Category: storytelling

#25 – Stephen Volk – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 25 with Stephen Volk – horror screenwriter & author

“If you can’t write a good scene, write a bad one.”

Episode 25 – Stephen Volk – Show Notes
  • Mixing up different lengths and mediums helps storytelling
  • Surrounding writing space with ‘friends’
  • Alcohol is a truth killer
  • Clash between belief and rationalism, fear of the unknown, how finding out about your past affects your future
  • Exploring horror, asking why are we attracted to the genre and exploring through story
  • Cool down, don’t rush and go back to it
  • Keeping your story secret or testing it?
  • Patrick McGrath, Stephen Gallagher, Taylor Sheridan, Liam Gavin, Yiorgos Lanthimos, Damon Lindelof, Tom Perrotta
  • Exploring repercussions of crime and criminals rather than solving a crime
  • The Dark Masters trilogy; Whitstable with Peter Cushing, Leytonstone with Alfred Hitchcock and a new story with secret true life character.
  • With a long project you can lose impetus if you take a break
  • Madeleine’s tip – battling the mushy middle

“After 30 years, it’s still hard to look at a blank page.”

“Don’t start the day with a problem hanging over you.”

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#24 – Sione Aeschliman – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 24 with Sione Aeschliman – editor, writer & writing coach

“Approaching both praise & constructive criticism with curiosity”

Episode 24 – Sione Aeschliman – Show Notes
  • Pantsing short stories but plotting novels
  • Defining Prose poetry
  • The Beverage Triangle
  • Key theme – being your true self without shame
  • Attitude towards feedback both positive and negative
  • Learning about reader’s expectations and ask questions
  • Giving editing clients at least a week to process their feelings
  • Editing improves ability to read critically. Making notes as you read and going back to analyse why you reacted this way.
  • Learning about structure and storytelling. Working on beginnings
  • Margaret Attwood, Ursula le Guin, Alexander Weinstein, James Tate, Russell Edson
  • #RevPit: annual Twitter contest focused on editing and learning. Starts April 21st 2018
  • Working on four or five projects at the same time, including historical pirate romance novel and an ebook on structure, plot points and pacing.
  • Madeleine’s tip – Grief and change

“It’s hard to know what you’re going to write until you’ve written it.”

“We all need an outlet for our angst.”

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#11 – Steve Turnbull – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 11 with Steve Turnbull – Fantasy, steampunk & erotica writer

“The thing that improves your writing is writing.”

Episode 11 – Steve Turnbull – Show Notes
  • Don’t feel guilty for not writing
  • Themes include ‘all your favourite prejudices’
  • Changing and developing as an artist. Inspired by Bowie
  • Not necessarily trying new things but rather telling a story the way it needs to be told
  • Kymiera from screenplay to novel and back to screenplay
  • Cider with Rosie
  • Don’t write too many series at once, your fans will be demanding sequels
  • Madeleine’s tip – Reading Widely

“Don’t you pity our protagonists and what we put them through.”

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#10 – Dee Dee Chainey – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 10 with Dee Dee Chainey – Folklorist & freelance content marketer

“Bringing magic to the mundane”

Episode 10 – Dee Dee Chainey – Show Notes
  • Do your writing first
  • Instagram pictures of cake
  • Dark folklore; Krampus, hand of glory and the tooth fairy
  • Confidence
  • Don’t keep rewriting the same piece, move on
  • Squeezing a massive topic into an introductory book
  • A non-fiction writer mainly influenced by fiction
  • Aubrey Burl, Carrie Ann Noble, Jackie Morris, Phillip Pullman
  • Madeleine’s tip – 10 story ideas per day

“What do you want to say to the world and to yourself”

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#01 – Scott McAteer – Write Through The Roof

Welcome to Write Through The Roof, the podcast for writers who want to improve their craft.

Episode 01 with Scott McAteer; comedian, improv performer and playwright.

“The fear of monsters is a very particular fear, a safe and curious fear.”

