Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Long Road to Publication - Part 3

by Andy Smith

Not a huge amount to report on the publication front since last time. My submission is currently under consideration by a number of agents (i.e. discounting the ones who said ‘no thanks’ straight away, so the ones who are at least thinking about it), and I’m waiting to hear back from them. This, as you doubtless know, is something which can take a very long time. Like a doctor who doesn’t want to be unemployed, you need patience. (Yes, I’m using up the leftover Christmas cracker jokes. What do you want for nothing?)

So what have I been doing while I wait? For one thing, I’ve started writing the sequel to Breaking the Lore. (In my long-term, finally make it, ideal world there’s a whole series of Inspector Paris books. Plus agents like having a series. Watch this space.) I’ve had the basic idea for the second novel and the kind of things I want to cover floating around in my head for a while, so I’ve been assembling them into some sort of order. (Aside: ‘Assembling’ being the operative word. I wish I could say I sit down to write and wonderful prose simply flows out, but it ain’t like that). 

I have to construct stories - think of the elements I want, work out the order to put them in, determine how to get from one point to another, then put in dialogue and jokes to link things together. Writing becomes Lego. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what they tell you on creative writing courses.) It’s starting to take shape now, with Paris once more having to work out what these weird magical creatures are getting up to. When an agent finally says they want to take on Breaking the Lore and then asks “Have you got anything else?”, I can go “Yes!”

What else have I been doing? I’ve been hoping some agent(s) will get back to me, but I’m certainly not assuming it’s definitely going to happen. So I’ve been starting to put things in place ready for self-publication as well. That’s all top secret at the moment though, so I can’t tell you any more or I’d have to kill you.

Anyway, back to the grindstone. And as Vincent Van Gogh might have put it: happy new ear! (That’s the last of the Cracker jokes. Honest.)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

'Oh How We’ve Changed' - Fictional Character Transformations Over the Past 50 Years

by Jane Sandwood

Humans are a continuously evolving species, with CNN reporting that we have gotten taller over the past 100 years, thanks to our intelligent health choices. In fact, the recent physical change in humans is directly related to our growing developing intelligence. As our brains continue to learn new skills, our physical development coincides. Fiction has reflected these changes over the past fifty years, with character physiques directly mirroring the time period of the work.

The Sixties to the Early Eighties

The Vietnam War and the development of equal rights reflected the theme of many works of fiction during this time. From Atticus Finch to Alex from A Clockwork Orange, the fiction of the day reflected a fast and loose treatment of the body. People smoked, drank, and thought nothing more about it. Viable research did not yet exist on the real dangers of these habits, and activists were not stepping forward to slow the use of tobacco on the big screen. Fiction characters represented a future full of cirrhosis and lung cancer. Writers researched the habits of the day, and what was socially acceptable.

The Late Eighties Into the Turn of the Century

As researchers found more links between cancers and personal habits, people have adopted healthier habits and fictional characters have followed suit. After Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs, television began to turn toward a cleaner lifestyle. Family-style fiction on television addressed drug use, portraying a healthier lifestyle. Collectively, the fiction body switched from a free-for-all to a more controlled ideal of health. This reflected the modern research revealing how to better care for the self. People were beginning to desire characters that looked better and that seemed to care better for themselves. Characters who indulged in alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs were portrayed as troubled or physically run-down.

The Past Decade

Since the turn of the century, fiction characters have more closely reflected the ideals of society. Tobacco use has slowed, and if it exists, it is often associated with negative characters. Fictional characters who drink or use drugs are portrayed as physically unappealing. Creators of fiction have swung their characters from a glamorous cigarette to a damaging tobacco habit. Over the past fifty years, fictional characters have changed to relay the real dangers of drug habits.

The days of a simple cigarette are gone in fiction. When writing a fictional character, the character must be physically believable, and this often includes considering the character’s personal habits. Write in the long-term effects of drug use, remembering that modern readers know more than readers fifty years before.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Big 5 Competition 2018!

