Throwback Thursday: Interview for SFF

Last year I was interviewed with Adele for SFF World as part of our launch of Fennec Books, the imprint of Fox Spirit Books, for whom I’m commissioning editor. Our first book, Ghoulsome Graveyard (written by me) is already available, and our next book, which I commissioned, will be out soon. It was such an interesting and exciting project to read submissions and choose the novel I really enjoyed and to work with such a gifted writer. I can’t wait for you to read more about what were doing. In the meantime, check out our interview here.

Inspiration for Weird Wild

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My collection of short stories, Weird Wild, was published on 20 March 2014. The first story I wrote for it was called ‘The Lake’ and was written as part of an online writing challenge. I didn’t know then what it would grow into!

My book babies, out in the wild!

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s nothing more relaxing than walking through forests, unless you’re being chased by a werewolf! We’ve visited forests in the UK, including ‘Wistman’s Wood’ in Dartmoor, as well as rainforests in Latin America and Asia and all helped inspire ‘Weird Wild’, with creepy mists, crooked trees and hidden dens.

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Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

The Stone Circle in Weird Wild is definitely inspired by my love of archaeology. I love Stonehenge and have been fascinated by stone circles, both in terms of what they tell us about our ancestors, but also the more mystical elements. My logical, scientific brain (and a number of my tutors!) debunked the idea of ley lines but there’s still something magical about these stones. Who’s to say they aren’t portals to the fairy realm?

Stonehenge. I visited it while studying and the image of the stones rising from the earth has stayed with me. Magical

How pretty are bluebells? It was an annual tradition growing up to visit ‘Bluebell Woods’ and see them when they bloomed each spring. I was fascinated to learn some of the more nefarious uses of this beautiful, if deadly, bell. I’d also never claim to be a poet, but the poem for Weird Wild was written fairly quickly, the voices and the bells ringing clearly.

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Bluebells near where I grew up.

 

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Dartmoor, UK

So many beautiful lakes inspired ‘The Lake’. Whilst Lago Roja in Bolivia isn’t surrounded by trees like the lake in Weird Wild, the stillness and sense of isolation crept into the story.

Lago Roja, Bolivia. It was so peaceful and ethereal here

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Out in the wild!

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As always, any sticky plot points were worked out during long walks. There’s something about being outside which definitely clears the fog and helps the writing process.

Check out those wild flowers!

 

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You can get your copy of Weird Wild from Amazon, or contact me below for a signed copy!

Things That Go Bump In The Night

‘Monster!’ Christopher pointed a small, pudgy finger towards the wardrobe, hugging his teddy bear tightly.

His mum, Sarah, lay him gently down in his bed. ‘No, sweetie, there’s no monsters in your wardrobe,’ she said, tucking his blankets around him.

Christopher sat up and pointed again. ‘Monster, mummy.’ Sarah looked into his saucer eyes and signed inwardly.

Forcing a smile to her face she rose and crossed to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. She made a dramatic show of opening the doors and rummaging through the few items of clothing hanging on their small hangers. She lifted out the boxes of toys and even lifted out his tiny shoes and peeked into each. ‘See? No monsters. Now, time for bed.’

‘Bed. Monsters. Bed, mummy.’ Christopher started waving under the bed, tears springing to his eyes.

‘That’s enough Christopher,’ his father, Mike, stood wearily at the door. Sarah threw him a sharp look. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘We go through this nonsense every night. There’s no monsters in the wardrobe or under the bed. Playing along just encourages him. Come on, you little monster. You’re the scariest thing in this room, so off to bed.’

‘Dr Jenkins said we shouldn’t dismiss his fears,’ hissed Sarah.

‘Well Dr Jenkins can spend three hours putting him to bed every night as I’m fed up with eating cold dinners.’

Sarah glared at her husband before quickly forcing a smile to her lips and stroking her son’s cheek. She reached under his cot and pulled out a stuffed toy. She brought it to her lips and whispered in its ear before handing it to her son. ‘Now Chris, I’d like you to meet Mega Mo. He’s a monster eater and I’ve just asked him to look after you all night, ok?’

Christopher looked at his mum, then at the toy. he chewed his lip as he studied Mega Mo. Mega Mo had a small, squat body, clad in denim dungarees. Small black leather boots stuck out the bottom, laces tied neatly in a bow. His arms were disproportionally long and muscular, the stitching etching out his fingers of his broad hands. However, it was his face that Christopher spent the longest studying – it was circular with two small, black eyes made from buttons, two cloth ears stuck out at 90degrees from his head and wool stuck out the top to form hair. It was his mouth which Christopher spent the longest looking at as it was overly wide, almost slicing his head in half. Velcro stuck his lips together, but it opened easily as Christopher pulled. Mega Mo’s mouth was empty, just a cloth bag.

‘As if he wasn’t already seeing monsters, you’re giving him one to sleep with,’ muttered Mike.

‘Dr Jenkins suggested it as a comforter. Mega Mo isn’t afraid of anything, Christopher and he look after you, ok? Now, lights out, time for sleep.’ Sarah rose and before Christopher could complain moved to the door, flicking off the light. His parents paused in the doorway, giving their eyes a moment to adjust to the assorted night lights Christopher insisted light his room. ‘Night, sweetie,’ said his mum.

