand words clocked, I haven't been writing every day. It doesn't happen often, but usually one day a week, and Monday is a big culprit for it. Basically, writing is the reason I get up at 5am; I don't have a good reason to be up at that unseemly time otherwise, and if I'm not feeling the urge then I switch off the alarm and doze for an hour or so instead. If I try and write, and I'm too tired or nothing is coming together, I feel worse about scratching out 50 words that don't take me forward than allowing myself an extra hour in bed.

On other days, which thankfully there seem to have been more of lately, I'm excited to get going and get down a thousand words or more without a break. It's about staying in that zone of being in the story, turning over the possibilities in my mind, staying engaged with my protagonists and their considerable problems. We often hear that it's important to write every day, and it's something that I believe in and try to stick to; however, some days it's just not happening. I also don't write at the weekend, and I've always been like that.

What about you? Are you an inconstant writer, or do you like to get something down every single day? What works for you?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

IWSG February 2017

Time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we have a space to share our insecurities in the company of friends. Can you believe we're into February already? 2017 is going fast. Today's co-hosts are Misha GerickeLK HillJuneta KeyChristy and Joylene Butler. And of course, as ever your host is the tireless Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh!

Today's question is: "How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?"

This is definitely an interesting question. If you immerse yourself in the world of writing, learning about effective pacing, tone, characterisation, and a host of other factors, I think it's inevitable that you will pick up on these things more in other books. That's certainly been the case for me. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy the story or get swept up in it. In fact, the mark of a really good book is one that manages to captivate by doing all the different elements so well that the whole thing seems effortless. But for books that don't work so well for me, I find myself projecting how I might have done something differently, and that's all good learning for my own writing.

Turning to my insecurity for this month, it's pretty much what I noted at the top of the page; that this year is already going by fast, and although I got a fair bit of writing done in January, I'd like to have done more. Of course, February is an even shorter month, but I'm going to grab it by the throat and get as much out of it as I can. Springtime is on the way, which should be very productive and fruitful.

What do you think of this month's question? Check out more responses here.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

IWSG - January 2017

Well, 2016 is done and dusted and it was certainly a tumultuous one - hopefully there's a bit more plain sailing ahead. As it's the first Wednesday of the year it's time for us all to reconvene and see where we are in our writing and associated insecurities, all thanks to the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Hosted as ever by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, our co-hosts for January are Eva @ LillicasplaceCrystal CollierSheena-kay GrahamChemist KenLG Keltner and Heather Gardner.

Insecurities - yep, they're still hanging around, but as it's a New Year I am going to do my best to place them to one side and put my best foot forward in terms of writing, editing and marketing. In broad terms, my goals for the year are to finish the first draft of the final book in my trilogy by the end of February, and to start gearing up for the release of Book 1 in summer or early autumn. I also want to come up with some creative ideas for marketing but before that release, I'd like to try some more things with my short story collection that is already out there. Hopefully, I will also have time to write and submit one short story per month.

Now, let's turn to the IWSG's question prompt for January - one that plays well into insecurity, I think! The question is: "What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?"

This is an interesting one as it got me thinking about rules in general - and personally I believe that there are no rules for writers, merely guidelines or suggestions. Even the biggest selling books probably break one or more rules that are in circulation at some point. My approach is to treat each story on its own merits and use what works. Of course, there are things I try to avoid - like many people, I don't like adverbs, particularly when used to describe how a character says something, as I believe they are a way of "telling" what the character is feeling that could instead be inferred by their words and body language. But again, it's advice rather than rules. An occasional, judiciously placed adverb might be okay. That said, to answer the question, the "rule" I probably wish I'd never heard is "Write what you know".

I don't particularly like this little phrase because I believe it's easily misinterpreted by starting writers who think it restricts them to writing about what is in their everyday lives. After all, I don't think Tolkien ever came face-to-face with a hobbit or that H.G. Wells travelled in a time machine. As writers, imagination is key and we are free to come up with the most outlandish worlds and scenarios possible. However, balanced against that, what I think drives any good story is characters that we can recognise and relate to. Ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Even if they don't react to their circumstances in the way the reader might, the reader should feel able to place themselves in a character's shoes and imagine what they might do. And it all stems from the writer's observations of human foibles and their skill as an interpreter of behaviour - which is likely to come at least partly from the people they interact with in their daily lives, even if indirectly.

So, for me, this is what the phrase "write what you know" means. I just think it's too easily misleading, and something like "write what you know about how ordinary people would react to extreme circumstances" might be better - although granted, it's not quite as catchy.

How about you? What writing rules get your goat? Find out what other IWSG authors have to say here.

PS: I'm off to New York in a couple of days, accompanying my wife on a week-long work trip. There'll be time for sightseeing too and I'm stoked about visiting the Big Apple for the first time. Based on that, I probably won't be able to return all comments right away but I'll be sure to get back to everyone on my return. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

IWSG December 2016

It's here - the final IWSG posting of December 2016. This year has gone quick! As ever, this is the day when we can gather to share our writing fears and insecurities and offer a helping hand to others. Ably commanded by Ninja Cap'n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the co-hosts for today are Jennifer HawesJen ChandlerNick Wilford (erm, that's me), Juneta KeyJ H MoncrieffDiane Burton and M J Fifield!

I recently posted about my insecurities, namely my slow writing progress. I'm working on upping my pace and doing a bit more each day, and this month I hope to be back in a steady rhythm. One thing's for sure - I can't see a time in the future when I'm not writing, and that leads me on to this month's IWSG question - "In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?"

