Tap, tap, tapping away!

These updates are getting embarrassingly few and far between! But I do have some exciting news.

Firstly, my book baby has sold over 100 copies, and I’m really thrilled by this. It’s still selling and I’m still getting lovely lovely reviews coming in which just make my day.

Secondly, Poisoned Well is finished! It’s been done for a while and I have a printed hard-copy ready for the second round of editing. So although I’ve not posted here for a while, things are happening behind the scenes.

Third and final, I’ve started working on a new book. So far it’s just one chapter but a start is a start and I can’t wait to get this project kick-started and off the ground. I currently feeling a little torn as to which direction the story-arc is going to go, so will have to resolve that before it gets much further on. So I’m spending a lot of time daydreaming!

Wish me luck and good luck to you all with your writing endeavors.

Fibi xx

We bring you this programme today, sponsored by: The Lewis.

Hello.

My name is Lewislewis I have taken the decision that you, female human whom I tolerate with some affection, will be privileged to stare at me instead of that black box with the moving pictures and squeaking voices.

I have some minor requests. Please can we have some better food? I prefer fresh chicken over anything else. I also would like some more shiny spherical objects. Last month there were a lot on that tree you insisted on bringing inside. I hid as many as I could under the sofa along with tin foil and other shiny objects. However, I don’t have any thumbs and so it was difficult for me to unhook them and you did seem determined to tie them securely on.

You may pamper me because I am gorgeous. But don’t think that you can tickle my belly. This is very undignified and you know what happened last time. I may soon grow bored of demanding your attention. Please warn the male human whom I also tolerate with some affection, that I intend to walk purposefully under his feet so he’ll have a split second decision to make. To stand on me, or to seriously injure himself. I hope he chooses wisely. I’m sure I’ll make him feel incredibly guilty no matter the outcome.

Thank you for your attention.

Now, please let me outside and then inside. And then outside. Then inside…

 

(A response to the Daily Prompt. This was the last picture on my phone…)

I Got Skills: Kabaam. Empathy!

So this daily prompt popped up and I was thinking about a post. The appalling acts in Paris are fresh and they’re raw. I’ve had a few moments wondering today, if writing fantasy is selfish? If there is so much anger in the world and injustice, then why do I feel the need to create a new one to explore? Why do I not tell the story’s that history might one day forget? Why write fiction at all, when there are so many truths to present to the reader. Now this is a post that I feel will need to be written and expanded on, but reading the prompt in its entirety, I was bulldozed by another idea.

If I could be mistress of anything in the world, what would it be? Now, I may be venturing onto a precarious limb here, but I’m going to interpret this as ‘what super power would you like?’ and I know. Today, I know.

I would like the power of enforcing empathy please, thank you. Imagine. Two squabbling neighbours arguing about why or why their mutual fence should be painted green. ZAPP! Empathy. They can both understand the other points of view. They’re suddenly imbued with knowledge and understand that the fence is very important to neighbour A because his mother, who passed away a month ago would always comment on how lovely it looks and to neighbour B – it’s important to him that the fence is painted blue, because he desperately needs something more cheerful to look out at in the morning. Perhaps painting the fence is trivial to one, and not the other, but they’re both standing their ground… KABAM! Empathy.

Now this is a poor example and I know, but imagine. Could many of the world’s problems be solved with a little empathy and understanding? There is so much anger out there and I feel like many people are desperately trying to keep the balance tipped toward peace.

The premise that we have no clue what is happening inside the heads of the people we meet. Yes, that shop assistant might have been a bit of a moody grumpuss when you told them you had the wrong change. Maybe they had bad grace in handling the situation and perhaps you then walked out feeling like a bear prematurely woken up from hibernation. But maybe it’s all that shop assistant can do, to keep standing at their till and scanning things through because their mind is a messy tangle of worries, thoughts and grief. Maybe they’re only just hanging on in their mind and when you leave, your anger is going to be the thing that pushes them beyond a point where they can cope.

The complexities of what we share, with who and what we hold back in our thoughts and even from ourselves, is something I’m currently exploring in my manuscript. I hope to share the prose with you all at some point. Mental Wellbeing is something that I believe is less often explored in fiction and perhaps most especially in fantasy. Robert Jordan provide an excellet character who’s mind fragments and explores perception and the importance of believing what you see thought dreams, but its something I feel is lacking. Something which could be done well and something I aim to do.

A very wise person once told me, that we’re all responsible for our own emotions. Another person also told me, that when you listen to what someone else is telling you, you don’t need to identify with them. Because they’ve done X,Y and Z – doesn’t mean you should go out and try it so that you can form a connection and it doesn’t mean you should step aside from your own moral boundaries. But we can be empathetic and understand that what we see, isn’t the whole picture of what is happening within a person. They might be having the worst day ever, or the best. Who knows? It’s our small, daily actions which have an impact on the world around us. I aim to continue with small acts of kindness and hope that somehow, in someway I’m keeping the balance in a better way.

