Friday, 13 September 2019

Diane Simmons #interview #writerslife

This week I am delighted to welcome Diane Simmons to my blog.

What genre would you say your books fall into, or do they defy classification?
I mainly write flash fiction. My recently published collection, Finding a Way is a series of connected flash fictions on the theme of grief. Told from various points of view, it follows four people over a three and a half year period as they deal with the loss of a family member
An Inheritance, my forthcoming pamphlet from V Press, is a historical novella-in-flash. It is a family saga dealing with the themes of money, greed and inheritance. 
What made you choose the genre for your books?
Having only ever written short stories, I was introduced to flash fiction by Pauline Masurel and I embarked on a flash course with Fish Publishing in 2011. Although I enjoyed it, I declared that I didn’t think flash was my thing. But the course had provided me with lots of material which I sent out to competitions and the pieces went on to do quite well.  Encouraged, I began to write more flash and now rarely write anything else.
I first came across the idea of connected flash fiction collections when I proofread some of Calum Kerr’s novellas-in-flash (Saga, Graduation Day, Apocalypse). I very much enjoyed them and was intrigued by the form. When Bath Flash Fiction set up a novella-in-flash competition, I decided to have a go at writing one.  This eventually became my forthcoming pamphlet An Inheritance. Apart from the final one  in the pamphlet, all the stories in An Inheritance were specifically for the collection.
Finding a Way came about in a very different way.  After the death of my daughter, Laura, in 2015, I found that I wrote little else other than  stories about grief. I eventually realised that it could make   an effective collection, perhaps helping those dealing with grief themselves or for those not knowing how to help a grieving friend or relative. As with ‘An Inheritance’, each story can be read individually, but the book as a whole has a narrative arc.
Tell me something about yourself that readers might not know
I recently bought an outdoor table tennis table after wanting one for years. It’s good to go out in the garden and hit the ball about as a break from sitting at my desk all day. I tend to get a bit obsessive about things and I’ve worn the grass out in places.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My only real hobby has always been reading fiction. But I love to socialise as well. In the last few years flash fiction has greatly improved my social life and I enjoy reading my stories at events. The flash community is a very lively and inclusive place and some people I’ve met on twitter have become close friends. We all enjoy getting together and talking about writing. I am a director of National Flash Fiction Day and hospitality organiser for the Flash Fiction Festival UK and both those roles keep me very busy.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote a book when I was about nine called The Trees of Treasure. It was heavily influenced by Enid Blyton. Apart from the stories I wrote at school, I didn’t write anything else again until I was forty-seven. Starting a creative writing course with The Open University was a life changing experience for me.
How many books have you written?
Apart from the one when I was nine, I’ve written two collections of flash fiction and have also had about another seventy or so short stories/flash fictions published.   
What is your work schedule like for your books?
I try to make writing the most important commitment to a working day, but don’t always achieve that. I tend to write best when there is something else I should be doing.  I used to be very much a line a day kind of person, but in writing An Inheritance and Finding a Way, I worked at a much quicker pace. With Finding a Way, I set myself the challenge of writing the first draft of a new story every week and enjoyed editing and improving the stories as I went along. With An Inheritance, the first version was written within a few months as I had a competition deadline I had to meet.  I used to have horrendous back problems and at times have only been able to sit at a computer for a few minutes at a time. But my back is now very much improved which helps with my output. I’ve learnt to go for walks to give myself a break, but if I’m busy it annoys me having to do it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
I have just the beginnings of a new novella-in-flash that I started writing a few months ago. I’ve had to abandon it for now while I get on with the edits for An Inheritance. I have quite a few unpublished short stories and flashes on my computer, but I tend to finish a story once I’ve started it.
Do You Google Yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
Yes, I love googling myself. I get frustrated that I share the same name as a character in the television programme Family Guy. I really dislike many pictures of me that I find on the internet and dislike having no control over them.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never really had a clue. My parents always said that I wanted to be a nurse, but I have no memory of that and there could hardly be a profession I am less suited to.

