Friday, September 30, 2011

A Memory: Red sky at night

My view
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If you can tear your eyes away from my red sky, voting for Rach Harrie's second challenge goes on until the 14th October. You can read my entry here and you can vote for me here. See you Monday when I shall be getting to know Rosalind Adams who writes in the rain

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 2nd Challenge

Right, well last week Rach Harrie (she of the 3rd Writers Platform-Building Platform Campaign) posted her second challenge. I didn't win the last one (did you notice?), but I did get through to the second round. Because of that I was determined to give this second challenge a try. Humph, but did she make it easier? To say this challenge is a stinker is understating things. See what you think: 

The Challenge is:

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!
(taken from Rach Harrie's blog)

So after scratching my head for a few days. This is what I came up with. What do you think? If you like it  I am number #153 on the linky list. 

Changing Imago

They sit in silence on either side of the desk.

“No, too many letters.” His eyes scan the next clue. “You bore me beyond the Latin word?

“Latin for yawn.” He taps his forehead. “Oscitare, no, because that word is definitely synchronicity. But wait, it’s beyond latin, so in English, yes, that’s it, it’s oscitate.” He looks up, his eyes sparkling. “Am I right?”

“Absolutely.” She yawns.

“OK.” He squeezes his hands. “Los Angeles gap in the United Nations ABC. Lacuna, yes? Am I right?”

She nods and yawns again.

“Right, last one. A smelly foreboding of something unpleasant to come.”

She takes out a packet of cigarettes and lights one, inhales deeply and exhales. He looks into the smoke confused, then a smile cracks across his face.

“Of course! Miasma.” He slaps the paper down on the table. “Yes! I did it again. I am the king. Say it, I am the king of the killer crossword.”

“You are.”

“Aren’t you going to say it?” He frowns. “Since when did you smoke?”

“I’ve always smoked.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“I know.” She nods. “One across?”


She picks up her handbag and flicks ash on the floor. “You aren’t mine.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting to know you: Michelle Flick

We're half way through this series of interviews. If this is the first time you've happened across this blog, Rach Harrie is running a writer's platform building campaign, through this campaign I've been put into contact with a whole bunch of different bloggers, some of whom I've interviewed each Monday.  So far we've had some English pre-published writers and some American pre-published writers. We've had a debut author and we've had a couple of teachers. And one thing we've had each and every week are some extremely inspiring women. This week is no exception, so I'll hand straight over to Michelle Flick from Oh! For the Love of Books.

And look another teacher! We've had a few teachers, I think you are number three or four, I've lost count. So what is it with teachers and writing or writing and teachers?

With me, its my students are inspiring. They have awesome, break through moments, emotional rollercoasters that break my heart because they feel so much, and I NEVER know what's going to come out of their mouths. They leave me laughing all the time and that leads to great material for me.  And as a high school English teacher, I have them work on creative writing and it's a great chance for me to model the behavior for them.

Your review a lot of YA on your blog. Can you share three of your favorites from this year and why you loved them?

I am in love with Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck. I think the cultural aspect and mystical world she is building is so gripping. November can't come fast enough for me. Another one is Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick. I love how snarky Patch is and talk about a cliffhanger at the end of that story! And my last, I read in December, so I am going to count it, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. I read this before the Mortal Instrument series, and I fell in love with the world she created and, the 1800s in England is one of my favorite time periods. All three of them are must reads if you like paranormal.

I haven't read any of those, so I will definitely add them to my TBR pile. Thanks. Now if we move on to your writing, You recently finished your first manuscript and are now looking for an agent. What made you decide it was finished? 

I worked on my manuscript for over a year, before I let anyone read it. It's super personal and I was really nervous whoever read it, wouldn't like it. So I started with a dear friend of mine, who gave me a lot of insight and a lot of positive reinforcement - which is super important in the writing world. After that, I gave it two more people, one a former English teacher of 30 years (plus) and a librarian who does editing on the side. They were great and did a great job editing and catching where I needed to improve. Did I mention they did this twice? After that I started looking for an agent. I got a little bit of nibble the other day so I hope it pans out for me.  But my critique partner, just finished reading my manuscript and picked up ona few things - so, I'm working on it...again. 

Oh yes, I know that again feeling and again, and again. But moving on, I've asked everyone this question. When you write are you a plotter or pantster? 

