Guest Blog: The loss of our youthful dreams by Vivienne Tuffnell

I have the absolute pleasure of introducing one of the most unique authors I know. Her books are beautifully written, multilayered stories that are entertaining to read, but also make you think about the issues contained within the pages.

Today’s post is inspired by her latest novel, “Little Gidding Girl”. I purchased a copy in my hands and will be reading and reviewing it soon… so, without further ado,  I’ll hand you over to Vivienne…

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What did you want to be when you were a teenager? What shining golden dream did you hold towards the end of school or college?
Without doing a proper poll, I suspect that few of us achieved those dreams. At fourteen, I still dreamed of becoming an astronaut. By the following year I realised it was never likely to happen. Of all the career paths, that’s possibly one of the least probable for a young woman growing up in the UK. I still have a great fondness for star gazing and astronomy but it’s been a long time since I ever thought I would walk among the stars.

After my finals but before leaving university, it was required that I attend a careers’ interview. Too little, too late, I feel, at that stage but the 80s were a different era, less pressured. When the career’s officer asked what I wanted to do, I told her I wanted to be a writer. She laughed at me. The young me was very hurt and angry at being dismissed like that but the mature me knows only too well that the path I did choose to follow isn’t actually that much less difficult to succeed in than my original one of being an astronaut. At time of writing, there is ONE female, British-born astronaut; though there are a number of stellar female British-born authors, the chances of being listed among those stars is very small indeed.

Little Gidding Girl’s main character is Verity, once a dreamy, love-struck teenager who’d envisaged a life of poetry with her poet boyfriend Nick. The daydreams of a life together, bound with cords of words and with devotion worthy of the world’s favourite love poems, come to an abrupt and tragic end before she even turns eighteen. So too do her talents and ambitions and hopes.

It’s very hard to come back from that kind of loss. In the time between Christmas and midsummer in the year I turned seventeen, three close friends of the same age as me died in three unrelated tragedies. One in a car crash, one from toxic shock syndrome and one from heart failure. I’d known each for years, since we all entered high school together and one I’d known my whole life.
The final death was that of my best friend. Yet much as that changed me, I was not romantically entangled. I’d not planned out a future for us together. I’d known that in the coming years, friendships would probably fade a little, or even dwindle and die. There’d be Christmas cards for some years, perhaps meeting up for drinks in the university holidays, and perhaps the friendships would develop and endure into full adulthood. But for Verity, it was an ending that she never quite recovered from.

Not only did it end that future she and Nick had planned and dreamed about, it also ended a future where she herself grew and developed and blossomed into the woman she was meant to be. So years passed but she remained at heart that bereaved girl who has lost her future.
Yet those dreams and hopes and talents did not die. As the year turns at the autumn equinox, at her mid-point of life, something starts to stir and change. Too long has the past been forgotten and buried, too long have those lost dreams been ignored. And as they come surging to the surface, they begin to wreak havoc in the life of the girl who has been frozen in time.

At seventeen, Verity lost the future she’d craved when Nick, her enigmatic and troubled poet boyfriend, drowned at sea. At thirty-five, in a safe, humdrum and uninspired life, she finds that snatches of the life she didn’t have begin to force their way into her real life. This other life, more vivid and demanding than her actual life, begins to gather a terrible momentum as she starts to understand that her un-lived life was not the poetic dream she had imagined it might be.

Doubting her own sanity as her other life comes crashing down around her in a series of disasters, Verity is forced to re-examine her past, realign her present and somehow reclaim a future where both her own early creative promise and her family can exist and flourish together. Exploring the nature of time itself, the possibilities of parallel universes and the poetic expressions of both, Verity searches to understand why and how Nick really died and what her own lives, lived and un-lived, might truly mean.

