Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there.


 
The twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Visit the website and look around: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month's question is:

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published? 

My very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer was a fantasy trilogy that I titled The Snowhawk.  I started it in grad school with an idea about a group of Healers, headquartered in The Temple of Healing in a world I created.  I also created the names.  I had a story line with them, specifically one of them.  All planned out.  And then a fellow stepped in and ran away with the plot.  And then the villain stepped in and really ran away with the plot.  I wrote, rewrote, fiddled – all this before I had a computer.   I researched agents and sent out queries and was amazingly arrogant when I received rejections. 


A woman for whom I babysat learned that I was a ‘writer’ and put me in touch with her cousin, who was an editor for one of the NY publishers.  She read my manuscript and told me it was too long.  She did not say it was bad.  But I had other interests in writing, and The Snowhawk in its final three volume typewritten and saved nowhere form was shelved.  I had better stories in the works. 

Interestingly, I still have that manuscript.  I can’t use it now.  I’d have to retype it, for one thing, since it was a few decades ago and I only became computerized in 1986.  Remember the big floppies?  And that universe had spiraled away from my original concept.  I was writing the stories of The Memphis Cycle and The Orphan’s Tale, and others.  It was passé. 

But The Snowhawk wasn’t finished with me.  I hit a huge dry spell due to a combination of things – crooked agent, job issues, family health, The Recession…  I stumbled across The Snowhawk, which I had completely forgotten, in a box on the top of some shelving in my garage.  I took the box inside, opened volume 2 of the manuscript and began to read.  I frowned at the passage, thought I could fix it – and the Monsoon hit, blasting through the inertia and dryness. 



And suddenly I was writing again.  I turned to my real Works In Progress and got cracking. 
You can read about it in this post.

I will never get rid of that manuscript.  It is the reason that I am still writing and publishing.  It may never be published, but it helped to save me.



So...  How about you?  Go visit the Blog Hop - and sign up!


Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29, 2016 - Celebrating Heat Waves and Teething Puppies

Celebration Friday!!!

Friday is the day we observe the 'Celebrations' blog hop founded by VikLit and now ably managed by Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits (Go visit them!)

So...  What am I celebrating?

After about two weeks of above 90 degee weather, the heat wave is breaking!  Temperatures in the eighties and then the seventies.


I thought New England was supposed to be a cool area...




Chet, small and cute
I am also celebrating the fact that my teething puppy appears to be lightening up a little.  Although at four months - approximately 5 years old in human age - he wants to romance anything on four legs at the dog daycare he goes to for training twice a week.  We are hoping for an Alpha Female to arise and knock him into the middle of next week.  That just might straighten him out.
Chet The Nuisance


  Someone commented that it might traumatize him.  I suspect that smart, stubborn puppy is about as easy to traumatize as a U.S. Army  Humvee...



The U.S. Army's replication of a teething Labrador Puppy

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 15, 2016 - Celebrating A Wonderful Writer's New Offering

As many bloggers know, Friday is the day we observe the 'Celebrations' blog hop.  It has been a joy and an inspiration (and, often, a smile-maker) for several years: you can visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits for more information.


There are always things to celebrate - you just have to look.


And today I am celebrating the arrival of a new book by a talented author who graces several blogs that I frequent and who, further research uncovers (well...  Not research, exactly.  She told us about this and it sounded wonderful the sort of thing to share)  Anyhow, after a number of pieces in anthologies - the sort of pieces that have interesting twists to them, stories that make you think and wonder and, perhaps, glance over your shoulder, she has he has published HEART STOPPER and other Stories. 

This collection of stories will send shivers up your spine and make your imagination work.  

This is not sledgehammer blood or gore, but the sort of tantalizing, slowly building tension that will send you groping for another pillow and eyeing your alarm clock to see if you might be able to read to the end and not be too impaired in the morning at work.

In her own words:

Heart Stopper and Other Stories
By Tamara Narayan 

One collection, four stories, 171 pages of suspense...


Heart Stopper: 

The disappearance of random household items baffles Dallas Radner and his eleven-year-old daughter, Tessa. Ten plastic bags, nine ballpoint pens . . . what's next? This odd countdown should end on November 1, The Day of the Dead. That's also Tessa's birthday and the one-year anniversary of her surgery, the day her heart stopped on the operating table.

Dallas almost lost Tessa once. On November 1, one thing will vanish forever. Will it be his daughter?


Detour: 

Fed up with her abusive boyfriend, coed Chloe Langley takes off in a borrowed car for the safety of home. She'll never make it.

One Step Away: 

Acrophobia has ruined Darryl James's marriage and stolen his son. To get Andrew back, Darryl undergoes desensitization therapy. Just as success is within his grasp, a relapse occurs with shocking consequences.

