Teaser

This year for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) I am going to do something different. I am not going to write any random 50,000 words as I have done in every year previous. I am going to write 50,000 word of my second book. It’s a really scary concept, because normally during Nano, I get stuck really quickly and wander off describing things or interviewing characters. This time I am going to push through. I’m going to get book two finished, and more importantly published, by next year.

As a big thank you to everyone who has supported me this far (and everyone who reads my blog) – here is a wee teaser from the beginning of book two…

The light scout ship shuddered, unused to the demands of descending through such a dense atmosphere. For more than a thousand years, it had sat, all but ignored in the shuttle bay as Mikael and his twin sister Maat obediently stayed off the planet they had been sent to observe. Now, they had broken almost every rule in the Narian handbook. What was one more?

Mikael glanced at his sister’s face and knew he was alone in his concern. She was grinning like a fool.

“I can’t believe we are actually doing this,” she squealed.

“We’re going to die.” Mikael groaned, his head knocking against the headrest as the shuttle bucked violently over yet another pocket of super-heated gas.

“It’s fine,” Maat assured him. “Our auto-pilot has been upgraded with the latest  subroutines available. I downloaded them before we left the ship.”
“Was that wise?” Mikael asked. “We don’t want the Board noticing that we took the shuttle out…”

“I’m not an idiot,” Maat grumbled. “I covered my tracks, but I had to make sure we would be safe out here. Without us, these humans don’t stand a chance.”

Mikael could think of many other reasons he didn’t want to die. He was barely two-thousand years old and had so many things left to see, secrets of the universe to uncover. Risking his otherwise immortal existence to protect a colony of primitive beings seemed ludicrous, but he knew better than to argue with his twin. She’d completely bought into her own story about being the ‘mother goddess’ and ‘protector’ to these people.

Instead, he stared out the window at the fast approaching landscape. They skimmed over oceans and dry, dusty continents, snow covered wastes and then suddenly, in an explosion of colour, the Tyrian empire came into view. There were fields of yellow and purple, snaking dirt roads bridging rivers, connecting towns and villages through forests and across mountains.

“It’s the Western Wall.” Maat pointed at something on the horizon. Mikael could just make out the Ghaliya Ranges separating House Varna from the desert’s edge. The Western Wall was little more than a grey line, but as they got closer, it grew until he realized it stretched across the entire mouth of Bonewind Pass. Dotted with little black windows, this towering monstrosity was a city unto itself – home to the priestesses charged with protecting the Empire from the Desert, and to the men of the Queen’s Army left behind to help them.

Maat brought up a holographic overlay on her view screen which showed an invisible second wall shimmering in the air above the guarded pass. She slowed their descent, passing over the pocket of magical shielding with little more than a rumble of complaint from their engines.

“What would have happened if we’d gone through it?” Mikael asked.

Maat gave a nervous laugh. “Our cloaking systems don’t make us any less physical. I’m not sure what traps and enchantments they’ve tied to those old stones, but if they’re made to keep the desert demons out, you can be sure we don’t want to collide with them.”

He grimaced, remembering the nasty things both sides had been willing to do to each other in the first great war over six hundred years ago. Time would only have made them more creative.

Unnoticed by the priestesses or their soldiers, Maat guided the shuttle along the steep, narrow corridor of Bonewind Pass. Mikael gripped the armrests of his seat as the brutal desert wind made their passage even more difficult. His sister was clearly tense, all her focus on the fine control needed to keep them from being smashed against the cliff walls.

“We must be getting close,” Mikael murmured.

Maat nodded. “Just ahead to the north.”

At last, the sheer cliffs fell away and they were afforded their first views of the desert. A sea of rolling golden sand broken up with cliffs and peaks of much darker stone, evidence of the tectonic upheaval this planet experienced many thousands of years earlier – before the Narians came and claimed this world as one of their research outposts.

“That one,” Maat said. Their satellite guidance system had marked one of those peaks on her holographic display.

“It will be tight, trying to land up there,” she said with a frown as they got closer. “We shouldn’t risk it until we know more about the target.”

“There then?” He gestured to a plateau a few miles down from the peak.

“Better,” Maat agreed. “Won’t be too much of a walk from there.”

There was barely a bump as the autopilot set them down. Mikael was surprised by the rush of heat as the rear door slid open.

“Here.” Maat handed him a small white cloak and head wrap from her primitive-looking satchel. “These will help us pass as natives if anyone happens to see us.”

Mikael pulled the clothes on, glancing self-consciously at his reflection in the tinted window. A human girl-child stared back at him.

“Would you believe I’d almost forgotten…” he grinned sheepishly at his sister. He’d learned how to reprogram his nanites during a recent period of extreme boredom. Given that men were under suspicion in Tyria simply for being male, Maat had suggested disguising himself as a girl. Now his voice was annoyingly high-pitched and he could barely reach the controls on a standard panel. Still, he secretly hoped the chance to run off and explore might present itself. At least this way he would be ready.

“Shall we go then?” Maat asked, tucking the ends of her own headscarf under her cloak. “We need to be back by sundown. I’d hate to get caught by a gang of desert raiders.”

Mikael could just imagine how such a scenario might play out. The desert men were fervent followers of the Dark One, Mikael’s alter ego, which would have been great if he still wore the pale, gaunt face and towering stature of an alien god. As a human girl, on the other hand, he could look forward to all manner of horrors dealt out by a people who hated women in general and Tyrian women most of all. He grimaced at the thought and fingered the DNA-locked laser pistol holstered underneath his cloak.

 

Hope you like it!! I’ll do another teaser for each week of Nano.

