Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Help - I've eaten too much wine!

Apparently this was yelped by me sometime over the Christmas period. I don’t believe a word of it. I haven’t been well. I’ve had a throbbing headache and a cold and I refuse to take responsibility for anything I might have said during the festivities.

Anyhooo, New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t think I bothered last year. I can’t remember, it’s too long ago and too far away. But Russell Grant says Jupiter and Pluto are in my ninth house in 2011 and therefore anything is possible, so perhaps I should grasp the bullet and bite the nettle.

So here goes – and I should point out that I have already eaten too much wine today and intend to eat considerably more so this should be taken with a mince pie and a slice of Christmas cake and probably a large glass of iced water.

1. I will finish one of the novels I have simmering away on the boiler.
2. Okay, perhaps first I should choose which novel I should finish rather than gung ho-ing all over the place about finishing one at all.

3. Well maybe I should actually find the started novels first and look at them and decide which one/s deserve to be finished.
4. I’ll draw up a shortlist.
5. Or maybe a longlist.
6. I quite fancy that really serious one that has turned to murder.
7. But I also fancy doing something a bit light and funny like the one with the exploding suitcase or the one with the… oh never mind, who wants to hear about my what ifs?
8. You know what, I’d really like to start something completely new and not keep going over old ground. I like starting new things.
9. I think maybe I need another glass of wine and then I should give it more thought. But you know what thought did?
10. Perhaps I should stick to writing short stories or have another look at that childrens book I started.

There you have it. But you know what I love about this time of year – anything really is possible. The new year is spread out before us like a great big empty page and we can choose how we fill it.

No baby yet. Next time I blog it will be with news of his arrival – I hope. He’s a week overdue. We’re all pacing up and down, tapping our watches and shaking our heads, but he’s in no hurry.

And then in the New Year, a post about writing. Probably.

Where was I? Oh yes, I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I wish you a very happy New Year with abundant good health, oodles of success and wheelbarrows full of happiness.

Twill be interesting to wake up tomorrow and see just how much I have embarrassed myself. Now dare I post this…?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Happy Christmas

I began this blog nearly two years ago with all good intentions of writing a blog about writing.

All too often I stray off the point, that’s if I ever have a point to start with. See there I go already.

Two people in this household are down with the Dreaded Lurgy and I’m not exactly feeling great. My second grandson is due any time and my daughter lives at the bottom of a steep hill where they often get snowed in. Well, only when it's snowing. Like now.

The midwife told her not to worry – if she can’t get up the hill, they will slide down to her.

So anyway, what is this post all about? Writing that’s what. I thought I’d try to end the year on a writerly note.

But I look around at other blogs and there are so many excellent ones for writers, whether they are beginners or jaded old hags like me and I wonder if there is really anything I can offer.

The honest truth is I know little about the forensics of writing – and yes I know that’s the wrong word, but as you know it spoils the flow if you spend ages trying to find the word you want, so it’ll have to do.

I know there is such a thing as voice and I know I have several, but there is only one I feel truly at home with and I wouldn’t know how to start describing it.

So here’s a bit of advice (though why you would want any advice from me I don’t know – but everyone gets presents they don’t want, so just smile and say it’s just what you always wanted and fits like a dream then pass it on to Aunty Doris next year) to end the year with and try to redeem myself as the writer of a writing blog. This is probably all stuff I’ve said before, but I’m old so if I want to repeat myself I will. So here we go.

Write what you want to write. Enjoy it.

If you want to write for a market, study it. That means buy the publication (and I'm not just talking about women's magazines here) and read it – lots of times. Don’t just flick through before tossing it aside with a disdainful snort as you declare that you could easily write rubbish like that. If you think it’s rubbish, bugger off and write something else.

Don’t refuse to buy the magazine you are trying to write for then complain when it folds because no one else is buying it either.

Don’t, for God’s sake don’t look down on your readers. I have heard people sneer and shudder as they say of the publication they write or are trying to write for, “Of course I would never read those magazines myself,” (again I'm not just talking women's magazines) and it breaks my heart. You should damn well respect your reader and it really, really sets fire to my innards when people don’t. Believe it or not, I can sometimes tell the stories that are written by people who think that they are writing beneath their own lofty aspirations.

Write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Forget what your English teacher told you. The reason you are told to say things like, “He blurted tetchily,” or “He exclaimed hotly,” or “She expostulated,” are to teach you, a child, to look for new words and use them. Well that’s my theory. English teachers aren’t there to teach you how to write for publication, but to teach you to write as creatively (as in saying “he said” in as many different ways as you can think of) as you can and as correctly as you can so that you can pass your exams. Nothing wrong with the magically unobtrusive he said she said. If you’ve written your story well your reader will know how they said it without you having to tell them.

Remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But if you’re going to break them, do it with style. If the guidelines state “We don’t need stories about weddings,” but you have a brilliant story about a wedding you think would suit them, send it in. But I stress only do that if your story is exceptional and hasn’t already been done to death (which of course you will know if you have done your research).

If you are entering a competition Read the Rules. And remember that reading the rules and sticking to them like glue is the same as following guidelines to the letter – it won’t guarantee anything, but it will give you a fighting chance.

If the guidelines state “We only consider stories of 2000 words” don’t send in one any longer or shorter than that (give or take a few words, and I mean a few, I don’t mean 100s).

Care about your characters. Care about your readers.

Don’t take rejections personally and don’t assume you’re the only person in the world getting them. Don’t get in a strop because your rejection came in the form of a standard rejection letter. If it is the norm to get a standard rejection letter that is what you will get, whether you have been writing for a month or for thirty years.

Don’t think that it will ever be easy.

And most important of all, write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Well there you are, a pathetic attempt at a post about writing/illustration of how old people tend to repeat themselves.

All that there is left for me to do is to wish you all out there in Blogland a very Merry Christmas and to thank you most warmly for coming by and visiting my blog xx.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Guest Post - Santa's Elf

I’ve invited Rob from the Department of Diagnostic Genealogy to come along today to spread a bit of Christmas cheer, but I warn you, he's only after your money!

Tis the season of goodwill to all men. A time for thinking of others, as well as thinking of mince pies, Christmas pud and lots of lovely alcohol.

Beer. Wine. Brandy. Stones Ginger Wine. Snowballs. Port. Sherry. Cider. Have you seen that alcoholic Ginger Beer? Sounds interesting…

I appear to have become sidetracked before I have started.

Allow me, dear reader, to set the scene.

It is a cold day. Snow is falling outside, but fortunately we are inside. Unfortunately we are in Argos.

Not that Argos wouldn’t be a pleasant place to be. I would merely suggest a roaring log fire, comfy armchair and glass of sherry would make for a more festive scene. But that isn’t the story so scrap that thought and picture being in Argos on a cold winter’s day, snow falling etc etc.

Then, like the ghost of Christmas past, we swoop over the throng of oblivious shoppers into the dark recesses of the Argos stockroom.

A shiver runs down your spine as we float into this previously unseen world. What horrors await us?

You needn’t have worried, for it is like Santa’s own workshop, swarming with elves busily scurrying about with more gifts and toys than you’d see at a hundred Christmases.

And leading these industrious elves is a man with a smile for everyone. And a heart of gold.

On Friday 10th December this man, the Stockroom Manager of Argos in Clacton, Essex, put his leg on the line for charity. And he must now live the remainder of his life with the consequences of his actions.

For he has
‘I Love Argos’ tattooed on said leg.

Was it madness that inspired him? Maybe, but it was more likely his generous spirit, for I know this man. And far from being a lunatic, he is the nicest bloke I have ever met.

And so I come to my reason for blogging here. I have heard tales of the generosity of the writing community, especially those who frequent this merry corner of the internet.

So I come before you now, cap in hand, to ask for donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust. I’m not going to bleat on about cancer, as you are all educated, good looking (did I mention generous?) people eager to get back to reading something witty or writing something.

You can read more about the Teenage Cancer Trust

And you can sponsor Wayne online until the 18th December

You can even donate money to the Teenage Cancer Trust in any Argos store anywhere in the country.

Thank you for your time – normal, well written Teresa blogs will follow shortly!

Thank you Rob.

I’m sure some of you out there will be doing a bit of last minute Christmas shopping in Argos stores. If everyone rounded up their purchases to an even number (which is easy to do, just ask instore when you pay) just think of how far all those extra pennies would go.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Annual Round Robin

Readers of this blog who were around this time last year will know my feelings about the newsletters that drop out of Christmas cards.

A couple of lines written in a card mean a million times more to me than a whole stack of neatly printed newsletters.

This year I have only had one. It went straight into the shredder unread (I did offer it round, but they put up their hands and shook their heads as if I were offering them mud pies made with real mud). Why? Because I have neither the time nor the will to waste reading through a load of boring drivel about people I hardly know and care even less about.

I’ve had one so far this year, but I am reliably informed that another may be winging its way to me. Shudder. It is from someone I would not know if they walked past me in the street – and they would not know me either. I could count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve met this person in the last 20 years or so and still have enough fingers left over for a rude gesture or two (ah that makes me feel slightly better).

Enough of my annual moan. I’ll shut up about it now. Until next year anyway.

Mince pie anyone?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Night Crawler

Isn’t that a great title for a book?

Today I’m delighted to play host to Diane Parkin who is here to tell us about her debut novel Night Crawler. Diane encouraged me to poke my head out of my shell when I first arrived in Blogland. She has been an inspiration ever since.

