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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
Out in the wild!
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.
We’re HUGE fans of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s books here at Beagle HQ. So much so that the toddler’s last birthday was themed around some of their more famous books, but that’s a post for another day.
I wanted to make the toddler something a bit different, so I combined some of her favourite characters with different openers and fasteners to help her improve her dexterity and coordination. The product was ‘Evie’s Quiet Book’.
Quiet books seem to be hugely popular and it’s easy to see why: soft to touch for little hands, they are only limited by your imagination and can keep little people occupied for ages.
I created a page for each of the main characters: Witch, Cat, Dog, Bird, Frog, Dragon plus all of them on the broom.
I tried to use a mix of fabrics and materials to make it interesting to touch as well as various colours. Some worked better than others, with some of the coarser fabric fraying, however I think this adds to the characters.
There are also different fasteners including zips, poppers, buttons and clips, all of which encourage to toddler to explore and learn how to use them. They’ve helped her improve her manual dexterity while also teaching her some key skills for getting dressed.
I think the Witch is my favourite page. Her long ginger hair is a mix of different wools, from very soft, to slightly more coarse and even a few strands from my rag doll I had as a baby! Perfect for learning how to plait, and to tie a ribbon! Her cardigan also needs buttoning. This was the only page where I used my sewing machine (for the cardigan), all the rest was sewn by hand.
The last page is the broom with all the characters sat safely in their seats. I made the finger puppets as a fun accompaniment when reading the book, but they can be used for reenactment while out and about, or for creating new adventures!
Have you made a quiet book? Do you like the characters from the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom? Let me know in the comments below.
The publishing world has undergone a rapid shift in recent years, even in the time since I dipped my toes into the ocean of books, agents, ebooks etc. However, I’m often asked how I got my work published so I thought I’d share my story in case it helps someone else on their journey to publication and a few tips based on my experiences.
I’ve always written. One of my first memories was of sitting with my cousin, writing a very long and protracted story. I can’t remember all the details but I do remember it ran to about eight pages, quite a feat as I was only about 7years old! At college I’d written for our local paper and had written some short stories for myself. When hubby and I decided to take a gap year, I decided that would be the perfect time for me to get that novel out.
I remember writing the opening chapters to what would become ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ while on a beach in Brazil. Reading it to hubby, he was excited and I was keen to learn what happened to Akane and her friends but it would be another few years before I had finished the novel. In the meantime I undertook the London School of Journalism’s Creative Writing Course which gave me some useful guidelines and helpful feedback from the tutors. I also worked on a few pieces featuring animals and people we’d met on our travels. In theory I’d love to publish them one day, but I know they’ll stay safely in my computer.
I completed ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ as part of a National Novel Writing Month challenge but it needed a LOT of work. As an aside, if you’ve not completed NaNoWriMo before and are an aspiring writer, give it a go. It’s a fun challenge which can set you up with some good writing practices.
When we returned to the UK I decided to try and sell some of my work. I attended a writers conference ‘FantasyCon’ and was bombarded with information – ways to get an agent, ways to self-publish your books, reasons not to have an agent, self-branding, writing for YA, ensuring your book will be the ‘next big thing’. It was frankly too much and everyone I met had an opinion on how to do it ‘correctly’. I left slightly more confused than when I arrived, but filled with ideas. I had also met some funny, interesting and people who would ultimately help me on my writing journey.
I’d got chatting to Adele Wearing the first night of the conference and she contacted me a few weeks later to discuss a project she was putting together. That was the start of ‘The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse‘. It was a really fun project, one I hold very dear, and which allowed me to try different writing styles, from tongue-in-cheek articles, to opinion pieces, to short stories. It also gave me the confidence to submit my stories to websites and I’m still very happy that I won the poll on Fantasy Faction for my short story ‘The Last Dragon Keeper’.
My interest in writing grew and I helped to set up ‘Resident Writers’ which prompted me to write an assortment of pieces, including poetry which is definitely not my forte! I continued submitting to different websites In the meantime, Adele had decided to collate and publish a book called ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon‘ and asked if I would like to submit. My short story ‘Into the Woods’ was accepted and I really enjoyed writing all the blood and guts. ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon’ was well-received and launched at the next FantasyCon, with Adele deciding to set up Fox Spirit Books soon after. Further titles from Fox Spirit Books followed and Adele kindly agreed to publish my collection of short stories, Weird Wild, which included an adapted version of ‘Into the Woods’. The following year ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘ was also published by Fox Spirit Books. All the while, I continued submitting my work, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so and writing on my blog.