Win a year's mentoring from Triskele Books!

It's back!

Our first mentorship competition launched in 2016.
It's proved such a success, we're doing it again.

Five experienced author-publishers from Triskele Books are ready and willing to support you from manuscript to publication, sharing our skills and expertise to give your book the best possible start.

Here's what last year's winner had to say about her prize:

The mentoring from the Triskele team has been exceptional on every level: friendly, enthusiastic, professional, and above all, so brilliantly skilful that after working on Catriona’s editorial advice, I started pitching to literary agents. Within three days of sending the novel out I received (and accepted) an offer of representation. Forever grateful. - Sophie Wellstood
If you want to get your book to its ideal readers in its best possible shape, this is an opportunity to work with a successful team, beside you every step of the way.  

Our range of skills and services are at the winner's disposal to pick and choose according to what suits them best.

We want to help you achieve your publishing goals and we have the tools to take you from first draft to publication ready in twelve months.

And meet our amazing judge!  

Roz Morris, author, book doctor and best-selling ghostwriter will read the shortlisted entries and make a final decision on the winner.

How to enter and what's on offer? CLICK HERE

Good luck!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Young Muslim Writers' Awards 2017

by Catriona Troth

This December saw the 7th presentation ceremony for the Young Muslim Writers' Awards, and the second time I have been privileged to attend the event.

The Young Muslim Writers' Awards was founded by the Muslim Hands charity, and for the last five years has been supported of the Yusuf Islam Foundation. As organiser, Zainub Chohan, told us at the opening of the ceremony, the award seeks not only to raise child literacy in the British Muslim community, but to help every child realise that any career path is open to them – including that of being a best-selling author.

How important this is was underlined this week by an article in the Guardian (“Diversity in publishing – still hideously middle-class and white?”)

As one of the judges, poet Mohamed Mohamed said, of discovering the Young Muslim Writers’ Awards: “Oh my gosh, this actually exists!” 
Shortlisted authors, judges and sponsors at YMWA 2017

Awards are given in nine categories – for short stories and poetry in each of Key Stages 1-4, and additionally in Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds) an award for journalism. This year all the short listed poems, short stories and essays were included in a beautiful anthology, which enabled everyone to share and appreciate the depth and breadth of writing the young people are producing.

Poetry ranged from six year old Umar Ibrahim’s hilarious and imaginative, Roald Dahl inspired Oggletrog, to Hanniya Kamran’s thoughtful and thought-provoking Am I? – which Tim Robinson of the Royal Society of Literature described has ‘having a complexity that challenges and undoes stereotypes.’

Themes for the stories were no less wide-ranging – with one taking place inside a refugee camp while another was about a super-strawberry who feared being turned into jam!

The KS3 Journalism prize, presented by journalist and lecturer Nabida Ramdani, covered topics from Women’s Rights, Child Soldiers, Acid Attacks and Grenfell Tower. The maturity of the work produced by these writers (aged 11-14 years) was humbling. The winner was Zaina Kahn for an essay on child soldiers, but the piece that sucker-punched me was Ameerah Abika Kola-Olukotun’s ‘We Must Take Action’ which sensitively recalled a visit to Nigeria. The shrewd observations of contrast between rich and poor and the ever-present fear of abduction by Boko Haram reminded me of Olumide Popoola’s When We Speak of Nothing.

The afternoon included entertainment too, provided by master storyteller Alia Alzougbi and beatbox poet DreadlockAlien (aka Richard Grant).

Patrice Lawrence, author of the wonderful Orangeboy and judge in the KS4 short story award, spoke with inspirational passion of growing up in Brighton with a Trinidadian mother and an Italian step-dad, “always knowing I had other stories to tell.”

Last year’s Writer of the Year, Lamees Mohamed offered advice to her fellow young writers (‘I’m only 14 years old – it’s just what I’ve picked up so far): to read widely, to look at the world around you, to listen, look and care.