Total Panster. It's how I start all of my stories. I get this intense scene in my head, typically the climax or the last three pages of the story, and after that I start to piece it together. And always I keep that first scene that I wrote. It's like my foundation and I have never wanted to change it.

I start with scenes too, but unlike you. they are usually so far from what I end up with. So from one Michelle to another, what's your top writing tip? 

Get an honest, positive support system. I have a few people I trust to be completely honest with me but not in a mean way. Encouragement will get you through. You want people who are on your side and won't let you submit something that isn't ready or write something (like a scene) that just doesn't fit. The writing world is critical and I think it is better to hear it from someone who cares than a stranger.

I agree with getting a support system, but my critique group were strangers to begin with, who are now pretty invested in helping me improve. If you don't mind Michelle can you share your most valuable writing resource?

I have two. The book, How Not to Write  a Novel (it's hilarious) and Nadine, the English teacher of 30 years plus. Both reliable and knowledgeable in all things writing.

I'll have to check out the book, unfortunately I guess we can't share Nadine. Oh well, we're nearing the end now, so finally why did you join the challenge? 

I think networking is great for a lot of reasons: support, comic relief - one of my groups is trying to coin the term "art ho", new information, and feedback are some of them. I think it is a place that I will grow and learn and hopefully move me closer to being published.

Good luck with your journey Michelle and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. If you'd like to find out more about Michelle you can visit her here at her blog. Michelle is also hosting a bloghop with lots of giveaways. If you would like to enter, it's really easy, just go here and follow the links.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who Started Your Dream? The winners

So about 15 days ago a bunch of bloggers got together and divulged all about WHO STARTED THEIR DREAM. As well as sharing with you the writers and books that encouraged us to first put pen to paper, we also offered a range of prizes. In total 161 of you commented and below you will find out the who the lucky winners were.

Zoe Rose commented on nine of the eleven posts. Unfortunately we couldn't find any contact info for her, but if she contacts Cat at katharina at katharinagerlach dot com (replace at with @ and dot with .) she will get an special prize.

Next up is Blueeyedadri who gets a signed copy of "Across the Universe" by Beth Revis.

J.A. Bennet gets a  signed copy of "Supernaturally"by Kiersten White.

Mina Burrows gets a  copy of "Crash Into Me" by Albert Borris.

Joanne Fritz wins a coupon for William L. Hahn’s heroic fantasy "Fencing Reputation".

Small Town Shelly Brown wins the eBook "The Witches of Greenwitch".

Michael Di Gesu gets an eBook-excerpt "Chasing the Grimm Reaper".

Rusty Webb gets a 30 page critique.

Kim gets a  25 pg critique.

Tina Moss gets a 20 page critique.

Alex J. Cavanaugh gets the first 500 words intensive critique.

It was really interesting to see who got us all started and especially to read your comments and find out who you guys discovered, or where you agreed with us.

The campaign continues until the end of August and there are lots of things going on. Check out Rach Harrie's friday post for a round up of Campaign events. Currently Rach is running the 2nd Challenge, a 200 word post that includes five specific words.

Lastly, if you would like to get to know some more campaigners, join me tomorrow to get to know Michelle Flick from Oh! For the the love of books.

Right, I'm going to have a crack at the challenge now. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Memory: Hole in the wall

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This is just a quick reminder that today is the last day to comment on the Who Started your Dream post. After today, names will be stuck in a hat and pulled out at random and there are a whole bunch of prizes to win. Cat Gerlach will contact you next week if you are one of the lucky winners. Also the more comments you leave around the bloghop, the more chances you get to win a PRIZE!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Book Review: The Prince of Mist

Title: The Prince of Mist
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published: Phoenix, 2011
Synopsis: 1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . . Originally published in Spain as a young adult novel, THE PRINCE OF MIST is a mesmerising tale of mystery, romance and adventure.
Star parts:  This book scared the bejasus out of me. I went through a phase as a teenager where I read a lot of Stephen King and Clive Barker. The two of them made me decide that I preferred the real world with all its real horrors than what their imaginations could whip up, so basically I don't do horror anymore. And evidently I didn't realise this was scary when my LOVELY crit partner leant it to me. I put this as a star part because although I am a complete wimp now, Zafon gets it just right. He creeps you right out so that you have to snuggle closer to your cat/loved one/pillow and then he moves us right out to something that we can deal with like a brother and sister relationship, when they both realise that they're moving into adulthood and can stand each other again. That is explored brilliantly. There's a bit of 'lurve' action (I always went through a bit of a Mills & Boon phase and that has possibly left more scars than King and Barker) and it didn't make me go 'yeurghK'. It's not totally scary though. There's obviously the element of a good old mystery tale, where we need to find out who did what and how it will all end. 