Episode 01 – Scott McAteer – Show notes
  • Scott’s Monsterpedia
  • Similarity between horror and comedy
  • Improvisation and writing
  • In defence of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Madeleine’s segment: #sixwordstory
Links

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Poll: who should join Evangeline in a Christmas story?

Which side-kick should join Evangeline in a Christmas adventure?

As a little Christmas present to my mailing list subscribers, I’m writing a new short story adventure for Evangeline with the usual hijink and baked goodies, but I need your help, dear reader. 

Which side-kick should join Evangeline?

Have your say in the poll below.

Who should accompany Evangeline on a Christmas adventure?

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And one more question on format. Would you prefer to read the story yourself or listen to the story (read by me)?

I’ve been personally bingeing on audiobooks and M.R James’ Ghost Stories for Christmas.

What format would you prefer?

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Evangeline’s Christmas Adventure (short story) will be available before Christmas as a present to my mailing list subscribers. So if you don’t want to miss out, make sure your name is on the list (or sign-up below).

 

Guest posts round-up

I’ve been guest posting on various blogs to spread the word about Evangeline and the Spiritualist. Take a look at my posts below.

 

Recent reads – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This week, it’s fairytales with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, first published by Del Ray in 2015.

Agnieska lives in a village deep in the Wood, where an ageless hermit Wizard called the Dragon lives in a white tower nearby. The Wood is no ordinary forest, twisted and enchanted it takes people, including the Queen who disappeared in the Wood twenty years earlier and over the years, the Wood has gobbled up entire villages.

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Marty says you can ‘Finish the Damn Book!’

Apparently 80% of Americans want to be authors. Today I have a guest post from Martin McConnell. Marty is a writer and first-class motivator and he’s here to convince you (if you’re one of the 80%), that you can “Finish the Damn Book!” And if you read to the end, there’s a little treat for my blog reader. 

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First of all, I want to thank Madeleine for allowing me to write this post. In case you haven’t engaged with her directly, she’s a terrific person, and someone any writer would be lucky to count among their friends. Even though she’s an ocean away, I’m glad to have the honor of regular communication with her.

I’m here to talk about writing, maybe for those of you who have thought about writing a book someday, but are having trouble finding your muse, or maybe you think that you don’t have what it takes.

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The tale of two projects: kidney stone or maple syrup?

I still don’t have my writing process down pat. This has become bleeding obvious with my two most recent projects.

The Production – a high gothic YA novel – was a constant struggle, getting out 60k words was like passing a kidney stone. Whereas my current Nanowrimo project – The Ravens of Ambrovna: fantasy –  is flowing out like maple syrup.

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What book are you most grateful for?

I think I’ve established here, I’m a bit of a new age-y personal development type (in amongst the love of horror movies and heartless disdain for anything romantic).

As part of my routine, I keep a gratitude journal beside my bed and at the end of each day, I write down five things I’m grateful for. Sometimes the five things are puerile and short (coffee seems to feature often), other days they are fundamental and deep (being safe and empowered to make my own decisions in life).

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I stumbled across a “30 days of gratitude” infographic and I’m using these suggestions as a prompt for new things to remember to be grateful for.

I checked Day 8. – what book are you most grateful for?

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Folklore Thursday – interview with Dee Dee Chainey and Willow Winsham

I’ve always been fascinated by tales of strangeness, especially folktales, superstitions and ancient wisdom from past generations. So I was super excited when I came across #FolkloreThursday on Twitter, a new hashtag for all things folkloric. Now it’s become my weekly dose of weird and wonderful wisdom.

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Today, I’m talking with the founders of #FolkloreThursday, Dee Dee Chainey and Willow Winsham to learn more.

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A little writing meltdown

Some days, it’s just overwhelming. There’s too much to remember. Too many techniques.

 

Is the pace right?

Does the scene turn?

What’s the character’s motivation?

Is my first line punchy enough?

Is my dialogue boring?

