Friday, July 29, 2011

And I'm Back

It turns out that travelling works not only for getting ideas, but for working out old ones. I managed to sit down and edit my full draft on the flights there and back, so I can honestly say it was a productive trip. I've assigned two more edits to myself before I'll accept it ready for submission, but I think it's coming along. I'm really proud of it, anyway. Most of it. No matter how many times I go through it, I know I'll find more and more things that I want changed, but on the whole I'm happy.

Did I find my inspiration there? Oh did I! There's nothing like sitting in French cafés in medieval towns to get ideas for story lines set 600 years ago. There's something about old cathedrals that get the brain moving. The chime of bells for 6:00 mass, the tourists milling around with their cameras (yes, that was me, too), the quality of the architecture - layers and layers of carved stone and marble statues. It's breathtaking. It gets confusing though, travelling from city to city and having all the old cathedrals called Notre Dame. Remembering which one was in which place can be tricky!

Although thinking of that French makes me want to reassess my dream writing location from a couple posts ago. Sitting outside under a nice canopy (keep that nasty sun off me!), appreciating the lifestyle there, sitting back with un coupe de crémant de l'Alsace - I think that would work too.

Now that I am back, however, expect a few more posts over the next few months as I move into the next stages of submission and coping with rejection. And who knows!! Maybe even...dare I say it? Acceptance?!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gathering Inspiration

There are many ways to get ideas for new stories, characters, scenes and settings, and the best methods are rarely planned. Here are a few of my tricks to get the imagination flowing:

1) MUSIC. This one rarely fails me. Unlike writer buddy Aaron, I almost always have music playing while I write. The nature of the scene or dialogue will influence the genre I listen to, but I like having what turns into a soundtrack going on. It helps me picture the scene more vividly and (I think) adds a bit more passion to it. When I'm on the bus, for example, I just turn on the old mp3 player, hit shuffle and see what images or pieces of dialogue come to mind. Lyrics, melody, it all works for me. Also, that way, I get "theme songs" for each book. For The Fenwith Trials, for example, it was Pompeii by E.S. Posthumus. For my latest: Play with Fire, the Rolling Stones cover by Cobra Verde (check this song out, it's fantastic).

2) I'm not the only one to say this, but the shower is a great place for a creative epiphany. I think it's the mindlessness, something about the frontal cortex turning off so you don't have to plan or something, you just tap into something more subconscious. My record was about 2500 words or so of dialogue that just came to me whole. Washing dishes is another good place. Driving sometimes works, but is a little more dangerous...

3) The free-write, of course, but I find this one a little tricky so I don't use it too often. I work with outlines a lot though, so sometimes just brainstorming triggers a few new ideas.

4) TRAVEL! It doesn't have to be a big trip across ocean or country, sometimes it's just a matter of getting out of the house and breaking your routine. You see things, see people, in different contexts and in different ways.

On this final note: I'm off on a trip myself over the ocean (so one of those big travels). With any luck I'll have an outline for a whole new book when I get back ;) Don't miss me too much.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Q&A with Aaron J. Booth


For my second Q&A session, I would like to introduce Aaron J. Booth (, whose debut novel Life Eternal should be available next month! Aaron and I happened to run across each other on a very popular writer's forum that I would highly recommend for all writers new or experienced: As Fate would have it, I met Aaron only shortly before his book was accepted for publishing, so I've been able to follow along with all the updates as they went, which was a very neat experience.

Along with this personal webpage posted above, Aaron also has a Facebook fanpage you should check out:

So, enough with the introductions right? A big thanks to Aaron for answering all my questions and best of luck to you!

About you:

1) Imagine a hardcopy of your newly published novel is sitting in hands. What would the author bio in the back of the book say? And anything else you want to add, of course.

The author bio that I used on my facebook fan page would have to go on there. I'm terrible at that sort of thing and that's the only bio I have written that I thought was ok.

Questions about the Writing Process:

2) When did you know that writing was it for you? You have a job, loads of other hobbies, but what is it about writing that made you go: there's nothing else I want to do?

That's easy. When I was younger I just wanted my name to be on a book. That was literally ALL the motivation that made me want to do it. After that I just read and read and read until I started writing better.

3) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is your favourite author, this I know, but why is that? What is it about the pipe-smoking detective that makes you go back to the Holmes stories so often? Has his writing style influenced yours?