Monitor: 

Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new house, new baby, and new challenges. But urgent whispers from the baby monitor about her infant son and the garage threaten to turn Laura's American dream into a nightmare.

Purchase these on Amazon

Heart Stopper (click to go to the book page)  (this is a geotargeted link - it will take you to your own Amazon store):

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four seasons of suspense to let you unwind. 
Lives at a crossroad, a breakdown of order 
Between life and death, it’s a tenuous border. 

Halloween comes, and the Day of the Dead 
For one man this custom brings heartache and dread. 
As belongings disappear, a child makes her shrine 
Is it a ghost? Perhaps. Or a shattered mind? 

A couple spars, and fear invades 
An abused coed flees on a spring escapade. 
Across Florida’s searing and pocked landscape 
Sinkholes will assume many a shape. 

Another dreams of feathers, wings of might 
Yet experiences terror at a meager height. 
This phobia takes every dear thing away 
Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day. 
You 
Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as-winter voice 
A mother must make a desperate choice. 
Heeding her instincts to save the child 
What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild. 

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four stories of suspense to let you unwind. 
Read on to learn more before you order 
Between art and madness, it’s a tenuous border. 



You can visit Tamara at her blog HERE


And you can find her Author Page HERE

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Do Fabulous Writers Make You Nervous?

In keeping with IWSG day, I am happy to host Helen Hollick, writer of engrossing historical fiction, luscious series set in far ago times and fascinating places.  Her creativity is only matched by her encouragement and support of other writers.  She is the sort of person who makes insecure folks nervous.

...and tomorrow she is releasing the latest book in her swashbuckling seafaring SeaWitch series!  I am happy to host her here - and am looking forward to reviewing On The Account.  (You see, I have a Reader's Copy and I am deep into it.  You will enjoy it, too!)



The Anticipation Of The New Book

By

Helen Hollick

You would think that after more than twenty years as a published author and with (quick count-up) eleven books behind me and two more ‘on the boil’, that I would be confident about my next title’s release.

Not a bit of it!

I am as excited about the fifth adventure in my Sea Witch Voyages as when the very first book was published. That one was The Kingmaking, the first of my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. But I am also just as nervous.

In the early eighties I had achieved a small success with a children’s ‘keep yourself safe’ book called Come and Tell Me (now, alas, out of print) and was accepted for publication by William Heinemann a week after my 40 th birthday in 1993. What turned out to be the first two books in the trilogy had taken me over ten years to write; I had not expected anyone to actually want to publish my scribblings. I did not think I was clever enough to be an author. I had an ordinary secondary school education, which in the 60’s meant a second class education. I did, however, have a very good English teacher, a deep and immense love of books and reading – and, when I discovered it by accident, a passion for history.

History at school had been a very low priority because it was so boring. In fact, I used to do my geography homework during the history lesson. I left school and went to work as an assistant in the local library in the London suburb of Chingford. There, I rediscovered Rosemary Sutcliff and found Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills. She had an author’s note which mentioned that if King Arthur had existed he would have been alive around the end of Roman Britain, circa 440 AD. That interested me. I started researching (hooray for library books!) and then, dissatisfied with novels about King Arthur and in particular his other half, Guinevere, I decided to write my own version. My trilogy is a ‘back to basics’ story, using the earlier Welsh legends, not the later Medieval tales. There is no Lancelot, round table, Holy Grail or Merlin.

Instead, Arthur is a warts an’ all warlord who has to fight hard to gain his kingdom, and fight even harder to keep it – and Gwenhwyfar as I call her. The trilogy led to my next two novels about events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings, Harold The King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) and A Hollow Crown (titled The Forever Queen in the US). 

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge between then and now. I was simultaneously dropped by Heinemann and my (ex) agent so went into Indie publishing instead, (sharp learning curve there, I can tell you!) Subsequently I was picked up by North American publisher, Sourcebooks, I’m about to have several of my books translated into Turkish, Italian and German, and I have been commissioned to write a mainstream non-fiction book about pirates. I guess I could say I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and written, not just read, the book. (Yes, done that as well: Discovering the Diamond is a modest little book giving a few useful tips to new and novice writers.)

So here I am on the eve of my next book setting sail and I am still biting my fingernails and worrying.
  • Will readers like it?
  •  Have I missed errors despite several edits?
  • Will I get some decent reviews?
  •  Will the Amazon #ranking read more like a light-year mileage figure than a reasonable sales indication?
  • Why do I write?
  • Why not take up knitting?
  • Why is the rum gone…?


 Of course I want the book, this latest adventure of my charmer of an ex-pirate Jesamiah Acorne, to do well. I’ve worked hard on this nautical adventure series that is a cross between Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian’s books, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, with a splash of James Bond, a dash of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe and a smattering of Indiana Jones.