Diane Simmons is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and part of the organising team for the UK Flash Fiction Festival. For three years she was a reader for the international Bath Short Story Award and has twice been an editor for Flash Flood. She has helped judge several flash competitions, including National Flash Fiction Day’s Micro Competition and Hysteria Flash Competition.  In 2017 and 2018, she co-edited the Flash Fiction Festival anthology.
Diane has been widely published and placed in numerous competitions.  ‘Finding a Way’, her debut flash collection on the theme of grief,  was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019 and was recently shortlisted in the 'Best Short Story Collection' category of The Saboteur Awards.
You can find out more about Diane on the following links:
Twitter: @scooterwriter




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Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Sally Jenkins #interview #writerslife

Today I am delighted to host Sally Jenkins.

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?

I write about the darker side of life, such as the secrets people would prefer to keep hidden or the devastating acts they commit when life doesn’t go their way.

What made you choose that genre?

It’s what I enjoy! I like to read crime and psychological thrillers. On TV I love anything ‘noir’. I like to be scared or shocked – but in the safety of fiction rather than in real life.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Around 18 months to two years. I have a ‘proper’ job for three days a week so I don’t write full-time – although I’d love to!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’m a morning person so I start writing straight after breakfast and leave all the washing-up, domestic stuff and admin until the afternoon when my brain isn’t so fresh. I like to get out of the house so you’ll often find me in a coffee shop with my laptop and a latte. The background conversational cafĂ© buzz and the absence of domestic distractions keeps me focussed.

I do the minimum of housework unless I’m expecting visitors, and then I scurry round like a mad thing. On my ‘proper’ job days I aim to do 45 minutes writing before I start work. 

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.

I have been a church bell ringer since I was fourteen years old. It’s a great way of keeping both body and mind active. There’s a lot of physical stretching upwards and pulling down. Plus the methods we ring (think of these as ‘tunes’) require a lot of concentration.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I completed my first novel in 2015 at the age of 52. I wish I’d got round to doing it earlier! Before that I spent several years writing short stories and articles for magazines.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I’m a member of a Speakers’ Club. I joined in order to develop the self-confidence to promote my books and I now regularly give talks to community groups such as the WI. 

The fear of public speaking never quite goes away but it is possible to manage it. Earlier this year I wrote Public Speaking forAbsolute Beginners in order to help other people find the confidence to address an audience.




What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

It’s impossible for me to stick to a plan! I create a plan and a list of scenes but it’s only when I start writing that I discover which way the story is actually heading.

How many books have you written?

I have two published novels, three collections of short stories plus some non-fiction. My best-selling e-book is Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners, which is aimed at helping writers thinking about publishing on Kindle for the first time.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?

If I Google myself I get a lot of stuff about the top US sports writer, also called ‘Sally Jenkins’, which makes me feel insignificant! I’ve also had people contact me through my blog and post on my Facebook page, thinking that I am her. In hindsight, I should have used a pseudonym to avoid the confusion.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I went through a whole range of careers from air hostess to police woman to librarian. I settled on wanting to own a second-hand bookshop. Sadly, it never came to pass and I now work in IT.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?

Four, I think, plus several half-finished short stories and failed article pitches.


Sally Jenkins is a writer and speaker. Wearing her fiction hat, she is the author of two psychological thrillers and many short stories. In her factual guise, she has written books on public speaking and self-publishing.


Books 
The Promise – “I couldn’t predict how the ending would turn out which added to the page turning suspense as the final chapters galloped along towards the thrilling finale.” Amazon reviewer.

Bedsit Three – “A gripping tale and gallops along.” Amazon reviewer.




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Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Russell Day #interview #writerslife

Today I am delighted to feature Russell Day.

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Beyond saying ‘crime’, it’s difficult to narrow my writing to a particular genre. At some point my characters will break the law or be brought to justice (or injustice), but I tend to mix elements together from the different sub-genres. 


Doc Slidesmith, my amateur sleuth, is a tequila-swilling tattooist who never leaves home without a pack of tarot cards. His personal motto is WWMMD: What Would Miss Marple Do. The first book he appeared in, Needle Song, had different reviewers describing it as dark, humorous, gritty, traditional, urban crime noir and a homage to Agatha Christie. Ink to Ashes, Doc’s second outing, appears on Amazon under Cosy Mysteries and Organised Crime.