This year, the overall award for Writer of the Year for 2017 went to 6 year old Umar Ibrahim, who won not only the KS1 poetry award, but the short story award too, for The Tree Kings, “the custodians of the secrets and scripts of the ancient library of Baghdad,” which opens: “It was night-time. The six moons washed the land in a gentle light."

Judging by Umar’s two entries, if his imagination continues to flourish and grown, we can look forward to a very special talent indeed bursting upon the literary scene in a few years.

Finally, the ceremony closed with the presentation of the Special Recognition Award. Two years ago, when I last attended, the award was given to Malala Yousafzai. This year, it was given to another survivor of an attack upon education. Muhammed Ibrahim Khan is a survivor of the 2014 Peshawar school attack. Muhammad Ibrahim was shot four times whilst trying to help his friends, after helping four other school children to safety. Initially expected to be paralysed for life, he has regained the ability to walk and is now studying for his GCSEs in Britain.

Here is just a flavour of some of the depth and breadth of writing on display:

“Raindrops hit the window and slide down like tears, tiny glass-like droplets through which I watch the sky churn up all the world’s pain and anger.”
Nada El-Hamoud, The Game, winner KS4 short story

“Their hearts shattered by the grief of losing their eldest daughters, they trudged through the village, ghost of what they once were.”
 Ameerah Abika Kola-Olukotun, We Need to Take Action, KS3 journalism

Every day, a large rumbling machine would come, with its four wheels running down the straight tracks either side of super strawberry. He could see two thick legs and heavy boots resting on the machine and between them would be a large, sharp knife that would cut the stems of the fruit.

The Adventures of the Super Strawberry, Haadi Siddiqui, winner, KS2 short story.

My fantastical name is Oggletrog
I live in a cave next to a bog
Each morning I munch-nibble a frog,
Each evening I munch-nobble a hog

Umar Ibrahim, winner, KS1 Poetry

Entries are now open for the 2018 awards, which so if you are eligible, or you know someone who is – tell them to get writing! Can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Research for Fiction: Pleasures and Pitfalls

By Annemarie Neary

Samuel Johnson said that a (wo)man ‘’will turn over half a library to make one book.”

Before you spend half a lifetime haunting Google, consider what kind of research will contribute most. One thing is self-evident, whatever the genre — you need to be able to convince the reader that you know what you’re talking about. That’s as much about imaginative absorption in your fictional world as it is about the accumulation of facts.

Research, in the broadest sense of ‘reading yourself in’, will give you the requisite depth of awareness. No one wants to fall into the trap of ascribing 21st century views to a 2nd century Greek astronomer or to create a framework that is simply not credible.

Patricia Highsmith put it this way “A reader likes to feel that the writer is quite in command of his material and has strength to spare.” So, first of all — and probably before you write a word — you need to be able to write by heart.

In some genres — fantasy and sci-fi for instance — you can make the rules up as you go along; what you are aiming for is internal consistency. But in most fiction, especially genres like historical fiction that purport to offer an insight into a particular world, you will need to supplement imagination with the kind of authority that can only come from general research. This is the type of wide reading that gives you a ‘feel’ rather than a set of undigested facts. This is what will feed your imagination and allow instinct to take over during the writing process.

But when to stop reading?
If you’re working to a deadline, there are the little problems of distraction, time soak, stalled impetus. What are the most useful sources? A rule of thumb — if in doubt, look for the firsthand account. If you’re working on an historical project, are there diaries or letters you can read? If you are writing about a specific contemporary world, are there blogs? Photographs are also useful because they import a degree of objectivity. Often, the most interesting details are the photographer took for granted or didn’t realize she was capturing.