Meet… Me!!

beaulah pragg

So just for something totally different – and to conclude my interview series – I am going to post an interview that my friend Tehnuka did with me. It was really fun getting to be the one answering questions for a change! Here’s her intro:

Tehnuka

Tehnuka in Antarctica – she is currently a PhD student at Cambridge studying volcanology!

After seeing all the interviews Beaulah has been doing after the past week,  I thought it was time someone interviewed her. We’ve been friends for fourteen years now, and writing companions for much of that time. While I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a lot of her writing process,  we’re on opposite sides of the world now and this seemed like a good opportunity to hear her reflect on where she’s at and how far she has come.

Do you remember when you first started writing? When did it first occur to you that you wanted to be a professional author?
I remember getting an ‘achieved’ (a ‘just’ pass) in my fifth form English class (age 15) for my creative writing. That was when I decided I didn’t like English anyway and that I wanted to be a nano-robotics engineer. Unfortunately, I was terrible at Physics and didn’t much like Chemistry or Biology. The next year, I was lucky enough to be in an English class where no one else paid much attention and so comparatively, I wasn’t so bad. My grade lifted to ‘Excellence’ and my teacher was really supportive. Still, it wasn’t until I undertook my first Nanowrimo that realized writing could be fun.

When did you start writing full time? Was there a catalyst that helped you, and was it a sudden or a gradual decision?
I think that was a much more gradual process. I’ve always been told that most people won’t make any money off writing, but I’ve also been told that I can do anything I set my mind to. It wasn’t until I quit my job as an assistant manager at EB Games earlier this year that I fully committed to writing as my career. Now I teach writing to young people, help administrate the Christchurch Writers’ Guild and also teach advanced Graphic Design Software to high school students (Writing doesn’t pay the bills just yet 😉

Could you describe some of the milestones between first thinking about becoming an author and where you’re at now? For example, when did you realise that becoming an author was an achievable goal for you?
Hah, I still have no real evidence that it’s a realistic goal – I’m pretty much going on faith and a whole lot of determination to make it work. For me, the decision was about whether I was willing to stick it out until I ‘made it’, and I talked it through with my parents and my partner who have all been really great about it. I’ve just been blown away by how much support I’ve received from everyone.

In terms of milestones though, I think some of the big ones were self publishing my first book – The Silver Hawk – and finally having it out there for people to read. Getting used to, and beginning to really appreciate feedback – learning to love how much it makes my writing grow. My book launch was a huge step too. I got to sign books for people and turn it into an event I’ll always remember. Going to writing conventions and meet-ups has also been great. It gives me an idea of where I’m at and reminds me that ‘real authors’ are just people too. I feel more like a ‘real author’ every day.

How has publishing your first book affected your everyday writing habits and how you feel about your characters and writing? Has publication given you new pressures, or support?
Self Publishing my first book has been fantastic – and such a journey. Now that it’s out there, hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me ‘how’s the writing going?’ There is a lot of pressure for the next book to come out, which is my own fault for writing it as a trilogy, but I appreciate how much people want to keep reading. Their support gives me the motivation to sit down at the computer and keep working.

My characters have grown so much since the early days of writing the Silver Hawk. My writing even more so. Publishing the first book has given me something that’s ‘cannon’ – which I need because I have an awful habit of changing my mind about really big things in the search for the ‘perfect story’. I’m always forcing myself to simplify now, to cut out unnecessary sub-plots and focus on what’s important.

What inspired you to start the Christchurch Writers’ Guild?
I’m trying to remember now. I think it was the discovery, in a short space of time, that there were actually quite a lot more writers in Christchurch than I thought. I realized how isolated writers can feel and how joining big official groups can feel a bit daunting, especially when you’re not ‘properly’ published.

Around that time I met Angela Oliver and pitched the idea to her. She came up with the name of the group and we launched it on Facebook – each inviting our writer friends. Within about a month, our numbers had swelled to about thirty and now, six months on, we’re a group of sixty with our own website, logo and four person admin team. We’re organizing competitions, critiquing circles and soon we’ll be running our own writing workshops.

People have asked me how we’re different from the other writing groups which have been around for some time in Christchurch, and really, I think it’s that we’re totally open and welcoming. You don’t have to prove yourself to join and you don’t have to spend any money. I wanted to create a community to connect writers together and remind us that we’re not alone.

While a young author yourself, you’ve already started encouraging the next generation of writers. How did you first start becoming involved in the local writing community – was it when you were first publicising The Silver Hawk and started teaching writing courses, or was it even earlier?
I’ve always loved teaching, so it was a natural step to begin teaching writing. I was really fortunate to become involved with my local library through the whole planning process for my book launch (and the Young Writers’ Competition I ran alongside it). In the week leading up to the launch, I ran a Writing Workshop and it was so much fun that I spoke with the library about making it a weekly thing. They said yes. From there I found my niche teaching home schooled students and haven’t looked back.

How has your involvement in that community affected how you write (both in terms of content and in terms of your approach to writing)?
Being involved in the writing community has been phenomenal. It’s really given me a sense of how far I’ve come, what I have to contribute and how far I still have to go. I get to talk about my ideas and try them out on people, which allows me to judge whether they work… or fall horribly flat. I get to listen to other people’s experiences and learn from what has worked (or not) for them. I think the biggest benefit is that I have people to talk to when I get stuck – people who understand what I mean when I complain that a character has gone off and done their own thing. Non-writers tend to look at me funny and wonder if they should call the psych ward when I say stuff like that…

From the writing we’ve done together, I think we might agree that writing can be a very sociable event. How do you balance private writing time with getting feedback from, or practising your writing with, others? Which, if either, is more important to you?
I love collaborative writing. I love how much inspiration I get from telling people a story out loud and seeing their response. As an extroverted person, I have often worried that I don’t fit the reclusive writer mold – and that somehow my writing will never be as good for that reason, but I’m slowly coming to terms with the way I write and I’ve stopped berating myself for needing to talk through my ideas.