So without further ado I’ll let Diane tell you a little about Night Crawler.

It is Easter 1996, and a young homosexual junkie has been murdered. His boyfriend is arrested and charged. Marcie Craig, local DJ and good friend of the prime suspect, knows he didn’t do it and sets out to find out who did. Along the way Marcie is beaten up, another friend is murdered, and another is questioned until, in the end, Marcie’s own life is threatened.

Night Crawler was originally a song recorded by Birmingham rockers Judas Priest and can be found on their 1990 Painkiller album. The novel is a story about someone that crawls around at night killing people to cover up his or her own secret. The story opens in April 1996 and runs for just a few months. It introduces Birmingham, the rock club and pub scene that once was there, and of course Marcie Craig.

Marcie Craig (real name Marcella) is a 32 year old female rock DJ that makes a perfectly adequate living from her first love, rock music. She lives in a caravan (trailer) in Meriden, a small town that lies between Birmingham and Coventry, England, on the A45 – although the caravan site (trailer park) is fictitious. She rides a Harley Davidson, drives a Jeep, and has a pet cat called Sylvester and two mice called Thomas and Jeremy. She is 5’ 7”, with long brown naturally curly hair, is quite physically attractive with an athletic body, but she’s a bit immature and can be sarcastic.

Diane has an impressive track record when it comes to writing.

She started writing short stories for magazines in 1985 when the writers’ group to which she belonged advised her not to waste her time and get a proper job. She went on to sell commissioned articles to magazines for many years. She qualified as a broadcast journalist with BBC Radio WM in 1997, took over one of the classes on the course the following year, and continued as a full time freelance photo-journalist for ten years altogether. She joined an international steel company in 2005 as editor of one of their in-house magazines.

Diane has also edited education trade magazines and journals, text books, non-fiction books, and photocopiable classroom resources, and has taught adults creative writing and computer literacy. More recently she has started to produce activity and sticker annuals for children aged 3 – 6.

Diane lives in a South Yorkshire pit village in England with her two cats.

A question all we writers like to ask is how did the novel come about? Diane says, “I knew I wanted to write a mystery novel set in Birmingham but I didn’t know where to start. Everyone told me to write what I know but I didn’t think I knew enough about anything interesting. The only thing I did was work or go out to rock pubs and clubs, so I settled on the local music scene. I needed a protagonist and came up with an amalgamation of all the rock DJs I had ever known, then I made her a female and put her on a motorbike. Marcella was a favourite name and Craig was the professional surname of one of my DJ friends.

“The milieu gave me my scene of crime and it was easy enough to place a victim there, but I needed a reason for Marcie Craig to get involved, I needed her to care. So I had an old friend of hers falsely arrested and charged.

“I wrote copious character notes for all of the main players, I wrote a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown, I made timeline notes as I went along. I drew a map of the murder scene and I made a detailed timeline for the actual murder so I knew where everybody was.

“I wrote the first draft by hand, every day, making notes of things I didn’t know, and then I carried out my research interviews. The second draft was also in longhand but this took into account what I had learned. The first typo-free typed draft went out to my “experts” for checking, and all of my factual errors were corrected, most of the feedback was also incorporated. Then the second type-written draft was produced and the polishing process begun.

“I did two more handwritten drafts before the final print-ready version. Then years of submissions began.”

The book was completed by the end of 1996 and in 1997 it started to do the rounds. Diane hawked her manuscript around publishers and agents for more than ten years, building in many of the suggestions they made. While many were genuinely interested, the only company that offered to publish her book ran out of money. Spurred on by mostly positive feedback, Diane decided to have a go herself and “get it out there”.

Enter Lulu.

Lulu is a print-on-demand self-publishing organisation that offers authors various levels of support. With so much editing experience, however, Diane decided to do everything herself. She did all of the editorial and technical work and even sourced her own artist for the cover. Lulu is available to anyone with internet access and offers various distribution services and packages. Every book gets an ISBN.

Anyone who knows Diane or reads her blog will be aware that she is well known for having several projects on the go and not necessarily finishing all of them. However, future Marcie Craig novels already outlined or planned include The Beast Within (by Birmingham rock band The Handsome Beasts), and Snowblind (by Black Sabbath). There is also a prequel, Catch the Rainbow (by Rainbow), which is set against the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 and features a cameo-type appearance by Marcie Craig, aged 10.

Night Crawler by Diane Parkin was published on 12 November 2010 and is available from Lulu. It can currently be purchased in hardback or as a download.

Find Lulu here, buy the book here, and read more about Diane at her blog

Thank you for stopping by to tell us about Night Crawler, Diane. I can’t wait to read it and I know quite a few others who will want to get their hands on it too.