Monday, 26 September 2011

Ghosts



When I was a child
I saw faces in the curtains
Scowls of monsters in the dark
Circling in the fabric
Ghosts under the bed
Hairy men in the closet
Winged spirits in the cupboard
Fearing the night

When I was grown up
I saw faces in the crowds
Scowls of people going to work
Circling in the trains
Squashed under someones head
Hairy men standing too close
Wanting wings to escape
Desiring the night

When I was old
I saw faces in the street
Smiles of people dreaming away
Circling inside their minds
Remembering the ghosts
And hairy men in the closet
Winged spirits in the next life
Welcoming me.



copyright Vickie Johnstone

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Words with... Valerie Douglas



Thanks to Valerie Douglas for this interview

Author of: 
Song of the Fairy Queen
Heart of the Gods
Not Magic Enough
The Coming Storm

 

How long have you been writing?

Since I learned how. I was making up stories and had invisible friends in my head for as long as I can remember.

Do you have a day job or do you write for a living?

I gave up the day job when it looked like I had two or three books contracted through a traditional publisher. *laughs* Then one fell through and one went on review, which made the third questionable. The good thing is that one of them is still doing pretty well for me as an indie. I’m lucky that I have a very understanding, very supportive husband.

What do you feel is the ideal recipe for a good novel/story/poem?

Whatever it is that moves you; you must have a story to tell. You must, of course, have compelling characters and a good plot, but there should also be an underlying theme – doing the right thing at all costs; love conquers all; if you look beyond the past; if you let go of the past even enemies can find common ground, etc.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

For me it’s not inspiration, it’s more like obsession. *laughing*  I write because I must, because the characters call to me, begging me to write their stories.

What books have you written? Do you stick to one genre?

I’ve written 17 at the last count, 11 of which are published, and no, not in one genre, it’s too limiting! I write fantasy primarily because I love the genre, but it also gives me the latitude to do and say things I can’t in other genres.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

One first draft took me 72 hours of straight writing, another took almost a month, but then there’s several months in between of second and third drafts, polishing.

How long did it take you to get published? Did you take the traditional route or DIY?

It took about five years to get published traditionally, once I got down to being really serious about it, and then it was in a new genre for me. Let’s just say that while I haven’t given up on the traditional route, the Indie option is a LOT less painful.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers/those just starting out?

Do your research! Decide which route you want to take, and make sure you know what you want to achieve. Then… have patience, nothing good comes easy.

Do you have any works in progress?

A prequel and a sequel to Heart of the Gods, and a prequel to The Coming Storm, a new erotica under my V.J. Devereaux pen name…

Which character from your books do you like most/are most like?

Carrie from The Last Resort is definitely me, and Ailith from The Coming Storm.

Where and when do you write – do you have set times during which you write or is it just when the mood takes you? 

As I often say, I’m a pantser, I write by the seat of my pants. That’s the first and second drafts, and then I need quiet, dark, and a preset soundtrack that seems to fit the mood of the book. For editing/polishing, unless something comes to mind that really needs to be added to a certain piece, I usually do that in the afternoons. I’m lucky enough that my husband helped to redesign a room to be my writing room, a place where I can close the door and be uninterrupted.

Marketing – the bane of self-publishers – how do you find the experience? Do you have any marketing advice for other writers? Do you use a blog or twitter, etc?

I blog and Twitter, do interviews like this, but I struggle with it, especially making the time for it. It makes me laugh though when some people say that in traditional publishing they do that for you. No, they don’t. You still have to do all of the above. They do arrange for reviews though. As for advice? Just do it.

Some of your fave things... Animal? Food? Drink? Film? Colour? Band? Song? Place to chill out? Favorite things…

Animal – cats.
Food Рsteak, rare, with saut̩ed mushrooms.
Drink – homemade lemonade.
Film – too many to count.
Colour – yellow or blue.
Band – varies, depending on the mood. I can listen to opera as well.
Song – too many.
Place to chill out – by the ocean with a good book, a glass of lemonade and my husband.