I had a bit of a break when the toddler was born. The voices were still there, demanding attention, but not surprisingly there was a louder, more demanding voice who needed me, so my notebooks and ideas were put away. Although I still wrote a little, I had become rusty and my old website became slightly redundant. I briefly returned to work, but for a variety of reasons, decided to leave my job and devote myself to raising our daughter, trying my hand at crafting and focussing on my writing. In 2016 I took on the role of ‘Commissioning Editor’ for ‘Fennec Books’ an imprint of Fox Spirit Books and soon after my first pre-teen novel ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard‘ was published. I’m planning next year to try self-publishing so pop back regularly to see how that’s going and I’m also submitting to different magazines and publications, with a short story appearing in the June edition of Sirens Call.
So I’m by no means an ‘expert’ on getting published. My path is very different to other authors – I’ve met people who have agents but who have no books currently in print and others who’ve lots of work either self-published or published through small presses, I’ve met people who use Patreon and others who only show their work to family. However, I have a few suggestions (in no particular order) if you want to your your work out there.
- Firstly, make sure your MS is ready for publication. Get others to read it and offer suggestions (it’s up to you if you accept them). Check, then check again for grammar and spelling mistakes (you never get them all but sending something filled with mistakes with get your MS rejected as agents don’t have the time to sort your laziness).
- Sounds daft but be passionate about your book when discussing it. If you’re not excited, how will anyone else be?
- Ive been told that you need a minimum of 10k followers on Twitter, as well as an author page on Facebook. I’d agree and disagree about needing 10k followers on Twitter. I’ve met established writers who struggle to make 1000! However, most publishers or agents are looking for some sort of online presence and Twitter is great for that. Few pointers – it’s SOCIAL media. Don’t spam people with ‘buy my book’ ads-nothing will get you blocked faster. Engage with people and make it fun. I tweet about books (and promote my own) but also chat with people about movies, crafts, dogs, anything really.
- A blog is also helpful as it gets you writing regularly and improves your writing but you need to keep it up to date, which is why I took mine down after having my daughter as I didn’t have time to maintain it and it looked a bit shabby and unloved. Websites are easy to set up and you can make it engaging by inviting blog-hops (where others contribute content. I do interviews with inspirational women who had interesting jobs or were challenging the establishment) or a regular item – I do ‘Make It Monday’ and movie reviews. On my old website, in the run up to an anthology I was in being published, I did a month of promo, inviting contributions, which was really fun & got word out there about the antho but it was hard work coordinating so many submissions and getting them all scheduled so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Facebook is a good media but a) think about your audience – for example it’s not the preferred social media for under 25’s or over 60’s so may not reach your target audience and b) I struggle with private/public so some authors keep separate accounts (I personally don’t bother). There’s also Instagram which I’m learning to use and Snapchat as well as Reddit and more popping up regularly. All have their pros and cons. Whichever you choose, post regularly, engage with people and don’t spam!
- I’d recommend going to writing conferences. There are many which are genre specific (Romance, World Con, and FantasyCon are a few which spring to mind but there’s loads). I was lucky and met some great people at these conferences, who I’m happy to say are now friends. My first conference I met a lot of wannabe authors and it sounds awful but they smelled of desperation – they were buying agents drinks and generally sucking up to everyone. One man actually turned his back on my husband as soon as he learned he wasn’t in ‘the biz’. So just get chatting to people and you never know who you’ll meet. (We did the awards dinner and I accidentally sat next to an agent who after chatting about tv shows etc offered to read my novel.) These conferences are also great for learning more about getting published or just about your favourite authors or subjects so go and enjoy.
- Agents. There are a lot of pros and cons about agents. In theory they get your book into the hands of publishers faster, sort contracts and generally look after you. However, I know authors signed to an agent who haven’t sold any of their manuscripts so it’s up to you. If you’re going to approach an agent, check their submission guidelines CAREFULLY. Nothing will get your MS thrown into the slush pile faster than sending it in Word and they wanted it in Pages or set out incorrectly. This sounds simple but don’t send it to a wrong agent. Like readers, agents have their own interest areas so I wouldn’t send my horror story to a romance agent – it’s wasting both our time. As I said, follow guidelines and be polite – Twitter is filled with authors sending snotty replies to agents who they feel have taken too long or rejected their work. Publishing is a small world and you don’t need that sort of negativity against your name. You’re trying to sell your books, but also yourself so acting like a child throwing a tantrum is not professional. If they reject, say thanks for their time and that’s it. Take on board any suggestions they may make. If you want an agent, keep going – they receive hundreds of manuscripts a month so yours needs to really stand out.