Black clouds: It's been a while since I read it, but I'm left with this feeling of certain things left unanswered, not big things, but little niggly things. We also never quite know where the story takes places, which for some reason bothered me. When you're reading in translation I always wonder about stuff, and maybe that's why it so bothered me.

 Do I recommend it: Bien sur! OK it's scary and all, and I don't do scary, but Zafon can tell a story and create such an atmosphere that you can almost feel smoke curling around your feet and your stomach tense up as Max opens the gate...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting to know you: Stephanie Pace

In week four of 'Getting to know You' we meet Stephanie Pace. Just to remind you, the idea of the Third Writer's Platform-Building Campaign is to build our writer's platform whether we are published or not and to pay it forward. Stephanie and I have some things in common apart from both being campaigners and in the MG/YA group; we are both teachers too and have you noticed that there's been a couple of us already. So without further ado I'll get on. 

 Stephanie what do you think it is with teachers and writing or writing and teachers?  

I'm not sure but the link is certainly there.  Many of my classmates from college were writers and we were far from all English teachers.  The math, science and history people loved writing as well, perhaps because it's the best way to get out all those crazy things that happen in the classroom. 

Like me you write YA fantasy and Urban fantasy. What makes the two genres different? (This isn't a trick question BTW, I genuinely want to know.)  

Well, I'll admit the official definition might be different, but my working definition is as follows.  YA fantasy is what I call anything I write that isn't set on Earth and contains magic or magical elements.  Urban fantasy is my name for my fantasy works set on Earth, usually modern day.  

Thanks, that clears things up nicely for me. 

Now on your blog, I see that you seem to have two WIPs. How does that work? Are you revising both? Is one a first draft? In short tell me a bit about how you work.  How does that work? 

Not every well, to be honest :-)  I usually end up focusing on one WIP for a few weeks then switch to the other when the spirit moves me.  Shadow of the Wolf is in final revision, and hopefully done soon.  2101 Untitled is in first draft, and crawling along. My mind likes to have two stories going at once because I get bored easily, and since working on a revision is very different from writing a first draft, that's how I try to arrange my simultaneous projects.  Once Shadow is done I'll have a brand new piece in the revision slot.   

I've asked every one else so I'm going to ask you, are you a plotter or pantster?

A bit of both.  I jump into a novel feet first with only a vague idea of what's going on, get about 10K words in and realize I have no idea what to do next.  Then I go back and determine where I want the plot and characters to go, and what sort of conflicts will get them there.   2101 has stalled because of that very reason, so I'm now in the process of creating a loose outline for about 46 scenes.  

As we're all writers here, what's your top writing tip?  

Keep writing.  Often said, but very true.  Keep yourself fresh by writing at least a couple hundred words every day, and if you hit a wall, plow through it.  Maybe what you write will be terrible, but the important thing it to get the story done.  You can always go back and fix it.   

I'm always on the look out for stuff to help me write, so what's your most valuable writing resource?  

Critique groups. and Scribophile have been life savers for me.  You can never be sure how well a piece is working until someone else reads it and tells you what they think.  I recommend finding a few people to get close to within a larger group, people you trust to give an honest opinion about your writing.  You'll find plenty who do nothing but gush over everything you submit, but while that's a great ego boost, it's not terribly helpful.  

We're getting to the end of the interview here, so finally why did you join the challenge? 
Because I love a challenge :-) So when I read there would be contests and challenges I was all for it.  I also wanted to get to know other bloggers and find a place for myself in the community.  I've already met a lot of amazing people while blogging and I'm looking forward to getting know many more.  