Sir Arthur is my favourite purely because he is one of those people that, if he were not to have existed, the world would have been a worse place for it. The Chinese and Egyptians use Sherlock Holmes as a textbook of learning for their police force, The F.B.I fully incorporate his methods and the French named their criminal Laboratory after him. It isn't just Holmes that makes me love Conan Doyle, the first thing I read by him was 'The Lost World' and it was breath-taking.

I tend to adopt his victorian style of writing when writing short historical fiction stories. So he has influenced me in that respect.

Outside of writing Sir Arthur introduced Switzerland to skiing, he invented the naval life-jacket and persuaded the army to adopt steel helmets. He did so many other wonderful things but they are too vast to write down :(

4) You're sitting down to write your quota for the day - describe the scene. Do you have a favourite chair? Coffee shop? What gets you thinking like a writer?

I write best at night. I don't know why but I can always write more and better quality when it's dark. I 'm starting to force myself to write during the day though as writing my daily quota at night means no social life whatsoever. I tend to write in my bedroom but the actual place doesn't matter. I need silence though, can't write if the tv is on or if music is playing.

5) From where I stood, it didn't seem to take long to get yourself recognized by publishers. Tell us a little about that process.

I wrote the novel 'Life Eternal' in the space of 6 months in 2009 and had it refused about four times before Three Ravens accepted it in late 2010/early 2011. The reason I kept pushing was the positive feedback I received from my refusals. The majority of which was 'we would accept it under normal circumstances if it wasn't about vampires.' A lot of people thought that vampires were too common so they wanted something different. I am just thankful that Three Ravens wanted to run with my vampires!

6) On a more technical note, is there any advice you can give on formatting? I've had people ask me about how their manuscript should look before they send it off to an agent or a publisher. Any thoughts or advice on this point?

My advice would be 'format it however you want'. No matter how you format it, you will do it wrong. I say this because every agent, every publisher and every magazine all have different guidelines. Just alter your line-spacing or your margin sizes to fit each place you submit to. Don't get hung up on what font to use or what size line-spacing to employ before you have finished your manuscript. That stuff is all unimportant and easily changed to fit a publisher/agent/editor's needs.

7) You've already had a number of publicity opportunities, on your local radio station and in the newspaper. Do you enjoy getting out there to talk to people? What is your most or least favourite part about the public relations aspect of writing?

I love doing things to get myself out there. Anything to do with publicity is something I find enjoyable and, to date, I can't say that there is an unenjoyable part about seeking publicity. Except for, maybe, waiting for the day to arrive.

Book-Directed Questions:

8) Tell us about your new book. In a sentence, what is it about this book that would make people want to read it?

My book is a dark fantasy novel featuring blood-thirsty vampires and strong-willed heroes who seek to hunt and destroy them.

PS. If you dislike the sparkly vampires from Twilight then you will enjoy my book.

PPS. It isn't as generic as I make it sound. Really!

9) What was your favourite part of writing the book? Was it the excitement of the formatting? The rush of the editing?

I can't say formatting is exciting and anyone who has edited a novel will tell you it isn't fun :( My favourite part about writing it was the thrill of not knowing what was happening next. I don't plan anything I write. I just write and let the characters evolve and tell the story at their own pace. If I know what's going to happen then I get bored and stop writing. This way the entire process of starting and finishing a novel is fresh and exciting to me.

10) Life Eternal is nearly on the shelves (care to give us an estimate as to when that might be?), so what are you up to these days? Any new projects being worked on?

Life Eternal is due to be published on August 1st 2011 and (hopefully) the kindle version MIGHT be out a little earlier. These days I am being far lazier than I should be. I finished a second novel (completely unrelated) whilst Life Eternal was still going through the sub process. That novel is set in post-apocalyptic England and I am very excited about it. I am just hoping the publisher is equally excited! I am currently working on the sequel to Life Eternal which is titled 'Eternity's End'. I put a stop to it to work on the post-apocalyptic novel and picking up where I left off was very difficult. I have to admit, I couldn't get my interest back with the piece, but that interest has just come back full force after a recent chapter I wrote. So I am hoping to have the sequel finished a short while after the first book goes on sale. Obviously, publication would be way off in the future, though.