The first thing is to have my first trilogy and accompanying prequel all out in the world, which I plan to roll out over the next couple of years. After that, I've got several other ideas for books that might be standalones or develop into series. What will these books be about? Well, with what I've been writing recently I've realised that I really enjoy the speculative side of things - and whether that be sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal, or multiple other avenues, this question really got me thinking about the idea of having a much more defined author brand or image. I used to think I would not tie myself down to any particular genre, and I'm still open to pursuing any ideas that reveal themselves to me - but "speculative" isn't really a genre, it's a way of looking at the world, pushing the "what-ifs", scrutinising things that may already be amongst us and exploring what would happen if they were developed to their logical conclusion. This is what writing is all about for me, and hopefully in five years I'll have reached more like-minded souls who'll enjoy the journey with me. And who knows what the social media and marketing world will look like by then? That sort of speculation could spark off all sorts of ideas by itself.

In terms of my publication plans, I definitely plan on doing more self-publishing as the sense of control is awesome, but it's also on my bucket list to have something traditionally published. It's not that I think one is more valid than the other, it's just another thing to be experienced. I also think there's something in the idea that some stories are suited more to one route than the other, and hopefully I'll be able to tell which is which!

How would you answer this question? Did you take part in IWSG this month? If you're not a member, thinking about signing up for 2017? Check out the list of other participants here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

November Progress Roundup

Wow! I can't believe we're into the last month of 2016 and Christmas is around the corner. Our tree is up, and lights are sparkling merrily in our windows as well as on the trees outside. This is a time of year when we pull closer together - of course, it was three years ago in November when we lost our superstar, and no one loved Christmas more than him. It feels right to get it underway earlier.

In terms of writing progress, things have been a bit slower in the last month. I added 3,000 words to my WIP, now standing at around 33,000 words. Yeah, not the largest chunk of material, but I'm looking at it as progress that's been made - and it's more than I've managed at other times this year. This is definitely the hardest book I've ever written, but nothing that comes easily is going to be truly rewarding, right? I just need to stop dancing around it, get a grip and get the rest of the story done. There are things that are hard here - hard for my characters, but I know they have it in them to deal with it and I just have to keep them on the right path. I at least have a tentative plan for how things will play out and when I'm done, I think I'm going to really enjoy editing this trilogy and pulling it all together. That's something to look forward to!

In other news, I did finish and submit both short story competition entries I was working on in October, so time to set them aside for now. Just over a month until the IWSG anthology winners are announced - did you enter the contest?

Well, that's about it for now. I'll be back next week for the final IWSG instalment of 2016. What have you been up to in the last month? Any NaNoers out there - how did it go?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

An appeal on behalf of Princess Animal Rescue

Some of you might remember our summer holiday this year when we went to visit our dog rescue friends in Spain, Steve and Pauline Wright, to pick up our newest rescue pup Benji. Pauline runs a small non-profit animal rescue near Zafra in Spain, Princess Animal Rescue, where she single-handedly saves dogs from certain death and looks after them until a forever home can be found. We witnessed at first hand how hard Pauline works, the time and effort she puts in, and the financial strain it causes. Heather, my wife, is part of Princess Animal Rescue's admin group and this small band of ladies fundraise continuously, look for homes for the rescue dogs and offer moral support to Pauline. Our plan is to go over again next summer for three weeks and help Pauline practically, then in 2018, go over for a whole year. Being able to visit the rescue and spend time with Pauline has really inspired Heather and since coming home, she's put a lot of work into continuing to raise funds and find homes.

Now I want to tell you a little bit about the Minky pups. When we visited in July, these pups were eight weeks old and had literally been thrown out with the rubbish, so Pauline took them in and gave them love, warmth and a place to run around and play. Two of Heather's friends have adopted Spot and Dewy, while Summer was adopted within Spain. Pauline and the rest of the ladies are desperate for the rest of the pups to find their forever home as soon as possible. Finding these homes doesn't just mean a happy ever after for Champ, Torro and June - it means more space for Pauline to bring in other dogs that urgently require help. The situation in Spain really is unbelievably dire. There is such a high kill rate with young dogs thrown out, and animal welfare in general is awful.

I want to ask people to do a couple of things if  they can which would really make such a difference. 

  • Go on to this page and click the like button - share it within your own social media and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
  • Share these pictures of Champ, June and Torro and ask others to share with everyone they know. All three pups are very cuddly, get on with children and would be okay with a dog-savvy cat. You might not want to rescue a dog, but someone you know might want to. 
  • If you have any questions, please contact Heather on her Facebook page. She'll be more than happy to speak to you or any of your friends about the process of adoption, fundraising or offering donations.
We're looking for homes in the UK and Europe, but even if you're outside those areas, every bit of awareness raised helps. Let's get these adorable puppies some homes. Thanks a million!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Piper Morgan to the Rescue book blast

Hello! Today I'm pleased to help out the lovely Stephanie Faris with the book blast for the latest instalment in her Piper Morgan series. I'm sure you'll agree it looks delightful.

Piper Morgan to the Rescue
By Stephanie Faris


Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!


Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the PiperMorgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.


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PS: Sorry I have been quite slow at returning comments over the past week. I've had an issue with WordPress blogs where my comments have been disappearing, but hopefully this is sorted now - can I just trouble you, if you're on WordPress, to check your spam queue, as I might have a comment on a recent post that has got stuck there? Thanks!