As is traditional at this time of year I've been assessing the previous twelve months and looking forward to the next twelve. 2015 has been a variable year for me, but there's been more good than bad, especially when it came to the writing.
I've used my new pen (Christmas gift from my lovely husband) to write out my 2016 plans. Are your plans similar? More detailed? Totally different?
Whatever your hopes and aims for 2016, I wish you all the best for the year ahead.
Substantial means, of considerable importance, size or value. It also describes something strongly built or made (in the case of my cakes sometimes both meanings apply!) Another meaning is concerning the substantial points of something.
Substantially either means to a great extent, or for the most part.
To say that the substance of my substantial (100,000 words!) novel, Paint Me a Picture, concerns Mavis's relationships with her family and colleagues is substantially correct.
Leah is accused of a crime she didn't commit. Dumped by Adam, the man she planned to marry, she escapes to Aunt Jayne's smallholding in the Kent village of Winkleigh Marsh. Heartbroken and homeless, she strives to clear her name and deal with her emotions.
Jayne treats Leah's unhappiness with herbal remedies, cowslip wine and common sense in equal measure. In return Leah works hard for the delicious home-cooked meals they share. She wrestles with sheep, breaks nails and gets stuck in the mud - learning as much about herself as she does about farming. Soon Leah is happy milking cows, mucking out pigs and falling halfway in love with Duncan, a dishy tractor driver.
Back in London, steps are being taken to investigate what's happened to the missing money. It looks as though the real embezzler must soon be unmasked and Leah will have to choose between resuming her old life or starting a new one.
I'll be sending out my next newsletter soon. It will include a free seasonal short story and a picture of me doing a reindeer impression. If you're not already signed up, you can add your name to the mailing list here.
Maybe you've heard, or even used, the phrase 'verbal diarrehoea' for someone who talks too much? Logorrhoea is actually the correct word to use as it means an excessive flow of words. It's prononunced log-oh-ree-a.
Thanks to Beatrice for forwarding details of another writing competition - or rather series of them. To qualify you do need to live in the north of England. There are great prizes, opportunities for poetry, short story, novel and script writers.
Even more importantly it gives me another excuse to post one of my travel pictures! There is a castle in this town, but I've chosen a photo of the cathedral for a change. Recognise it?
The winner of this competition will be paid £20 a word! There are slight downsides in that entries may only be 100 words long and sort of give up copyright*, but I'm not going to
let them stop me charging into action.
*Terms and conditions state you give up copyright, but in the questions RD state -
"No matter what happens in the competition you can still promote, share or publish your work however you like. The copyright T&Cs are only in place to show that you have agreed to have your work published by Reader's Digest should you win the competition." and "Hello, this is because we will be publishing them across our media - so in print, the app, and online. We may also wish to publish some of the best ones in future editions." Slightly confusing. I take it as meaning that entrants give them non exclusive copyright.
This anthology is a collection of short stories, all on the theme of loss. Ironically all the stories are prize winners from the regular competitions run by Thinkerbeat.
I was a winner, so have a story in the collection.
Thinkerbeat keep coming up with new competition ideas - and they're all free for site members (joining the site is also free). At the moment there's one running with a $23 prize, plus inclusion in the online magazine.
Daniel tells me there will be four major competitions next year, all with cash prizes. From what I've seen so far he won't stop at that. This year he's added interesting extras such as having your lyrics set to music or script illustrated.
For more information about the site and anthology, plus its creator, here's interview with Daniel White
Do you have literary talent and need financial support to complete your novel? If so, and you've not published a full length novel, but have written at least 20,000 words of one, you can enter this competition.
The prize involves having Ian McEwan recognise your talent at the Hay Festival as well as £10,000 so if you can enter, I really think you should.
Here are some sheep for those of us who can't enter. They're to encourage the sort of sweet dreams which will be experienced by those who do have a try as they await the results.
The first Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. Do join IWSG if you're an insecure writer (and aren't all writers insecure at least occasionally?) or you'd like to offer support.