One last question:

11) The usual, should-be-expected question: In one sentence, can you offer a piece of advice to any aspiring writers out there? Either about the writing itself, or the publishing, or what have you?

In one sentence I really can't, there is way too much stuff that needs to be covered to give anyone reading a fair account of all of the above. I can give two little nuggets of advice though: the first being a link to my website (it may sound like shameless advertising, but I have a blog post on there which gives insight into everything you asked in this question and I hope people find that information useful) (that is a direct link to the post I mentioned).

The other bit of advice would be to join up to My Writers Circle. It is, without a doubt, the greatest writing forum I have come across. It helped me a lot and it WILL help others. It's where I found my publisher so I can't speak highly enough of it.

I have actually had the honour of reading a snippet from Life Eternal and I can tell you that I am SUPER excited to read the rest of it. The cover art is also really gorgeous. 

You know, something fascinating I find about my two sets of Q&A is that, although many of my questions were the same, the answers were so different. I find it reassuring to know that each writer has his (or her) own system. Let this be a lesson to all aspirers (yes, I just made up this word) out there: never feel that your 
system is wrong. Whatever allows you to put words on a page, however often, is a system that works!

Aaron, I'm very proud to know and so excited for everything that's happened. I encourage everyone who reads this Q&A to definitely check out the websites and show your support! 

Also, I didn't know any of that stuff about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so that was eye-opening. Writers can change the world. Who knew? 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Q&A with C.J. Duarte

 Hello again!

As promised, I have a Q&A session with a buddy of mine who was lucky enough (and worked hard enough) to get his first novel accepted for publishing. I've been hearing about this epic work for years now, and it is with relief and excitement that I finally get to read it soon. Here, C.J. discusses his novel, the process of getting it published, and his favourite part of writing - below will be a link to his website if you want to follow him directly.

C.J. Duarte - The Dash

About You:

1) I've known you a pretty long time, but let's pretend I haven't. What can you say about yourself? What do you think would be written about you in the back of the book?

Probably "The Dash is the first novel by C.J. Duarte," and that's it. In fact, that's the only thing I want written about me in the back of my book, because I'd really like to be one of those writers who leaves their work more open to interpretation, and does as little personal publicity as possible. Creating an artistic work is not always easy, and the more ambitious it is, the greater the risk--but the greater the reward as well, usually. So for as long as I can, I'd prefer to keep living as low-key and normal a life as possible, while still retaining a casual online contact with any fans or other people who wish to communicate with me about my writing.

Questions about the Writing Process:

2) How long have you been writing? In high school, you and I often worked together on writing projects, but when did it really become a clear that it was the career path you wanted/needed to take?

 I've been writing for as long as I can remember. There were a lot of experiences with elementary school teachers being impressed with some of my writing projects, and encouraging me, but it wasn't until late junior-high school that I really thought about it as a serious career choice. English tends to be a good subject for me--more so on the storytelling side than on the technical or historical side--but again, it wasn't until mid-high school that I seemed to do better in English than in practically any other subject. So that was a clear sign. Plus I've always been lost in my own imagination, so the template of the English language gave me an ideal platform for that.

3) What motivates you to keep writing? Getting started on that first page is the easy part, I find, but when you're a couple chapters in and the ending you're really looking forward to writing seems so far do you keep yourself going?

What honestly motivates me to write, is the fact that there's nothing else I'd rather be doing in terms of career plans. Of course I enjoy the creative process, but the fact that it's very relaxed, old-fashioned and solitary also gives me great peace of mind. The desire for me to write is motivated just as much by health and well-being, as it is by artistic and financial dreams.

4) One thing I always want to know about other writers is if you have a routine when you write? A particular place, CD, beverage, anything like that to get yourself in the right mindset?

There's really no set routine for me; ideas come up at any time and on any level. Having said that, I used to do a ton of writing during late-night hours because it was a period when I was more nocturnal and excitable. But now I'll pretty much write at any time if I have the energy for it. I also like to take walks, listen to music, watch a movie or TV--anything like that. And if a great idea comes up but I can't jot it down in time, I don't normally fret, because the mind can be so cyclical that your inspirations will come right back to you if they were interesting enough.

5) The journey from manuscript to publication can be long, tedious and frustrating...but somehow you managed to surpass of all that. What can you tell us about the process of getting published? What route did you take with it?

