How to Become a Writer by Katy Haye

I sort of* stumbled upon this brilliant video by independent author Katy Haye. It’s fairly reflective of my writing life and that of many others. So, do take a look at…

*I say “sort of stumbled” as I have recently finished editing Katy’s latest novel and I was adding her glowing testimonial to my blog’s Editing and Critique page and when checking her website link, went to her ‘About Me’ page and clicked on the YouTube link.

Red pen session 008 – critique of The Vertigo Shot, a novel extract by Lae Monie

The eighth red pen podcast was released on Sunday 27th November 2011 and was part of a series of episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards. I am now running these on this blog, and also have a feedback page where authors / readers can swap feedback.

I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this, and will now be running future ones on the blog, initially with the already-recorded episodes (this is the last-but-one) at 5pm daily then every Sunday evening (UK times).

Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope you find that I’m firm but fair. I type my comments for the recording as I read through the story as a reader would think as they read the story, although they would most likely be reading, not analysing, unless they’re writers too!

Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way fiction is constructed and that you have enjoyed reading another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them, then my suggestions for any improvement.

This episode’s piece was emailed to me by crime author Lae Monie who featured as my second Author Spotlight and whose ‘More Hungry Boys’ extract was red pen session number three. It does contain some strong language.

If you have any feedback on this or aspects of my website or blog, I’m always delighted to hear from you – my email address is morgen@morgenbailey.com.

And if you’re feeling brave enough to send me a short story or novel extract (with a brief synopsis please) – 3,000-words maximum – for these red pen blog sessions then feel free.

So without further ado, the story / synopsis and extract, then my feedback…

Synopsis

Darian has been thinking about killing for a long time. And so has his sister Consuela, a bi-polar disorder sufferer who has been self-harming since her teenage years.

On 3 November 2001, on the family country estate, the family is reunited for the wedding anniversary of their parents Cecilia and Reginald Attenwell-Smith. The reunion sets off old grudges. Granddad Barron, the founder of the family empire and Darian, a spoiled, 27-year-old, with no income of his own and many addictions, argue over money. Cecilia, a high-class lady with a string of highly publicized flings and her daughter Consuela, a 29-year-old musician, married to Tito Santorious, a record producer, with a 2 and a half year old baby, Kylie, and a dangerous mental disorder increasingly out of control, are set off by each other’s idiosyncrasies. Barron, enraged by what he regards as, ‘’the family’s despicable conduct’’, cuts off Darian’s allowance and refuses to pay off his creditors then dismisses his own son Reginald from the role of MD for lack of ‘’suitable interest’ in the company.’’ His plan is to regain control of a family that he feels is rapidly falling apart. His actions throw the family into turmoil. Reginald, terrified that his wife Cecilia is going to leave him, pleads with the patriarch. On her part, Cecilia is now frantically looking at ways to maintain her expensive lifestyle and is less interested in solving her son Darian’s money problems and finally showing her true colours. ‘’It’s time you take responsibility, Darian. I can’t bail you out every time. I cannot. I won’t. You’re becoming a liability.’’

Alone, helpless, Darian steals a silver set from the family city residence to pay for his increasing debts and expensive lifestyle. The ‘’theft’’ doesn’t sit well with Cecilia, who is concerned about Barron’s reaction if he ever finds out. She pushes her son to ‘’Get the silver back!’’ giving him an ultimatum.

Each with their demons and feeling under pressure, Darian and Consuela fuel each other’s hatred for their family members fantasizing on countless ways of killing them and then one night, only a few days after the party, Darian’s violent fantasies turn into reality during a massive row with his grandfather. Turning up unexpectedly during the murders, Consuela, her son and Darian get on the run, but after a few days, Consuela’s and her son’s bodies are discovered on the grounds of an abandoned farm. Darian also turns up. Extremely disturbed, he claims not to know anything about the events of that fateful night. The police have no reason to investigate further. A phone call from the estate made when the murders were supposed to have taken place have Barron pleading for help, ”‘Please, come quick. My niece is gone crazy and is killing us all.”

Continue reading

Guest post: Fiction Writing: Finding Inspiration within Real Events by Barbara Jolie

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of taking inspiration from our surroundings, is brought to you by Barbara Jolie.