Of course I want sales, of course I want it to scramble up to somewhere near the top of the sales list – even if it is only on Amazon, where no one actually knows how the ranking works anyway.

But none of these are my top concern. My greatest worry is not letting my readers down.  For the past few weeks I have been inundated (well had a few…) emails from followers wanting to know when On The Account will be available for pre-order/sale. ‘Soon’ has been my cheerful answer: 7 th July is the official date. It has been wonderful receiving these supportive emails as they show there are people out there eager to sail-away on the Sea Witch with Captain Acorne for another adventure. They have been patiently waiting since Ripples In The Sand, Voyage Four, which left Jesamiah arrested for smuggling contraband, his mistress in labour, and his ship, Sea Witch aground on England’s North Devon coast. But trouble follows Jesamiah like a ship’s wake: in this next episode he has to find a missing box (valuable), and a boy who has also gone astray (possibly with the box). He would like to be rid of a mysterious Night-Walker love-rival (who is annoying him) while dealing with a boatload of Barbary Pirates who have kidnapped his wife, Tiola… (Oh, and he is in trouble with her as well.) Meanwhile, Tiola herself has her own battle to fight – keeping herself and Jesamiah alive.

That’s the gist of the plot, but will my eager readers enjoy the adventure?

That is my biggest worry. I don’t want to let them down.

LINKS
Twitter: @HelenHollick
My Author Page on an Amazon near you: http://viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick





IWSG July 7, 2016 - The Best Thing Someone has Ever Said About Your Writing

Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 6 posting of the IWSG will be Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott! 


Visit the website and look around: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month's question is:

What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

I was lucky enough to receive two new reviews on one of my books this past week.  They were both good reviews, not too long, but each one 'got' the core of the story, expressed its connection to his or her enjoyment and said that they were eagerly awaiting the next installment (which will be coming out in mid to late November.)

That was a wonderful surprise, since I don't haunt my listings looking for reviews, and since I have been out of circulation for two years due to family concerns.  But the best thing someone said about my writing happened over twenty years ago.  I was fresh out of college, had been working for maybe two years, and had started writing what would become A Killing Among the Dead, the last book in my Memphis Cycle.  It is based on a great tomb-robbing scandal during the last dynasty of the New Kingdom, and edges into fantasy in some areas.


I have written since I was nine years old.  This story, however, which came to me during my ancient history studies, was my first serious attempt with an eye to publication.  I was polishing (and polishing and polishing) it, and I took it with me on a vacation to my family's cottage in the New York finger lakes.  My father's cousin, Sally, was visiting with her children.

I liked Sally.  She was a fun person, though sometimes pedantic, being a teacher of sorts -  a professor, actually.  That's about all I knew about her, except that she had written a book about growing up in the fingerlakes.  She learned that I was 'writing a book', asked if she could look at my manuscript, and (surprisingly) I handed it over and went off to enjoy sailing, fishing, driving through the upstate New York.  Several days later she handed back my manuscript, which she had marked up, and told me that she enjoyed reading it, but she had a few suggestions, and hoped that I didn't mind.

I think at that point I had begun to realize that my flying fingers did not automatically put out fabulous writing, and this story, which I had overhauled, was in need of more work.  I thanked her, chatted with her and her kids, enjoyed the rest of my vacation, and looked over her comments when I had a moment.

Sally had some suggestions:  'Instead of 'digging your own grave' you might want something more in period such as 'carving your own tomb'.  There were others, but her notation at the very climax of the story actually blew me away.  The hero, thought to be dead, has returned to his command after spending several weeks in a tomb hunting the robbers and, finally, destroying them.  He dreams of the gods and the Land of the Blest.  And when he returns, his men are taken aback.  He has changed...

Sally noted in the margin that I wasn't quite saying what she thought I meant.  That maybe I should read T. S. Eliot's Return of the Magi, especially the last stanza.  She thought it maybe expressed what was in my mind:

but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

In a sentence or so she had put her finger on what was at the very heart of my story, at the change in my main character, the change that he undergoes in the course of his struggle and his ultimate victory.  She 'got' the story and she was able to unlock it for me.  I now know that it was very rough - and she saw the gem within it and helped me to shape it.  It was a magnificent gift.

I learned years later after her death that she had been the coordinator of the Syracuse University Creative Writing Program for many years while Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff were in residence.  Her credentials were very impressive...  And she had spent her time on my little effort.  She had 'gotten' the point, and she had shown it to me.  And she had enjoyed the story.