 In early 2010 I contacted a few people I'd met from the literary industry, and they gave me advice about taking a break from my material, fine-tuning it and so on. By the end of that year, I was extremely fortunate to discover Baico Publishing and sent them my work. A few months after that, they offered to publish it, just like that! Needless to say, this is the kind of quick, relative ease that most writers never ever experience with publishing, so I'll always be very humbled by having had such amazing luck, especially with Baico. They're a small but super-efficient operation that publishes a huge variety of titles every year, has a direct relationship with their clients, and gives the author virtually all the control over creativity, design, promotion, if you're like me and you have a lot of ideas and "visions" about your work, then you really can't do much better than Baico, for sure.

Book-Directed Questions:

6) What about The Dash? This is your first full length novel, I believe, and by the sounds of it, it's quite a trippy epic! Even if you're not comfortable giving away the plot, can you give one sentence about the narrative that would make people want to read it?

 Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a very bumpy ride.

7) Considering the length of the novel, when did you start your first draft? How long did it take you from first draft to final edit?

 Beginning in late 2003, I brainstormed and scribbled and sketched my way to something resembling a decent story, until finally a manuscript was completed in late 2009. A couple of years and two or three major re-edits later, I'm now waiting on the formatted copy of my book to look over, before it goes into printing.

8) What was your favourite part of writing the book? Not scene or anything, (unless you care to share ;)), but throughout the process. What was the most difficult part?

My favourite part was generally the mystery and adventure of the whole process. Even when I was well into rewrites, there were still surprises and parallels between certain passages that I'd forgotten about or never noticed before. The most difficult part was maintaining continuity, and deciding what to cut out once the chapters got more complicated. Yes--it sounds hard to believe, but there is deleted material from this giant book. Basically they were passages (or many pages, in some cases) that were too redundant, too arbitrary, or too unsavoury.

9) Now that The Dash is well underway to being released for the masses, are you developing any ideas for your next project?

 I'm working here and there on my next novel, which promises to be just as long, complex and imaginative as The Dash is. (Which means it'll probably be serialized, too.) I have absolutely no clue when it'll be completed, though, let alone released, so don't hold your breath!

10) Most importantly: IS THERE A RELEASE DATE PLANNED? Any estimates of when it might be?

We're aiming for Volume I to be released sometime in September 2011, with promotion beginning at about the same time. As for the release of the second and final volume, we're not a hundred-percent sure about that, especially since I haven't fully tweaked it yet. I'm hoping it'll follow within a year of Volume I's release, assuming that the first volume is successful enough.

One last question:

11) As a final question - in one sentence - what advice would you give any aspiring writers out there?

Try to give people an emotional connection to your writing, and don't worry so much about "originality" or about new media/open media, because I believe that truly good writing will always be appreciated, sought out, and compensated in some way no matter what.

 Well there you have it: some great advice and great insight into the workings behind what should prove to be a dazzling story - can't wait to learn more about it.

I want to send a very special thank you to C.J., because he has played a big role in my own motivations to keep writing. With a knack for marketing, and a great understanding for video and photo editing programs, he has made quite a few little book trailers and posters for my finished novels. With his permission, I'll probably post some here eventually.

All the best to you, my friend - you have my complete support!

To follow the progress of The Dash and author C.J. Duarte, please follow the link to

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Joy of Editing (cont'd)

All right, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. On the whole, I  really enjoy editing. I love reading through a draft the first time and coming across bits that are particularly good, or coming across something that unintentionally relates so perfectly to a scene earlier on. There's also something extremely cathartic about crossing out passages, changing wording and finding stupid typos, so for me editing is actually pretty relaxing.

Today I was sitting in a coffee shop (Yes, unfortunately the Chapters/Starbucks kind) and worked through one lengthy chapter with J (whose name and relationship will remain unstated). Now, doing edits with him is a very interesting experience and requires a pre-editing warm-up on my part. The first step is to turn off my ego, and let go of any attachment that I have to what's written on the page. The second part is to turn off any defensiveness that might otherwise arise. Because he will tear it to pieces. Itty bitty pieces. Often to the point where I will begin to throw things. Well, I haven't yet, but I've been sorely tempted.