Fiction Writing: Finding Inspiration within Real Events

For many, one of the most difficult aspects of writing fiction is finding inspiration. Fiction writing requires a careful balance between writing stories and ideas that are fantastic and magical, while also being believable and approachable. Finding ways to create stories, plots, and characters that demonstrate your creativity, but are also relatable to the average reader can be a challenge. That being said, almost all authors will agree that some aspects of their fictional writing consist of aspects from their actual lives. Whether it is merely a character or an aspect of a character that is inspired by someone you know or it’s an entire plotline that feels very familiar, we pull inspiration from events that actually happen a lot of the time. This doesn’t make our writing any less fictional. It is these real events and real people that help inspire our writing and enable us to write pieces that feel familiar even among the fantastic.

At one point or another in every author’s career inspiration becomes a challenge. Struggling with finding a writing subject, moving a plot forward, or developing a character can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. It’s easy to feel defeated when inspiration fails us. Don’t give up hope. Of course, there will be times of struggle and times of success in any pursuit. If you find yourself struggling to find a writing topic or you just don’t feel inspired by what you’ve already started working on, take these thoughts into consideration.

The best way to write something that you really believe in is to write about what you know. To some degree this means that you are writing from your own experience. Now, this is not to say that you have to write a memoir or a non-fiction piece; it just means that you need to draw from your own personal experiences and stories. Some of the most engaging pieces draw from real life events. Creating characters that truly feel familiar to readers usually involves writing off of someone you actually know. The character does not have to resemble that person exactly by any means, but you can draw things from that person to place in your character. Even just taking a situation that you or someone you know has dealt with and building your characters responses to that situation from a true event can help to inspire a truly meaningful reading (and writing) experience.

Many writers draw from their own experiences to perpetuate their craft. Take, for example, one of the most prolific and celebrated authors of our modern age Joan Didion. Didion has written within the fiction genre, non-fiction genre, plays, screenplays, and essays. Her work is critically acclaimed and draws inspiration from numerous events and characters within her real life. Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking and her most recent piece Blue Nights examine elements of her family life and the circumstances of her husband and daughter’s deaths. These books (though not fiction) demonstrate how unfamiliar scenes can be made accessible through familiar feelings and character responses. Both novels spend much of their immediate plots sitting in hospital rooms, exploring doctor’s discussions, and examining medical terms. Didion draws on her experience with illness, hospitals, and eventually death to illuminate the very human feeling of grief, helplessness, and loss.

Think about your own personal experiences and what you can draw from them. Of course, many times we insert aspects of our actual lives into our fictional writing without even really realizing it. This is what writing is all about. But, if you find yourself struggling to really make a character or scene feel real and accessible to the reader, consider your own life. Think about college roommates, important life events, walking the line at graduation, studying the first subject in college that really inspired you—these aspects of your own life can help you create scenes and characters that come alive. To some degree or another, you have to place yourself in your craft. Think of how you or the people around you would react when they are placed in the situation that your characters are placed in. Even if your characters aren’t college students or lying in a hospital bed, those feelings, emotions, and responses you have in those situations may translate well to your character’s situation.

As fiction writers, we can gain from these moments of self-exploration the significance of human emotion in our writing. Even if the setting or plotline is completely unfamiliar (as a college dorm room scene may be for some of us or a fairy kingdom is for all of us), it is the underlying human emotion evoked within our writing that makes a story successful.

That was great, thank you, Barbara!

Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger for onlineclasses.org. She writes about advantages of online classes and is particularly interested in writing and language education. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with memoirist Candy Marie Bridges – the five hundred and fifty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: How To Use Familiar Surroundings To Write Reality Into Fantasy by Andy Barten

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing what we know, is brought to you by Andy Barten.

How To Use Familiar Surroundings To Write Reality Into Fantasy

If you are a writer, you probably know the world that surrounds you and the situations you find yourself a part of can contribute greatly to your creative visions. Sometimes, though, writers can have writer’s block which makes it difficult to come up with even the easiest of ideas to write about. If you are a writer looking for some inspiration, here are ways you can use familiar surroundings to write reality into fantasy.

1. Observe People

Observing people can give you great inspiration for writing. Spend a few hours hanging out in a public place like a mall or other heavily populated area and just become a people watcher. Each person has their own inner story and it can be very interesting to figure out what that story might be. Observing people and imagining their stories may help you to develop characters in your own written work.

