Satyulemas is coming…

Mid-Winter is a tricky time of year for me.
Firstly there’s all that nonsense about Christmas being warred upon. People get up in arms about the strangest of things – who really cares what sort of paper cups that Starbucks is using?
It’s annoying and amusing at the same time.

Then there’s all the hoo-har about what we should be saying:
“Merry Christmas!”
“Happy Holidays!”
“No, it’s Christmas…”
“It’s not just Christmas, there’s:
Saint Nicholas Day (Christian),
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican),
St. Lucia Day (Swedish), Hanukkah (Jewish),
Christmas Day (Christian),
Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian),
Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish),
Kwanzaa (African American),
Omisoka (Japanese),
Yule (Pagan),
Saturnalia (Pagan)…”
“We’re a Christian Country everyone should be saying Merry Christmas!”
That conversation is always more annoying than amusing, because it drags way too much religion into a season that should be more about Family and Love than which version of god you worship.

Then the Seasonal Affective Disorder hits – the dark mornings and short days, coupled with predominantly cold and damp weather make me feel depressed, ill, irritable and definitely not festive.

I grew up as an Anglican, which meant that I went to church carol services like Christingle and church christmas parties. I sang the carols and bought into the stories that were told… it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realised it wasn’t the religion I wanted to be a part of.
But I still loved the music and the happiness that the carol services seemed to bring to the children at that time of year.

After I met TOH, we spent Christmas with his family and for several years we had holidays full of music, wine, family and fun… until his mum left us and although his sister tried hard to keep it going, the holiday fell apart.
For a while it was hard to keep the festive feeling going. We managed to do Christmas itself, mainly for our kids sake. Being in Guiding helped because we’d do carol concerts and christmas activities.

After we had so many problems with housing and finance, TOH and I decided that we’d celebrate what we called “Satyulemas” – this starts on the 17th December  (Saturnalia),  takes in Yule on the 21st  (Astronomical Midwinter) and covers Christmas on the 25th Dec, then finishes the day after my youngest Daughter’s birthday.

So this year, I’ve decided to start a new tradition –

 

Three of these books have homes to go to… but the fourth one (signed & dedicated)  is going to be going to the winner of my Satyulemas Competition!

There will also be E Book Copies for four runners up.

All you have to do is comment on this Blog post with your favourite, book related,  Mid-Winter Holiday Memory.

The competition will end by midnight (GMT) on Satyulemas – 17th December 2018 – the winner will be notified by email, so don’t forget to leave a contact email!

Feel free to share the news – I want to hear about everyone’s memories and hopefully make a new one for someone!

 

 

 

 

How??!!

How do you make your writing unputdownable?
How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
In short, how do you make Readers want to read your books?

As a writer, one of the things that I do is read. I read Non Fiction for interest, research and inspiration. I read The Internet (which is an interesting mix of Fiction and Non fiction) for the same reason.
When I read fiction, it’s for interest & escape (genres in which I have no intention of writing in), to learn how other people write and finally, to try and piece together the answers to the questions that I started with.

I’ve read all sorts of books, all different genres.

The truly great writers all have one thing in common. They have (whether they know it or not) figured out those answers and are making use of them.

When I read a book where the writer has used these answers, I am sucked so deeply into the story that it’s an effort to get out of it. I have to be yanked out by the hair to make dinner or help PW go to the bathroom or go shopping…

I’d love to be able to make my own writing that compelling.
There are times when I read something that I have written and I think I might have it… and usually it all falls apart on me moments later.
So how do I do it?

Well I started by watching the work of some of the best writers in the business… yes, that’s right, I said watching.

When was the last time that you watched an animation? I’m not talking the nonsensical stuff that they put out for the littlest of children; I’m talking properly developed, well thought out animated movies.
Studio Ghibli, Square Enix, Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks – there are many others, but these are the biggest and they have the best writers that they can afford working with their teams.

It’s no secret that I’d love to work with any of them… if I ever had the opportunity.

The films that make billions in box office takings aren’t just because of the quality of the animation or the design of the characters and environments – it’s because the story sucks you into the film itself and you’re not just watching anymore, you’re living it through the eyes of the characters. A lot of that comes from the writing – the compelling stories and the inability to look away because even if it’s cringeworthy or a little scary, you watch from behind your hands… you have to because you want to know what is about to happen.

And when they’re finished, you feel satisfied but a little sad because you’ve had to leave the world.

I love animation because it gives me an escape that live action films rarely manage. The ones that we have bought on Blu Ray are the best ones, they’re ones that will suck me in and keep me watching. They’re the ones that give me that satisfied but sad feeling.
There are live action films that do it; oddly, they’re ones like the Marvel Comic Universe films, Star Wars films, the Potter Universe. Some of the DC Universe films have done it; the Michael Keaton Batman’s and the first two Christian Bale Batman’s, and I think that Wonder Woman might be another (I obviously haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like it might work!)