Last month was Nano - you may have noticed. I didn't 'win'. I didn't come close and it's not as though I did loads of other writing to make up for it. There are a few reasons and plenty of flimsy excuses, but the truth is I didn't do as well as I could have done.
There's room for insecurity in that. I could worry about my motivation, enthusiasm and low effort levels. Actually I have done that a bit. Maybe I'll do it a bit more. But it's December now. Nano is over and I can do something else. Maybe that'll go really well.
How about you? Did you 'win' Nano or do something else in November you're feeling chuffed about? Or was it a bit of a disappointment, writing wise?
Whatever November was like for you, I hope December is better.
A while ago I blogged about The Poised Pen's short story and poetry competitions. I'm pleased to say that I actually got around to sending an entry - and delighted to say I've been long-listed! I'm sure I recognise some of the other names on the list too.
I'd love to say I'll be jumping in the van to read at the results event in Liverpool on 7th December, but it's a long way and we already have trips booked for December so I'm not sure it's possible. The transport manager is looking into it.
For this competition, you're asked to write a short story inspired by these words of Stephen King - “There’s something to be said for a shorter, more intense experience. It can be invigorating, sometimes even shocking, like a waltz with a stranger you will never see again, or a kiss in the dark, or a beautiful curio for sale at a street bazaar.” Given the competition title and the involvement of SK, I'm guessing the kisser will have bad breath and the dancer will tread on your toes. But we all know I've been wrong before.
The prize is online publication plus "a place on a Guardian weekend Masterclass with Philippa Pride, Stephen King’s UK editor."
I quite often cogitate (being a gardener and a writer makes it compulsory) but have only just realised that excogitation is also a thing. That means to think out or contrive, whereas cogitate is to ponder or even meditate.
By my calculations that means I can now spend twice as long looking at the pretty flowers and claiming I'm working by plotting on my plot.
Nice word cusp. Can't think why it isn't used more. It's not as though it doesn't have many uses.
A cusp is a pointed end where two points meet. This could be part of a tooth (pre molars are bicuspid as they have two pointy bits) or an architectural or biological feature. Eg the top of a gothic arch, a leap point or part of the valves in our hearts.
If a mathmatical curve reverses abruptly that change is marked by a cusp and cusp is also the name given to the pointed ends of a new moon.
Cusp can also denote a transition of some kind. Those who's birth sign is on or near the end of a period are said to be on the cusp. Eg if your birthday is on 20th March you're on the cusp of Pisces and Aries (what that means I haven't a clue!) Teenagers are sometimes considered on the cusp of adulthood (as are middle-aged writers!)
There's a top prize of €300 on offer for this poetry competition. Further prizes will be awarded and some poems broadcast on Radio Orange and the winners published on the radio. The theme is the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
The photo is of Tintern Abbey in Chepstow. I'm sure people must have sought refuge or asylum there in the past.
Today* is the launch date of my latest novel - Firestarter. It's a romantic comedy with a hot fireman and a few flames. (just pretend you don't know me when reading chapter 15, OK?)
*Good choice of date, eh? To join in this launch party, just bring along something, or someone, hot!
Firestarter Alice has a fantasy. It starts with being rescued by a hunky fireman,
involves the kiss of life and ends in him not needing his uniform. At
the New Forest Show, Alice is offered an innocent version of her
dream. Reluctantly she turns down fireman Hamish's invitation.
Alice's blameless behaviour, boyfriend Tony's obsessive jealousy
kicks in. Hamish wants to take Tony's place, but a hoaxer ensures
Alice already sees far too much of Hampshire Fire Service. The threat
of an explosive sprout surprise, her mum's baking, sister Kate's mind
boggling pep talks and the peculiar behaviour of Alice's boss Miles
Alice really in danger? What is Kate up to? Can Hamish possibly be as
perfect as he seems? It takes Alice masses of wonderful food,
disgusting wine, smelly mud, red footed crows and steamy Welsh
passion, but she finds the answers. And rethinks her fantasy.