Ultimately, my best writing is done alone, but after I’ve done it, I feel this overwhelming need to share it with someone, just to check that it’s as good as it feels. I’m a little scared of becoming a ‘successful author’ for that very reason. It would be horrible having to write all by myself!

Do you ever tire of writing?
Sometimes I don’t want to write, but it’s not tiredness, it’s mortal fear. I’m horrified that I don’t know what happens next, that I’ll get it wrong and waste weeks worth of work, or worse, not notice how horribly flawed my characters and plot have become until it’s out there in black and white and everyone’s given up on reading my work because it’s rubbish.

The rest of the time, I love it.

What sort of insights do your characters give you, not just into the worlds you build, but into the world around you? What’s the most unexpected thing you have learnt from your characters?
My characters are better, cooler, smarter, stronger people than I could ever be. They are wiser too. The most unexpected thing I’ve learned from a character is compassion. I have one character who has been imprisoned and tortured nearly his whole life, but because of his telepathic connection with his twin sister, he’s managed to retain his sanity. I always thought he’d come back to destroy the people who hurt him the moment he got the chance, but to my surprise, he insisted on looking at the bigger picture and understanding how their fear and ignorance led to their actions. I would have been so angry…

I think that concept of standing in another person’s shoes has taken on a whole new meaning as a writer. I find myself having to explore dark, cruel, selfish villains and still finding the grain of humanity in them which pulls them up off the page and keeps them from being boring and two dimensional. In the process, I keep thinking – everyone has their reasons for what they do. If we had lived their life, would we be any different? Maybe… but then again, could you ever really know?

Many thanks to Beaulah – I look forward to seeing what you get up to next!

– And thank you Tehnuka for taking the time to come up with such wonderful questions. This was fun!

Check out Volcanofiles where Tehnuka contributes some occasionally humorous and always well written blogs on topics such as Volcanos and Society!

Meet Chris Yee – CWG member and work colleague

Chris Yee

Chris Yee

Please tell me a little about yourself.

I’m currently a 3D Animation Tutor at Yoobee (formerly Natcoll) School of Design. Prior to that I was a game developer at Stickmen Studios, so I’ve been floating around the creative space for the last 6-7 years. Novel writing itself is a relatively new thing for me, storytelling however is something I’ve been doing for a while. I’ve been in Christchurch all my life, so I never got out too much. That said, I’ve recently been exploring the world a bit more, doing the tourist schtick and broadening my knowledge of various cultures.

When did you know you wanted to be an author? What changed?
Sometime around early 2005 I think. For the 5-6 years prior to 2005, I’d been involved in a freeform roleplaying group that used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) as the primary communication medium. It was effectively real-time storytelling played out in present tense, almost like scriptwriting. I’d made a great many friends through that time, some of whom I still keep in regular contact with. It was when activity waned and focus shifted to using forum boards and writing in prose, mostly because it made sense, and helped me write out huge chunks of scenes to play out nicely with others, up until the stage where I ended up pushing the story along by myself with my own narrative. It was around this point that it felt like a fun thing to progress to get into story writing. So nothing really changed per se. It was an evolutionary step of an enjoyable pursuit.

What do you write about?
Primarily science fiction and a bit of fantasy, though I write in such a way that it can be put into any sort of setting. At least I like to think it does anyway, haven’t tried them all yet. I tend to use character action and dialogue driven narrative for the majority of it, as I like to explore character relationships, conflicts and other idiosyncrasies. I’ve been branching out into other genres just to see if I can do it. Currently I’m working on getting a kind of mystery/crime story to come together. I may have to force it at gunpoint.

What sorts of media do you consume? What are some of your favourite stories?
Books, movies, even video games. If I had to pick my favourite books they’d be Necropolis by Dan Abnett, Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and Once Burned by Peter David. Certain movies that leave me thinking a while afterwards, I enjoy, but I don’t mind blanking out to ridiculous action from time to time. Games are much the same. I love vast, encompassing stories as it really polishes off the overall feel of the game. Repetitive actions that have goals lacking substance bore the hell out of me though.

How have these influenced what your writing?
Abnett’s work has shown me the effects of conflict on people and how they deal with situations. Pratchett’s offbeat and wholly bizarre humour, and David’s ability to break the mold of a well established universe, whilst at the same time having it feel like it’s nothing unusual. Certain themes translate well from movies, and it’s more often the case to be creating those thoughts of the characters about what they’re thinking at the time.

What is most important to you as an author?
Consistency. Whilst this limits me in regards to pushing the creative bounds, keeping things to the self imposed rules of the worlds you’ve made eases the confusion and maintains the direction of the plot. Once that’s all sorted and everything is how it should be, turn the world on it’s head and watch your characters squirm…

Do you see writing as a private experience, or do you write for an audience?
An audience for the most part. From when I started, it was always a shared experience, to show people this world, the characters living in it and the events they survive through. Sometimes, I have a few things I’ve kept private, mainly because they’re works in progress that I’m trying to figure out. Then there’s stuff I won’t even show my neighbour’s cat because they’re so bad…

How has your writing influenced you as a person?
I suppose it has released the creative spark that went into hibernation in my youth, giving myself a more analytical approach to my imaginative processes. It can be detrimental at times though, coming up with scenarios detailing the pitfalls and failings of such directions to the point of complete abandonment of the idea altogether. But every so often there is a complex and convoluted machine that comes together, and by some mysterious feat, it just works.

What advice would you give young writers just starting out?

