Monday, 30 September 2013

A few hours left to enter

Server Down
The Flash 500 server has been down on and off for the last two days. This means many people would not have been able to send in entries.
 
Some were fortunate enough to get online at a time when the server was up and running, but the email system wasn't working properly and (although we received emails) we were unable to reply.
 
We have now been promised by the service provider that all issues have been resolved. However, if anyone managed to get through and submit an entry, but hasn't received a thank you email in response to your payment and entry, please let us know so that we can acknowledge receipt.
 
For those of you who were unable to get through, there are still a few hours left to enter. The Flash Fiction and Humour Verse competitions both close tonight (30th September) at midnight UK time.
 
Novel Competition
Don't forget the Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competition only closes at the end of October, so you still have a full month to get those entries in.
 
Full details of all three categories can be found on the Flash 500 Home Page.
 
Good luck with all your entries.
 
Kind regards, 
 
Lorraine

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ready to Lash Out? Don't!



Cathy, who writes from Edinburgh, is more than a bit fed up with receiving form rejections. She says: I spend a fortune on postage following agents’ guidelines to the letter. So many of them still insist on paper submissions. God knows why in this day and age, but they do. Not that they reply by post. Oh no, if they reply at all, it’s usually via a form email! I often feel like sending an email in return asking for some feedback in exchange for what it’s cost me to send my work to them, but I manage to stop myself because I know it won’t do me any good. However, just recently I’m finding it really hard to keep my emotions in check. Bloody agents seem to have everything their own way. Most of them don’t even have the decency to tell us why they don’t want the work on offer. I bet some of them don’t even read half the stuff they receive. Sometimes I just want to lash out and tell those agents how bloody rude they are. I bet they wouldn’t like to be treated as they treat writers. I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. Loads of my writing friends say the same.

Dealing with rejection is hard. But it is part and parcel of being a writer. I doubt there is a published author anywhere on the planet who hasn’t had work rejected at some point in his or her career. A certain Mr S. King, who is one of the most successful novelists of our age, claims he was once able to paper a room with his rejection slips. So, when you receive a ‘no thank you’ slip, you’re in good company.

It’s what you do after rejection that is important for your future career. If your manuscript comes back with a form letter saying it isn’t right for a list, you need to look critically at how and why you chose that publisher or agent in the first place. If your subject matter isn’t suitable, then you've wasted their time, and a fair amount of your hard-earned cash in ink, paper and postage.

If you’ve researched properly, but still receive a ‘not right for our list’ letter, although it’s hard, you have to accept it and move on. Agents and publishers receive huge volumes of material every week and sometimes work is rejected without being read. It happens; as writers we have to be thick-skinned and get over it.

Any pointers as to why the manuscript failed to make the grade should be acted on. Agents and publishers are busy people. It is very rare for anyone to take the time to tell you what’s wrong with your work, so treat this information with respect and revise accordingly.

Whatever you do, don’t fire off an angry letter, or email. Your work was rejected – end of story (excuse the pun). Venting your spleen won’t change anyone’s mind, but might make you a powerful enemy in an industry where word rapidly spreads.


Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What's wrong with clichés?



Trevor from Leeds wants to use clichés because he feels they do the job. He asks: are clichés really that bad? My writing group members are forever banging on about them, but sometimes they get across exactly what I want to say.

Yes, they clichés really are that bad. They are phrases that were once fresh and new, but are now stale and tired. To make your writing stand out and bring your own unique voice to life, you need to create your own original expressions. The words and phrases you use have to help flesh out your characters and also make the narrative sparkle.

You might well have a character speaking in clichés and there is nothing wrong with that. You’d be using it as a character quirk. But if the narrative is littered with clichés, or more than one character uses them, that is a sign of lazy writing.

Be bold – create your own similes and metaphors. You never know, in years to come your phrases might be so frequently used that they will be classed as clichés. After all, when Shakespeare and all the other great writers wrote what are now considered clichés, they were then original and fresh. It’s because they so exactly fitted the characters and situations that the phrases have been used over and over again.

As a writer, it’s your job to use words to the best effect. This means being innovative and allowing your voice to come through via your use of words.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The People’s Book Prize

I don't very often mention my other persona, Frances di Plino, on this blog, but when something amazing happens, I can't keep it to myself. Bad Moon Rising has been nominated for an award and I need your help.
 
