Exploration or taster?

Scooter

As my regular followers might know, I’m exploring my Fates Maelstrom main protagonist’s backstory by writing short stories that are also a means to try a different POV.

After writing the first story about Sparkle Anwyl, Goth Patrol, in first-person present POV, I’ve stayed with that for three more shorts – two set some years earlier, when Sparkle was sixteen, and one set a year later when she is 23. (She’s 25 in the novel.)

I like the first-person present POV and I’ve even attempted a version of her first POV scene written in the first-person present – it seems to read okay. As for the backstory developed in these stories, the key incidents are already referenced in the main novel, Fates Maelstrom.

Now, I have two questions:

(1) Can I have other POVs in third for some scenes and Sparkle’s in the first-person present?

(2) The crucial question is – What do I do with the short stories?

I have been working on a framing story, ever since I read Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish – http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/The_Last_Wish – in which the Polish writer cleverly uses one for his first shorts collection. However, the norm seems to be to release shorts totally independently, or as free rewards for followers/subscribers.

I decided to research this, and on the internet, I found this interesting article at Writer’s Digest – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-short-stories-novel-writing – that included this interesting point:

“Short fiction can be a toy box for your novel’s secondary characters, “offstage” action and locations. Outside the realm of your larger manuscript, you can do things like mine the protagonist’s past to find the source of her inner struggle, then use what you’ve learned to add a richness to your novel. (As a side benefit, these stories, if you’re pleased with the results, can later become great marketing tools: Sell them first, to prove the related novel has a receptive audience, or use them as a “bonus” read for novel fans who join your mailing list.)”

I seem to be trying to see if there is a side benefit or whether I remain in the toy box.

For ongoing research, I asked the Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Facebook, “I’ve taken a diversion to explore the backstory of my WIP’s main protagonist. I’ve ended up with some draft short stories that are all pre-WIP and I have a linking/book-ending story. Should they stay as backstory experiments, or should I release them first singly or as an anthology, OR release as a bonus/taster when WIP published …IF published.”

I got some great answers, most notably: Heather M. Gardner. “It really depends on how short and/or how interesting the stories are. I would recommend leaving them just for you, but you could always include them as a free story at the end of your book WHEN its published.”

Nick Wilford “I think you could offer them separately for either free or a low price – it might help build interest in the “main event”. Either as individual stories or a collection.”

Now, I like the idea of a low-price collection to build interest in the ‘main event’, as Nick Wilford calls it, but then the WHEN of Heather M Gardner’s answer troubles me.

Will the novel get published?

Is that important or only the writing experience?

Am I wasting time on social media if I never release anything more into the world? (My tweets get ignored most days.)

Should I just share one short? (In fact, another as I used one in my premature ‘Change of Heart’ post.)

Have you ever written shorts linked to your novels? What did you do with them?

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

 

The Case of the Black Tulips – a review

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m back to tackling a book review – I missed writing a proper post last week, although the excuses were forthcoming.

Anyway, back to today’s review (which I started last week).

I had been reading just samples as books I planned to start next were due to arrive. They did, but one sample had so hooked me that I had to discover more about it first.

 BlackTulips

The Case of the Black Tulips (Caster & Fleet Mysteries, #1)

by

Paula Harmon (Goodreads Author),

Liz Hedgecock (Goodreads Author)

There’s a new detective duo in Victorian London…

When Katherine Demeray opens an unsigned letter addressed to her missing father, she is drawn into a quest to find the terrified letter-writer and learn the secret of the black tulips.

Struggling to support herself after her father’s disappearance, Katherine has neither time nor money to solve the mystery alone. She has no choice but to seek help from a woman she has only just met; awkward socialite Connie Swift.

As the letters become increasingly frantic, this unlikely team of amateur detectives must learn to work together, while struggling to navigate the rigid rules of Victorian propriety, their families’ expectations, and the complicating interference of men.

Confronting danger as they venture into new and frightening territory, Katherine and Connie risk arrest, exposure, and even their reputations to solve the Case of the Black Tulips. Can they solve the mystery before someone gets killed….or they kill each other?

The Case of the Black Tulips is the first book in the Caster & Fleet mystery series, set in 1890s London.

Review 4.1 stars

When typist Katherine Demeray and her new friend socialite Connie Swift attempted to solve a mystery letter to Katherine’s father, I was drawn into their dangerous venture as they struggled to navigate Victorian society and the darker side of London.