  • Read!
  • Keep writing about things that come to mind.
  • Don’t be afraid of experimenting and trying something new.If you get a block, stop and go do something else. However don’t do something too distracting, or in my case, something that ends up turning into another full on project.
  • Brutal and unabashed constructive criticism. If your friends can do this, then you have amazing friends. Friendly remarks is all nice, but they won’t help you progress. Likewise, learn to be able to take the said brutal and unabashed constructive criticism.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~ Albert Einstein

Find out more about Chris on his website: http://woft.chromiumyeti.com

Run! (a 3 a.m. Epiphany Challenge)

Here is my attempt at the second challenge from the 3 a.m. Epiphany Blog. The rule was that you had to write around 500 words in second person imperative i.e. Do this, wait here, go there etc.

For those of you familiar with the world of my book, I welcome speculation about what this obscure piece is in reference to. I wrote it in an attempt to get my head around a scene coming up near the beginning of book two, so if you want to avoid any possible mini-spoilers, you are forewarned.

– – –

Hide.

Do it now!

Don’t look back. Don’t think about her. Don’t wonder what happened. You don’t have time for sentiment. Just go.

Listen. Focus on the sounds, the smells. Hear the twittering bird, the woman singing out in the garden as she pulls up weeds. Avoid her, she’ll turn you in, they all will. Remember how much they fear you and keep out of their way.

Sneak along the outer corridor. Stay away from the sweeping broom and the scent of baking bread. Ignore your rumbling stomach.

Don’t you dare feel sorry for yourself.

Keep moving.

“Hey, you, stop right there!”

Run. Keep your hands out. Crash into walls and pick yourself up. Don’t let her catch you.

Don’t cry.

“Here, come this way.”

Let him sweep you off your feet and hide you in a broom closet. Press so close against his chest you can hear his pounding heart. Feel the fear in him, mirroring your own. Hear the footsteps pass you by and breathe again.

“Let go of me.”

Push away. Make yourself some space in this cramped little cupboard. Don’t make too much noise.

“Thank me for saving you.”

Listen to his rough, teasing voice. Remember how he pretended to be shy, back in the Palace. Remember his honesty and how much you respected him for that.

“Tell me what you’re doing here.”

Wait for his reply.

“Come with me, it isn’t safe here.”

Pull away from his touch. Consider your options. Remember people tried to kill you. Remember what she sacrificed to send you here, so far from anywhere.

“Explain how you found me.”

Feel his hand close once more around yours, rough, but warm. Let his confidence give you strength. Trust him – you don’t have any choice.

Now go. Creep out of the cupboard and run along the corridor. Let him lead with his seeing eyes and his knowledge of this strange place he calls home. Climb the stairs to the roof. Feel the wind on your face and in your hair. Sweat when it is gone and all you can breathe is hot, muggy air that smells of spice. Keep moving. Stay low. Don’t forget that others have eyes to see, even from far away. Take a leap of faith, just a little fall. Land in dirt that reeks and turns your stomach sour.

Forgive him, when you’re feeling generous. Until then, keep going. Wonder, as you run, why a rich boy like him was sent to snatch you from the temple, to run across rooftops and roll in horse manure. Ask him, when you catch your breath.

“Wait until we arrive. Believe me, it’s a good story.”

Shiver as the air turns cold. Turn one last corner and hear the creak of a gate before climbing another stair and slipping inside a warm little room. Collapse on the seat he has offered and let your world spin as you struggle to readjust. Smell the cinnamon and musty blankets and something else – something sweet. Take the fruit he offers, even if you don’t know how to eat it.

“Just bite it.”

Don’t blush at his laughter. Slow down, don’t let him know how hungry you are. Order your stomach to stop making such impolite noises. Wipe the juice from your chin with your sleeve – there are no maids around to tell you off. Try not to let your disappointment show when he doesn’t offer more.

Hear the telling intake of breath. Wait for his question to form.

“Tell me why you run from an Order that should be protecting you.”

Admit what you did. Remember the way you stood up to them… And how you lost control. Tell him you’re alone – that you can never go back. Trust him to understand.

“Let it all go… You’re safe here. Ask me for anything and I’ll do what I can to get it for you.”

Take your time. Think about his offer. Make your words count.

“Hide me. Let me disappear.”

Embrace him and let the tears fall where they will. Fall asleep tonight and dream of a different life. Forget the ones you’ve left behind.

Forget this war.

Let them fight it without you.

Meet Paul Mannering – Author and SpecFicNZ member

Paul Mannering

Paul Mannering

Are you more of a planner or a pantser when it comes to writing?  As in, do you have an outline before you start or make it up as you go along?

I am an odd mix of both. I usually have an idea of how a story ends, and how it begins and some key elements of the main plot in the middle. The characters come up with the details as they go. It’s not so much creative writing, as taking dictation from imaginary people.
In extreme circumstances I will do a high level outline – but specific novel planning software and stuff – is too much like work and not enough like writing. For me stories are alive and they change as they grow.

How do you feel about self publishing?  What experiences/observations would you share?  Pros and cons?
These days traditional publishing is vanity publishing. Getting your name on a book with an established publisher’s logo next to it.Big advances are a rarity, marketing and support is also a fading memory, and the royalty rates are a joke.

Self publishing lets you do the marketing you would otherwise have to do anyway, set the price you want, and collect up to 70% of the cover price as a royalty.

The only advantage to traditional publishing is that they can sell the rights to different markets – and give you a slice of that. Canny self-publishers can do that too. I’ve produced audio books, digital and paperbacks that sell around the world. All the profit comes to me. It’s a win-win situation when you are the middle man.

What got you started with writing?
The TL:DR version of my story on how I got started writing is that our black and white TV blew up when I was a 7. We were without a television until I was 11 years old and living rurally. So I read everything in the house. Mostly Readers Digest, National Geographic and medical textbooks. The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Medicine was my favourite. Lots of photographs of dead people. I started writing at this time too, mostly to keep my self amused.