Just imagine that place, where everyone used their empathy.

Links:

Here is Geek Ergo Sum. Although the link I’ve provided is not his repsonse to the prompt, I often find his blog posts amusing and well worth a read and this seems to tie in nicely with my thoughts for today:

Here is Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink. Their take on the prompts also caught my interest and I thought that I’d share.

 

Edit out the habits: How to Improve Work

There are certainly a few recurring ‘snags’ as it were in the cloth of my carefully constructed words. By editing and work-shopping I’ve been lucky to identify the trends in my work that make it less accessible to the reader. If you have to work hard to read something, then you’re more inclined to give up part-way though. For my rambling thoughts on what puts me off reading a story, there is a post here: Scared of Reading – actually funny story. I started writing this blog post and it originally turned into that one. So I decided to split it into two complete and hopefully coherent articles! Fingers are crossed.

But here are the trends that I learnt to look out for in my work.

  1. Passive verbs passive verbs.

My characters had many limbs that did things for them, but instead I needed to just write, that the characters –did-the-thing- much simpler, much clearer. So for example: Her hand reached out toward the glowing embers. – Passive. What would be better is: She reached toward the glowing embers. – Active. It’s just easier to imagine what the protagonist is doing.

  1. Did uh…did that just happen?

A lot tends to happen to my heroine as she goes about her journey. But I was informed, and then realised that although she reacts physically to the things around her and says things, the reader was being cut out of her thoughts. This was causing a second problem in that my reader felt disconnected from her and therefore my storytelling was less effective. The manuscript I’m working on, was supposed to have a close-third person narration, but too often it was just narration and I wasn’t as close in the third-person as I thought I was. Cue thoughts and responses! It sounds very juvenile but I listed a number of responses such as:

‘She was surprised’, ‘shocked, Sarah turned,’ ‘torn between’, ‘relieved’ etc and then used them as a prompt sheet to include things more in my writing. The result has so far been successful and feedback very positive. Hooray!

  1. Too many wonderful, amazing, blue, sparkling adjectives.

Description is a beautiful thing. However, going through everything with a cut-happy pixie on my shoulder I realised something else that I’d been previously told. I have a tendency to repeat myself. With repetition and a build-up of adjectives, some of the writing was getting lost in itself. Cut, cut, cut! And the work made more impact. I kept the best phrases and descriptions or reworked the ones I really loved and couldn’t bring myself to part with.

  1. For a moment she was a little afraid.

In a final bid to avoid unnecessary repetition in the manuscript I did a ctrl-f word search for a few phrases such as ‘For a moment’ and ‘a little’. I’ll tell you something, I use those tags far too often! I think within 30,000 words I ended up deleting them over 50 times. They didn’t add anything to the story, the plot, the description. They were filler! All they did was water down the writing and stop the protagonist committing to any particular emotion. If she was ‘A little afraid’ why is she just not afraid? If ‘she paused for a moment,’ why doesn’t she just ‘pause.’ Cut!

Everyone has different version of these phrases that they fall back on. My nemesis as I’ve started to refer to them. They’re things I don’t even remember writing! Maybe I don’t, maybe they just appear… That must be it. Those and spelling/grammar errors.

It may be worth going through any work under editing and seeing if you can find one or two and then doing a word search to find out just how many times they sneak in, pesky little things. I definitely go through additional phases of ‘word of the day’ that will sneak in over and again in a chapter if I took a shine to a certain sound when the chapter was in construction. Thank goodness for editing!

The best thing about recognising (the latest) failing of you work, is that when you go on to write new things, you are aware of them and so you make them less often. This does open up the path to making shiny new mistakes, but I like to believe that by slowly eliminating bad habits and trends I’m improving every time I do a thorough edit.

I’m sure there is even evidence to support this as whenever I write I feel it’s better than what I was able to write 6 months ago. I still need to edit the draft, but the process is less painful. I know what I’m looking for, what needs to be edited for clarity what is actually my style. Maybe I still use too many adjectives- but that is because I like long and rambling description. That is a choice, it’s not just the adjectives sneaking in a little.

What are the writing habits you have learnt to look out for? Let me know 🙂

Fibi xx

Scared of Reading?

As a writer I believe it is important that the words are clear and the meaning, vision of what I am saying is easy for the reader to picture. I’m not saying I would like to spoon feed plot because it is also important that ye old brain-cogs get a work out sometimes as well, and if you have to work and remember and think about the story, then you do get more from it.