The mystery of the letter writer and the clue of black tulips created a plot that worked through to the end, and the ending set up future cases for the endearing – or should that be spirited – lady detectives. (The second mystery is also out, and another is in the pipeline.)

I found that the main protagonists of Katherine and Connie were distinct and worked as a team, along with some memorable key supporting characters. I wondered if each of the authors had taken on a protagonist as the voices were so distinct – and that proved to be the case, with fascinating and effective results. What better way to write two protagonists than have two writers – or a split-personality. This clever approach led to some intriguing cliff-hangers for readers – and it seemed for writers/protagonists in the dark.

Some of that darkness is Victorian London with minimal lighting. This setting felt familiar as an ex-Londoner and yet this London was different with its carriages, rural outskirts (now, houses), plus the ever-present smoke that would soon become smog.

The story, the characters, their situations and the settings felt realistic. Whether this was historically accurate, I’m not sure, but the authors seem to have done plenty of research, and that gives a sense of authenticity that worked for me.

I enjoyed the read and I will buy the sequels. Not five stars but a recommended four plus.

 

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – four stars

 

 

#WEP – Change of Heart

This post should be scheduled for August 15th, but in the midst of chaos, I failed to realise that – read the rules, dummy. If I manage to re-write this, I will re-post the new version on that date.

[This is my first attempt to do WEP Challenge which this month has teamed up with the Insecure Writers Support Group – http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html – which I hope links to the other bloggers.

So I’m hoping that this means that I’ve done this correctly…and this piece of fiction makes sense. I’ve been trying to write it despite screaming kids who stress me out and trigger my MS. Just comment below as usual – many thanks.]

WEP_IWSG

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea want you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bryn. He likes me.”

Scooter

Thursday is cancelled- maybe forever

Thursday_horizons

Today’s Thursday Creation Review has been trampled on by an invasion – an invasion and occupation that might impact on the next few posts. I’m praying – and might make a sacrifice as well – to create an inspired space for some writing, or at least scribbling.

Beyond kids that must scream, yell and stomp, setting the dogs barking, I have the MS reactions to deal with. Loud noises and excessive input triggers spasms and meltdowns.

I am writing this on Thursday evening – well, I started yesterday morning with the now-shelved review– and this ramble might be posted before midnight Honolulu time.

It didn’t help to have a collection agency insist that we owed $40,000 for a bill that was fifteen years old and not even ours. Somehow, we will placate them before they foreclose on our house.

I’m coping badly with step-great-grandkids, especially when they ask me to read, interrupt me, say they were falling asleep at the end, then stomp off leaving me to put their mess away. Never again – MS makes reading aloud a struggle that kids can’t understand.

As for writing, that’s mentally scrambled and splintered. But I intend to write something for the WEP Challenge on Monday – if the kids give me space…and my protagonist co-operates.

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

#TheIWSG – Pitfalls or pratfalls?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I will be straight for today’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post as life has become hectic. In fact, I’m writing this before the chaos and stress arrive in the form of three undisciplined step-great-grandkids – okay for short periods, but they are staying for a month with their parents before the parents buy their own place.

This may be the last post that I manage for some time. My writing will also suffer – and probably, my health.

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Don’t let your debut creation become a trap – money-trap or time-trap. Or even an ego-trap. Or downward spiral.

My debut novel took over thirteen years to get published – in December 2013. Although there were minor hiccups and cul-de-sacs, the result was okay. In many ways, I needed to leave it there and move on – case made.

However, the pitfall was over the next five years, during which I poured money and time into correcting the textual errors in that version, re-publishing and over-promoting the paperback – at the expense of my next project.

I’ve taken ages to drag myself out of the ‘spiral of shame’ pit – in fact, only last week, I changed the front page of this blog, so visitors get to the Blog posts first not the Welcome that promotes my sole novel.

Next step away from massaging my ego is to change this site’s focus completely. Then, focus on the future.

 

**

The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

To marry Heathcliff?

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m changing tacks again and sailing further into uncharted seas – variety and all that mirror stuff.

Anyway, one of my favourite authors – and one of my editors and writer-friends – is Sue Barnard. Ever since her first novel, The Ghostly Father, I’ve been an avid follower, reading all four of her novels released to date – all four or five star reads. Sue’s latest novel, Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered? , is released on Monday, July 30th, so I will present the novel for your delectation.

First, an extended version of my original review of Sue’s last novel, Never on Saturday.

NeverOnSaturday

Never on Saturday

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present…

Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life.

She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.

Then she meets Ray – charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome. Within days, Mel’s entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.