Thanks to all the people who've helped with promotion. You can find links to all the interviews and guest posts about the book, my writing process, locations, characters and wildlife here.
The first Wednesday of the month is when many writers share their insecurities and/or offer support. Do join us.
I have a very good reason for feeling insecure as tomorrow is the launch date of my latest novel, Firestarter. I'm sure I can't be the only author who feels a little nervous about how her book will be received.
Underneath the nerves there's a touch of optimism. I loved writing this book. If it's half as much fun to read as it was, people are going to enjoy it. I've also had extremely generous support from bloggers and writers when it came to publicity. Thank you! You can find details of the interviews and guest posts here.
If you can, please come back tomorrow for the launch.
Thanks to Beatrice for letting me know about this competition. The challenge is to write a story about climate change and the prize is $1,000. You can send up to three entries and have until 16th January to do it.
We get climate change round here. These pictures were taken: from my office window, in the garden, and at the end of the road.
Retrospection is the action of looking back or reviewing events and situations of the past, particularly those in our own lives. It also means to indulge or engage in retrospect. Eg, looking at my wedding photos provides happy periods of retrospection.
Retrospect means a a survey of past times or events, or to reflect on the past. Eg, in retrospect I'm glad I enrolled in creative writing evening classes fourteen years ago.
Oooh, the past is when castles were built! (It's almost like I plan this stuff.) Do you recognise this one? Or the handsome photographer ahead of me?
Although I'm launching my fourth novel soon, I've never held the kind of launch people can turn up to. Vikki Gemmel has though and I've invited her here to tell us how it went.
On Friday 9th October I had the launch of my Young Adult Mystery debut novel, Follow Me, at the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow. My publisher, Strident Publishing Ltd. liaised with Waterstones to secure the launch and I popped into the store to say hello a couple of weeks ahead of the event so that I could meet the manager, and also ask a few logistical questions. When choosing your outfit for the evening, check what you’ll be sitting on…I was very glad I had chosen a longish dress to wear as the high bar-stool style chairs could have resulted in a thigh-flashing disaster situation.
I set up an Events invitation page on Facebook, as this was the quickest and easiest way to announce my plans to a wide range of friends. I emailed other people I knew, and friends and family also spread the word. For me, having so many friends and family present, was what made having a big book launch special and turned it into one of the best nights of my life. I can’t think of any other occasion where you get to fill a room with so many people from all walks of your life. My old Primary School Head Teacher even turned up, allowing me to thank her for the encouragement she gave me with my writing in my last year of Primary. It was also amazing to be able to launch my book in one of my favourite book shops!
The amount of encouragement and support I received on the couple of days leading up to the launch helped to soothe my nerves. Miraculously on the day itself a weird sense of calm washed over me, (when weeks before I was breaking out in cold sweats at the thought of taking centre stage and talking about my book). I had managed to develop the mind-set that the evening should be a celebration with friends, and that was exactly what it was!
My publisher, Keith, did a brilliant job of introducing me, putting me at ease, and turned our question and answer session into what felt like a friendly chat. My biggest worry was that the event would be staid, but we succeeded in keeping it informal and as fun as possible. As he knows my book nearly as well as I do, he was able to ask intuitive questions, which allowed me to explain key parts of the story, as well as talk about my writing process.
Prior to us ‘going live’, he asked me what extracts I’d chosen to read, and he cleverly structured the questions so as to allow me to intersperse my short readings neatly into our conversation. He had also previously suggested that when he asked me the inevitable question, ‘What is your book about?’ that I read out the blurb as it explains the story concisely, without me descending into waffle. Here is the blurb for Follow Me:
What is the deadly allure of the Barn?
17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Abby, the most recent of five teenagers to have died in the town of Eddison, all within a year. No-one seems able to explain the circumstances surrounding her death.
As Kat struggles to move on, she is introduced to an underground hangout – the Barn – by Abby’s friends. There, she meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend Michael, art students who have re-created pop artist Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory, where creative types can construct art and socialise.