But in terms of making the writing clear, for me I’m likely to turn away if the writing is too much like hard work and I think the same applies to a storyline that starts to seriously disappoint or concern me. I have to admit that I’ve become a terrible reader and so scared about the emotional impact of what I’m reading that I really have to take a mental run up to books. Luckily in all of this I have discovered Robin Hobb, and she is amazing.

What am I afraid of reading? Well, as an aspiring writer I’m terrified of finding my book already published. The story I’ve been slaving over, written by someone else (better) and in the bookshops. This has turned into something of a recurring nightmare.

Secondly, I worry too much about the characters. There has to be a happy ending for me to enjoy reading the book. I have to feel confident that the author will provide me with a sense of resolution. The first book I really put down half-way through the Juliet Marriliers Blade of Fortriu. I was so invested in the narrative that when it reached a mid-way point, and it would not be possible for resolution to be complete, I had to put it down. It took me over a year to re-gather my courage and return to the story and I couldn’t start at the beginning in case it was too much! (Such a reading wimp!)

But although this sense of ‘happy ever after’ is I demand from a story I’m not convinced if I would necessarily agree from a theoretical stand point. Shouldn’t ‘Happy ever after’ also be complicated, realistic, aspirational? Should I be a more emotionally mature and complex person and encourage that in my reader? I’m not promising anything.

Thirdly, a sure way to put me off a story is to falsely advertise.

I LOVED Trudi Canavans The Black Magicians Trilogy. I bought all three books because they were on offer and devoured them in two days back in 2005. I was therefore delighted when the first of the Age of Five was published and acquired it as a pre-order hardback. For the first chapter I was enchanted, enthralled and delighted that I would get to read the story of this amazing girl growing up to be a member of the white and the trials and challenges that would entail. Then the second chapter happened. Did anyone else feel utterly cheated? She was grown up. This was not the story of the girl growing into a woman. It may be petty by I felt so frustrated by the 360 of expected narrative that after struggling through the first third of the text, I put it down and haven’t picked it up again. I do plan to revisit it and hopefully connect with a series that I appreciate is loved by so many, but it’s at the bottom of my ‘to-read’ pile. I don’t forgive betrayal easily. Sorry book.

Finally, I tend not to read spooky stories, horror, crime or ‘true-life’ I know this narrows my field of literature and good writing but I realised a few years ago that my imagination doesn’t need help coming up with dream or nightmare material. I am usually very invested in what I’m reading and if I read for too long, I emerge a bit google-eyed and hazy on what is real and what is still the narrative replaying. When I read it is not so much imagining characters, it is experiencing their stories in 3d. It is amazing to go on so many adventures, but I certainly don’t want to provide my imagination with concrete horror to explore in my sleep! *shudder*

What would put you off a story? Should it have a happy ever after?

Off off off the hook! Daily Prompt

A second #RoyalBaby will soon be joining the Windsors in England. Given the choice, would you rather be heir to the throne, or the (probably) off-the-hook sibling?

This is my response to the Daily Prompt above:

Well baby news is something close to my heart at the moment. We’re currently anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby nephew. I am so excited to meet him. I’m a very lucky Aunt to have three nieces and a nephew and every day I can’t help but miss the little monkeys and wish I could see them more often. Every baby is so special and as my nieces and nephews have grown into such cheeky individual I can’t help but be reminded of how privileged I am to share in their lives.

I feel a bit young to have children of my own but delight in creating things for them, making them water-colour story books to treasure with the hope that, maybe one day, in years to come they’ll be worth something. Who knows, if I become a successful novelist people will be dead keen to get their hands on my early little cartoons and miniature books.

But back to the prompt. Which would I rather be? Power is something I explore in Burning Embers and the sequels. Can you ever feel prepared to rule over a country or does power always corrupt? Is it best to watch from the side-lines and enjoy the ‘freedom’ the comes from this. Or does being a sibling automatically open you to a more negative commentary in comparison to an older sibling? Will you never be as good, where as your sibling is considered charming as appropriate to a prince, will you automatically always be seen as verbose. Are you defined by the need to create a clear distinction between the favourable and unfavourable candidate for King or Queen?

I think being heir to the throne would be far too responsible a job for me. It would probably be best if I were far further down the list of possibilities. A castle would be nice though, and a sword…and a dragon……..please? (Just a tiny one????)

Happy lunch everyone,

Fibi xx

Looking out my back door: Spiders in the Toilet.