So, find your expert.
In my first novel, one of my characters was a Luftwaffe ‘lamplighter’ – a member of one of the crews who set fires in order to ‘light’ the targets for the bombers following behind. I needed to know about what it felt like to be up there – was he freezing, terrified, bored? I searched online for a primary source, and eventually found someone in Melbourne, Australia whose elderly neighbor, a former Luftwaffe conscript, was willing to interviewed. I emailed my questions and got an audiotape back. The interviewee turned out to be quite a different character from my fictional Oskar, but he taught me about particular aspects of his experience that I’d have struggled to find in a history book — recreational fishing trips, the reality of being a hated occupier in a small Breton town, techniques for removing hornets nests, the iron grip of male comradeship.

At the moment I’m talking to several people about the fabric of everyday life in Algiers — What do you serve someone if they come to your house? What do you do on your day off? How do you celebrate a wedding? Do your friends have sex outside marriage/drink/break other taboos? What is the gossip about politicians? Where are the new cafes opening? What is the attitude to Chinese, Syrian, sub-Saharan migrants? For contemporary settings, online newspapers are also useful — particularly the Lifestyle pages.

Once you’ve felt your way in, it’s best to confine detailed research to the things you really need to know. Even If you are writing a contemporary book, history is very important. You need to understand what has shaped a society or a set of characters, but be careful not to get bogged down in endless detail that just gets shoehorned in. That way madness, eternal procrastination, and clumsy writing lie. And try not to write about places you haven’t visited. Yes, I know you can find out the colour of the tablecloths in Venice’s Taverna La Fenice by simply looking online. But it’s very easy to miss things, too. For the ineffable essence of a place, there’s no substitute for stepping off a plane.

In terms of psychological or medical research, scientific verisimilitude is necessary if you’re claiming your character suffers from this or that syndrome. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry too much. People are infinitely variable and if you avoid labels and imagine yourself into a particular mind and body you can generally get away without too much by way of research.

Once you have a ‘feel’ for time, place, character, nothing succeeds quite like a well-placed detail for bringing a scene to life — think Hilary Mantel’s moth hole in that famous sleeve. If your character is a singer, for example, then I do think you need to understand the unique type of neuroses that tend to afflict such people — their terror of colds, of damage to the vocal chords — and the technical difficulties involved in a singing a particular type of music. Yet again, you can pick up a lot from firsthand accounts.

One telling detail will do much more work for you than acres of downloaded research. For example, if you are writing about a nineteenth century seamstress, have her use the right kind of materials, wear typical clothing, sit in the right kind of chair, and then simply employ a bit of Method writing to bring the scene to life. Spend an evening, or even an hour or two, sitting in a cold room bent over your work in dim lighting, and you should be able to extrapolate enough from that experience combined with your research in order to create a convincing seamstress.

So there we have it — imaginative engagement complemented by targeted research. Wear your character’s shoes, and you won’t go too far wrong.

Annemarie Neary was born in Northern Ireland. She studied literature at Trinity College Dublin, and qualified as a barrister at King's Inns.

Her novel The Orphans is out now in Kindle and hardcover from Hutchinson (Penguin Random House UK). A Windmill Books paperback is forthcoming in April 2018. Siren was published by Hutchinson in 2016, with a Windmill paperback out earlier this year, and A Parachute in the Lime Tree was published by The History Press Ireland in 2012. She is currently working on a fourth novel.

She holds a Masters in Venetian Renaissance art from the Courtauld Insitute, and Venice — its locations, historical events, and artworks — has inspired a number of short stories.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

60 Seconds with Carol Lovekin

By Gillian Hamer

(c) Janey Stevens
Carol is a writer, feminist & flâneuse based in west Wales. She writes contemporary fiction threaded with ghosts, Welsh Gothic and magic.

SNOW SISTERS, was published on 21 September, 2017 by Honno, the Welsh Women's Press. It has been chosen by the Welsh Books Council as their October Book of the Month.

GHOSTBIRD, her first novel, was published in March 2016. The book was chosen as Waterstones Wales and Welsh Independent Bookshops 'Book Of The Month' for April 2016. It was longlisted for the Guardian 'Not the Booker' prize 2016 and nominated for the Guardian Readers' Book of the Year 2016.
Welcome, Carol, tell us a little about you and your writing. 