- If you get an agent, or work with a small press, read the small print of any contract – check about foreign rights, who gets what if it’s sold to TV or movies, rights for audiobooks, how long you’re entering into the contract and who gets the rights to our work when it ends, who pays for editing and formatting, and what type of publishing will they do (print or eformat).
- Which brings me to small presses and self publishing. Some people dismiss these as vanity presses but in recent years they’ve been putting out some good work. As with agents, follow their submission guidelines and also check their contracts as above. For example my contract means my publisher gets the rights to print and e-format for a year, then all rights return to me & I can sell it elsewhere if I want. They’re fantastic for new authors, but their budgets are small so be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion.
- I’d also recommend getting your name out there by submitting short stories & articles to magazines. A lot aren’t accepting submissions from unknowns anymore (eg Women’s Own used to do periodical mags just of fiction but I think they’ve stopped them now) but there’s loads of online places to submit. As above, check guidelines, proof your submission and write a good story.
These are only a few suggestions, if you’ve got more (and I’m sure you do!), let me know in the comments below.
Wow! My first completed novel ‘Akane: the Last of the Orions‘ turned TWO on Monday! I still remember reading the opening passage to hubby – we were still travelling and he’d gone surfing. When he got back to our apartment (we were in Florianopolis in Brazil) I read what I’d written to him, explained the premise and where I hoped it would go and he loved it! Still can’t believe it would be another another eight years before it would be published, and in some ways I can’t believe it WAS published AND that readers are still enjoying the characters I created a decade ago! (It’s currently got 5* reviews on Amazon) Random fact, Akane is actually named after one of my Japanese students, an adorable and feisty five year old who would always put her older brother in his place during our lessons.
We love stories here. Be it the worlds of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler for the Lamb, Scott Snyder for hubby or Gaiman for me, there’s always a yarn being spun (I’m tempted to insert a pun about my knitting addiction here, but I digress).
But whilst I love to read stories, I also love to craft them. I’ve talked before about the voices in my head, telling me their tales (and more than once, their tails!). Way back in 2012 I submitted a short story ‘The Last Dragon Keeper‘ to the monthly Fantasy Faction Writing Challenge. In an open vote, my short story won! As part of National Share-A-Story Month, I thought I’d do a Throwback Thursday to the world of Eui, Rowan and dragons. Click the link to see the original article and carry on reading for my story of The Last Dragon Keeper.
The Last Dragon Keeper
Eui watched as the waves surged towards the shore. Ice had formed on the water, the motion turning it to mush as it covered the smooth grey rocks that acted as boundary between land and sea. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying but failing to keep out the wind, which threatened to tear her clothes and pick at her bones. She knew that her mother would scold her for forgetting her jacket but in her desperation to get out of the house, she had left it, stowed snugly in her wardrobe. Eui stamped her feet to try to warm them but the wind kept forcing its way through her thick boots, biting her toes.
The ground began to shake. It started with a slow trickle of the smaller rocks, which quickly blended with the mush of the ocean water. The larger rocks began to vibrate then roll down the hill and into the water. Eui stood her ground as rocks large and small snapped at her heels, flinching as the larger ones bruised her. Eui breathed deeply, inhaling the familiar ash scent that covered the island more deeply than the perma-snow.
The earth juddered to a stop and Eui carefully stepped out of the pile of stones that covered her feet. The icy slush boiled along the shore then all was still once more. Eui turned as she heard footsteps crunching on the gravel and smiled at her father.
“Your mother is worried about you,” he said, not looking her in the eye but focusing on the ocean.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did.” Eui risked a look at her father but could not read his expression. The silence settled over them, only slightly comfortable.
Finally, taking a deep breath, Eui said, “The dragons are dying father.”
“As are we, Eui, as are we. We can only hope that they die before we do. A dragon alone in this world, without a Keeper, would soon fall prey to the blades of the Sagar.”
If they’re lucky, thought Eui, but she did not pursue the matter.