2. Visit A Park

If you really want to blend reality with fantasy, there is no better thing you can do than go on a nature walk through the woods. Not only will the scenery be helpful with providing the scenic backdrop for your story, but it may get your creative juices really going when you think about the tiny creatures that might live in trees. Visiting a park will help to provide you with plenty of inspiration for your writing endeavors.

3. Your Family

Families can be a great source of inspiration when using the familiar to write reality into fantasy. Family relationships can often be difficult, yet rewarding, and the dynamics of family relationships can often lead to an abundance of material for what you want to write about.

4. Drive Around Town

A lot of stories are created using some sort of town setting, and you can easily find inspiration for this by cruising around your home town. Maybe your town includes a neighborhood full of beautiful and majestic homes and you’d like to include a neighborhood like that in your story. Or, maybe there is a colorful character your town is known for and you’d like to obtain inspiration from him or her to add a little something special to your story. Just take a drive and look around town and you’ll be surprised at how much inspiration surrounds you.

5. A Difficult Relationship

Perhaps you are involved in a difficult relationship and you’d like to use parts of it as inspiration for your written work. Difficult relationships happen to many people, and there is much that can be learned through these types of relationships. Perhaps in your story, a difficult person becomes one who is the voice of reason in your story. Or, you can help shed light to the difficulties in relationships that many people deal with.

If you are looking for the creative inspiration needed to write, all you need to do is look around your familiar situations to turn reality into fantasy. If you try each of the above 5 listed tips, chances are you will suddenly be inspired to write the book you’ve always wanted to.

That would be great. Thank you, Andy!

Andy Barten writes about literature, self-help & finding affordable quotes for group health insurance.

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with romantic comedy author Samantha Stroh Bailey – the five hundred and fifty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: How our environments and music can influence our writing by Toinette Thomas

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of using our surroundings, is brought to you by multi-genre author Toinette Thomas.

How our environments and music can influence our writing

I’ve been involved in many discussions as of late about the different methods one uses to write. Everyone seems to have their own systems for capturing ideas, taking notes and making timelines, and even developing settings and characters. I think the most interesting conversations that have taken place in the journey of discovering methods, have been discussions about the different environments that people actually write in.

When it comes to sitting down and actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, every environment seem to be different in their subtleties, but I’ve noticed a few standards across the board.

First, there is the Silent Box. This is when the writer finds a place of seclusion away from all distractions. Whatever their preferred drafting medium is, whether it be pen and paper for some sort of mechanized or computing device, that’s all they bring with them. This writer is there to write. They have an idea that they don’t won’t to fade away and they don’t want to waste their time struggling to focus.

Next, there is the Social Recorder. This is when a writer likes to be around others when they work. They have ideas, but they rely on their own reactions to what’s happening around them, to bring the ideas together in a story. These are the writers who hang out in coffee shops and bookstores. This writer is all about living life and taking great effort to ensure that their story flows with real life emotion and interaction. This writer wants to be a part of their work and wants their work to be a part of their life.

Then, there’s the Traveling Act.  This writer may or may not have a set place to do their writing, but where ever it is, the ambience has to be just right for what they are writing at that moment.  This writer is about being consumed with a scene, as if they were writing a screenplay, and in cases, they are. This writer has a changing, yet particular, atmosphere they like to be in when writing a dramatic scene that will be very different from where or how they are, when writing a comedic scene. Many of these traveling acts will write in different rooms of their house, visit different treasure spots around town, and listen to a variety of music for inspiration. I’ve even spoken with a few who will dress according to what it is they want to write.

I think of myself as more a silent box writer. I like to focus, but I don’t believe that labels are permanent. I do often use music for inspiration, but only when I’m stuck. When I’m having trouble developing a certain aspect of a story, I find two things to be of great help.

Recently, Pinterest has been good for find visual cues to help my writing process. The way all the pinboards are categorized, all I have to do is search for what I’m looking for. Sure, I could to the same thing with Google images, but I find Pinerest has a personal touch that is invaluable when trying to capture emotion. Then there’s music. Music is so varied; there is truly something for every subject. I personally find that having a good collection of varied movie soundtracks to be very helpful. If I need inspiration for a sci-fi piece, I seek out Star Was or the Matrix. If I’m working on romance, I seek out Moonstruck or Sleepless in Seattle.