That was the best thing anyone has said about my writing.
        He walked past the bodies without another glance and continued toward the tomb entrance, waiting for the echo of the warning trumpet.
        The echo never came.  Instead, faces appeared at the tomb entrance and people stepped out into the sunlight to watch his approach.  He could hear excited whispers, and then his guardsmen came forward, their bows in their hands.  They, too, were staring with a mixture of awe and fear, and some of them raised their hands to shield their eyes, though the sun was behind them. 
        Wenatef could see Ramses standing high on the hillside.  The young man raised his hand in greeting and then hurried down to the tomb entrance.
        Wenatef paused to look up at them and note their expressions, then squared his shoulders and began to ascend the hill toward the opening.  Several of the men fell to their knees, their hands about their protective amulets.
        Wenatef saw the motion and paused.  They don’t know, he thought with a sudden lurch of his heart.  They will never understand, even if I explain... 
Thank you, Sally.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Celebrations July 1, 2016 - Choices, choices...


This is my post for the 'Celebrating the Small Things' blog hop.

T0day is the first day of July, which means that we are that much closer to the end of the really hot days and the beginning of autumn, my favorite season.

Things are settling at last.  My mother is in her new home and is, somewhat against her own expectations, rather happy.  People greet her, ask her to play bridge, come by to chat...  And she is walking better, as well.  I can't ask for more than that for her.


The Jaws of  Death
For myself, I'm getting used to a new puppy:

This is Chester (or 'Chet' for short).  He is now four months old.  I had become spoiled by my old fellow who died three months ago.  I had forgotten how manic puppies are.  I think they could power a medium-sized city for a week on one day's energy.

Based on Chet's dentition and propensities, I'm thinking that he could be best depicted as a set of dentures that bounces around the house trying to 'nom' everything from food set near the edge of tables to used paper tissues (thought to be safely) discarded in the trash..

For Labrador Retrievers, apparently, the world is their trash bin.

Finally, I have a long weekend coming up.  Five days away from work.  And as it happens, I have to choose between three manuscripts to actually finish and set out for Beta-reads.

It has been too long since I published anything, and while I have some good excuses for standing idle,  it is time.

This means that I have to make a choice:

---Fantasy/Fable novella that fits in with my 'Memphis Cycle' or the Second installment of my 'Orphan's Tale' trilogy.


Fable set in Egypt

Second installment, Paris 1834

The third one is a collection of shorts from different projects.  Vignettes, chapters.  Something of a smorgasbord.  I have one piece in which an elderly High Priest tells of the day that Akhenaten (Tutankhamun's father, who shut down the worship of the various major gods) comes to the great temple of Amun in Thebes (you can say 'Opet' or 'Waset' if you prefer) with the aim of destroying the great gold cult statue of the god.  This scenario lies behind one or another of the Memphis Cycle stories.

Decisions, decisions...  But it's nice to have options and a good, long weekend to mull them over.

...Now, do visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,





Thursday, June 16, 2016

Celebrating the Small Things. June 17, 2016 - Fireflies

Welcome to the Celebrations Blog Hop.

It is a good way to pause, take stock, and see that your world is actually a fairly nice place to live.  A time to focus on the small things that you tend to overlook.  

Today I am celebrating fireflies.

I just stepped outside holding a leash which had, on its other end, a three-month old puppy named Chester.  Night had fallen, but a glow remained to the west.  The moon rode high in the sky, still bright from the vanished sun.  A breeze, still carrying a touch of early spring coolness, stirred my hair.  Chester was snuffling in the grass and deciding whether he wished to ‘do his business’ or just sniff the wind.

Chester’s preoccupation with sniffing the wind was a good thing, I thought, savoring the scent of still-tender grass and flowers.  It was a perfect evening, the stars beginning to glitter in the sky’s zenith, mirroring the fireflies that sparkled below them.

I had forgotten fireflies.  I forget them every year only to remember them in the spring with a sense of finding an old friend that I had once thought lost.

I remember driving through a summer night heading toward my grandparents’ house in rural Vermont, seeing the woods so alive with the pale light of fireflies, they seemed to be full of tiny fireworks.  The woods were a sea of flickering light, and if I looked up into the sky I could see them trailing upward.


My father liked to watch the fireflies with us…  Like any child, I tried putting them in jars as night lights.  I stopped after perhaps the third time.  They always died, and they were so beautiful and so harmless, how could I put them somewhere that they could die?  Later, I learned more about them:

For example, male fireflies flash in flight, seeking females while females return the males’ flashes from the ground on the on vegetation.  Well, that may be the case.  Propagation of the species is always important, but as the years pass I become more convinced that things are often done because they are enjoyable.  The glitter of fireflies is a joyous sight for me, and I would not be surprised to learn sometime,, somehow, that fireflies enjoy flying and flickering.

If you are in Florida during firefly season, you can visit a park that features them:


,,,and do visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,