Well thanks Stephanie, I hope that you do get to meet some new people. You can find Stephanie over at Word by Word, go take a look.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three, seven and fifteen

This morning I woke up feeling a little blue, because as you know in this writerly world, things are not always pink. Anyway, things swiftly picked up. First England were playing Georgia in the Rugby World Cup, this meant I got to stay in bed while the Frog and the Bubba watched it. So, I checked my e mail and saw that Sheri over at Finding Joy in the Journey had left me not ONE but TWO blog awards. Can you imagine the little smile starting to form on my face? I hopped out of bed with a spring in my step (this may be a little fictional) and went to deal with breakfast (before the France/Canada match). I had a little read of some blogs and this time came across Beth Kemp at Thoughts from the Hearthfire and found TWO more awards waiting for me. FOUR!!!! Wow! Alright one of them is the same as the other, but who's quibbling? 

Now feeling very cheered up I got cracking with passing these awards straight on. I know that some of you already have these, but there are three to choose from so hopefully ONE of them will be new. 

Number 1: The Versatile Blogger
The rules:
  • Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post. SEE ABOVE and thank you BETH and SHERI. 
  • Share 7 things about yourself. SEE BELOW
  1. I used to blog under the pseudonym Verilion, meaning Very Lion, as I'm a Leo, but not in a typically Leo way, just that I'm a bit like a cat, I like cats and I sleep a lot.  
  2. Since starting this blog I have acquired: two cats (one died of FIP), a French man, a baby (now a very boisterous toddler), a flat, two WIP's and what will be next? (This happened in five years, so we have a long time frame here).
  3. I like cooking, and stuff tastes nice, but I ALWAYS follow recipes!
  4. After Primary school, my relationship with the education system went downhill. Yep, I'm a teacher and I really like my job. 
  5. I like sticking my hands into a big pile of wood chip or soil and feeling the warmth.
  6. And adore walking on damp grass barefoot. 
  7. I don't get golf. When people start talking about it (and you'd be surprised by how many people do) my eyes glaze over and I go to a special place with wet grass, wood chip and bubbles. Sorry, pardon… what was that?
  • Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it. SEE A LITTLE BIT FURTHER BELOW
Number 2: Leibster Blog 
The Liebster Award, is intended to show bloggy love to blogs with fewer than 200 followers. Count me in then. 
The rules: 
1. Show your appreciation to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them. THAT'LL BE BETH. 
2. Reveal your five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog. UGH THAT'LL BE THE 15 A BIT FUTHER BELOW
3. Post the award on your blog. DONE
4. Bask in the camaraderie of the most supportive people on the internet. THAT'LL BE ALL OF YOU. YEP, YOU TOO.

5. And best of all have bloggity fun and spread the love. DONE

Number 3: Our lovely blog award
1. Thank and link to the person who nominates you: MERCI SHERI.
2. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it! So right below is a list of recently discovered blogs. All 15 of them have been discovered thanks to Rach Harrie's 3rd Writer's Platform-Building Campaign
  1. Stephanie @ Word by Word who will be interviewed right here on this blog TOMORROW. 
  2. Brittany @ Hills and Corkscrews who will also be interviewed here on this blog in October
  3. Kelley @ Writtled Kelley is also going to be interviewed here on a very SPECIAL day in October.
  4. Cat Gerlach @ Always try a little harder The demigoddess who organised the 'Who started your dream?' Blog hop
  5. grillyfish @Grillyfish  who pops by from time to time
  6. Lady Gwen @Run Gwen, Run! Write Gwen, Write  another lady who pops by.
  7. Shannon @ The Warrior Muse  who was also part of the bloghop
  8. Melissa @ MG Higgins  another bloghopper.
  9. Kate @ The Scribbling SeaSerpent a fellow Litopian and campaigner
  10. Elizabeth Varadan @ Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish a fellow scribblerati and campaigner
  11. Robyn Campbell @ Putting Pen to Paper the lovely lady whose interview you may have read, or maybe you'd like to read it. 
  12. Michael @ In Time… another fellow bloghopper
  13. Laila @ The Untroubled Kingdom of Laila Knight a regular visitor and campaigner.
  14. Rosalind @ Rosalind Adam is writing in the rain Check out her interview at the beginning of October.
  15. Andrew @ Strange Pegs and check out his interview towards the end of October. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who started your dream?

As part of Rach Harrie's 3rd Writer's Platform-Building Campaign I've joined a bloghop organised by Cat Gerlach that explores what and who got us started on this writing journey. There are eleven bloggers in this little circle, if you follow the links at the end of the post you should get to visit them all.