Who is your biggest support when it comes to writing?
Everyone who buys my books, writes a review, or posts positive comments in social media.

Do you have a critique partner or writing group?
No. I used to be a member of very formal and well organised writing group. But their membership consisted mostly of older people with a very set idea on what was appropriate reading material. My stories were not appreciated. I didn’t have to read them to recognise that.

What sort of stories do you like to write?
I like to write the stories I want to read. This is stories with action, humour, emotion and memorable characters. I write Speculative Fiction, which includes horror, sci-fi, bizzaro and stuff that crosses all genres.

Have you been published / where / how many rejections have you received?
I started seriously writing again about 5 years ago. Short stories to start with. I’ve been published in anthologies, magazines, online sites, and various other mediums.

I don’t keep track of my rejections anymore, mostly because I’m looking ahead, not to the past. Having moved to novel writing and self-publishing, my short story for other markets volume is a lot lower than it used to be, and the rejections are fewer too. I tend to write for a specific market, rather than write a story and then shop it around.

My novel Tankbread was self published in November 2011, prior to that I self-published “The Man Who Could Not Climb Stairs and Other Strange Stories” which was a mix of new and previously published short stories. It was an exercise in learning the tropes of self-publishing.I’ve also edited “Tales From The Bell Club” a short story collection published by Knightwatch Press, which was an anthology where male and female members of a “gentleman’s club” would gather and share their tales of personal horror.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
It has less side-effects than medication for keeping the voices in check. It keeps me amused, and occupied. I get bored very easily and writing keeps me from taking the smoke alarm apart to find the radioactive bits.

What do you find most frustrating / difficult?
Having a day job and being limited by things like sleep, needing to eat and tend to the family’s needs. I am also frustrated by the volume of ideas I have and the novels that insist on being written RIGHT NOW! When I have other things to finish, like audio plays, short stories, editing, the current novels I’m working on…

Which of the stories you have written so far are you most proud of and why?
Every single one that I finish.

Lately I’m most proud of a story I wrote for my 11 year old nephew. He emailed me about a nightmare he had and asked me to write a scary story about it. The Cloth Faced Doll came out pretty well, and my nephew was thrilled by it – and he got a co-author credit.

Do you write more than you read, or read more than you write?
Definitely 50-50. I write every day and I read every day. Sometimes I’ll take a break from writing and read another chapter of one of the books I have in my current reading pile. This week it is Bill Bryson’s memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail, a non-fiction book about a near miss Ebola outbreak in Washington DC in the 1970’s and Stephen King’s Under The Dome.

If you died, what author would you like to receive the multitude of unfinished stories, drafts, concepts, and notes that you left behind – with the intent of completing your unfinished works?
Richard Mattheson was once suggested. He commented on my facebook page about it even. I had a wee fan boy squee.

If you could live in one fictional Universe, where you knew the story and the outcome (be it book, film or any other media) what would it be? What character would you wish to be and how would you change the story outcome?
Star Wars. I would like to be Annakin Skywalker and instead of being some emo whiney sack of boohoo – he would be darker, more dangerous and quite awesome. He’s still get happy with Natalie Portman though.

What is your favourite writing quote and why?
I have two.

“The road to Hell is paved with adverbs” ~ Stephen King

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself” ~ Terry Pratchett

If you were offered 10 Million dollars under the proviso that you could never write anything creative ever again, would you take it? Why? Why not?
If I took the money I would go insane. If I didn’t get the stories out the pressure would build and I’d probably stroke out or something.

What advice do you have for new authors just starting out?
By all means self-publish, but never, ever, ever self-edit. Hire a professional.

When we give advice like, “show don’t tell” we mean it. When you have written and published 50 books, you will be good enough to break basic rules like that. But first make them second nature in your writing.

Write. Write every day. Write on the bus, in bed, in the bathroom, in the bunkers, the beaches, and the bivouacs. The secret is that you don’t need a laptop or PC or even pen and paper to write. You can tell entire stories in your head and then write down the good bits.

Find out more about Paul on his website: http://tankbread.blogspot.co.nz/

And our winners!

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Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on my blog for this last week. I have had great fun participating in the 2012 SpecFicNZ Blogging week. Congratulations to Cassie and Ella who have both won a signed paperback copy of the Silver Hawk! Thank you both for commenting and making me feel like my posts were being heard.

Love you lots!

– Beaulah

Meet Tammie Banks – CWG member

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I got to meet Tammie for the first time last year during Nano. A fun and insightful young woman I’ve come to consider a friend, I think Tammie can (in the world of writing) be understood best by the quote she chose:
 
“I love writing, but I can’t stand the paperwork.”  Peter de Vries
 
Here’s my interview with her:
 
Please tell me a little about yourself and what sort of things you write.
What can I tell you about myself? I hate talking about myself. That question has been known to cause sweaty palms and twitches…. so let’s just say I’m me. 
 
When did you know you wanted to be an author? What changed?
 I think the first time I knew I wanted to be an author was when I wrote a novella based on a girl who wanted to be doctor. But it was the early 1900’s and it was still very much a man’s job. She had to then drop out of school to care for her ailing mother, so I told her view of the world. Then and when I wrote a series of kids books for a writing class. I knew then that I wanted to share my “gift” with others. I’m still yet to do it, but one day it’ll happen. 
 
What do you love most about writing?
The escape to an alternate reality, the chance to explore different worlds, cultures and stuff like that. I’m not real wordy today, I’ve been working too much LOL.
 
What do you find most frustrating?
Finding the time to write, finding the right words to explain what I want to write.
 