The People’s Book Prize
Founded by Dame Beryl Bainbridge DBE, the People’s Book Prize is decided entirely on readers’ votes. I’m delighted to say that Bad Moon Rising has been nominated in the fiction category, but it’s up against some stiff competition, not least being the great Frederick Forsyth’s latest offering!
 
You can vote for Bad Moon Rising if you’ve read and enjoyed the novel. If you haven’t read it, now’s a good time to point out you can do so for the paltry sum of 77p/99c on Amazon Kindle. (All Crooked Cat Publishing's books are on sale this week, including the next in the series, Someday Never Comes.)

I hate begging for favours, but I think the only way Bad Moon Rising is going to make the final is if lots of you vote – so, here goes: please, please, please vote for my book by following the link below.
 
 
To give you a flavour of the novel, it has garnered 22 five-star, 6 four-star and 1 one-star reviews so far.
 
Here’s the latest:
“As an enthusiastic detective fan, I was not disappointed by this book. The reader is kept guessing all the way through as to the identity of the killer even though his motives are left in no doubt. What I found troubling was that I was taken into the mind of the serial killer and understood it, not a pleasant trip. The twist in the end was satisfying even if I did want to slap Paolo at times and ask him to wake up in his personal life. Characters were believable and not too overdrawn. I can't wait to read the next in this series.”
 
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Getting to know … Victoria Twead



Tell us a little about your books
It all began with my memoir, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools. To my astonishment, that became an Amazon bestseller, so I wrote the sequels, the latest of which hit the New York Times bestseller list.

What made you choose to write about your experiences?
Life in a tiny Spanish mountain village brings surprises every day, some hilarious, some sad. I keep a diary and soon realised I had enough material for a book, then another and another. Also, the villagers gave me their delicious recipes which I have included in the books.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me between one and two years to finish a book.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Sporadic. I tend to write in flashes depending on what is going on around me. During village fiesta time not a word gets written.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I don't need ideas, I just record what is going on around me. Village life is so rich and colourful, there is always a story to tell.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to write and what was your first attempt?
I can trace it back to the age of about 6 or 7, when I wrote my first *coughs* masterpiece. It was called ‘The Runaway Tabel’. It went something like this: ‘Wunce there was a runaway tabel and wen you put food on it it ran away. The end.’ But I guess everybody has to start somewhere…

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Relaxing in the sunshine with a good book, drooling over my granddaughter, sampling the local food and wine and looking after our chickens.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
In late middle age, I discovered that people actually wanted to read the stuff I wrote!

How many books have you written?
Five and a half.

Which is your favourite and why?
I have a soft spot for Two Old Fools on a Camel because that one hit the NYT bestseller list and resulted in enquiries from big publishers.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a zoo keeper. I guess there’s still time...

What are you working on now?
I'm working on the fourth in the Old Fools series.

Bio
Victoria Twead is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2004 she nagged poor, long-suffering Joe into leaving Britain and relocating to a tiny, remote mountain village in Andalucía, where they became reluctant chicken farmers and owned the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. Village life inspired Victoria’s first book, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, which was quickly followed by two more in the Old Fools series, all of which fast became Amazon bestsellers.

Amazon US author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002WH2NB8


Published Works
Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools
Two Old Fools ~ Olé!
Two Old Fools on a Camel
Mouthwatering Spanish Recipes
Morgan and the Martians (children’s book)

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and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Friday, 6 September 2013

Getting to know ... Adam S. Leslie



What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Technically they fall into the Fantasy category, but not the ‘hard fantasy’ wizards-and-elves sort of fantasy.  I suppose you could call my stuff magical realism, though it can be pretty far out too.  I like to explore shifted realities, dream realities, nightmares, fever, nostalgia, and try and do things that haven’t really been tried before.

Kaleidoscope itself starts off as dystopian science fiction, but it becomes something much darker and more tied into the subconscious as the book progresses.

What made you choose that genre?
A combination of escapism and impatience.  I’ve always looked to fiction to transport me from the mundanities of everyday life, rather than necessarily reflect it back at me.  That’s not to say that the best escapist fiction doesn’t have profound things to say about our lives and the world we live in, but it’s nice also to get away from what you’re doing for a while.  Of course, this is what I do all day, so I run the risk of becoming a crazy hermit man-child from lack of exposure to reality.  I’ll let others be the judge of whether that’s already happened.