‘Night son,’ his dad called, already heading to the kitchen.

Within a few minutes Christopher head the ping of the microwave as his parents reheated their dinners and the television as they flicked through the channels.

Christopher hugged Mega Mo to his chest as he sat in his cot. He knew they were out there, waiting. Every night since they had moved into the new house was the same: the monsters under his bed would wake him up. Christopher didn’t know why they did these things, other than to torment him. He’d hear them giggling, their long fingers curling around his blankets before dragging them off of him. He’d feel their breath on his face as they flicked his ears and their sandpaper skin as they yanked his feet. Christopher squeezed his eyes closed tightly and pretended to go to sleep. Sometimes they didn’t bother him if he was asleep. Sometimes.

The familiar scratching started at his wardrobe door, one long fingernail dragged across the wood, slowly at first, then in faster, shorter bursts until the door creaked open. A low buzz filled the room, causing the bars on Christopher’s cot to rattle. He closed his eyes more tightly, covering them with his small hands, fingers splayed over his face.

His cot was moving now, bouncing on the carpet as the creatures bounded out from underneath. Christoper started shaking. It sounded like more of the creatures were coming than had ever before. The giggling creatures moved around the room, their long claws plucking at the carpet as Christopher continued to shake, tears free-flowing down his cheeks.

The sound of velcro ripping made him pause. He desperately didn’t want to take his hands away from his eyes, but curiosity finally pulled them down to his sides. He started to reach for Mega Mo, only to discover the toy was no longer by his side. Christoper quickly scanned his bed, his blanket rumbled beside him, his bottle the other side, but the stuffed toy was nowhere to be seen.

A squeak from under the bed drew his attention. He hesitantly reached for the bars of his cot, but pulled back when he heard another squeak, followed by a thump. His cot rattled, then stilled.

Swallowing hard, Christopher peered through the bars. He saw Mega Mo on the floor, his broad arms swinging like a windmill, his club hands knocking the creatures down. He paused, scooping up several of the creatures and, grinning widely before opening his mouth and dropping the screaming creatures into the chasm. A blue felt tongue whipped around, licking his lips before he started chasing more of the creatures around the room, gulping them down as he caught them. Christopher watched as Mega Mo ate all of the creatures until there was one left, cowering in the corner. He chittered to Mega Mo who smiled before launching himself at the creature. In one fluid move he swallowed it whole. He stood upright and surveyed the room. Christopher followed his gaze and for the first time, he listened to the silence of his room.

‘Wow, I can’t believe he’s asleep!’ whispered Sarah, retaking the blankets that had slipped from around Christopher’s shoulders.

‘I know, he’d normally have screamed by now,’ muttered Mike. ‘Told you it was just a phase.’

‘Or Mega Mo helped. Where is that toy anyway?’ Sarah’s foot nudged against something. She looked down and saw Mega Mo. ‘What are you doing out of Christopher’s cot? I told you to protect him.’ She bent to pick up the toy. ‘Blimey, you’re heavier than I remember.’

‘Forget about the toy,’ hissed Mike, ‘Just enjoy the tranquility.’

Sarah tucked Mega Mo in next to Christoper who instinctively hugged him. He smiled in his sleep, dreaming of monsters, and those who ate them.

Shark week. Meeting the most vicious fish in the seas!

When hubby and I went on our little adventure, we never for one second thought we’d end up coming face-to-face with some of the most vicious creatures under the waves. We were blessed to dive in the Galapagos, Panama, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and many more places, seeing stunning underwater worlds and the incredible creatures that live there. Of course, not every sea creature wanted us there and more than once we had a face off with the most vicious fish under the sea. And here he is…..


We got a couple of pictures of clown fish (in this case a tomato anemone fish) getting grumpy with visitors and this one decided that we’d got a bit too close to his home so bit my husband!

And now, here’s a few pictures of sharks…..

Grey reef shark, Thailand


Black tip reef shark, Malaysia


Leopard shark, Thailand


Thresher shark, Philippines


White tip reef sharks, Thailand


Leopard shark, Thailand


Whale shark, Philippines


Galapagos shark, Galapagos Islands


Another shot of that beautiful leopard shark in Thailand

Getting the most from conferences

It seems as if conference season is already upon us. There are innumerable conferences, locally, nationally and internationally, all eager for your business. When I was first setting out I went to a number of different conferences and met some fantastic people, many of whom are now dear friends.