What is most important to you as an author?
Keeping true to Tammie. Writing helps me find more about myself, so that’s important to me.
 
How has your writing influenced you as a person?
It’s given me more confidence to go out and meet new people and try different things. If it wasn’t for NaNo all those years ago, then I wouldn’t have met a great bunch of people.
 
Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Can you give me an example?
I find influence in every day life. I’m still working on a real life type book on my experiences as a call center operator. I try my best to draw on real life experiences but I like to escape into other worlds as well. 
 
What’s your best advice for overcoming writer’s block?
Writer’s block kills me. The best thing I have found to over come it is just to open a blank word document and write garbled words. Either that or I read. I think writer’s block is the main reason I’ve read over 170 books this year LOL.
 
What advice would you give young writers just starting out?
Don’t give up. Just keep on writing. Believe you are the little train that could … but in your case, you are the little writer that could.
 
 

Meet Angela Oliver – Co-founder of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild

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Perhaps it was chance, or perhaps fate, that made Angela pick my book up in Paper Plus Hornby and think “Huh… someone else has published through CreateSpace and actually got it into a book store.” She noticed the poster saying I was local and worked at EB Games and came by to say hello (but unfortunately it was my day off). She did, however, purchase an eBook version of the Silver Hawk and leave a lovely review on Amazon – which was how I managed to get in contact with her.

It was upon the occasion of our first meeting that I realized Angela was the Angela… the amazing lady from Whitcoulls Riccarton who always knew which book I would like reading next. She had been a book-goddess in my eyes since our first meeting when I was about fourteen (though thankfully she didn’t remember me… that might have been embarrassing).

We talked about many things that day, including my ambition to connect the writers of Christchurch together so that we didn’t feel so isolated. Many of us were going through the same things, trying to get published, exploring eBooks and On Demand options etc. Angela was enthusiastic and over the next few weeks we put together the idea for our Guild and invited all our writer friends. From there, it grew and grew and now we have sixty members, an admin team of four and lots of plans for the new year.

Despite all of these exciting developments, I haven’t had much of a chance to really get to know Angela as a writer yet, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to do so, and introduce her to everyone else!

Please tell me a little about yourself and what sort of things you write.

I’m Angela Oliver, also known as Lemurkat. I’ve been fascinated in animals ever since I was very small – possibly because my Nana used to take me to feed the ducks, and my family always had pets. I developed a passion for birds in Primary school, which I carried on into High School and University – where I studied zoology and psychology. I also love drawing – and used to get told off in school for drawing while the teacher was talking (because I concentrate better if my hands are busy, honest!) and I have always enjoyed writing. I write what I enjoy reading – which is animal stories, fantasy, things that are a little oddball and quirky (or at least, I hope they are). I can’t write poetry anymore (I “grew out” of that phase) and my short stories turn into novels. I very rarely write human protagonists – most of my recent stories have featured a strong zoological or environmental influence.

When did you know you wanted to be an author? What changed?

I have no idea when I decided I wanted to write. It was probably at University – where I was in charge of the Roleplaying clubs magazine – which meant I had to write most of it myself, since contributions were slim. I just enjoyed writing, and sharing it with people. I started on fanfiction – Pokemon and Elfquest, and then dabbled into original stuff – including the occasional novella commission. That was interesting, to say the least!  So, I guess in a way I’ve always been an author – at least in sharing my stories with the world. I wrote my first epic fantasy in my first year at University, and my first novel at age 13, I believe. I still have everything I have written, although I dread that when I am rich and famous and dead some enterprising soul will find them on my hard drive and publish them.

What do you love most about writing?

The way the characters come to life, and take the story on their own shoulders. The way they twist the plot, doing unexpected things that actually make the plot work better, even if I’m half wanting to yell at them “Aroha, get out of there, stop doing that, it’s only going to get you into more trouble!” I also love receiving feedback when people compliment my characters, and ask me questions like “did Aroha and Maru get married?” Or my parent’s 6 year old neighbour, informing his mother that he’d seen the “Whiteback gang” at school (my magpie bullies). So, bringing the characters to life, shaping them and having them become “real”.

What do you find most frustrating?

Motivating myself when the plot has come to a standstill. Realising that I’ve written 4000 words that are totally unnecessary to the plot and need to be cut out. Even though they’re good words and some funny stuff happened, because they serve no purpose to the greater plot. My latest novel “Tail of Two Scions” which I worked on for NaNo 2011 was almost cut in half after the end of the month. Almost 20k words relegated to the “cuts” files.

What have you published so far and how did you go about getting published?
Two novels – both self-published via Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), also available as ebooks on Smashwords and Kobo.com.

“Aroha’s Grand Adventure” is the tale of a young weka, who is kidnapped from her home in Greymouth and taken to Christchurch. Finding herself lost, alone and far from home, she begins a grand adventure as she walks home – facing many dangers and making new friends along the way.

“A Midsummer Knight’s Quest” is about a goblin – a little scaly lizard-rat, who finds an egg and is about to take it home to feed to his Hive Mother when it hatches, and the chick imprints on him. From that point on, his entire life changes, as he makes friends – real friends – for the first time in his short life and then has to fight to save their woodland home from an evil developer.

Both are Children’s books, what I would call “Middle Grade” or “Older Elementary”, probably best for ages 9+ although children as young as 7 have read “Aroha’s Grand Adventure” or had it read to them. “Knight’s Quest” is probably a little more advanced, comprehension wise as it has multiple PoV characters.

My third novel – still in its proof stage is my “epic fantasy with lemurs”. It is called “Fellowship of the Ringtails” and I am currently procrastinating on editting it by deciding to make an entire deck of tarot cards. It’s a bit like “Game of Thrones” but furrier. And with a lot less sex.