Regarding my book Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel, I mostly stayed in my silent box while writing this story, but I did venture out a few times to sample the soundtracks to Underworld, Moonstruck, and Phantom of the Opera. I hope you enjoy this synopsis: A wealthy doctor in search of a purpose and an isolated outcast searching for acceptance, meet online and discover that they may be just what the other has been looking for. Mira’s a woman who believes in what she knows and Giovanni’s a man who knows better than to think he truly knows anything. When Mira decides to meet Giovanni face to face, for the first time, at his secluded country home, their journey truly begins. Mira strives to help Giovanni embrace his humanity, though with his freakishly gray skin and tall stature, it is obvious that at least part of him isn’t human. As Mira and Giovanni float in and out of realistic dream sequences and come face to face with their greatest fears, Giovanni undergoes a transformation that neither of them is prepared to deal with. Passing through the winter and meeting the spring with mixed emotions of grief and content, Giovanni and Mira prepare to take on all the powers of heaven and hell to fulfill their united purpose.

So, that’s how I write. I’m a writer in a silent box, but every now and then, I come out to seek inspiration with the tunes of my favorite soundtracks. What kind of writer are you?

Thank you, Toinette.

A self-proclaimed techie and foodie, Toi Thomas was born in Texas, but considers Virginia to be her home. Growing up in Dallas, Toi had a strong interest in reading fiction and loved to watch movies. Even today, many of Toi’s friends come to her for the answers to movie trivia. Working with computers and cooking lavish meals have become reoccurring pastimes for the Virginia Beach teacher’s assistant, but now Toi wants to entertain the world with the first installment of her new books series. She is thrilled to take the world on a journey to discover the secrets of the Eternal Curse.

You can find out more about her and her book via…

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with chick lit novelist Sofia Essen – the five hundred and twenty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: The inspiration behind Prime Time (part 2) by Jane Wenham-Jones (& recipe!)

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of the inspiration behind her latest novel Prime Time, is brought to you by novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones.

The inspiration behind ‘Prime Time’ (part 2) by Jane Wenham-Jones (& recipe!)

My new novel Prime Time was inspired by some of the bizarre things I’ve got up to, in the name of publicity for my various books. This has included appearing on a variety of TV programmes which has sometimes been huge fun and sometimes led to me watching the re-run through my fingers…

Here’s something I’ve learned along the way…

Don’t buy the wrong potatoes

Presenter Ross Kelly should not have been surprised when I was a walking disaster on The Heaven and Earth Show because he’d worked with me before.

Then I was cooking (a loose term as the running gag in this house is that I don’t know where the kitchen is) for a programme called Just for Starters on UKTV Food.

Remember what Andrea Zemmel said about buying ’em a drink and hoping? Well I didn’t have to do that for Trevor McCallum, director of Red Door TV, who made this series for the Good Food Channel (then UKTV Food) – he bought one for me. Trevor was a regular in the wine bar I co-owned for a couple of years and soon picked up on my media tart tendencies – perhaps it was the way I kept serving up my publicity shots along with his wine and shouting “Make Me A Star!”

Trevor suggested that I, along with my friend and co-owner of the bar, Jacqui and one of our staff, Will, might like to take part in one of the programmes. We had to prepare a course each and then come together at the end as it to have a dinner party.

I chose to do the main course.

This was mainly so I could demonstrate one of the few things I know I can do well, which is to make perfect mashed potato (the secret of which, since you ask, is to use hot milk. Cold milk does something funny to the starch in potatoes. Hot milk makes them all smooth and creamy. Try it – you’ll be amazed).

I usually do my supermarket shopping in Waitrose (product placement, Mr John Lewis?) but on this particular occasion, for reasons I now forget, I was forced into a rival supermarket to get my ingredients.

This one did not have the helpful little signs I was used to: suitable for mashing etc so I bought “general purpose” spuds, which, despite being endlessly boiled, remained like bullets and responded to my enthusiastic wielding of the masher by shooting from the saucepan and hitting the cameraman.

We had to stop filming while everyone became hysterical and then pulverise the things with a hand-held blender. The resultant mass was like over-thick wallpaper paste. Later we had to eat it.