I’m not really one to sit still for long – I’d find it hard, I think, to write an entire novel tied to a single genre.  Kaleidoscope is an appropriate title, because it’s a pretty kaleidoscopic mix of science fiction, fantasy, post-modernism, comedy, surrealism, adventure, satire and a dash of horror.  The trick is finding tonal consistency, so that it all feels like it belongs in the same world and the same story, rather than a chaotic mishmash.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I’m primarily a screenwriter, and the books are something I do in between, so it’s hard to really tell how long they’ve taken in real time.  Kaleidoscope spans a few years, but not very concentrated years – which, I think, has helped keep it fresh.  I never reached the stage of getting burnt out with it.

Now they’re getting published, though, I have the impetus to ramp up the pace a little!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I don’t really have one, which probably isn’t healthy.  Much of my day is Adam vs. Insomnia, or Adam vs. Procrastination.  I’m normally writing, or trying to write, pretty much from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, which is why I have so many friends.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
This is traditionally the big unanswerable question, isn’t it?  For me, it varies from book to book – with Kaleidoscope, I started off with a sense of the environment, a huge shopping centre in which everyone lives and no one ever goes outside, and they’re so hypersensitive they’ve become phobic of everything.  On top of this, about twenty years ago, Milton Keynes shopping centre had its own pub, which meant that this one part of the centre could be a bit of a no-go area at certain times of day.  It amused me that a shopping centre could have a rough part of town – so that’s where the nightmarish Outer Zones came from.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My school friend Peter and I wrote a Tolkien-inspired Fantasy epic called The Adventures Of Drinil when we were 11/12, about some little people called Lidils (not Hobbits) who go on an adventure and fight orcs.

We were somewhere in our teens when we wrote a massive illustrated surrealist novel called The Secret Onion.  It’s still probably the oddest thing we’ve written, Peter was some kind of precocious genius I think, his bits still really stand up today.  How many other 16-year-olds would come up with a complex series of fractal, synaesthetic alchemical worlds based around the vowels in the chapter headings?

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m a bit of a movie buff.  Last night I watched Silent Running, the old Douglas Trumbull ecological science fiction film from the early ‘70s.  What a glum little film that is!  The two films I always try and persuade people to watch are the Monkees movie Head, which is a lot darker and weirder than one might expect; and French Magical Realism classic, Celine & Julie Go Boating.  Also, on behalf of my cover artist Evelyn and I, everyone must watch Tarsem Singh’s The Fall – you’ll never see anything else like it.

I’m also pretty heavily into music.  I have a non-career as a songwriter and musician, which I had to jettison in order not to take too much attention away from my writing.  I’m a sucker for melody, hence my love of 60s/70s guitar pop-rock.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Perhaps that everything they taught me about creative writing at school is wrong – in fact, you have to strip out those excess adjectives and adverbs, be sparing with ‘said bookisms’, keep it clean and simple.

How many books have you written?
Not including those teenage noodlings, two complete novels, plus another four currently on the go.

Which is your favourite and why?
Blinsby, which is the first of a sequence of four books.  It’s such a personal novel; it’s a fictionalised memoir by Peter and I of our time at primary school.  But it’s so fictionalised that nothing in the book actually happened in real life!  The story is about a new boy who starts at school, apparently discovers a dark secret being kept by the school authorities, and is disappeared.  Erasmus and Frank (based on Peter and I) set about investigating, and uncover layer upon layer of deceit and betrayal.

It has a similarly kaleidoscopic mishmash of genres – it’s ostensibly an adventure romp, but with quite a darkly nightmarish surrealist element, plus comedy, satire, thriller, etc.  I’m also fascinated by the notion of it being a children’s book for adults… I love the idea of transporting the reader back to their school days in a genuinely immersive way.  We’ve created quite a detailed alternate version of 1980s pop culture and a fully-populated school environment; and the book follows a complete school day in heightened real time, so hopefully it feels like you’re really there.  We use the Calvin & Hobbes technique of having children express themselves in exaggeratedly articulate fashion – they don’t think like adults, but they have the articulacy of adults – which I think helps adults identify with them.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I was always in denial about growing up (and still am, I suppose), so it was never more than my pre-prepared answer to that most standard of grown-ups’ questions.  The whole notion of being old and having a job seemed pretty theoretical.  It was originally teacher, because that’s all I really knew, and I liked the idea of setting the work rather than having to do it.  I also fancied being costume designer on Doctor Who, till a friend told me that you had to be a woman, which put paid to that.  I did want to be a Doctor Who companion, too.  Not an actor, just a Doctor Who companion.

What are you working on now?
Various top secret film projects, plus the second book in the Blinsby series.





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