Oh! Silly me, I almost forgot! As well as finding out about our writing influences, there are also PRIZES! That's right prizes. The more blogs you visit, and the more comments you leave, the more chance you have of winning a query crit, a 500 word crit, an e book by William L. Hahn, there are 2 YA novels for grabs, and finally a 30 and 25 page critique.

So without further ado, who started my dream?

About four years ago, I went from writing for a hobby, to 'You know, I think I may just take this seriously'. The authors/writers who helped me reach this decision were one small wee colleague that I had the good luck to be closely working with, and a small group of bloggers who commented regularly on this good ole blog. Their names are: Rhian Saadat (an execellent mentor if ever there was one), Kate Bousefield, Debi Alper, Nicky Schmidt, Seamus Kearney, Derec Jones, Maht Wells, Marie Syemou and Jefferson Davies. These guys were supporting and lovely in a way that helped me make the most terrible writing mistakes ever, while still giving me the confidence to carry on.

But why did I then start writing children's? Well another colleague leant me Skellig by David Almond and I was completely blown away. I was big into Magic Realism at the time and after I read another of Almond's books Heaven Eyes I decided I was reading the best Magic Realist ever.

A kid in my class passed along Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. The kid's book review had not convinced me I would like the book, but I gave it a go despite the animal characters. I really liked it, but reading The Thief Lord shorly after a visit to Venice was just amazing. then there was Inkheart and how my heart bled at the end of Inkspell. So, in case you haven't guessed I'm big into Funke!

And last but not least, who put the steam into punk? Well in my opinion it was Philip Reeve and Mortal Engines. Shortly after reading that book I cancelled my summer holiday and sat down and wrote for two months solid, joined SCBWI... and... no, there's no happy ending, YET. Still a lot of hard work to do and a lot to learn.

Meanwhile, if you want to here about other influences and great books, you can go one way along the ring by going to Robyn Campbell's blog (yes, she of the interview) or you could go the other way by tootling along to M.G. Higgins blog. And remember to comment (before the 23rd, which is when all the comments will go in a big hat).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tag you're it...

The lovely Beth from Thoughts from the Hearthfire has tagged me. The idea is to share ten random facts about myself. This is harder than one might first think, but anyway, here goes...

  1. I suffer from koumpounophobia. No seriously, I do. I particularly dislike plastic ones, and unnecessary ones, oh don't get me started on those. Ick, yuck, yucky, yucky yuck. 
  2. I'm also a bit traumatised by butterflies. They just flutter about oblivious to everything. I am not a flower butterflies. Stop scaring me. There is a reason behind this trauma, you can read about it here.
  3. I have, if it's possible, too many red shoes. This summer, after a particularly bad spate of not putting my shoes away, the bubba arranged them all in a pretty long line. They are all different shapes, sizes and shades, so it's alright really. Isn't it?
  4. I have a black cat called Merlin, you may have seen him skulking around the blog.
  5. I can't make pancakes. This could be described as problematic in a country that makes lots of money out of selling crepes, and Pancake day used to get me into a bit of a cold sweat, but guess what? I live in a country that sells ready made ones in the supermarket. Thank you France. 
  6. I am a pescatarian, not to be mistaken with Presbyterian. I live with two of the biggest meat eaters in the world and I apparently make a mean steak, but ... no... mmm... I just can't do it. 
  7. Since owning my first pair of DM's way back then, I have never been without a pair, or two, or three (and two of them are shades of red).
  8. I don't wear a watch, probably because I can't read them, although I used to come out with some complete BS about not wanting to be tied down by time. The folly of that became apparent when I started teaching and realised that I needed to know when playtime and PE ended. I bought a watch, this honking big black thing with big numbers that didn't make it any easier to tell the time. One day I was twirling it around my finger and flinging it into the air (you see I still didn't wear it) while waiting for the kids to line up and... well you can tell how this ends, right?
  9. I have a tree tattoo on my right ankle. Sometimes I forget that it's there and then I admire it all over again. 
  10. I'm terribly bad with time. When people asked my religion I used to say that my dad raised me to be  late. My friends used to tell me to be somewhere half an hour earlier than they were planning to be there knowing I would be late. And do you know, it's never my fault.
So now, I'm supposed to tag some peeps. So, I'm going to cheat big time. If you are doing the Writer's Platform-Building Campaign, and you like this tag, then take it, do it and just drop me a message in the comments section to let me know you've done it. I look forward to reading your random facts and I'll add the link to the bottom of this post just here...
  • Who will be first?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting to know you: Kate Walton