One day you’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

Shakespeare's Collected Works; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Lord of the Rings boxset; Nora Roberts; Sea Swept – most are about the human condition.

Which book do you wish you had written?
 
All of the above.

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

Elon and Colath from The Coming Stormtwo great men… well…elves…

Which three authors (living or not) would you like to take to the pub?

Shakespeare, Harper Lee and Tolkien.

What other hobbies/interests do you have or has writing taken over?

*grins* Writing has pretty much taken over…

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

A book on the USA Today bestsellers list, the recognition of my peers in one of my genres.

If you won the Lotto, what would you do with all it?

Invest all but 10% of it, and live off the interest. The 10% would go to charity to help stop domestic violence in this country and to help find water in the Third World.

Now for the creative bit… please finish this story in 100 words or less…

There once was a beautiful horse called Gelda. It had taken hours of patient grooming to get her coat to gleam, to braid her tail, and brush her mane to hang just so. She gazed longingly at the nice, deep, dusty hollow, tossing her head in frustration. She felt the reins give. Dust had never felt sooooo good.

Finally, what question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

*grins* Actually, there’s a question I’m glad you didn’t askabout my erotica writing...

Links:

Amazon:
Twitter: @ValerieDouglasA



Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Words with... Laura Watts




Thanks to Laura Watts for this interview

Author of Secret Confessions of a Backpacker: My Adventure Down Under

How long have you been writing?

I didn’t start writing seriously until a couple of years ago, but I’ve always enjoyed creative writing for a hobby. I’ve always had an active mind so I find this is one good way to slow it down.

What do you feel is the ideal recipe for a good novel?

A fantastic, gripping story that keeps the book in your hands. There’s nothing better than a page turner! Writers have to keep their readers entertained long enough to get on to the next page.

What/who inspired you to write?

My fantastic travelling days! I thought this time is far too precious to waste and I didn’t want the memories to fade, so I made sure I wrote them all down. As I’ve said previously, I’ve always enjoyed writing so it felt natural to turn my experiences into a book. Before I started to write, I thought I wouldn’t really enjoy the process of reliving my travelling days because the past is in the past. But it turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me. Now I write all the time and I’ve made the decision to write fiction books in the future. I quite fancy the chick lit genre because I think it’s a similar style to how I write now. Conversational chatter with hints of humour.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Longer than it should have done! At the start I only wrote when I wanted to, I didn’t commit myself to writing every day! Now I make sure I write every day or, if that’s physically impossible, I make sure I’m doing other things that are book related.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers or those just starting out?

Keep focused. It’s very easy to put your writing on hold in favour of other things, but if you keep doing that you’ll never get anywhere. Self-discipline can be tough at times, especially when you can’t even motivate yourself to get out of bed! But you have to do it, that’s if you do really want to become a writer and not just some wannabe. Treat all of your writing like a professional business, if you want to be thought of as a professional that is... Anything else...? Oh yes, hire an editor to look over your work. I can’t stress that one enough!

Do you have any works in progress?

I do, yes. I’ve written 23,000 words so far on my second book ‒ the sequel to my first. In this book I travel Canada. For those who loved my first book, I think they’re going to love this one even more.

Where and when do you write ‒ do you have set times during which you write or is it just when the mood takes you?

Well, I make sure I write every day, or as close to that as I can possibly get. I usually write in the morning when my mind is fresh. Then I write for as long as possible. I have to be somewhere quiet with no distractions, otherwise my mind wanders. I can write anywhere, just so long as it’s quiet.

Do you have any marketing advice for other writers?

Yes, don’t self-promote all the time. Instead, talk to people and focus on building relationships. Share your wisdom and be helpful to others. No one likes to be sold to all of the time.

Which book do you wish you had written?

All of the Belle de Jour books ‒ they’re so salacious and funny.

Who is your favourite character from any book, and why?