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Top 5 Influential Children’s Books – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

Finally I’ve finished my series, re-reading my favourite books as a child. The last book in my series is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. A British classic of the 1980s.

Adrian is a painful teenager with delusions of intellectual grandeur living through Thatcher’s Britain with his dysfunctional and disappointing parents. Adrian copes with his first pimples, his parents’ marital problems and his own crushes with an amazing lack of self-awareness. It is laugh out funny and I knew most of the jokes already.

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Recent Reads – Europe in Autumn

Why did I love Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson so much?

The book is a spy thriller set slightly in the future, in a time when the countries of Europe is dissolving. Every man and his dog is seceding, setting up their own principality. Borders are a bureaucratic nightmare and black marketeers are taking advantage of the chaos.

The hero is Rudi, an Estonian chef turned courier, who gets deeper and deeper into the murky world of espionage.

The book is in four parts following Rudi from his first gig until the point when it all goes wrong. It is almost like four novellas, pieced together eventually. The middle section with Rudi’s family in Estonia seems out of step at first until more details are revealed. I adored the excerpt from the map-making of Whitton-Whyte and the twist delighted this little sci-fi fan.

Why did I enjoy this book so much?

Perhaps it was the mix of vivid characters; the burly Hungarians, the obnoxious mentor Fabio, Rudi’s bizarrely robotic English captors, the grumpy crusty Pawel. The characters were well rounded and real.

Perhaps it was the slight weirdness of the world. Quite similar to our own, yet with minor technological and geo-political differences.It was familiar and yet intriguing. There was little time spent world building, the story jumps right in and explains the world as we go. Yet there are enough odd little details to remind the reader that this is not your ordinary Tom Clancy thriller.

Perhaps it was the wry English humour. The dialogue was sharp and believable. I chuckled out aloud a number of times.

Plus a cracking plot.

Let’s just say, I really liked this book.

But the topic of genre provoked the most thought for me. This is classified as a science fiction novel – which it is. The world is futuristic, but only looking a few years into a possible future. I was so curious about the genre of this novel, I contacted the author. I had a nice conversation with Dave Hutchinson over Twitter regarding the genre classification of this book. Hutchinson describes it as a “near-future espionage thriller”. This is a very apt description.

I struggle with the “science fiction” label because it brings to mind aliens and spaceships. My own writing is in a similar vein to Hutchinson’s – a different world not too dissimilar to our own. Is speculative fiction a better description or “fantastika” as Hutchinson offered? Yet, your average punter doesn’t use the expression ‘speculative fiction’. When I look at the categories for sci-fi in Amazon, the only vaguely applicable are “dystopian” and “post-apocalyptic” but my own writing and a book like Europe in Autumn does not fit with the other zombie invasion novels.

Anyway less about me and more about Europe in Autumn. If you like a well built near-future world with espionage, great characters and good writing, I recommend you take a look at Europe in Autumn.

I’m off to read the sequel…when I’ve finished The Wise Man’s Fear.

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Feast menu from Return to the Forest

I’m in the process of revising Book 2 of my Monolith series Return to the Forest. Today I’m sharing a menu from one of my scenes. Who doesn’t like descriptions of food and feasts in particular?

It is the solstice ceremony of Sundku held on a hilltop clearing, where the religious community of the Sisters live.  All the local women travel to the Sisterhouse for Sundku to welcome the early signs of Spring, the fading of the long Winter and to seek the blessing of fertility from the Goddess.

They dance, sing and chant around the pyre, honouring the Goddess and once the circle is closed, the women feast. Hungry after their homage, they need a hearty meal.

At the end of winter, fresh food is scarce but the women of the Forest are wise and resourceful. It would insult the Goddess to skimp on food at Sundku.