Obviously films (whether animated or not) are a tricky subject; so many things influence their success, so it clearly isn’t “just” the writing that makes them great. But great writing will produce at worst an “okay” film; at best it produces a “superb” film. The writing has to be there for the actors, directors, producers etc to work with.

So how do books and movies intersect?

Obviously they both need writers, but they also need writers who know their craft.
They need writers who know how to create a believable world, how to design a character that isn’t two dimensional and who can make the reader /watcher connect with the character somehow.
They need a story that draws the reader/watcher into the world and keeps them there with action that ebbs and flows, until the story has concluded and they can sit back and wish they were still in that world.

And how do you get to be that kind of writer? Let’s look at my original questions and answer them one at a time:

1) How do you make your writing unputdownable?
You craft your story carefully and make it draw the reader into your carefully designed world so that they don’t want to leave it.

2) How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
See above… plus, world design and character design is a whole different blog post… I’ll do that another time.

3) How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
I believe I have actually answered this – were you reading carefully though?
*peers at blog reader and frowns thoughtfully*

4) How do you make Readers want to read your books?
See #1…
*winks*

And the Question I finished the post with?

5) How do you get to be that kind of writer?
If you were reading carefully, you’ll see that I answered it… before I posed it. It’s what I have been doing for most of my life and always go back to when I am having a problem with my own writing…

I read. I watch. I study, I practise, I edit.

In Fiction; I read writers who have inspired me, I read writers that are considered classics, I read writers (and stories) that have been around for eons, I read brand new, barely discovered writers.
In Non-Fiction; I read subjects that interest me. I read subjects that are uncomfortable for me, I read new subjects that I haven’t tried, I read subjects that are old friends.

In TV; I watch Documentaries, I watch TV serials of all sorts of genres, I watch Kids TV, I watch Adults TV (yes, porn too), I watch Foreign Language TV (by subtitles).
In Movies; I watch Small Screen, Big Budget, Foreign Language, Animated, Live Action, Independent.

I study Writing; I read How To books, I take modules from Free Online Course Sites, I read the books that the Big Writers have written about how THEY got into writing.

I Practise Writing; I try writing Poetry (Different styles and Meter), I try writing Flash stories (there are different word lengths), I write different Genres (there are so many I can’t list them all), I write different lengths of story (Flash, Short, Long, Novelette, Novella, Novel, Epic), I write for different ages (Child, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult), I write for different audiences, I write inside and outside my comfort zone.

I edit… this one is the hardest of all.

I do a basic grammar and spelling edit, then I get people I trust to read what I have written and they comment on it (these are Alpha Readers). Then I re-read it and consider their suggestions as I go along. I adjust it if I agree, discuss it if I don’t – the discussions always help me to understand what they see – and change it if I can see what they are getting at and agree with them.

Then I get a second round of Reading done (these are the Beta readers) not always by the same people. If they throw up anything that needs adjusting, I re-read and adjust if I agree… if it’s something I didn’t agree with the first time, I take a long careful look at it.

Then I get someone to do a General Line Edit for Typos and plot holes etc. This is always someone who hasn’t seen it before and has Editing Experience. Sometimes they may have been an Alpha/ Beta Reader as well, but they have to have Editing Experience as well.

And no, not every Writer is a good Editor – I’m a prime example of that!

Once it’s Edited, then (and only then) I consider it ready to be published. And bear in mind that until I think it’s ready to be published, it may go back for Beta Reading or Editing again.

That’s how you get to be a Writer.

To be a Great Writer, someone who can write a Book or Movie that will draw the Reader / Watcher in and hold them there until they’ve finished; someone who can leave them with that “Satisfied but Sad” feeling; someone who can bring them back for more of their work, time and again?

That takes Talent.
Do I have Talent?
*shrugs*
I don’t know.

I know “some” people have enjoyed my work because they have told me so personally or they have written reviews on my books that have shown they’ve read them and considered it good enough to leave a comment about it. That has been enough to make me want to keep me writing and publishing.
But is that Talent?
You’d have to ask them or read my books to answer that for yourself; because as it is with every Artform, Art is subjective and personal.

You have to make your own mind up.

There’s a Party Going On…

… in Castle Grof! Except it’s not exactly the sort of party most people would want to go to…

Grof 300 x 200

Okay, let’s back up a little and give you some background on this story.

This installment of the story started out as an attempt at online tabletop roleplaying in a thread on the (now defunct) Authonomy site. I was GM, creating the initial story line and the maps,  and there were three players. We got as far as the fight in the Tavern (which is one of my favourite scenes)  when we realised it wasn’t going to work.