My Amazon page is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Angela-Oliver/e/B005G5LNZA/

Are there any pitfalls to avoid or advice you’d give to others wanting to go down this path?

Don’t plot your structure too tightly. If you do, you don’t give your characters room to breathe and grow. However, do have some idea of the direction of the plot and try to avoid it running off on a wild tangent. If you do, you may have to “kill” some of your “babies”. To avoid feeling too ruthless, store their “remains” in another document, so you can poach the best bits from it at a later date. Or release it is a short story set in the same world. Do not get distracted by searching google for hours seeking information on whether a weka would die or become sick if it ate a cigarette, or apple pips, but do learn that chocolate can be fatal to birds, just as it for cats and dogs. Research is important, but if you’re spending more than ten minutes trying to find the answer to some unimportant action you’ve just written, it might be better to not have her eat the cigarette at all!  Also, you may find yourself watching videos of people fishing for wekas.

Disconnecting your internet can be a great way to actually get some writing done. Or take your laptop to somewhere outside of wi-fi range.

Oh, and set a deadline. If your story is flowing – then all is well and you will write pages, but if you allow yourself to become blocked and do not attempt to fight your way through that block, you will end up with a 95,000 unfinished manuscript. This is why I enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo – one month is a good time limit and 1,667 words per day an achievable goal – as long as you remain motivated.

What is most important to you as an author?

Doing what the characters tell me too, and getting their story out there. My characters are all like my children – somewhat unruly children – and they all have their stories, and I want to tell them and share them. All I can hope is that someone will read them and enjoy them.

How has your writing influenced you as a person?

This is a hard one. I think it has made me more dramatic – and hopefully a bit more interesting. My research has led me to learn about all sorts of random stuff. Maybe it has also made me a little more confident. Ultimately though, I think writing is so much a part of me that trying to say what I would be like if I were not an author, illustrator, reader and dreamer would be like asking a sparrow how being able to fly has influenced it as a bird. I do tend to dissect what I’m reading a lot though, especially self-published kindle stories. I believe it has made me more critical as a book reviewer. And rather more scornful of the success of what I would consider poorly written books in the mainstream. On the other paw, I would hardly say that I am writing high class literary fiction, but at least my characters are interesting.

What advice would you give young writers just starting out?
Write a lot and read a lot. Don’t worry about writing for a market – write what you enjoy, write for yourself. Because, if you enjoy it, chances are someone else will too. And reading influences your writing too. When I read darker books, my writing will take a darker turn. Also, read different genres, and analyse the books as you’re reading them – not too much! Just ask yourself – what is it about this book that is making me enjoy it so much? Or why do I just want to throw it against the wall and jump up and down on it?But mostly, if you want to write, then WRITE.
Find out more about Angela on her website: http://lemurkat.co.nz/

Meet thirteen-year old Tierney Reardon

I first had the pleasure of meeting Tierney when she attended my Friday after-school writing class at the library. I now teach Tierney (along with her two younger sisters and several other wonderfully creative young people) in a weekly home school writers’ group. A polite, enthusiastic, hard-working young woman, Tierney has impressed me again and again with the quality of her writing and her willingness to push herself and take on suggestions for improvement while never losing her own distinctive voice.

Check out my interview with Tierney below:

How old are you / where do you go to school?
I am thirteen, and I’m homeschooled. Learning at home is fantastic, because I can use the time that schoolchildren spend on the bus to edit a story or scribble down a poem

When did you start writing?
I started writing at a very early age, and began attending the School for Young Writers at age eight. Since then, writing has been my favourite thing to do.

What sorts of things do you write?
I enjoy writing short stories and poetry, but am always trying out new forms of writing, such as songs, radio plays and even novels. My favourite type of poem to write is a haiku, a short three-lined poem.

Have you ever been published?
I have been published several times in the School for Young Writers magazine, Write On, as well as on the Christchurch Art Gallery blog. Recently I have been published on a site called FaBo3. FaBo3 is a competition in which young writers compete to have their “novel chapters” chosen as winning pieces. Here is a link to a chapter that I won:
fabostory3.blogspot.com/

What is the most rewarding thing for you about writing?
The most rewarding thing about writing for me is having people read my work and see something in a different light, or stop and think. It’s wonderful when a story has an impact on someone.

What is the most frustrating thing?
The most frustrating thing is writer’s block! It always seems to occur when I have a deadline. It seems that inspiration only comes when it wants to.

What sorts of things inspire story ideas for you? Can you give me an example?
I get my story ideas from my experiences, surroundings and reading. One story I wrote, called The Fall of Icarus, was inspired by the legend of Daedalus and Icarus, as well as a painting by Bill Hammond, also called The Fall of Icarus. My inspiration comes from anything that makes me ask questions.

What do you like to read? Do you think your reading influences your writing? In what way?
I like to read historical fiction, true stories, and fantasy. I definitely think that what you read influences what you write. My writers “voice” is made up of my favourite authors voices all stuck together- plus my own unique style. No-one writes the same way. Styles are like potions, and reading is like adding something new to that potion, making it stronger and more distinctive.

What sort of advice would you give other young authors who want to write but aren’t too sure where to start?
The best advice I can give to young writers is to:

    1) Read, and develop your writing “voice”,
    2) Enter as many competitions as you can,
    3) Try to surround yourself with people who can give you constructive feedback. These people can show you how to improve your writing,
    4) Finally, no matter how much someone tries to alter your work, your decision is final. Take their advice, but don’t let your piece become their piece.

Good advice for all of us!

A big thanks to Tierney for participating in my interview series for SpecFicNZ’s Blogging Week. Remember to comment for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of my novel ‘The Silver Hawk’.