Drawn into Rob’s social scene, and seduced by the attention of this attractive stranger, Kat relishes the freedom and escape offered by the Barn’s non-conformity and creativity.
But the Barn holds a strange influence over those who frequent it, and soon Kat begins to realise how little she knew about her sister’s life.
Kat needs answers.
She also needs to stay alive.
I also decided to read my Prologue as the first extract, as it gives a taster of my writing style, as well as introducing the voice of my main protagonist, seventeen year old Kat. Here is my Prologue:
We were Gemini Twins, my sister and I. Two halves making up one whole. She always said I took on all of the darker characteristics of the sign, moody and introverted. She was the sunshine to my darkness; outgoing and full of laughter. I dyed my hair black and matched my foundation to the colour of snow. Her hair shone of gold and she always had a smile on her face. She was the happy one.
It made her suicide all the more shocking.
My parents turned to me for answers. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw a trace of accusation in their eyes. Had my darkness seeped into her light and tainted her sunny disposition?
I only had one answer: my beautiful carefree sister would not take her own life. She was not distraught or desperate.
She was also not the only one to go. Our town almost didn’t react to the news of her death. Everyone was slowly switching off, becoming numb, as Abby became another haunting statistic.
Over the past year there had been other teenage suicides in our town. Abby was number five. None of them left suicide notes and none of them said goodbye to their loved ones. Why? It was the only question I had. I screamed it over and over in my head every minute of every day.
After reading this, it allowed me to expand on the fact it is Kat’s determination to find answers to what is really going on, which drives the story and provides the mystery element, as she refuses to believe her sister would take her own life.
My publisher brought wine along on the night which helped everyone to stay merry. As my book has influences of the Pop Artist Andy Warhol I also wanted to bring something which would tie in with this theme, so I put together mini Coca-cola bottles, with a Marilyn Monroe Pop Art style badge attached to a label encouraging the audience to ‘be famous for fifteen minutes’ by sharing event photos across social media with the hash-tag #followmetothebarn. This was a hashtag I was already using on my author Pinterest and Instagram pages on the lead up to the launch. Now if you type in the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram you can see a whole range of photos and posts from my launch night.
Waterstones also joined in the fun and took a picture of my cupcakes from the night (which had edible cake toppers of my book cover from the fantastic eatmyface.co.uk), sharing it on Twitter with the same hash-tag. The next day my publisher re-tweeted and hash-tagged some posts of his own. I shared a picture of my cupcakes on the Eatmyface Facebook page a week after the event, and they then shared this for all of their followers to see. My parents also provided other nibbles. These little touches added to the fun (and also made for some great, colourful photos!).
A few weeks before the event I put in a new order of promotional postcards, (with my book cover as the main image), so that I could insert these inside some of my books on the night (mainly for people and teenagers who didn’t know me so well). The back of these postcards have my social media contact details. One friend left a postcard in the toilets of the after-drinks pub. By the end of the night this was the only cubicle still in order so it allowed me to announce to the queue, ‘Hey, see the postcard in there – that’s my book! Tonight is my launch.’ Launch night, when you’ve had a couple, is probably the ONLY night an author will get away with such an egotistical moment…
If I have one tip for authors on the run up to their launch it would be – Leave your nerves at home and enjoy every minute. You’ve worked so hard to get here, (and there’s plenty of work to do afterwards), so make this your night of fun!
Follow Me is currently out in paperback and is available to buy on Amazon and can be ordered into your local Waterstones here.
Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and her debut Young Adult novel Follow Me is out now, published by Strident Publishing Ltd. Whilst studying an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media, Victoria developed a fascination with pop culture and Andy Warhol, which has influenced a lot of the ideas in Follow Me. Victoria works with teenagers on a daily basis as a careers adviser.
Victoria has had shorter works published in journals such as the WordswithJAM anthology An Earthless Melting Pot, The Grind Journal, The Puffin Review, FlashFlood, Word Bohemia and The Bohemyth Literary Journal, writing under the name Vikki.