The truth, though, is that I'm just being a big sour baby, because I really do need J's logical thinking. He will read a scene and his analysis will be something like, "This comment is out of character for Jack. And you say one beer here, but two pages ago you said three. And if this part here were to really happen, this is the result you could logically expect, not what you have here. This is just silly." And that would all be about one sentence.

Usually my first instinct is to gladly thank him for the plot inconsistency, grit my teeth and admit to the character inconsistency, and remain sullenly silent for the "real-life outcome" consistency. After all, people, this is FICTION we're talking about, right?! But then, after a few hours of cooling off I'm usually able to come back to it and go, "Okay, I guess he's right. It doesn't really make sense for the Earth-conquering aliens to stop for a picnic and enjoy the view at Niagara Falls." (I will explain the aliens in a later entry) So in the end I know it's worth feeling low in the interim for quality's sake in the end. But it's still a pain in the butt.

Editing, for these reasons, can be a painful process. I love copy-editing (spelling, grammar, etc.), but I hate re-writing. I find it boring, because I've already written the scene, and I'm sad that I'm losing a scene I worked hard on and in many ways really loved. Then I worry that the new one isn't actually better than the old, so I start to doubt, and waver, and go back and forth and....yeah. However, I do recognize it as an important feature of completing a manuscript, so I guess that means I keep going and allow J to take a stab at Chapter 5 :P.

Today I received Q&A answers from one of the authors I'm promoting here!!! I should be posting it tomorrow - a brief interview with new author C.J. Duarte. Please come and read it!

The Joy of Editing

There is none.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Sweet Spot

I have no place to write.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I know it's more discipline than location, a matter of actually just sitting down and putting words to a page, but I am on the hunt for the perfect place. Or a perfect routine. Or something. I find I have a hard time focusing at home. I don't really have a desk, it's more a little kitchen table that I keep in my office and is cluttered with all kinds of distracting things like hairbands, notebooks and nail polish. If I sit in the kitchen, I get bored and am surrounded by food, which is even worse than the nail polish.

I have this fantasy that if I had the perfect desk, then everything would be all right - one with lots of nooks and crannies, and drawers and storage places. That way I could keep everything where I wanted it to be and hide anything that would keep from focusing. THIS IS A LIE. I had a desk like that once and it ended up more chaotic than my table.

My other fantasy, and this one I really like, is a little bookstore/cafe. Kind of like Chapters/Starbucks, except not quite so loud or expensive. I don't mind the music, but maybe an acoustic performer instead of the latest hit CD. I like the thought of sitting in a window watching the world go by, making up stories about the frazzled woman in her business suit and the nasty look on her face, or the group of kids hanging onto a rope being led through town by their teacher. Everyone in the cafe would know me and bring my order (a tea and 1 chocolate chip cookie) before I asked for it. They would get a free signed copy of every book I published. Now I just need to find this magical place.

In the meantime, I'll continue to make use of my little kitchen table with the clutter and nail polish, and try to imagine it's someplace else. I'd be interested to hear how other people operate, what routines they have. IN FACT, I've put this very question to two of my writer buddies who are getting published this year. I'll be posting a short Q&A with both of them here - maybe they'll know of an idyllic little place for me to work.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Start

Hello to all who may happen to pass by and read this! Welcome to my brain.

Originally I had posted a few segments of a book I was trying to publish, but I've decided that was a silly idea and hope to write instead about the process of writing, editing, attempting to get published, etc. For any of you who may be trying it, you'll know it's not always fun, not always easy, and usually more a kick to the gut than anything else, but we do it because we love it, because - for some of us - it's all we really know how to do .

I've been writing stories since I was six years old. I have three one-page horror stories that I wrote back then, still have, and strongly believe are the best things I've ever written. I have two completed manuscripts tucked away in my filing cabinet, and a plethora of short stories, fan fictions, and hilarious anecdotes that I go back to from time to time for inspiration (and to remind myself that I'm actually pretty darn good at this whole writing thing).

My attempt to get my last manuscript "The Fenwith Trials" published has so far ended in nothing, but I've not lost hope. I have, however, moved onto a new project for the time being, which is currently in the stage of editing. The process frustrating, it's invigorating and motivating, it's heart-wrenching and ego-pummelling, but after each re-write, addition and deletion, I know that my story is one step closer to being stronger.

Even if no one reads these words, it's a good reminder for myself of everything I go through to get where I want to be, and a reminder of why I do it!