Well, it's week 3 now, so I'm guessing you've got the idea, right? Each week as part of the Third Writer's Platform-Building Campaign, I interview a fellow blogger and get to know them just that little bit better. This week is the turn of Kate Walton. Kate is the first (soon to be published) author of this series and was also the first to reply to all her interview questions. Unfortunately, Kate did not win any prizes for this, but hopefully she will gain some new blog readers. So, without further ado, please welcome Kate. 

Kate, your book CRACKED comes out on January 3rd 2012. Why should we add it to our to be read lists? 

CRACKED is serious and touching, heartbreaking and hopeful. It tells the story of a bully and his victim in alternating points of view. I thought it would be interesting for readers to see the effects of bullying from both sides. I taught middle school for ten years and I never encountered a bully who didn’t have his/her own junk to deal with. That anger and rage has to stem from somewhere.

You are represented by Sarah LaPolla from Curtis Brown. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your agent?   

I’d like to invite everyone to go grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up and get comfy because this is going to take a while. I sent my first query on April 7, 2008 and didn’t land the brilliant Sarah LaPolla until August 2, 2010. Yes, that is 2.4 years. In that time frame I did everything and anything to land an agent: sent close to 150 query letters, attended 4 SCBWI conferences…two of them national conferences, started my blog, publically shared my query letter and the first 250 words of my novel as many times as I could to get the feedback (no matter how painful or snarky), racked up well over 100 rejections…many of them on partial or full requests (you know the kind that REALLY hurt). I’ll tell you what, my husband got so damn tired of putting Band-Aids on my bleeding soul, but he kept doing it—cheering me on and up, telling me it was going to happen, believing in me. His solid belief in me fueled me and I refused to give up.

What does an agent do for a new writer like yourself? 

The reason I fought so long and hard to land my agent was because I wanted my writing to be traditionally published. Without an agent you can’t get your work in front of the Big Six publishers. I knew Curtis Brown Ltd. had a long and powerful reputation in publishing, and when I heard Sarah LaPolla was building her client list, I sent my query off to her with lightning speed. What Sarah has done for me as a writer is more incredible than I can put words to (I know—lame—I’m a writer). Of course the obvious, she pulled me from her slush pile and requested a partial manuscript, then full, then “the call” but the real magical parts about her came after all that and continue to come. It’s knowing that she truly believes in my writing and my characters. It’s how she pushes me with her editorial notes before my books go out on submission. It’s how she works tirelessly for me and my stories. All magical. I tell her frequently I’m incredibly lucky to have her leading this ship.

There is a lot of talk about platforms nowadays, and this challenge is all about building a platform; why is it so important for a debut author? 

Even though this is my first platform building challenge I have been working diligently on said platform for years. I think I’m everywhere I’m supposed to be as a debut author. My follower number is low but my readers have been loyal and I am thankful for their dedicated readership. But with that said, I would love to build my blog readership and add more lovely people into the fold.

Now onto writing. This is a little obsession of mine, so I'd like to know are you a plotter or pantster? 

Pantser all the way. I love to see where the characters and story will take me—it fuels me as a writer. I do generate a bullet pointed stream-of-consciousness list before I begin writing. I also do some character building by jotting down personality ideas for my MCs, so I have a general sense of who they are. I give major props to writers who plot and know the exact direction their stories will take them – I find that absolutely fascinating.

What's your top writing tip? 
Write. Write a lot. Write some more. Revise. Revise a lot. Revise some more. Then repeat and repeat and repeat. Never stop writing or growing as a writer. Don’t stop at one book. Push yourself to write a second, then a third, etc….
As a pre-published writer, I look to others for advice about writing, but I do like to share what writing resources I find, so what have been your most valuable writing resources?
For writing: read ON WRITING by Stephen King (Check) and BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott (I'll have to look that one up).

Thank you very much for this opportunity to be interviewed, Michele. Your questions were great. 