Meet Stephannie Beman – Self-published fantasy / romance author

Stephannie Beman

Stephannie Beman

I feel hugely privileged to have Stephannie on my blog today. Her Self Published Authors’ Lounge has provided so many insights into the business and lifestyle of being self-published and I have immensely enjoyed her fantasy romance novels – especially Persephone.

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m a native of Coastal Washington, not Washington DC, but the other Washington and have lived in Utah and Oklahoma in the US, and several cities in British Columbia, Canada. No, my parents aren’t military, I just have wandering feet and love meeting new people and learn about different cultures. I “blame” my parents for moving to multi-cultural housing while they went to college. Regardless, the experiences I’ve had while living have fueled the already fertile imagination of a daydreamer and writer.

Moving to a small ranch in Southwestern Wyoming with my husband, two daughters, a few stray cats, and a handful of cattle, I live in the original homestead cabin and I’m surrounded by a forest, meadow land, mountains, and a river; talk about the perfect setting for fantasy and paranormal romance.

What sorts of stories do you write?
I’ve been in love with mythology for as long as I can remember, so it’s only natural that I fell into writing speculative fiction and romance that ranges from sweet to sexy. My first book was a mythological romance, My Lord Hades and then a less sexual version of the book Persephone for my mother. Following those I’ve done two short stories in the same series: Love is Blind and An Angel in Tartarus. Then I wrote a paranormal novel Once a Valkyrja followed by a short story Prudr. In my world legends walk, myths live, and love is eternal.

When did you start writing / what made you decide to be an author?
I’ve always been a storyteller and would entertain family and friends with stories. In the 2nd grade I was introduced to a writing challenge I couldn’t pass up and ended up meeting some real authors as a reward. At the time I wasn’t thinking in terms of future careers, but it didn’t seem to matter, the writing bug had struck and for the next 8 years I wrote stories and poetry. I’d read most of the books in our small library and had this desire to write my own stories down so when I had the opportunity to take a Creative Writing class, I did. I also subscribed to Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines, and read every book I could on writing and publishing. Being a writer is a job I knew I could do and would enjoy. It speaks to me.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
For me, the most rewarding part of writing is researching new subjects that interest me, from the mundane to religious, from the philosophical to the realistic, from the exotic to the common. I love broadening my horizons, nourish my natural curiosity, and seeking truth and understanding. Writing is the vessel that allows me to share my journey with others. It allows me to create worlds and people and situations on a blank sheet of paper. It allows me to indulge in my creative side.

What is most frustrating?
Editing. Editing is by far the most frustrating thing for me. I love to write the story. I get tired of editing it over and over and over again. Grammar was never one of my strong suits.

Do you ever feel uninspired to write? How do you deal with that?
Every few weeks I go through a writing funk where I don’t want to write and every few months it turns into a “I’m never writing again!” Some of this stems from stress to get the next story out, a bad review (I try not to read reviews, not always successfully), or a reader who has decided they must email me to tell me what they thought of my writing and how I could do this or that to make it better.

I find the surest cure for it is to talk with a writer friend of mine, read some fan mail or glowing reviews (family and friends don’t count, they sometime lie), and write out my frustrations. Strong emotions of anger can make for great emotional scenes. Sometimes, it’s best just to take a vacation for a week or so and review my goals for my writing and what I to get out of it. Reading books also helps.

What inspired you to start the Self-Published Author’s Lounge? Is it difficult to update it so frequently?
In 2007 I met Ruth Ann Nordin and we became friends. At the time I was working toward traditional publishing, but was open to learning about self-publishing. After speaking with Ruth and researching self-publishing I decided to go that route, even though it was a harder course. I love challenges and I knew this would be one that appealed to my nature. Ruth and I were talking one night about the lack of information about self-publishing on the Internet and decided to write about what we had learned for other writers in the hopes of helping them not make the same mistakes that we had made. Self-Published Author’s Lounge (SPAL) was the result. It started out as a open journal on LiveJournal but moved to WordPress.com when we did.

We never had a posting schedule for SPALs and have had some authors come and go over the years. We just wrote a post whenever we were feeling inspired to write about writing, publishing, or marketing. Ruth talks a lot about promotion and marketing. Joleene posts often on cover design, formatting, and new stuff to promote books. I re-purposed some of my notes from when I taught Creative Writing classes, updated some old posts when new data come into play, and added my research of the business side of writing to the mix. SPAL became a place to write about writing and publishing, leaving our blogs free to write for readers.

What do you like to read? How has your reading influenced what you write?
I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction. Writers like Anne MacCaffery, David and Leigh Eddings, Lisa Ann Norman, Mercedes Lackey, and Alice Borchardt were some of my favorite. As I grew older I moved more into the romance genre and started reading work from Kelley Armstrong, Rhyannon Byrd, Eve Langlais, Nina Croft, Mina Carter, and Trina M.Lee, among others. They taught me the craft, because I’ve always learned best by watching others. They showed me the joys of mixing my two favorite genres, Speculative fiction and romance/erotic romance.

What advice would you give to young authors just starting out?
Write what makes you happy. Be that fantasy, fiction, romance, thillers, non-fiction, horror, or erotica. Do what works for you. If that’s writing everyday, then write every day. If that’s creating a project folder of maps, research, character sketches, setting sketches, outlines, etc. Do it. If its just writing without a plan, have fun at it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you must do, or the right way to write and publish. We are all different and are goals for our writing is not the same as anyone else. As long as you are happy with your results and are headed in the direction you want to be going, who gives a sh*t how we got there.

If you aren’t getting the results you want, then step back and reevaluate your goals. Make sure they aren’t unattainable goals for things you have no control over. Once you revise your goals, make a plan of attack and head out again. You hold your own fate.

 

Find out more about Stephannie on her website: http://stephanniebeman.com/