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I have my lanyard I take to all conferences. It’s got different tickets, badges and stickers on

Conferences, especially if you’re a writer, are an invaluable tool. We’re known as a fairly reclusive lot so a conference allows you to leave your characters behind and meet real people. Understandably, it can be fairly daunting so I’ve come up with a few tried and tested methods for you to use:

  • Choose your conference carefully. It’s not cheap buying tickets, booking transport and hotel rooms so make sure that the conference is one which you will find interesting and importantly, beneficial;
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    Meeting Graham Higgins at BristolCon was a highlight in 2013

  • Do your homework. I’m not just talking about deciding on which outfit to wear (although this is important, see below) but look at the conference website: which writers, agents or publishers are going? Check out their webpages or look them up in the ‘Writers and Artists’ Yearbook’. Know who they are and what they do;
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    I was terrified at NineWorlds in 2011

  • Which brings us to something important – start growing your online presence. If you don’t already, get a twitter account and start following people who interest you. If you’ve recently read a book by an author, tweet them and tell them how much you enjoyed it and say you’re looking forward to seeing them at the conference. Obviously with everything on the internet, there’s a fine line between being friendly and demanding. Would you really want people sending unsolicited emails etc? No. Be professional and most importantly be polite – you don’t want to arrive at a conference with a reputation for being ‘that annoying person’ who people avoid;
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    With other Fox Spirit Writers at EdgeLit in 2013

  • Plan your weekend. Most conferences have a vast array of events, talks, screenings, signings and more. Most post their programme beforehand so get a copy and review it, deciding which events you want to go to. It saves you a lot of time once you are actually at the conference. I’ve learned this from experience, don’t forget to book in time for food. My first NineWorlds Conference, I rushed from event to event and didn’t eat for 12 hours. When I met an author I admire and had been looking forward to talking to, I was so exhausted and hungry, I could barely remember my own name and just mumbled something about needing coffee. Very embarrassing!;
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    I helped promote Fox Spirit Books at ExeCon in 2014 with Adele Wearing and Alec McQuay

  • If you’ve written a book or are looking to get into publishing, then you need to start branding yourself and your work early on. Sadly publishers don’t have the finances at the moment to promote new or even established authors as much as they might like so you’ve got to do a lot of the hard work for them. I became known as the girl with the dresses because I chose to wear an array of summer frocks at a couple of writing conferences I attended (as an aside, it was more of a practical move than a fashion choice due to an unseasonably warm September). I quickly realised how beneficial this is: when contacting people after the conference I could remind them of who I was by saying ‘I was the girl in the green dress’ and at future conferences I’ll keep up this tradition. I spoke with comic book writer Tony Lee and he said that he was often recognised by people because they knew his distinctive waistcoat, shirt and tie combination, not what he actually looks like. Branding is very important so choose your outfit carefully;
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    I was too shy to speak to James Herbert at FantasyCon in 2012

  • In-keeping with this, maintain your decorum. You do not want your ‘brand’ to be ‘drunk girl flashes knickers as she falls off table onto lap of famous author’;
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    Riddle Me This! Would you dare to wear cosplay to a conference? NineWorlds 2013

  • You’ll meet a lot of people at the conference and you’ll be given a lot of business cards. Everyone has their own way of storing them (one friend puts them in special envelopes to remind herself which day she was given them, another sorts them by person) but one thing I found invaluable is to write a few things on the back of each card such as at which event you met the person, perhaps the anecdote you told them, anything to jog their memory when you contact them in a months time;
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    Excuse the dodgy haircut (note to self, don’t go for a new style days before going away). Launch of Tales of Nun and Dragon and FantasyCon 2012

  • Which brings us to your card. At my first conference I was surprised at the number of unpublished writers with their own business card, the title ‘Author’ splashed across the front. However, seeing the number of cards flying around the hotel bar I realised that for my next conference I need to have my own cards;
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    Doing a bit of book promo at Nine Worlds 2015

  • It’s fabulous to go to a conference with a friend and it’s great to have that comfort of knowing someone but remember you’re there for you. Get out of your hotel room and go and meet people. You never know what might happen, either you’ll meet a new friend or better yet, you might meet an agent or publisher who accepts your work;
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    I was lucky to attend the Exeter Novel Prize 2014, which was presented by MP Ben Bradshaw (even though I hadn’t submitted) and got to meet agents and writers

  • If you’ve got them, don’t forget to check out the facilities for children. I’ve been impressed with the efforts Nine Worlds has gone to to ensure youngsters are entertained, but not all conferences are so inclusive. This also goes for if you have additional needs (I remember one venue didn’t have accessible rooms for people in wheelchairs). Know where baby change facilities/accessible toilets are. Should you need additional assistance, let the guys working at the conference know so they can help (again, Nine Worlds does this well, with coloured badges). It’s one area where pre-planning can save time and stress;
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    Don’t forget to eat!

  • If someone agrees to look at your work, make sure you follow their guidelines to the letter and as always in a polite and not over-friendly manner. Yes, you shared a few drinks but do you really want to start a professional relationship with ‘we got trashed’?;
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    Causing chaos at ExeCon in 2014

  • Finally, and most importantly, have fun!

So there you have it. Conferences are great places to meet people with similar interests to you and you never know, they might be the start of exciting new chapter. Enjoy!

Any additional hints or tips? Let me know in the comments below

I saw….

I saw the tadpole in all her grace

I saw the queen weaving lace

I saw the old woman burn like fire

I saw the trees floating higher

I saw the plane fall from above

I saw the rain enter the dove

I saw the bullet cut off my nose

I saw the blade like a summer rose

I saw the girl shining bright

I saw the day turn into night.