I live in west Wales in a small flat overlooking the hills which, more often than not, are shrouded in mist. I’m a feminist and something of a flâneuse. My stories are rooted in Wales and concern the nature of family relationships, in particular those between sisters, and mothers and daughters. I lace them with birds, secrets, old houses and a touch of Welsh Gothic.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Waking up each day knowing exactly what the plan is. And being published – twice – is a lovely bonus!
And the worst?

There is no worst! I enjoy every aspect of writing.

Do you have a special writing place?

I’m fortunate to have a spare bedroom which I use as a study.

Which writers to you most admire and why?

I have a particular fondness for Virginia Woolf and never grow tired of reading her diaries and letters. I admire the stylishness of these writers in particular: Edna O’Brien, Daphne du Maurier, A S Byatt, Eimear McBride, Amy Sackville, Alice Hoffman and Harper Lee. So many writers to admire – far too many to list.

If you could choose a different genre to write in for just one book – what would it be?

Having found my niche as a writer, I have no inclination to write in a different genre. I’ve played with stories for children but it’s a unique discipline; I don’t think I have the patience.

What was your inspiration behind your latest novel, Snow Sisters?

Initially, a hankering to write snow scenes! One of the main protagonists in the story – the younger sister, Meredith – was a left-over character from a novel I was never meant to write. I knew I wasn’t done with her and when the notion of a Victorian ghost came (from wherever these ideas do) I knew Meredith, with her insatiable curiosity and courage, was the key to unlocking the ghost’s voice.

What three tips would you offer up-and-coming authors?

Read everything: widely, critically and insatiably. Write every day – even if it’s only a note on the back of your hand – and never, ever use the word ‘aspiring’ about yourself. If you are writing, published or not, you are a writer. 

You can follow Carol here:


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

How Reading Can Help You Become A Successful Teen Fiction Writer by Jane Sandwood

Children’s literature and young adult fiction books are enjoying massive popularity nowadays. Apart from JK Rowling, young adult and children’s literature authors and their publishers are raking in the profits as it was reported that John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” earned Penguin UK more than £4 million, and in 2014, the Children’s Category earned £336.5m. And it’s not only secondary schoolers who are fans of these books—a study revealed that 55% of YA fiction readers are adults. If you’ve got an idea for a great YA novel or series, you may want to dive into the worlds created by Rowling, Green, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, and others to prepare to write your novel. Having a good read can benefit your writing in so many ways, and here’s how reading can help you become a successful teen and YA fiction writer.

It helps you get in touch with your teen self

There’s a reason why so many adults love reading YA books—it reminds older readers of their childhoods and teen years, making these books the perfect escape from their busy adult lives. One of the benefits associated with reading YA is that it helps you get in touch with your teen self, which can be incredibly useful once you begin to write your novel. The more you read, the more you develop an authentic teenage or young adult voice. This makes your book more convincing and relatable to readers who are fans of this genre.

You get to immerse yourself in popular teen culture

Reading YA books set at the present time allows you to immerse yourself in popular teen culture, especially if you need to get caught up in current British teen slang or Millennial slang. If your novel is set in the 2000s, you may need to know how to use “bae” in a sentence, why something or someone is perceived as “goals,” why being “thirsty” has nothing to do with needing a beverage and why “throwing shade” is considered to be rude behaviour. Moreover, reading helps you learn about the latest in teen culture, and a little pop culture reference in your novel can go a long way.

You get to take a productive break

If you’re experiencing a raging case of writer’s block, you might as well re-read “The Hunger Games,” “The Giver,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” or your favourite YA book of the moment. Reading allows you to take a productive break and manage stress while you’re writing your novel, and taking the time to read may give you some ideas on how your story should continue.

When choosing YA books to read or re-read, pick ones that you think you’ll learn from and enjoy. Remember that everything that you learned while reading will be somehow reflected in the way you write. Pick up a YA or teen fiction book today and see how it can benefit your writing.