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Each woman brings her own contribution to the feast. The long wooden table is piled with;

  • Rabbit stew: served in a thick gravy seasoned with pepper berries, slow cooked in a large pot over an open flame. The stew is served in carved wooden bowls.
  • Acorn bread: heavy and hearty, baked from ground acorn flour into loaves. The fire baked bread is coated with a crunchy caramel coloured crust. The loaves are cut into hunks and the women dip the bread into the rabbit stew, soaking up the gravy.
  • Jam cakes: local blackberries are harvested in summertime and preserved in earthenware jars to last throughout the cold winter. The jam cakes are baked with more acorn flour, dotted with dollops of sweet black jam. The cakes are golden palm-shaped discs with a hint of summer sweetness.
  • Red wine – of course

I hope you enjoyed a little view into the food world of Return to the Forest.

Hungry?

 

 

When did you feel like a “real” writer round-up?

In early December, I ran a series of posts asking writers…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

I was lucky enough to get responses from Gail Carriger, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch, Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Barbara Freethy and Kate Elliott.

There were a few themes running through the responses

  • Doubt and the imposter system persists (regardless whether you’ve sold millions)
  • Sometimes it’s your first big deal or success
  • Sometimes it’s not until you reach magic book no. 5

But mainly, you are a real writer when you write….

Now it’s your turn, when did you feel like a “real” writer?

 

Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award – my responses

I’ve been nominated by Beverley Lee to answer the following questions as part of the Siblinghood of the World Blogger awards. I answer 10 questions, then I pose 10 more questions to 10 more bloggers. Here we go…

Your favourite author is going to call you for a once in a lifetime chance to talk. You can only ask them one question. Who is the author and what is the question? Why?

I can’t narrow it down to one writer.

The more I grow as a writer, I realise we all share the same self-doubt and struggles with wrangling our stories. So the one question I’d like to ask all writers I admire is…

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Which fictional character would you want as a friend, and why?

Nightingale from the Rivers Of London series. I want my own immortal magical mentor with impeccable pre-war dress sense. I imagine him being like Bill Nighy.

List three books you’ve read more than three times.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

How’s that for a weird combo.

Who would you say is your greatest writing influence in terms of your own style?

I think my influences are from the opposite side. I know what I dislike, so I avoid that type of writing. I have a background in the corporate world and business writing, so my style is simple. I don’t like overly flowery writing because I’m a lazy reader. The style is important to my reading pleasure. Some styles (and writers) do my head in and so I quickly switch to something cleaner.

What are you working on at the minute?

Starting today, I’m writing the next novella in my Evangeline steampunk series. This novella is about seances and spiritualists.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

She is in serious trouble of being typecast, but from the recent Dr Who episodes playing Ashildr/Me, I can absolutely see Maisie Williams as my character Alga from the Monolith series.

How important is a book cover to you? Would it influence you over the back blurb?

A good cover is so bloody important. There are some serious ugly covers out there, especially in the self-publishing world, but I’ll admit, often I don’t read the back blurb. There have been many times when I’ve been wowed by an early plot twist, then later on read the back blurb.

Before I buy or borrow (library love), I have to read a page at random. There are certain flowery styles of writing which I can’t handle (see above answer).

If you could live in one fictional world, where would you live?

China Mieville’s Bas-Lag world from Perdido Street Station. What’s not to like …aliens, steampunk and magic. Mieville’s world building is crazy detailed and luscious. I feel I could step right into the pages and live there.

Do you let other people borrow your books?

Absolutely. Words and books are to be shared. Share the love.

Books have some of the most wonderful quotes among them. Which is one of your favourite quotes, and why does it resonate with you?

Let’s go back to my favourite kooky melodramatic Canadian redhead.

It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

Thank you Anne Shirley and L.M. Montgomery.

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My Ten Questions

  1. When did you feel like a “real” writer?
  2. How do you overcome resistance?
  3. What advice would you give yourself as a wannabe writer?
  4. Do you prefer writing or editing?
  5. What part of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
  6. Do you Nanowrimo?
  7. What authors do you follow on social media?
  8. What’s more important to you; a good plot or beautiful writing?
  9. Do you take yourself on artist’s dates? What do you do?
  10. When friends and family ask “can I read your book?” What do you say?

My 10 nominated bloggers

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