On one level, crossing genres is a problem because it makes the books hard to market, but it’s nice to see people taking different things from what I’ve written. What I aim for is a book that Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler might have written if they met up in a tattoo parlour, then got drunk and woken up to a shared hangover.

What made you choose that genre?
I joke that it’s because I’m from north London and grew up in a high crime area. There’s a grain of truth in that, but mainly I write about crime because I like storylines and characters that can’t be trusted. Writing crime makes that easy; as soon as you put a robbery or a murder into a plot, the characters have to start lying and cheating.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a soft spot for antiheroes. Not that I consider Doc Slidesmith to be an antihero; I describe him as an almost hero.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Around a year seems to be my speed for a novel. That’s the actual sitting down and typing bit, of course. The core idea might have been bouncing around in my head for years. Having said that, the novel I’m currently working on isn’t coming together as fast as I’d like. I usually manage 1,000 words a day quite regularly, but for this novel that hasn’t been happening. And, to rub salt in the wounds, at around twenty-five thousand words I found out that one of my main plot devices didn’t work. I’ve worked out a way around it but editing the first draft is probably going to need a machete rather than a keyboard. That’s alright, I like machetes.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I don’t have a schedule as such. When I have a project underway, I aim for 1,000 word a day, but that target is fairly fluid. Also, I work full time, so all my writing is fitted in around shift patterns. Basically, when I get a chance, I write. If I waited around for the ‘right’ time, nothing would get done.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I don’t often ‘get’ an idea in one hit. Usually I hear something or have a totally random image pop into my head, and it starts a chain of thoughts, or questions. Where I end up is usually so far removed from where I start, it makes my head ache.

For the novel I’ve just had published, Ink to Ashes, I had a scene in my head of someone tattooing a corpse. That raised a few questions. What sort of tattoo is it? Who’s it going on to? Why wait until they’re dead? How did they die?  Eventually I had a story.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I was once an extra in a photoshoot for a porn mag.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing when I was a teenager, but I didn’t really apply myself to it until I was in my late forties. The first novel that got beyond first draft was Needle Song and it was published as I turned fifty.

In hindsight, I wasted a lot of time sitting around waiting for the ‘mood’ to take me. I also had this idea that writing was something you could either do or not do, so I didn’t invest any effort in learning how to do it properly. The upshot was the time I didn’t waste sitting around waiting for the muse to call, I wasted making the same mistakes over and over again. Looking back on it now, it’s quite embarrassing. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not at work or doing the family man bit I can normally be found on or around a motorcycle. One of my tattoos (I’ve got a lot of them) reads:
1.      BLOOD
2.      OIL
3.      INK

What that means is: first my family, then my bike, then my writing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Two things: the first is about the book I’m currently writing, which revolves around a webcam model. 

While researching the camming industry/community I found out it’s possible to buy artificial semen. That was something of a surprise. What really made my jaw drop though was finding it was available by the gallon. 

The second was that Agatha Christie was a keen surfer. Back in the twenties she was among the first British ‘stand-up’ surfers.


How many books have you written?
Three novels to date, Needle Song and Ink to Ashes -  currently available from Fahrenheit Press and Amazon - and King of the Crows which will be coming out next year.

Needle Song and Ink to Ashes are the first two books in the series featuring Doc Slidesmith. King of the Crows is a standalone novel set in the near future during a pandemic that has wiped out most of Europe. It’s another example of mixing genres and possibly pushes the envelope of crime fiction, but I still regard it as a noir piece. It may be the first ever zombie heist novel.

Which is your favourite and why?
I’d have to say King of the Crows. It’s a bit off the wall and unlike anything I’ve written before. As I said earlier, I like plots and characters that can’t always be trusted. In Crows there are three narrative POVs and serval sources of information. All of them have their own agenda and almost none of them can be trusted.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad?)
I found someone on eBay was selling two Writer’s Forum Magazines “featuring short stories from up and coming writer Russell Day”. That was really an ego boost.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Ride a Harley Davidson and get tattooed a lot. It’s worked out quite well really.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
Not that many really. If I can’t get something up to speed, I tend to hit delete and move on. I’ve got a few short stories that I’m struggling to find endings for and a lot of weird titles. If I hear or read a bizarre line somewhere, I often file it away for a future story title. A few of my favourites are Turn Left at the One-Legged Pigeon and Don’t be Alarmed, But I’ve Forgotten Your Future.