Every Keeper knew the challenges faced by the dragons. The Sagars were hunters who sold dragon meat and their scales and teeth, which held magical properties. For over a generation they had hunted and killed dragons, depleting their numbers in an unending quest for the perfect hunt: A mythical beast, defined by its purity and beauty. With each retelling of the myth, the dragon grew in grace and size until Eui, who had been told stories of the Sagar which had kept her awake at night, did not recognise the creature as being a dragon but an animal of pure virtue. Knowing no dragon had ever been born matching the myth kept the Sagars hunting and Eui from peaceful dreams.
However, the biggest threat was the dragons themselves. Females would lay between 15-20 eggs and would continually defend her nest from attacks by males. Of the eggs that survived, not all would hatch, with some being trampled. Finally the female, tired and undernourished, would die. If she was lucky, she might see the one or two of her offspring who would emerge from their eggs, snorting flames and growling to be fed.
In the absence of a mother, when the infant dragons smashed from their eggs, they would bond with a Keeper. The Keepers were almost as old as the dragons themselves but they too had slowly grown fewer and fewer until Eui and her brother Rowan were the only non-bonded keepers. The last surviving female was guarding her egg, waiting to die.
“It’s a very special time for your brother. He will be bonded, probably today,” said her father, his eyes remaining on the waves.
“And what about me?” asked Eui.
“Is that why you wish to leave? You lack purpose?”
Eui flashed a quick look at her father. He would claim that it was the wind that brought tears to his eyes, but the clench in Eui’s stomach reminded her of the argument with her mother.
“There is a world beyond the isle, father. I wish to explore and there is nothing here for me. There will be no more dragons once this has hatched and bonded with Rowan. A Keeper with nothing to keep.” Eui’s eyes flooded with tears that threatened to fall. Her father swung an arm around her and gently pulled her close for a brisk hug.
“Come, Eui. They are preparing for the ceremony. I have to get to the Great Hall. Greeson and the elders are waiting for me.”
Together they walked slowly up the beach, slipping occasionally on the loose gravel. Kissing her on the head before gently pushing her towards the settlement, Eui’s father walked towards the mountain. Suddenly he called Eui and she ran to him as the wind stole his words.
“Eui, Keepers are like the seasons. We are currently in the darkest winter we have known, filled with darkness and despair, but after the winter, the spring warmth always comes. Remember, your name means spring in the old tongue. Wait and you will see the beauty when we emerge from the darkness. I know you feel there is nothing for you here, but your brother will need your support and love. Being a Keeper is not easy and he still has a lot to learn.”
Eui gave her father a small smile, then turned and jogged into the settlement, flinging open their door. Her mother looked up from where she was sat by the table, her sewing needle raised. She regarded Eui with a stony expression.
Eui paused, looking contrite under the glare of her mother. “Father said you might need some help preparing for the ceremony,” she said finally.
Her mother laid down her needle. She studied the garments laid out across the table then quietly said, “Go and wake your brother. He needs to get dressed. The ceremony starts soon. The egg is hatching.”
Eui dipped her head and avoided eye contact with her mother as she wound around the large table and up the stairs. Launching into her brother’s room, she jumped onto his bed, bouncing up and down.
“Wakey, wakey,” she called as Rowan swatted at her.
“Get off,” he shouted as Eui continued jumping.
“Mother says you have to get up. The ceremony is going to start soon so you need to get into your dress,” teased Eui.
“It’s a robe,” roared Rowan, sitting up and pushing Eui off the bed.
She landed with cat-like grace, giving him a smug smile. “Whatever. The egg’s hatching. You’re about to become a Keeper.”
“Yeah,” said Rowan without enthusiasm, pulling a shirt from the floor and sniffing it. Deciding it didn’t smell, he dragged it over his head, then ran his fingers through his hair.
Eui watched her brother. Three years older than her thirteen, his training made him appear older but seeing him first thing in the morning always reminded Eui of how young her brother really was.
Playfully kicking him, she ran from the room, calling, “Your dress is on the table. Hurry up or I might spill my breakfast on it.”
Eui charged into the kitchen, Rowan a few paces behind. They both stopped when they saw their mother’s stern face.
“Hurry up,” their mother said, handing Rowan his robe. Smoothing her hair, she stood a little straighter and scowled at her children. “I will see you at the Great Hall,” she said, leaving them.
Eui grinned at her brother. Rowan ignored her and carefully picked up the robes his mother had spent weeks embroidering. Slipping the delicate fabric over his head, it cascade down his body. Checking the sleeves were straight, he tugged at the hem. Eui bit her cheeks to stop from laughing while Rowan slipped into his boots.
“It’s a robe,” he growled.
