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Showing posts from March, 2017

Carolyn Hill, Beneath the Skin - interview

I'm joined this week by Carolyn Hill, author of the sf-romance, Beneath the Skin. I found it a really interesting take on the sf genre, leading with the characters, and jumped at the chance to ask Carolyn a few questions.  

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 Both leads are challenging characters in their own right – did you have a preference writing either, or did any present difficult challenges?
The novel is told mostly from Aleta’s point of view, with occasional scenes told from Riven’s viewpoint.In the initial draft, there wasn’t much of Riven’s view, because his shapeshifting was a secret that I was keeping from the reader as well as from Aleta, but as I revised the drafts, I decided that I wanted to let the reader know his secret long before Aleta figures it out.
Aleta doesn’t know who she is at first; she has been robbed of the adolescence during which most of us begin sorting out who we are and who …

On finding your themes

I'm off to a meeting later today, and for that meeting I've been musing on my writing and where it's taking me and how it has changed over time - and I think that's something that rarely gets mentioned, as if, once we start producing writing and putting it out there, we're somehow the completed article - that, that style, is ours forever.

My first books were zippy Space Opera, and very much of the genre. I love them very much and definitely plan to revisit the Abendau universe at some stage - but they're very different from what I'm mostly writing: stories set in the real world that combine our world with hidden worlds.

All of which started me thinking about what makes a writer go from one type of book to another. By that, I don't just mean the external trappings of genre, but something deeper - in my Irish books (primarily Northern Irish) I write a lot of description, of places especially. In Abendau my description is lighter, with much of it pared dow…

On pitching

This week I entered Pitmad (a twitter contest which lets you put up a pitch and see if any agents go for it.) Now, this was risky since I haven't finished the book (but it's not that far out).

So, why do it? If it's not to win an agent, why bother?

Well, basically we need to learn to pitch - and we need to work out which ones work and engage, because, when it comes to selling our books, we need to be able to talk about them and make them sound interesting without boring people before we get to the point.

My easiest book to pitch is Inish Carraig. Any sort of combination of 'the aliens invade Belfast; the locals aren't happy' seems to work in the sense people either like the sound of it or they don't. My hardest is Abendau - there's just so much nuance to it and so many layers it is harder to identify the themes. ('A grimdark Star Wars' vaguely works but doesn't do justice to the body of work.)

I find having a pitch in mind also helps me with…

The Five Stages of Review Hell

I've had two contrasting experiences this week which prompted my thinking around this blog. The first was a conversation with an established writing friend, who has three books out. We were talking about each other's books and I said I thought I'd left a review having read their book - but wasn't sure. (Must check, actually). And they were equally not sure because they hadn't looked at their reviews for awhile.

In the meantime, I have several friends who have only just brought out their books and they know what reviews they have, what stars they've been awarded, and who else might be going to leave a review.

That was me a year or so back. And, I suspect, the first exchange will be me in a year or two. (I'm not there yet. Not quite.)

So, here's how the review cycle has gone. (For me. I assume there are some writers who come out of the blocks not giving a damn and plenty of veterans who still angst over reviews).

1. The book is released. You've had yo…

On payment and doing things for free

My proper blog for the week, then, and it's about authors and getting paid for their time. At the moment, there is a pretty militant voice that states we should be paid for our time, that we should not attend panels and conventions or deliver workshops without recompense.

In principle, I think this is a good thing. Exposure does not feed my kids, or keep the roof over my head. We should be looking for sustainability within writing. If I deliver a course on writing - that should be paid. That takes my expertise and time and resources. 

But.... And here is where I don my flak jacket and realise the rest of this blog might not make me popular.... there is also a place for not seeking payment.

For me, this is on two counts. Firstly, I'm a genre writer. One of my communities is the science fiction and fantasy community, and their events happen outside the mainstream writing events. They are run on a shoestring - often at a loss. Their ticket prices tend to be low (£20-odd quid w…

Carpe Diem

This isn't going to be a long blog today. I don't have the heart for it.* But it is one from the heart.

We don't know what is ahead for us. We don't know when our opportunity to tell stories will end. It might be illness, or time, inclination, or lack of confidence. It could be because we're no longer here.

When a writing friend is lost, I feel the loss in two ways - for the person, of course, but also for their worlds and stories. That part of them - that passion, that unique place - is lost, too. And I think of all the hours some of us put into stories that we never put out anywhere. We wait for an agent to take us on. Then we wait for a publisher. If we don't get one we go back and try again, and we shelve our book and our world and we tell ourselves that's fine, that we can always write another story, and another, and another, and then suddenly we can't.

A few years ago, I started a rather worthy thread on a forum, about these self publishers shovin…

On Jealousy

One of my least favourite things about being a writer is the comparisons that we make with other writers.
Things like ‘they won an award – and I want one! Preferably the same one’. Or that a writing friend has a new contract with a big 6 publisher, or snagged the agent we wanted. That when they post something on facebook it gets fifteen likes to our eight. That they have more Goodreads reviews than us. Or have a higher rating. Or they got on a panel and we didn’t.
A few weeks ago, someone told me I was living the life they wanted. I blinked. This crazy life of writing at a beat-up kitchen table on a very old computer (with no F key – I wore that one out writing Inish Carraig), fitting writing around work and life and chaos? Were they mad?
But I have books out. I have an immensely enjoyable time as a writer: even if it’s not making me anywhere close to a living, it’s all great fun. Why not want to be me, instead of the award-winning Big-6 published Jo who no doubt exists in another…

Crowdfunding a self-published book

One of my writing friends, Olli Tooley, joined me today to talk about crowdfunding a project in a really nice guest post :)



As a writer with a very limited amount of disposable income I have always faced a serious challenge in terms of bringing my book to market. I am not complaining mind; writers with a “proper job” may be able to afford to pay for editing out of their disposable income but they must have to work incredibly hard to produce books in the evenings and weekends, and finding time to promote must be nigh on impossible.  I confess, the thought of sending my MS off to literary agents and getting the occasional rejection letter really didn’t appeal to me, so I never considered going the conventional publishing route. I have good friends who are traditionally published and I admire them hugely for their tenacity and strength of character, but that’s not me.
My first published book “Time Tunnel to Londinium” was a 9k word children’s story. I didn’t do a full professional job on th…