By this time, however, I had my muse Puff sitting on my head (he likes to do that) and whispering than this could be another story to fit with “The Tower and The Eye: A Beginning“. So I asked the other players if they were happy to  let me run with their characters. They were, so off I went…

… and Party at Castle Grof was born.

The book has been re-released today as an e-book on Amazon. It’s about a pair of adventurers being inveigled into cleansing the Dungeon near the city of Valdez in the kingdom of Valdier:

Castle Grof has claimed the lives of many already, but Lord Harnaz of Valdez is determined to clear the menace of the dungeon underneath the ruins completely.

Drawn into the quest with a barbarian warrior, a monk of Tyr and an old friend, Aranok and his half sister, Ariana, begin to wonder if they will actually return to their home in the elven realm of Alethdariel alive…

“Which one is your friend?” the half-elf asked, looking over at the fight.
“Grald the Barbarian.” Shilir started to panic and grabbed the half-elf’s arm.
“The big guy? You’re worried about the dwarf beating him up. He looks like he can handle himself,” the half-elf laughed.
“You don’t understand. He’s been drinking Wizard Wingdangs Original Ale… it weakens him to the point where a kitten could maim him with one swat of its tail; even a feather could knock him over. Please help him.”
“Why should we help your friend? I don’t even know why the fight started.” A feminine voice floated over his shoulder. Shilir turned to see the white robed mage he had bumped into.
“You took your time, Ariana,” the half-elf said, without turning round.
“The Guild wanted to hear my report. It took a little while,” Ariana replied, irritation etching her elegant face.
“If it had taken any longer, you’d have been peeling me up off the floor.”
“Well, if you didn’t drink human ale, Aranok, you wouldn’t need my hangover potion.” The mage looked over at the fight in the corner. “The barbarian does seem to be coming off worse in his fight with the dwarf.”
Shilir looked at Ariana hopefully. “Can you help?”
“I used most of my mana up on illusions during my report. Sorry, big brother.” She shook her head. “I haven’t replenished my mana potions yet.” Ariana tilted her head to one side and smiled at Shilir. “Unless you have a spare one?”
Shilir groaned. “I haven’t restocked yet either. Grald and I only arrived this morning.”
Grald was starting to wonder if responding to the dwarf had been a bad idea. An insistent trickle of blood from a cut on his forehead interfered with his vision, dripping through his thick eyebrows.
“How about we talk about this?” he asked, wiping his eyes again.
The dwarf growled and slammed a fist into Grald’s chest. Grald gasped and staggered back.
“Maybe not then,” he wheezed, grabbing the dwarf by his chest plate and attempting to drop kick him through the window. Unfortunately his befuddled body barely allowed him to lift the dwarf off the ground.
The dwarf leaned back in his grip, planted a foot into Grald’s stomach and used the other one to kick at his nose. Grald lurched backward, sat down hard on a bench and dropped the dwarf at the same time.
The dwarf landed on his chest and took the opportunity to punch Grald in the mouth. The bench tipped from the movement, sending the labourer sitting on it flying through the air into the window and spilling both Grald and the dwarf onto the straw strewn cobbles.
The window smashed as the labourer flew through it and landed on a table. The occupants of the table, a group of bakers having their lunchtime game of cards, swore as the cards and coins scattered under the man’s landing.
The table broke, all the tankards on it tipped over and the bakers left trying to gather up their coppers and piled onto the unfortunate labourer.
“I’ll be adding that window to your friend’s bill.” The Tavern Keeper carried on polishing his tankards calmly.
Shilir groaned.
Sighing, Aranok pulled a field tip arrow out of his quiver and twisted on his stool to face the fight. The crowd around the bar drew back as he sighted along it and threw it like a dart.
Grald stood up and stared in shock at the result of his near miss with a dwarven boot.
“Did I do that?” he murmured, swaying a little as the dwarf tried to trip him up.
Something brushed past his ear, so he turned to see what it was. Tripping over his own feet, Grald fell over and landed on the next table. The boards splintered under his weight and as Grald hit the floor, he knocked himself senseless on his own mace.
“Hah! That’s what ye get for spilling ale on Avinger McCraken!” The dwarf laughed and kicked Grald in the balls. Then he stomped away, shouting, “I ain’t standing for that kind o’treatment. I’m gonna get the Watch!”

*****

There are two places that you can read the full story and find out how the rest of the book turned out.  The first is in the ebook:

Buy Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Party-Castle-Grof-Tower-Book-ebook/dp/B01H3XVBXG

The second is in the Omnibus Book which is available in both print and electronic forms:

Buy Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tower-Eye-Kira-Morgana/dp/1326421301