Eui couldn’t contain herself and started laughing.
Looking down at himself, Rowan sighed, then he too started giggling. “Ok, it’s a dress. Can we go? I have a dragon to meet.”
Together they walked from the settlement towards the Great Hall, Rowan complaining about the cold and the snow getting into his boots. Entering the cave that would take them to the Great Hall, they could hear the Elders singing, and the pained final breaths of the female dragon. The Great Hall was a large cave, which had formed in the mountain, decorated by generations of Keepers. There were designs showing the bonding ceremony, the history of the keepers and dragons, with some designs used to train young keepers.
Eui and Rowan joined their parents, on a large platform just above the pit where the dragon rested with her last remaining egg. The female dragon was large, her scales a burnt orange turning to red on her belly and yellow on her wings. Her breath was shallow and laboured; the keepers knew that it would not be long before she would join her brethren in the flame halls of the underworld.
Eui stole a peek at the egg. It was about the size of a boulder, with mottled brown spots and she heard the frustrated squeaks as its occupier nosed its way out. The Elders stood on the opposite platform, their chants rising and falling with the breaths of the female. The large dragon’s head drooped, rose, then fell again.
Greeson silenced the Elders with a raised hand. “She has passed to the underworld,” he said.
No one made a sound as they watched the dragon ease its nose, then its body and finally its long tail from the egg. It opened its mouth and coughed, sending a ball of flame harmlessly against the wall. Shaking itself, its wings unfurled and the Keepers stood amazed. The baby dragon’s body was a paler colour than its mother’s, but its wings were pure white, veins highlighted in golden scales that caught the light. Shaking its head, it emitted a small bark before experimentally flapping its wings. Its dark green eyes took in the unmoving body of its mother before it spotted Rowan standing on the platform. Another flap of its wings and it was eye level with the platform, barking happily.
The Elders began chanting in the ancient tongue. Eui did not understand all the words but knew it was the song to encourage the dragon to choose its Keeper. Rowan grinned as the dragon looked at him and bowed deeply as he had been taught. The dragon started to dip its head when it caught sight of Eui behind Rowan. Cocking its head to one side it forgot to move its wings, flapping quickly as it began to fall. Rowan remained bowed, but his mother shifted nervously. Rowan dared to peek and frowned when he saw that the dragon was not returning his bow. Finally, he stood and looked at his father, who shrugged his confusion.
Standing, Rowan blocked the dragon’s view of Eui. The dragon craned his neck to look around the boy. Eui looked back wide-eyed back at the creature floating effortlessly before stepping past Rowan and raising her hand towards the dragon.
The dragon swooped close, it’s sudden movement causing Eui to step back in surprise until the dragons long black tongue flicked out, licking her hand. Eui giggled, running her hand along the dragon’s muzzle as it growled contentedly.
“The dragon has chosen its Keeper,” called Greeson, his voice echoing.
Eui stopped playing with the dragon as the words struck her like a physical blow. She looked at Rowan, his face contorted with anger, her mother with her hand covering her mouth in shock and finally her father who was smiling at her. Stepping forward he lifted Eui onto the dragon’s back. Eui hugged the dragon’s neck as it rose and circled the Great Hall.
“Spring has come with the last Dragon Keeper,” Eui’s father said.
Way back in 2012 I’d freshly arrived in Devon and had helped to set up a writers group. One of our fellow writers had set up an interesting project ‘Vie Hebdomadaires’ where each week guest bloggers would take over and write about anything which interested them. It’s a fun project and there’s been a wide variety of topics covered. If you’ve got spare time, I’d definitely recommend a flick through.
Anyway, I wrote this piece about ‘What Writing Means To Me‘. It was a precis of where I was at that time with my writing and partly why I feel the need to write. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much I’d accomplished and also, how much more I’ve completed. In many respects it’s easy to overlook our accomplishments, but in the five years since I wrote the article, I’ve published ‘Akane: The Last of the Orions‘, I’ve also published two other books in different genres, the adult collection of short stories ‘Weird Wild‘ and the pre-teen novel ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard‘. There’s been assorted short stories published, The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse has been revived and whilst I lost all my original work on my previous website, here I am blogging again. This amongst assorted crafting projects, short stories, working and being a full time mum and that’s not too shabby!
Click the link above to see the original article or carry on reading below.