It tasted fine. The potato was the topping to my own recipe, a Mediterranean twist to a British classic – Spicy Turkish Goatherd’s Pie. I have just done a Google search and found that amusingly, the recipe is still up on the internet – now more boringly named Turkish Shepherd’s Pie and not attributed to me. (Although I suppose the latter is fair enough since all I did was look up how Delia made the standard version and then add half my spice cupboard.) Two web-surfers / viewers of the Good Food Channel have even tried it.

“very very yummy!!!!!!!” says StellaN65738 while ‘Pammi Wammi’ thought it so delicious she made double and froze it for her husband who “adores” it.

I am popping it in here in case you’re short of an idea for dinner yourself.

NB in case you are wondering what the hell all this has to do with promoting oneself as a writer, I popped a postcard featuring the cover of one of my novels up on the dresser in my kitchen before beginning my culinary performance and the cameraman obligingly panned in on it.

I was working on the basis that viewers might think: She can’t cook – let’s see if she can write instead….

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the lamb and fry, stirring now and then, until the mince has cooked and browned. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. Mix together the cumin, paprika, curry powder, cinnamon and turmeric with the chopped coriander, yoghurt and tomato puree.
  3. Add the spice paste to the browned mince, mixing well. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the red wine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the basil and chopped tomatoes, mixing well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water until tender; drain and return to the pan. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.
  5. Heat the milk in a small pan and add to the drained potatoes. Add the butter and mash until smooth. Mix in the spring onions and 55g of grated Cheddar. Season with freshly ground pepper.
  6. Transfer the spiced lamb to an ovenproof dish. Top with the mashed potato, spreading it evenly. Run a fork across the surface of the mashed potato to add texture. Sprinkle over the remaining Cheddar.
  7. Bake the shepherd’s pie for 45 minutes until golden-brown. Serve with a green or Greek salad as a side-dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 450g minced lamb
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 3 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 50ml red wine
  • a small bunch of basil, torn
  • 450g canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 150ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 115g cheddar cheese, grated
  • Greek salad or green salad, to serve

Thank you, Jane, I feel hungry now! 🙂 I’m the same about my kitchen and a friend bought me (as a birthday present a couple of years ago) a sign saying ‘I only have a kitchen because it came with the house’… so true. 🙂

A little more about ‘Prime Time’…

Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV, she’s too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after her husband left her for a younger, thinner replacement. But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there’s a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they’re going downhill elsewhere. While Laura’s caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte’s husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret, Stanley’s got problems at school, work’s piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte’s marriage, things go horribly wrong. The champagne’s flowing as Laura’s prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there’s a “Day Ten” …

And now about Jane…

Jane is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? a guide to the art of book and self promotion.  As a freelance journalist she has appeared in a wide range of women’s magazines and national newspapers and writes regular columns for Woman’s Weekly and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt. Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops and give talks on all aspects of the writing process. She is also a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled How to have an affair and get away with it…) It was those – sometimes hair-raising – TV experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see http://www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com. Prime Time is available as a paperback and eBook.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with paranormal romance and fantasy author Amanda McLain-Young – the four hundred and thirty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: The inspiration behind ‘Prime Time’ (part 1) by Jane Wenham-Jones

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of the inspiration behind her latest novel Prime Time, is brought to you by novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones. This is part 1 of 2, part 2 will appear next Sunday evening. 🙂

Never work with animals or children…

On The Wright Stuff they did my make-up but I wished I’d done it myself. Comments from friends ranged from “Did you have a hangover?” to “Did you need a doctor?” to “How come they made you look like Esther Rantzen? (I wish! Frankly I would much rather have resembled the fragrant Esther than the hatchet-faced crone I appeared).

Heavy purple eyeliner never helps and once again it was the sort of lighting that left one appearing rather raddled. Or as Lyn-Marie put it this time: “Yes love, you looked like the sort of woman who’d leave her kids on their own while you went off to Turkey for three weeks.”

I was on the programme as a result of the newspaper article I’d written about longing to escape from the family, and, against my better judgement, had taken my son with me. He was going to be in London with me anyway, and the researcher thought it would add something to the proceedings if he were sitting in the audience to witness my diatribe about the current media trend to make one feel guilty if skipping round making fairy cakes and having baby princess manicures wasn’t one’s idea of total fulfilment.