That would have to be Belle herself. She writes with such candour: she doesn’t give a hoot what people think.

What other interests do you have or has writing taken over?

I have to say that writing is one of my top priorities. But, having said that, I do make time for other things such as walking my dogs and catching up with friends. I’ve done Ju Jitsu for a while too.

What would like to achieve over the next five years?

Where do I start? I would like to win the lottery and write five best-selling books ‒ one for each year. On a serious note, I want to keep on writing, get my second book finished and edited before I start writing fiction. I just plan to keep writing. It would be nice to have a few books under my belt by the time I reach thirty.

What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done?

You’ll have to read my first book to find that one out!

Book links: 


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sample Sunday: from Kaleidoscope

A teeny poem from Kaleidoscope before I nip off to munch my rather large curry from the best indian place in London - Star of India ra ra ra !! :)


So we go



Into the night we go

Free as birds

Soundless and unseen

Trivial and green

Unknowing, unthinking

With no boundaries

No obstacles

With wings, groundless




copyright Vickie Johnstone




Thursday, 15 September 2011

Words with... Paul Swearingen




Thanks to Paul Swearingen for this interview


How long have you been writing?

I’ve freelanced since the mid-70s off and on, all non-fiction articles and magazine columns, and I published a radio club magazine for 22 years, until a year ago September. Although I wrote some SF in the late 70s and submitted to various SF magazines (my handwritten rejection notes from George Scithers are prized possessions), I really didn’t start writing fiction again until about 1997.

Do you have a day job or do you write for a living?

I am a retired high school English teacher. I also taught journalism and Spanish, and I’ve worked in radio (most of the time as a radio newsman), as a personnel manager for a large department store, in sales, and in various other areas, including as a telemarketer and as a cemetery lot salesman.

What do you feel is the ideal recipe for a good novel/story/poem?

Make the reader hate or love the main character from the first paragraph, then throw him or her down the stairs so the reader can watch his/her reactions.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

I had many ‘favourite’ authors who inspired me early on and still do, but Mark Twain would have to be my enduring favorite.

What books have you written? Do you stick to one genre?

At least for now, I write YA fiction, having spent most of my life with teenagers. The five loosely-related novels in the ‘High School Series’ deal with teenage life in high school, of course, although the last two in the series spend more time outside of the school environment than in. I’ve also written another book that is set in 1967, and involves the betrayal and survival of a teenager in a tornado; a second that is set in 1918 against the backdrop of the ‘Great War’ and the influenza pandemic; and a third that is a post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of young people. All are set in Kansas.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

The first, and also the first in the High School Series, took about six years, not counting later revisions. The shortest, #4 in the high school series, took eight days – it was my second Nanowrimo effort.

How long did it take you to get published? Did you take the traditional route or DIY?

I decided that I wanted to be able to concentrate on the three unpublished novels, so I took the short-cut, DIY method, and uploaded the five High School Series books to Smashwords on January 1, 2011. I’m continuing the traditional route in trying to attract an agent to the other three novels.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers/those just starting out?

Follow your own inner voice, the one that tells you never to give up, but don’t be afraid to ask for advice from experienced writers and editors. Write as much as you can and realise that your first book probably won’t be published, at least not in a traditional method. But, the more you write, the more likely your writing will improve to the point that you will find an agent and a publisher.

Do you have any works in progress?

Yes, the post-apocalyptic novel. I may not come up with an idea for this year’s Nanowrimo novel until October 31, as I did last year’s effort.

Which character from your books do you like most/are most like?

I like the characters who are most unlike myself. In fact, I find it more difficult to write about male characters; I’ve always had a problem with being able to separate my own personality and attributes from my male characters. Three of my main characters are male, five female.

Where and when do you write – do you have set times during which you write or is it just when the mood takes you?

During Nanowrimo I flip on the self-discipline switch and write every day from eight to six, less a half-hour or so for lunch, until the novel in progress is finished. My first Nanonovel was finished in fifteen days, the second eight, and the third about 21. Otherwise, I write when I can carve out an uninterrupted couple of hours per day, so an ‘average’ novel may take about four or five months to complete.