There is an inordinate amount written about writing: the who, where and why. Quotes on how you should write, what you should write about. To be honest, as someone who has written for years but who is only now trying to become a ‘professional’ writer, it’s all very intimidating, which is why I loved a mini-Twitter campaign led by Jason Arnopp (scriptwriters for shows such as Doctor Who as well as a number of movies) which said that if you write, you’re a writer. Not ‘aspiring’, not ‘desperate’, not ‘wannabe’. You put words onto paper in an order which makes for (hopefully) interesting reading. This led to a lot of people, in the style of a Hollywood movie, announce, ‘My name is … I am a writer.’
So, since then, I’ve taken on board Jason’s words. I no longer describe myself as ‘aspiring’ or ‘attempting to be’. I write, therefore I am a writer.
2012 is the year which I’m focusing on my writing, trying to go from ‘aspiring’ to ‘published’. I set myself a number of aims (I say aims because it sounds less daunting than New Year Resolutions) for the year which I suppose have made me a little introspective about my writing career to date.
I’ve always written. I remember as a child writing a wandering story which I proudly told my cousin ran to ten pages. During my teenage years there was the cliched angst-ridden poetry and short stories and I was lucky enough that my English teacher channeled me towards writing for the local paper who were creating a section written by youngsters. My first article, about my experiences of learning to drive, won a prize. I was later asked to review Les Miserables when it was touring and arrived in my local town.
At university I focused my energies in other directions and it wasn’t until my husband and I went traveling that the voices which had talked me into writing those ten pages as a child came back to me. I started a story based on a little hummingbird who got lost on his way to visit his armadillo friend and ended up traveling around South America in much the same way we were (although without the 36 hour bus journeys!). There’s some ok ideas in the story, but I knew I needed help so I enlisted on the London School of Journalism’s distance learning course for people who want to write children’s books. An interesting course which helped me understand my characters a bit more, under the encouragement of my tutor, I embarked on my first novel ‘Akane’. It’s a bit of a science fiction, adventure story for young adults and I loved having that adventure with those characters. I’ll be honest, they surprised me a number of times with their actions: the good becoming bad and vice versa, on character who was supposed to only have a walk on part became integral to the story and the pain my characters experienced, I experienced.
It was around that time that I discovered National Novel Writing Month. I’ve written at length about NaNoWriMo and am a proud ‘Wrimo’ myself so I won’t go into details here but the idea is that in 30 days you write a 50,000 word novel. It sounds a lot, but when broken down it’s only 1667 words per day. 2012 will be my fourth year taking part in the madness of NaNoWriMo which has helped me create a number of different novels and I look forward to every November when it starts again.
Thanks to NaNoWriMo and the work I was creating for them, I realised that I’m a genre writer: the voices in my head are all from the worlds of the paranormal, the mythical or other galaxies. So, I decided to attend my first convention for genre writers, Fantasy Con, down in Brighton last year. It was all quite exciting and nerve-wracking. There were authors there who I’d read for years, while some I had never heard of but whose work I have since picked up and enjoyed.
While there I met a lady named Adele. We chatted and got on well, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to see or hear from her until the next convention so it was a surprise when she contacted me to say she was setting up a new blog and would I like to take part. I was interested, blogging is still fairly new to me so it would be good to work with someone with a lot more experience. However, it was the theme of the blog which really drew me in: The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. To celebrate all things feminine when the end comes as well as offer tongue in cheek advice about how to survive when the zombie hoards come crashing through your door. I loved the idea and immediately submitted my first article ‘Running In Heels (From Zombies)’. Since it’s launch last October, the Apocalypse Girls are we are known have developed quite a following and our ‘feral leader’ as Adele has affectionately been named is constantly coming up with new plans to challenge us.
I was also lucky enough to meet another inspirational woman, Oriana with whom I have set up a writing group in Exeter, called ‘Resident Writers’. We’d both attended different writing groups but they didn’t quite fill the need we had: stimulating us and encouraging us to write. In the months between NaNoWriMo, I’d often go for weeks without writing anything and like any muscle, don’t using your writing skills and they get rusty. We launched in March this year and already have a fabulous group of writers from different genres who come and write with us. I’ve even started writing poetry which I’ve not done since I was at school!
So, now I am a ‘writer’ what next? I have a number of voices muttering in my head, demanding my attention, but even those who have had their stories told are asking more of me: that I let others read their tales and share their journey. Therefore I’m about to start a new adventure in my writing career, the search for an agent and a publisher. I know it’s going to be a hard and difficult road, but at least I have a lot of people to keep me company, even if my head is getting a little crowded.