To my surprise, he was quite keen. So despite my misgivings – I did not want my little soldier traumatised if my opinion that playing shops was mind-numbingly dull and infinitely inferior to going out with one’s girlfriends and getting slaughtered*, proved so controversial with the stay-at-home-I-simply-love-wearing-a-pinny brigade that I was subjected to a whole lot more Kilroy-style berating from the back rows – off we went.

And as it turned out, I sounded a veritable earth mother compared to the phone-ins.

Sharon from Essex called to say she had seven kids and didn’t like any of them (why go on breeding like a rabbit, then dear?) and the lines got jammed with an assortment of parents attesting to the crushing tedium of child-rearing in general.

Beginning to worry about the effect this might be having on these unfortunate children – nobody really wants to hear one’s mother telling the whole country how boring one is – I felt moved to mount an impassioned declaration of my adoration for my son, who went white. “Did you have to say you loved me?” he demanded afterwards, when he’d been given sweet tea and had a blanket put round him. “My friends might have been watching that.”

He claims to be scarred by the experience still and has refused to get involved with any sort of publicity I have ever done since.

*I should like to make it clear that I have loved being a mother even if I was never the gluing and sticking sort and still feel an immense gratitude towards the inventor of PlayStation. The Yummy Mummy however, is an important role-model and has a vital part to play for those of us who are writers. May I suggest that you pal up with one who spends school holidays so overcome with joy that she’s got her little darlings 24/7 that she won’t notice if yours go round there too.

…Or hairdressers
Remember The Salon? The “reality” show where members of the public could go and get their hair done in a TV studio converted into a hairdresser’s where a lot of juveniles spent all day prodding each other and sniggering?

I’d never seen the programme when I had the brilliant idea of appearing on it. Others told me it was dreadful bilge but I had my eye on the viewing figures –which were huge.

For the last eighteen months I’d sported fetching purple and turquoise hair extensions to match the cover of my first novel. So wot a laugh, I thought, to have my whole head a mass of pink, cappuccino, orange and black in the shades of the second one. The Salon would have a wacky hairstyle to create and I’d get to witter on about my new book to an eager nation.

I spent some considerable time tracking down direct email addresses / phone numbers for the producers who weren’t as immediately thrilled by the prospect as I’d hoped. We had protracted discussions over whether I could show the book (I couldn’t) and whether it was OK to say what it was about (it was), what constituted “plugging” and if I could be trusted not to do it every two minutes.

I had to spend hours making a colour card by – rather artistically I thought – chopping a book cover into tiny pieces and creating a mosaic on the back of a postcard so that nothing remained that could vaguely identify it having come from a book by anyone, least of all me.

Despite all the negotiations, it was still confiscated the moment I arrived at the studio in Balham High Street (somewhat hot and flustered having run up it the wrong way), by a tall skinny bloke of about sixteen who sighed, scratched his head and disappeared to “check with legals”.

Someone else of fourteen arrived. “You can say you’ve written a book, but you won’t mention the title, will you?” she asked anxiously. What should I do if Mel (she who was supposed to be doing my hair) asked what it was, I enquired. The fourteen-year old looked stricken. She didn’t know.

After I’d made a lot of promises I didn’t mean a word of, I was eventually allowed into the studio, where “Mel” examined the colours on the card that had been grudgingly returned, and went into a huddle with John-have-I-told-you-I’m-gay-for-the-fourteenth-time who made a show of mincing over to inspect my head.

“Nah,” he said, “we can’t do em. Not wiv ‘enna on it.”

I tried arguing the toss until he got petulant. Having bleach on top of henna, he insisted, would make my hair go green and fall out. This would make gripping television, I suggested. “NO!” he squealed.

With no colours there was no story and although I made a point of droning on about the book while Mel did things to my hair that basically left it the same as it had been before, and gave her a lot of hot tips on how to find someone more interesting once she’d been married to her fiancé – another adolescent – for ten years and he’d started grunting, I knew very well they wouldn’t show it.

So I amused myself by watching Frankie Detorri being peroxided in the next chair along, and the “staff” alternately sulking and giggling over the weirder of my fellow clients (on the other side of me was a 72 year old bloke in a skirt having his nails done and boasting about where he had piercings) (trust me– you don’t want to know) and made mental notes in case there was an article in the whole experience.

Which, as I later wrote, was like a cross between being in a group of thirteen year-olds in the school toilets and finding yourself unexpectedly in a transvestite club.