What I do have a lot of on my computer are opening pages and disjointed scenes. Some popped into my head and seemed too good not to write down and some are sections that I’ve edited from finished pieces.

I recently took three of these unconnected scenes and manged to stitch them into a novella called Coming up with a Because, featuring Doc Slidesmith. It’s with my publisher now and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for their reaction.

Bio
Russell Day was born in London and grew up in N.W.10, an area looking for an alibi. From an early age it was clear the only things he took an interest in were motorcycles, tattoos and writing. He has since added family life to the list and now lives with his wife and two children. He’s still in London but has moved south of the river for the warmth climate.

His first two novels, Needle Song and Ink to Ashes, are available on Amazon or direct from Fahrenheit Press http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/authors_russell_day.html

A short story, Not Talking Italics, featuring Doc Slidesmith is currently posted online at  https://www.bitsaboutbooks.net/not-talking-italics-russell-day/


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Friday, 23 August 2019

Alison O'Leary #writerslife #interview

Today I am delighted to invite on to my blog fellow author Alison O'Leary.

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification
Street Cat Blues is my debut novel. I would say that the general classification is crime, probably on the cosy side, but with a definite dark edge. It does have a cast of cats in it but it is set very firmly in the human world. It deals with some quite strong issues concerning racism, illegal immigration and class although I’d like to think that there’s some humour in there too.

What made you choose that genre?
When I was about twelve, I was stuck at home suffering from asthma. I picked up a copy of an Agatha Christie book and it was the start of a life-long love of crime fiction. For me, crime fiction allows terrific scope for great characters as well as introducing the puzzle element which, if done well, draws the reader in and propels them forward. I also studied law and for many years taught criminal law and criminology.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Difficult to say. Street Cat Blues was actually started quite a few years ago. I would put it down and start something else but I always went back to it. So, in that instance, quite a long time!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Not as structured as it should be. We’re told that ‘a writer writes’ and I try to write every day but other things often get in the way. Like many writers, I’m probably too easily distracted. Before I was published, I was a bit more relaxed about it but now I’m trying to get the sequel out I give it priority.

Tell me something about yourself that your readers might not know.
I’m very keen on British stamps. I’m not sure how I first got into stamps, it might have been when I was about eleven and my school ran a trip to Stampex, which is an annual national stamp exhibition. When I was twelve (in between reading Agatha Christie books) I was awarded a Highly Commended in a national stamp competition. I was terribly proud of it and still am – it’s the only thing I’ve ever won!

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve written bits and pieces off and on for as long as I can remember but I think the first complete book, i.e. one that I actually finished was when I was about forty. So, quite a late starter.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I still look at my stamps although I have to ration that because once I start the day seems to run away with me. I also enjoy cross-stitch and embroidery, British movies, walking by the sea and reading. I mostly read crime fiction but I’ve recently discovered books by Lissa Evans which I’m enjoying hugely. Last, but by no means least, I do like a glass (or two) of wine.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think that one of the things that surprised me the most is that on occasion a character will appear out of nowhere and somehow fit in perfectly. In Street Cat Blues there’s a little, not very bright, cat called Moses and I have no idea where he came from. However, I grew to be very fond of him. At one point in the book he is placed in jeopardy and a number of readers have told me that they really feared for him. 

How many books have you written?
Altogether, I’ve written four. The first two did get picked off the slush pile by agents but then didn’t make it through to publication. The third, frankly, wasn’t that good and I don’t think I even submitted it anywhere. I was probably a bit demoralised following the disappointment with the first two books. The fourth book was Street Cat Blues. I submitted it a number of times and had more or less resigned myself to putting it on the shelf  and possibly giving up altogether when I decided to give it one last go. After that it all happened really quickly. The publisher got back to me almost by return and within a couple of weeks I had a contract.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?
I don’t really Google myself very often but your question just prompted me to do it! However, there’s not a lot about me out there other than that relating to Street Cat Blues so, to date, it hasn’t given me any surprises. 