No, no, thank you Kate. It looks like there will be some great reading in 2012. And now dear readers, you can find Kate over here at her blog, here at her well groovy website and here at her publishers. Please do go and take a look. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The First Challenge: The Black Box

It has been absolute ages since I wrote a piece of flash fiction, but Rach Harrie's first challenge for the 3rd Writer's platform-building campaign is to write a piece of flash fiction that is no longer than 200 hundred words. The first line must be: The door swung open and as an extra challenge we can finish with: the door swung shut. As an extra extra challenge it should be 200 words on the dot. So what do you think? If you like it you need to follow the link to Rach's post and give it a like. Cheers. 

The Black Box

The door swung open. Sarah’s head jerked around; no one there. She breathed, then bit into her lip as the cat curled itself around her legs. 
            “Get lost!” She pushed it away and edged further into the bottom of the cupboard. She turned the box this way and that, her fingers stroked and searched the black lacquered surface for some way in. She knew it opened, well she was almost sure she was certain. When Gemma held it there had been something different, the curlicue patterns that crawled all over the box seemed more; she searched for the word, intense. There had to be something special about the box. Why would Gemma hide it in the back of a cupboard behind shoes and tennis racquets where nobody could see it? 
            She turned it over again. “Ah!” Fingers dug into her calf and dragged her out the cupboard. 
            Sarah blinked up at Gemma. Gemma glared down at her. She snatched the box out of Sarah’s hand.
“You really want to know what it is, do you?” Gemma's fingers danced over the box. 
She shoved Sarah back into the cupboard and dropped the glowing box in her lap. The door swung shut. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Book Review: The Road

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Published: Picador, 2009

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.

Star parts:  I bought this book because it was recommended to me by three people. Two of them tried to tell me about the book without telling me too much, but explained that they had been profoundly moved by the book.

The story unfolds in a post apocalyptic world. I think one of the things that was so horrifying in the book is that it was all so plausible. Nothing rang false, the sights McCarthy described, the sounds, the smells, it just all seemed so plausible. The boy is experiencing a world lacking in innocence and it makes the readers heart bleed. All the boy and the father have is each other, they are each others hope, they are what makes it bearable to keep reading. 

The road is horrific while not being a horror book. It's a beautiful and tender love story between father and son. The descriptions are haunting and throughout it all there is the grey ash that covers everything. It is a moving book for many reasons, not just because I wept all through the final pages and had to go back and read it. The final paragraph is hauntingly beautiful, but after having read the book to me it was actually a chilling lesson.

Black clouds: It's not bedtime reading, which is unfortunately when I do the bulk of my reading. Still that's a personal gripe and thankfully a loooong drive to Italy provided me with all the time I needed to finish the book.  

 Do I recommend it: Totally, it will make your heart break and sing at the same time. 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Getting to know you: Robyn Campbell

From the 22nd August to the 31st October, Rach Harrie from Rach Writes is running the 3rd Writer's Platform-Building Campaign. Unfortunately, it's too late to sign up now, but it's not too late to get to know some fabulous writers or their blogs. 

The idea of the campaign is to connect writers at all different stages of their journey and to pay it forward by helping them build their platforms. Now that Rach has set up the campaign it's basically up to us campaigners to make things happen. There's a little something special going on today as part of the campaign and I can't wait to find out what it is, but meanwhile let's get on with interviewing a a fellow blogger. This week it's the turn of Robyn Campbell, a writer of picture books and children's/middle grade books. When I stopped by to take a look I also discovered that Robyn ran a farm and had seven kids!

So Robyn, what is it like running a farm, being a mum to seven kids and being a writer? 

It's wonderful. I have a lot of food for my imagination on the farm. The boys and Ivy have always given me a lot of nourishment for the characters I write about. They are all in my books without even knowing about it. HA! The farm life can be hectic so I have to schedule my writing around that. I love to be in the barn with the sounds of the horses munching on grass or hay, the chickens clucking, cats meowing, dogs jumping around. It is great for the imagination.  

I noticed when I was looking at your blog that WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is one of your favourite picture books. I totally love that book, so I was wondering what do you think makes it so special? 

Where the Wild Things Are is the picture book that I wish I would have written. It's pure genius! Even to this day, every time I walk through the pages of that book, I'm whisked away with Max and when we return, we find supper waiting for us. It is always that real to me. Maurice Sendak's imagination must have been set to high level. 

I also saw on your blog that you write picture books and middle grade/Children's books; for you what are the similarities and differences between the two genres? 