But all in all, I walked out of The Salon looking much the same as when I went in. I was on air for about three nano seconds having my hair dried. Friends loyally watching, blinked and missed it.

All was not entirely lost. I did get an article out of it – with a book plug at the end – and the girl who washed my hair emailed me later to tell me she’d bought a copy of Perfect Alibis. A lot of trouble to go to for one sale maybe but hey – it’s filled a page or two now.

Thank you, Jane! A little more about ‘Prime Time’…

Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV, she’s too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after her husband left her for a younger, thinner replacement. But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there’s a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they’re going downhill elsewhere.

While Laura’s caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte’s husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret, Stanley’s got problems at school, work’s piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte’s marriage, things go horribly wrong. The champagne’s flowing as Laura’s prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there’s a “Day Ten” …

And now about Jane…

Jane is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? a guide to the art of book and self promotion.

As a freelance journalist she has appeared in a wide range of women’s magazines and national newspapers and writes regular columns for Woman’s Weekly and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.

Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops and give talks on all aspects of the writing process. She is also a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’) It was those – sometimes hair-raising – TV experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see http://www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com. Prime Time is available as a paperback and eBook. Jane returns next Sunday with more about her eventful life. 🙂

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with multi-genre author Marion Grace Woolley – the four hundred and thirty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.75 – Deborah Parker

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the seventy-fifth, is of Deborah L Parker.

Deborah L. Parker was born in the rural town of Waverly Virginia and has travelled many paths since then that have provided hard yet hearty lessons. In her motivational memoir, Navigating Life’s’ Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey, she creatively takes readers along as she chronicles the insights from her determined single parent upbringing in the home of her wise grandparents, then on to college, an army reserve officer career to corporate manager, entrepreneur, breast cancer survivor and now published author. Sharing her setbacks and successes around family, career, health and relationship issues has profoundly touched the readers of this well-received book.

Now Deborah manages a motivational speaking, leadership and personal development workshop company, The DPJ Training Group, located in Leesburg where she specializes in seminars and coaching on career, diversity, management and communications topics. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from the College of William and Mary and M.A. in Human Resources Development from George Mason University.

A love for writing started early in Deborah’s life so while in college she often asked her professors if she could write papers for extra grade credit. Taking that passion forward, she has authored articles on life strategies, business and community issues for publications such as the Alexandria Old Town Crier, Washington Afro Newspaper, Metro Herald and Arizona’s Black Executive Magazine.

Deborah is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Metro DC Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development.

And now from the author herself:

Often times I’m asked how I came to write my book. And my answer to those who ask about the process to seeing your name on a book? It will happen at the appointed time. Wait for it! Just put your words down somewhere.  Mine came through a series of spiritual yet challenging life events; the most recent was the passing of my dear mother in March 2010.  From the intense and agonizing grieving process this book was born, so I see my mother as its spiritual co-author. So I see my book as a charge and blessing from above.
Writing it has been on my radar for a while.

I remember first mentioning my authorship intent to family and friends about 16 years ago. Then I started writing—capturing life’s glories and tragedies as I saw them. A few years later as I exclaimed this vision to others, the comments ranged from supportive to discouraging—but I wasn’t necessarily deterred. Continuing to write, I cataloged more stories as my life’s map unfolded.

Just speaking the words of my writing goal gave this project life—sprouting the seeds. God gradually put a series of experiences in my life—some great and some not so great—to get me to this point. Responses and residue from the issues of family and friends gave me new insights for addressing the travails of my odyssey.

Currently in my professional life I conduct training programs on leadership and personal development. Participants in my workshops—through their comments and questions—validated my thoughts of writing this book and alerted me that so many of us are struggling and looking for answers. The rollercoaster nature of the social, political and economic climate of this country pointed to a need for new maps to circumvent these troubled times. My own life’s roadblocks started to reveal instructive destinations…and this book evolved.

Through the years I stayed on Persistence Parkway—revisiting what I’d written, attending writer’s groups and keeping the goal alive. I also stopped at Waiting Wall to assess where I was on my path and then tweak my manuscript. The original writings focused on everyone else’s story. When I showed this manuscript my oldest brother, he asked me why I didn’t share more of my life. He said, “People like to read about other people’s lives…” and I’d done many positive things in spite of our rough beginnings and he was proud of me. My brother reemphasized the fact that we all have a story to tell. Not long after that conversation I attended the funeral of a saved saint—an old friend of my family’s. The choir sang her favorite hymn, “Tell it When You Get it Right”.
God is allowing me to tell my story and the time is right.