Marketing – the bane of self-publishers – how do you find the experience? Do you have any marketing advice for other writers? Do you use a blog or twitter, etc?

I don’t blog or tweet; I feel that writing activities other than those used to produce my novels tend to dilute my efforts. I do try to keep my name and work visible in various places online, however, and this coming week I am going to try to set up a book promotion with a local, large chain bookstore.

Some of your fave things... Animal? Food? Drink? Film? Colour? Band? Song? Place to chill out?

I like to listen to older folk music when I write (thank you, Pandora!). To keep me from becoming as one with my chair though, I do a lot of gardening and yard work. Mexican and Thai food are my two favourites. Green is my favourite colour, and if I ever am able to sign autographs it will be in forest green ink with my favorite Parker 51 fountain pen.

One day you’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

The Call of the Sea – Jan de Hartog
Andersonville – Mackinlay Kantor
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter – Mario Vargas Llosa
Parnassus on Wheels – Christopher Morley

Which book do you wish you had written?

The Pied Piper – Nevil Shute

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

Hugh Lofting’s Dr Doolittle (and NOT the movie version).

Which three authors (living or not) would you like to take to the pub?

Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, Walter R. Brooks. I’d also like to take Bela Lugosi, but I don’t believe he wrote enough to qualify himself as a writer.

What other hobbies/interests do you have or has writing taken over?

Writing is certainly at the forefront, but I’m still involved in gardening, astronomy, photography, AM radio DX’ing, and collecting various items like coins, radio station mugs and refrigerator magnets, multi-band portable radios, maps, books (duh!), old cameras and old computers (my basement is a computer museum. Help!).

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I would like to be recognised as a quality YA fiction writer.

If you won the Lotto, what would you do with it?

I’ve lived in a fix-it house for 25 years, so it would receive the first attention. Then, after some investing, I’d like to see much of the rest go towards some kind of scholarship-/seed grant for minority high school students, so that they would be more likely to be able to finish their high school education and then pursue a higher education. The catch would be that they would receive less than a 100% grant/scholarship and would have to work or perform some kind of significant community service to prove their worthiness to receive the support.

Now for the creative bit… please finish this story in 100 words or less…

There once was a small gecko called Fred… who found himself upside down in the pouring rain.
“Dang. That bolt just missed me. I really should get under a rock, huh?” He glanced upward and then scampered under a rock ledge and looked out at the pouring rain.
“Wish I had a tasty insect to munch on while I wait out this thunderstorm,” he muttered. He spotted a damsel fly on a sunflower stalk. “Snack time!”
He flipped out his tongue and … Zap! Another near miss.
Fred shook his head. “Farkle! I’m coming back as a barn swallow and live under a tin roof next time around!”

Finally, what question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

“What needs to be done to improve the current state of indie and e-book publishing?”

Far too many writers are shooting themselves in both feet by rushing their works to Smashwords and other venues before they’re ready. Many are replete with mechanical errors, lapses in plot, cardboard characters, and just plain bad writing, making success extremely difficult for better writers who are lost in a morass of submitted works, some by children who should go back to school and learn to spell, write in complete sentences, and tell a half-way decent story. I now refuse to review books that are not ‘clean copy’ and ready for review; perhaps e-book publishers could agree on a simple, anonymous check-off system (rather than a prose review) for those books that could be salvaged or quietly deserve to die a quick death?

Thanks for the opportunity! -Paul Swearingen, Topeka

Book links:

High School Football – The Temptation

High School Diversity – The Clash

High School Yearbook – The Drama 

High School Newspaper – The Danger

High School History – The Treasure




Note from Vickie
- to my shame, I hadn't heard of Nanowrimo, so I googled it. Here's the link for anyone who, like me, had no idea what it is. http://www.nanowrimo.org

The website says:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Thanks Paul :)