Another Daily Prompt 🙂
The back door is ancient, thick and warped slightly with age. Flakes of red paint fall away when you slide back the bolt. Well, you jam it back with as much force as you can manage, because it likes to stick. It’s got black plastic handle which doesn’t turn anymore. You just have to pull it towards you, sharply, and try not to punch yourself in the face. I find that ducking to the left is usually the best option, but try not to tread on the cat who is inevitably sat on your feet, refusing to go through the flap.
The back door opens over two concrete steps, the edges chipped with age. Stepping down, your faced with the outside lavatory that was built with the house. The flush chain dangles lifeless and half-snapped off. The toilet seat is dark and thankfully shut. Who knows what could crawl up from the pre-war plumbing. We used to use that toilet, when we were children. In the summer time we’d run in, skidding with our bare feet on the icy on the concrete floor, vision green and speckled from the sun. It was a favourite habitat for spiders, even then. Once, I forgot that we shouldn’t lock the door and I was stuck. My own, white-washed cell and a lock that wouldn’t budge. I panicked and my poor father tried to climb in through the skinny window. He must have been standing on a ladder because even now, the window is well above my head. Just as they were about to cut the door away from its hinges though, the lock gave. It’s game was up.
After that summer, it became a home for kittens. Our cat made her bed there and had her litters. I remember sitting on the dusty floor, cradling fluffy bundles on my knees.
Next to the toilet is the coal shed. I think, it was only ever used for coal one winter and then never again – because we gas installed. It’s still lined with the dust but it’s where the ice-cream freezer lives. Yes, we make you work hard for your dessert in my family.
There’s supposed to be another door, between the outside and the shed and the toilet. But it came off years ago.
Now you just step out, into the garden. Overgrown, filled with flashes of pink, purple and yellow wild flowers. The giant hydrangeas’, the strawberry plants, sweet pea and blackberry bushes. You can lie on the soft green grass and imagine you are anywhere in the world.

I have a challenge for you, should you chose to accept it…

Apologies to those that have already seen this on Alex’s Adventures in duplicate 🙂

You’ve all seen my discussions, posts and encouragement of my cousin Alex who is undertaking Ten Adventures to raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and the Fire Fighters Trust. Alex has completed 3 out of the 10 adventures in memory of his sister Melissa who passed away 10 years ago.

He’s going up all mountains, kayaking, riding, cycling etc and as I have all of the athletic skill and agility as a two-legged epileptic donkey. I’ve been doing my best to support my little cousin (okay, he does somewhat tower over me these days…) but despite wracking my brains for about six months now, I’ve been struggling to think of what I can ‘do’ to really really help out.

But then, I ordered a gift for my Mum for Mother’s Day. A small, self-published collection of short stories, poetry, flash fiction and musings in a cute little hardback and paperback format. They’ve just arrived and I’m so pleased with the quality of the printing and aaah it just looks lush!

It’s like a genius moment.

I’ve realised what I can do.

I can’t climb a mountain. (I can barely walk in a straight line without injuring myself!)

I can however, pull together a collection of poems, short stories, pictures and art. Publish it with the same company I used for my mums gift and pass on any profits to Alex’s chosen charities.

This is a very good idea!

The title of the collection will be ‘You mean the world to me…’ and all of the collected works will reflect this theme in some way.

It could be a story about a loved one, or a poem someone who has passed away, someone that you just couldn’t be without, a friend or family member. It could also be about your favourite teddy bear or a goldfish. It can be as happy or as sad as you like and any length so long as it’s under 2000 words.

So long as it fits the theme, I’d love to see it!

If you’d be interested in submitting a piece then please e-mail me at inkycygnet@googlemail.com

Fibi

Daily Prompt: A Promise

I haven’t done one of these for ages! Time to get back on it. The prompt for today was: He knew he’d promised never to gamble again, but this…this was a sure thing. Please find a very short story/flash fiction piece below 🙂

A Promise

He knew he’d promised never to gamble again, but this…this was a sure thing. The chip felt good in his hand. Cool, solid, smooth. Gary spun it slowly between his fingers and ran his thumb over the number. He knew exactly what table. What number, what colour. A flash of brilliance had occured and he just knew.
He’d been walking past the casino on 55th and it had just been there, on the tarmac. Half covered in an ice-cream wrapped. It wasn’t often that Gary stopped in his tracks. He was a perpetual motion man. But he’d seen the gold flecked chip peeking out from the cast-aside plastic and he’d stopped. He had bent down, pushed aside the wrapper with a single finger before he picked the chip up.
He’d promised.
But it wasn’t as though he’d gone and put money down. Not his own money. He’d found it.
His feet followed the familiar path into the casino. Through the heavy air, thick with perfume, stale sweat, and the febreeze that the staff sprayed at an almost frantic pace, and yet still, did nothing to combat the casino smell.
Roulette.
“Black twenty. Spin it.”
The wheel spun, black, red, black, red interlocked and intertwined forever. The ball bounced and hit. It landed with a soft click. Black twenty.
The flat feeling of despair mingled with a desire to hope, inflated into elation.
“Again. Black twenty again!”
The dealer hesitated, his humanity seeping out through his uniform.
“The odd’s wouldn’t be in your favour,” he said quietly. The name tag said Reg.
“Do it again. I can double my money.”