I have more books to come in this genre that readers will find reflective and motivating!

Thank you, Deborah. You can find out more about Deborah and her book at: http://navigatinglifesroadways.com

‘Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey’ is available from Amazon.com and createspace.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical (WW2) biographer Cyndee Schaffer – the three hundred and thirty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are also now on Amazon, with more to follow. I also have a quirky second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales.

I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s ‘Contact me’ page or plain and simple, email me.

Guest post: 3 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing Outside of Academia by Maria Rainier

Tonight’s guest blog post is brought to you by freelance writer and blogger Maria Rainier.

3 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing Outside of Academia

Writing is an extremely difficult task. We all know this and we all know that there are certain environments that encourage our writing. Discovering writing in an academic atmosphere is a wonderful thing. We are surrounded by other people our age that love writing and do it themselves on a regular basis. We have professors and mentors guiding us through the process, challenging us with new ideas and styles, and we gain constant feedback from our peers and professors. It’s a writer’s dream—we’re constantly motivated to write. In a collegiate setting we are forced to read constantly, talk about writing, write ourselves—everything encourages our imagination and exploration of the word. For that reason, it can be very difficult to find that inspiration outside of those collegiate walls. Since graduating college, I have had a lot of difficulty finding my voice in my writing again. Without that constant outside practice, encouragement, and feedback, I’ve really struggled to get going with my writing again. These writing tactics have helped me find the motivation and inspiration I need to continue writing each day without the academic culture holding my hand.

Start a Blog

Everyone is turning to the blogosphere for one reason or another these days. Blogging can be a wonderful way to find inspiration for your writing. For one, by maintaining a blog you will be forced to write more often. Use your blog as a way to get some writing time in each and every day or week. With so many people entering the blogosphere, there are communities of bloggers popping up in every area. Join the writing blog community and get feedback from your fellow writers online. This is a great way to put yourself into an environment that encourages regular writing and supportive criticism. Moreover, as we all know, good writing is all about regular practice. Maintaining a blog requires that you post regularly and think about your next post at all times. There are many different ways that you can maintain a writing blog. Use your blog as an open thought journal for your writing specifically. Putting your ideas and creativity out into the world is a wonderful way to gain perspective on your writing. If you don’t want to maintain personal blog, pick a topic that interests you and focus on that. Even if you aren’t writing blog posts about your writing, just the practice and consistency of writing posts about something is wonderful for a writer.

Join a Book Club

One reason that writing comes so naturally in an academic atmosphere is because we are required to read literature all the time as students. Reading is the best way to gain insight into the writing process and offers endless inspiration for your own writing. I find that if I’m constantly reading poetry and fiction, I’m much more inclined to write myself. For this reason, it is important that you continue to read regularly outside of the college world. Joining a book club with other writers or peers interested in literature can be a great way to keep up with your reading. Just conversing about writing is a great way to find inspiration and motivation in your own work. Even if you think you can keep up with your reading without the support of a book club, joining club can be a wonderful way to discuss what you’ve read with others and gain different perspectives.

Explore the Real World

Of course, getting out and creating some a real experience is one of the best ways to motivate new ideas for your fiction. When we are in school, we are constantly thinking about our writing and academics. This can make it difficult to find writing subjects outside of that mindset. In the “real world” you can find ways to explore new viewpoints and new environments. If you find yourself struggling to write after you have graduated and are no longer in that academic setting, try seeking motivation in your surroundings. Watch the people around you and pay attention to the situations that take place in your everyday life. This is one of the best ways to create characters and scenes that are universally approachable and meaningful. Take a drive, go to a new town nearby, and (most importantly) pay attention to the things going on around you. There is a lot of inspiration potential in the everyday things we often overlook. A good way to stay on top of these inspiring real world experiences is to carry a notebook with you and keep notes of things that catch your interest. This experience notebook can act as a wonderful blueprint for your next writing endeavor.

Thank you, Maria, I’m all for blogging!

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online colleges, online degrees etc. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with author Andrew Kirby – the two hundred and eighty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords and you can now take part in my Forum!