What a great question! Of course we know the ways that they are very different. Different age levels, different reading levels, one has illustrations, most middle grade novels do not. But they do have similarities too. Most middle grade content can be written for picture books. Which I love. Because I have a picture book that I am going to use as an outline for a middle grade novel. I remember a post by Jodell Sadler about incorporating literary devices common to picture books into older genres. Things such as onomatopoeia and consonance help the readers feel like they are more present to place and scene.  Another device that picture book writers use is the power of threes. People that write middle grade novels are using these more and more too. And of course, more middle grade books have spot illustrations to draw the reader in and help them connect.

This year I had a bit of a revelation re plotting, but I think in my heart of hears I'm a pantster, so which are you?

Egad! *hides face* Panster. Without a doubt. I hate outlines. They bore me. If I had to write an outline, the book might never get written. But there is one thing I do. I write the synopsis first. It helps me rein in my characters. And it might not be the synopsis I show to my agents or editors when the book is finished and it's really, really, really short, but it works for me.  

One thing I like doing on my blog is pointing writer's in the direction of top writing tips. What is yours?

My top writing tip is this: When I am stuck in a scene and can't quite figure out where it's going I draw it out on paper. Believe me. This works. And you don't have to be a skilled artist, because I'm not. But inside those drawings my mind connects and I figure out the scene and immediately write it in. 

I like that idea, it sounds a bit like a mind map, but one I can work with. So after writing tips, I like to find good resources, what's your most valuable writing resource? 

My most valuable writing resource is my writing. I have read the how to books. But for me, actually writing my stories makes me a better writer. And I learn more from writing and fixing mistakes than reading those books. I will say that The Art of Styling Sentences is an awesome book on that subject. Also Chapter After Chapter is a great book. It's written by Heather Sellers. She also wrote Page After Page. These books show focus. Which I need. 

So to wrap up this week's interview, why did you join the challenge Robyn? 

I joined the challenge to connect with other like minded folk. I love learning about other writers and sharing with them. I've met some awesome writers in the blogosphere. People that I consider to be my friends. I love the bonds we all share.

Thanks Robyn for taking the time to answer these questions, because after all we can all see that you are one busy lady. 

Thank you for this awesome opportunity Michele. <3

No problem. If you'd like to find out more about Robyn, you can visit here at her blog Putting Pen to Paper and her website. And lastly don't forget to drop in next week for another 'Getting to know you' session. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The week that was

I went back to work this week; on Thursday. OK, I know it's not a full week, but I'm still blooming cream crackered. I had to sit through meetings, I have a student teacher, I'm working with a new teacher to the school and my classroom has moved to another building.

It was a funny old start to the year though. For a start it just felt different. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's different. Every September for the last ten years I have faced September 1st with a kind of dread and usually a bottle or two of wine. This year I watched the Mentalist.

Then the actual day arrived. I got off the metro and yet again was blown away by turning that corner and seeing the Eiffel Tower stretching up into the blue sky.

I skipped through the park pleased that I was wearing my Birks and that I would feel the grass between my toes. I was hoping that the grass would be wet, but you can't have it all.

I drank two glasses of wine over lunch safe in the knowledge that I was a) going to walk it off and b) work it off as I unpacked all those blooming boxes in my room while listening to the Foo Fighters. Even after getting all hot and sweaty and missing quite possibly the best day of summer because I was indoors I was still not totally pissed off.

Then I came home and it hit me. I was in the kitchen cooking after having done all the other chores that needed doing and I realised: that's it, another ten months before I can be ... and it ended. I opened a can of beer, finished cooking dinner, gave myself a mental kick in the shins and reminded myself that I am a teacher and I am a writer. There.

I'll finish off with this. I'm very bad at listening in meetings. I had to confess multiple times to the new and student teacher that I just wasn't listening, but I listened to this. Not because of the horrible screechy noise or because of the pretty pictures (but that helped a lot), but because Sir Ken Robinson has some very interesting things to say. And yes, of course I find them interesting because I agree with him. But I also find it interesting because I'm lucky enough to be able to do some of the stuff he says.

If you're not at all interested in changing education and the world, I get that. So did I mention my recent Foo Fighters obsession? Or that I saw them at Rock en Seine the other week? No? Oh, well this video is for you guys then.


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