But Mel’s dreams of happiness are under constant threat. She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray – or indeed anybody else – must never ever discover…

Review 4.4 stars

I enjoyed this novel which once again showed Sue Barnard’s ability to write in different ‘genres’ – or perhaps that should be time-styles as this engrossing novella has a historical timeline and a present day one.

The two threads to this tales weave together – but saying ‘why’ would be a spoiler. I enjoyed the way they came together and sussed what was going on, or rather ‘who’, early on – even if I took a confusing operatic detour in my head.

Mel is an interesting character as is Ray but in a different way. I enjoyed the familiar North Wales setting and the brief language references. The folklore and historical elements never felt overdone and they were informative as they were thrown in as neat asides.

Never on Saturday is a fast and easy read with a neat ending, a well-crafted mix of styles and their respective settings. Plus, there are informative author notes at the end. Overall, I would recommend this novella.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

How the Story Came About:

Sue Barnard: “A few years ago I was on holiday in western France and came across a legend associated with the area I was visiting.  Previously I’d been vaguely aware of the existence of this legend, but until then I’d known next to nothing about it.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, I was mowing the lawn when suddenly a line of dialogue popped into my head.  Goodness only knows where it came from, but it proved to be the starting point for what would eventually become Never on Saturday.

The line was “My name isn’t [X], it’s [Y].”  Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific here, because that would give away too much.  But suffice it to say that [Y] is the name of the character featured in the old French legend.”

Buy link: mybook.to/never-on-saturday

Other Reviews:

“An intriguing combination of myth and modern! I don’t like to give the story away to spoil it for future readers, but Sue has taken a myth and woven it into a magical love story. This story is easy to read and follow, even though it slips backwards and forwards in time. An act of revenge, a curse, a mythical creature, magic, and a rather attractive man goes into the mix to make a very entertaining story.”

“A must-read for fans of paranormal romance. A simple, modern-day love story is interwoven with an ancient French fairy-tale. I’m a sucker for folklore so I loved the old legend which I hadn’t come across before but even if you have you won’t know how this version will end.”

“A well-crafted, beautifully written little novella, which I devoured in one sitting. Like every book written by this author, a quality read which ticks all the boxes.”

 

Heathcliff

Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered?

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”

Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life. At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.

Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.

But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?

For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered. Until now…

How the Story Came About

Sue Barnard: “It all began with a chance remark from a former schoolfriend: “Sue, I love the way you’ve based your book on what we did at school. What are you going to do next?”

“We were chatting just after the release of my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All, which features a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This was the play we’d studied for English Literature O-Level (as it then was, back in the dark ages before GCSEs). The novel set for the same exam was Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights.

“Well,” I chuckled, “there’s always Heathcliff…”

“At the time, it was just a passing joke between two friends who recalled crying on each other’s shoulders as we’d struggled to make sense of the vagaries of the plot, tried (and mostly failed) to decipher Joseph’s incomprehensible dialect, and attempted to understand the book’s complicated inter-personal relationships. The latter was not made any easier by the characters’ confusing similarity of names. Emily Brontë had clearly never read the rule-book about this. Three of the characters have names beginning with the same initial, one of them has a first name which is the same as the surname of another, and two others have the same name entirely!

“But somehow, the idea just wouldn’t go away. I then recalled how our teacher (the wonderful Mrs Hall) explained how “…by having the story narrated by Nelly Dean, Emily Brontë avoids having to tell us exactly what happened to Heathcliff during those missing three years…”

“So – what might have happened to him? Could I try to get into his mind, and write a story which attempts to answer that question?”

Buy Link: http://mybook.to/heathcliff

Reviews

“I had always wondered what happened to Heathcliff during those three years he was absent from the action of ‘Wuthering Heights’. What would change him from a passionate, unruly youth into a polished gentleman? And who were his parents?”

“Sue Barnard answers these questions (and more) in a way that makes total sense, as well as making a really exciting story in its own right. Painting vivid pictures of the culture of the time, Barnard shows us Heathcliff as he changes – and why. I loved the fact that her plot and his development made sense psychologically as well as culturally while fitting in seamlessly with the text of WH. I love WH so much that I would have worried about any additions, had not Barnard proved herself to be a safe pair of hands in her earlier books. Being a Cathy myself, I’ve always wanted more of Heathcliff – and I couldn’t have got him in a better form!”

“A great read! It is fascinating to discover the author’s take on one of literature’s great mysteries. Be sure to read the author’s note too.”