What did surprise me was the requirement for authors to have such a strong social media presence. When I was teaching, I tended to stay away from social media as so many of my students used it and I had seen colleagues caught in some embarrassing situations. Once I had a publishing contract, I discovered that I really had no choice. It was a very steep learning curve, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. I was rather fearful to start with but I’ve discovered that it’s a lovely way to interact both with readers and fellow writers, as well as keeping up to date with what’s being published and by whom. 

One of the nicest things was when a reader told me that she’d used Street CatBlues in a teaching session as an example of good use of narrative. I was particularly pleased because the group she was using it with was a group of rather difficult adolescents. Apparently, they loved it.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be an ice skater or a writer. When I was a child, I took to the ice the first time I went skating and used to go pretty much every week to Queens skating rink in London. I loved it. Quite recently I went on the ice in Brighton and really struggled. In fact, at one point I fell over!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
At present I have two half-finished books. One is the sequel to Street Cat Blues, called Country Cat Blues, which I hope to follow eventually with a third to complete the trilogy. The other is a stand-alone psychological thriller which I intend to go back to once the trilogy is complete.



Bio
I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding the kind of school where girls did needlework and boys did woodwork. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and spent many years teaching mainly criminal law to young people and adults.



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Monday, 12 August 2019

Flash Fiction Winners #writers

Flash fiction winners
The winning entries for the second quarter 2019, as judged by Kate Finegan, are up on the site. You can read the stories here. We are already receiving entries for the third quarter, which will be judged by Diane Simmons.
 
Short Story Category
The short story category is open for entries until the end of February 2020. If you have a story up to 3,000 words, in any genre, you could be in line to win £500/£200/£100. Make us laugh, make us cry, but, above all, make us feel!
 
Novel Opening and Synopsis Category
This category is open for entries until the end of October 2019 and will judged by the senior editors at award-winning publishers Accent Press. Maybe your entry will be the springboard to becoming a number one best selling author, as happened to previous winner Wendy Clarke.
 
Full details of all three competition categories can be found on the Flash 500 Home Page.
 
Kind regards, 
 
Lorraine
 


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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Points of view #writetip

Rob from the Costa del Sol writes: Many of our writing group members have been struggling to resolve the issues surrounding the ‘Point of View’ often simply referred to as POV.

Our main POV problem lies in writing in the 3rd person and the introduction of multi POVs. Is this permissible or must it be avoided?

ANSWER
The use of multiple points of view is one of those areas where you will most probably receive a different answer from every person you ask.

For very short stories, it is certainly not advisable to use more than one point of view, as it is easier for the reader to identify with a single character. For longer works, there is no reason why you cannot use several points of view, as long as your reader is able to follow what is going on.

Changes of POV can be very confusing unless clearly signalled, but the technique is extremely successful when used correctly. Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings will be aware of just how effective it can be. The POV switches were used to increase the tension, leaving the reader gasping to know what was happening to the characters they’d left behind, but at the same time relieved to catch up with others.

Some writers say you shouldn’t change POV within a chapter, but I think it is fine to switch, as long as the guidelines below are followed. 

  • Don’t change point of view mid-scene
  • Clearly signal a point of view change by leaving a line of space, or inserting three asterisks, before moving on to the next character’s viewpoint
  • Make sure the reader knows from the very first sentence whose point of view they have moved to (it is very frustrating to think you are still reading from one POV, only to find out several paragraphs later that you are, in fact, in a different POV)


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Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Four day countdown #flashfiction

Flash Fiction
There are only four days left before entries close for this quarter's flash fiction category. We look forward to reading your stories up to 500 words (excluding the title).
 
The winners will be chosen this quarter by Kate Finegan, a specialist in flash fiction judging.
 
Novel Category Success Story
One of our winners from this category has gone on to amazing success with her entry, crediting her win as the springboard to becoming a best-selling author! I'm delighted to announce that Wendy Clarke has entered the overall Amazon top 100 with the winning entry The One I Left Behind - published as What She Saw in the first of a two book deal. She has since signed a contract for a further two books.
 
Wendy has shared her experiences and success in this earlier blog post: Sharing Good News.
 
Could you be next? The novel category is open for entries. This year's judges are the senior editors at Accent Press, publishers of my own best-selling D.I. Sterling series.
 
For more information on our competition categories, visit the Flash 500 Homepage.
 
Kind regards,
 
Lorraine


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