‘From the unknown spaces between what is, was, and will be, messages and sendings break through into Verity’s life: are they nightmares of a parallel reality or projections from a love that has flown? Vivienne Tuffnell keeps us guessing with utmost artistry as we trace the interweaving way-marks in pursuit of the truth. Little Gidding Girl kept me enthralled until the very end.’
– Caitlín Matthews, author of Singing the Soul Back Home, and Diary of a Soul Doctor

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If you’re wondering how my writing is going, keep your eyes open for my next blog post…

If you like my blog posts and enjoy reading my books, perhaps once you’ve gone and picked up a copy of Vivienne Tuffnell’s new book, maybe you would like to keep me writing as well?

There are two ways to do that now –

The first is simply to buy the books that I have already published and out there. They’re available through Amazon and Smashwords… and via other e readers like Nook, Kobo and i-Books.

The second is to become one of my Patrons! There are various different levels of Patronage, so I’m sure there will be one to suit everyone’s pocket, not to mention the rewards that my patrons can access…

Plotter vs Pantser: Distraction

As I said last Wednesday, today’s post isn’t going to be me waffling on about something, but from the fingers of James Tallett.

 The post that I’ve written for the Plotter vs Pantser series is on James’ blog, so you’ll have to pop over there to find out what I’ve written on the subject…

I hope you enjoy James’ words!


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            So, I’m a plotter, nominally. This means I am supposed to be more organized than a pantser, or at least I believe that’s the notion. Now, in the matter of the actual writing, I believe that’s the case. I have, for The Four Part Land, all the information categorized into folders, and indeed built an encyclopedia about the world before the first story was written in it.

Unfortunately, that level of organization doesn’t carry over quite so well to the writing life. A quick jaunt through my current WIPs would be Chloddio (edits/rewrites), Breaking an Empire (edits), Laeccan Waters (first draft), Splintered Lands (first draft and edits), Ancient New (first draft and edits), Our Land (first draft), and assorted flash fiction and short stories that are in various stages of editing or drafting. So, I like to keep my mind busy.

With that said, I do focus my main efforts onto a single novel or novella until such time as that particular work is finished. So, I’m currently writing the first draft of Laeccan Waters, and while I will write a variety of flash pieces and short stories between now and the end of August (the expected finish date), I will not be working on Chloddio, Breaking an Empire or Our Land. If I don’t do that, I get so distracted that it takes forever for a single book to finish. As it is, I seem to be able to manage one major novel plus assorted other projects in a year, which is a fast enough pace for me.

One thing I don’t do, and something I know more organized writers take advantage of, is self-set deadlines. I’ve tried them, and they just don’t stick. Indeed, they see me coming, dive off the side, and swim for shore. Now, if someone else made the deadline, be it a contest or NaNoWriMo, I’ll make it, even if I have to sit on the couches between classes at school on the last day to make the deadline. But ones I made myself? They have all the staying power of damp tissue paper in a strong breeze.

I’m even relatively easy to distract from my plots, in as much as I never actually follow them entirely. Oh sure, the main points all get hit. After all, I like writing big battles way too much to skip out on those, and if I don’t hit the main points, the story goes all sorts of flobbery in the middle. But the side details, even the ones I put into the plot? They get ignored as soon as they hit the page. I just write, knowing what the end of each chapter has to be, and the characters tell me how they want to get there. And if they want to get there by swimming across a harbour in the middle of the night being shot at by arrows, then that’s their right, although I’ll call them idiotic twerps later on.

And sometimes, characters want to die. They want to perform a screaming bellyflop off a high tower, or a noble death in self-sacrifice after trying to kill someone by flipping over his head with a sword. And because of that, characters in Laeccan Waters are dead. Not my plans, not in my plot, but they stood up, shook my hand, and walked off the page.

Am I going to let them stay dead? I have no idea, but if I really liked them a lot, I just might perform some necromancy. And if they don’t like it, well, tough on the characters. Characters get to make the little decisions, but damnit, if I like them enough, they are not dying on me forever. I didn’t spend 100k words building them up to have them walk off in the middle of scene six.

And look at that. I was supposed to be talking about distraction and I ended up talking about characters. And I even had an outline for this post.