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A Date With . . . Ceri Bladen

My date this time describes herself as “a Welsh girl who now lives in Turkey with her family.” When she is not writing or drawing, she loves to cook with fresh produce from the market, and look after her “thirty-odd street cats and one street dog”.

51o7dbtbawl-_uy250_I was curious about her choice of Turkey, given it’s poor human rights reputation, as a suitable place to bring up a family. Her experience gives the lie to that reputation:

“I enjoyed many years teaching primary-aged children in beautiful Swansea. Although I never dreamed of giving up my chosen career, my life shifted focus when I had a set of twins and another child just seventeen months later. My husband and I had waited seven years to have children so when we were blessed with them, they became our main priority. I decided to take time away from my profession to enjoy time with them.

While they were toddlers we spent a couple of weeks a year in Turkey on holiday. After a while we decided to move there for a couple of years.

Turkey is a friendly, family-orientated place, as anyone who has visited will know.

In our twelve years living there, we found the Turkish people welcoming and have never once thought it a ‘far from ideal’ place to raise a family; in fact, quite the opposite. They have been able to experience an idyllic outdoor childhood; they have acquired another language; learned about a different religion, and culture; and have had the opportunity to travel. Our focus in life has always been the children, and we are proud that our Turkish lifestyle has enabled them to grow into socially adaptable, polite teenagers.”

51ljsm2bzabl-_uy250_Next I wondered about the temperature in Turkey, especially as the British Isles is currently experiencing one of the longest, hottest summers for a long time and some people are finding it difficult to cope with. In addition, the small coastal village she calls home sees a huge increase in population every summer.

“Turkey’s dry atmosphere is entirely different to the UK’s more humid environment, which makes the equivalent heat in Turkey feel much cooler. Having said that, I am not a fan of searing heat or hordes of tourists. To avoid both we leave Turkey from mid-June until the beginning of September (while the schools are closed.) This allows us to pack our trusty car with a tent (or book an airline ticket) and travel for three months a year. We have been fortunate to visit many places, from the more traditional USA, Australia and European destinations, to the more obscure countries such as Syria, Moldova, and Transnistria. Each country we visit gives me inspiration for another story!”

51arltw0sll-_uy250_She recently published the fourth book in her series about Vikings. I wanted to know what drew her to that period in our history as the setting for her stories.

“I’ve always loved history and most of my books contain snippets in some form. I grew up in the old Roman town of Isca (the modern village of Caerleon, not to be confused with Exeter, fp), surrounded by history.

My father’s enthusiasm for the ruins, museums, and castles firmly cemented history into my heart.

I am particularly interested in the ‘rise-in-power and fall-from-grace’ of groups of people—the Huns, Egyptians, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Ottomans, to name a few. Hopefully, in the future, I will write stories about them all!”

51xcwhpxgkl-_uy250_Each book in the series has taken about a year to produce:

“Due to their historical genre, research takes most of my time, but this is the part I love. I take roughly six months to compose and write the story, and a couple more months to edit. This timescale is not set in stone as I am not an author who has the whole story in their mind before they start. I have a rough idea of its path, and as I write, the characters develop the rest of the story for me. (Unfortunately, this method keeps me awake many a night! Lol)”

She does not invest in professional editing for her books:

“As an emerging indie author, paying a professional editor has been out of the question so far, due to the cost. I have trusted beta readers who help me, and as I gain more fans, finding people willing to help is becoming easier.”

415v6p-6nyl-_uy250_Ceri does not yet regard herself as a full time writer, nor does she regret leaving her profession as a teacher

“I am not a full-time writer—I write if, and when, the opportunity arises. Most of the time, this works for me, although it can be frustrating when I have a story in my head and haven’t had the opportunity to get near my computer. I have no regrets about leaving teaching because I have spent the last sixteen years dedicating my time to educating and travelling the world with my children.”

My next question was posed before I realised how long it is since she left teaching. I wondered if recent cuts in all public service budgets in the UK, including education, had influenced her decision.612b2bmgkskl-_uy250_

“It saddens me to see cuts in the UK public services. Education is close to my heart, and one day I hope the ‘powers’ realise that they need to invest in the future generation.”

She offers a long list in response to my question about authors she admires – and has a cheeky question she would love to ask the Brontë sisters.

“There are so many! My tastes vary greatly from the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and Mario Puzo to the modern Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, Cassandra Clare, and Janet Dailey.

What would I ask them? That’s difficult…

I would ask them all what gave them the determination to continue to write when they were knocked back by publishers and critics many times? I wouldn’t ask them about their writing processes as I am sure they are as diverse as the authors themselves. (ps I would ask the Brontë sisters why they burned Emily’s unpublished book after she died? I’m sure it would have been another amazing story…)”

51qs1ss1z7l-_uy250_51gwgtlwjil-_uy250_Her preferred time for writing is in the afternoons:

“when my children are in school.

Over the years, I’ve learned that every author has their own method of getting their story written. It took a long time for me not to feel that my method of a more ‘free’ story structure wasn’t incorrect; it was my more random way! Some authors have dedicated times for writing, and have strict story arcs and structures; I do not. I jump around my story, filling in the gaps when I get inspiration. I also have a computer filled with half-finished stories and will leave them there until they invade my mind and I have to finish them. I am sure my method would send most authors into a tizzy! lol

The only thing I always do is keep a notebook by my side. It contains vital research, dates, and names in it. I use it when my memory fails me! Lol”

41bqskxp3el-_uy250_Like most independently and self-published authors she feels uncomfortable with self-promotion, and marketing is not her favourite part of the process.

“But I realise it is an important part of the journey. Luckily, my four Viking books are in the top 100 bestsellers in Amazon’s Viking romances and because they are visible to potential readers, I no longer have to ‘push’ my books so hard, which is a great relief.”

I learned quite a lot from my conversation with Ceri – that Turkey is not as bad a place to live as I had supposed; that there are at least two Iscas; and the location and political status of Transnistria, among other things. I hope you now feel equally well informed!

I suggest you check out her Facebook page and her Goodreads page where you will find links to all her books.

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A Date With . . . Lesley Hayes

My ‘date’ this week is with a woman who lives a stone’s throw from the ‘Dreaming Spires’ of Oxford.

covers_round_robin_pic“I moved to Oxford about thirty years ago, having flirted with the idea of living here for at least five years before that. I was born in London and lived there until my early twenties. I’d never want to go back there for more than a visit now.

I’ve found Oxford is an ideal place for writers, eccentrics, and artists. It’s a place that celebrates diversity, and where you can be anonymous if you wish, and yet experience the feel of a village if you want to find your tribe. I love the way history is embedded in its streets and secret alleyways.

My own personal history is embedded there too, now. The only thing I would change seems like wishing for the tide not to turn – I’m not keen on the vast new shopping centre that screams commercialism, and the mad traffic congestion. But I suppose those hazards are inevitable in our modern society.”

Lesley worked full-time as a writer from the age of 17 and, afterwards, had short stories published and/or read on radio over a period of several years before deciding to switch careers and become a psychotherapist. I wondered if that was a difficult decision to make.

covers_field_pic“Not at all. It seemed an organic progression, just as turning again to my writing twenty years later felt the right time. My writing had always focused on the psychological motivations and quirks of human nature, and I was trying to work out my own salvation through it, without realising it at the time.

As I reached the end of my thirties I had survived a great deal of trauma and my move to Oxford had begun a process of profound healing. I trained as a psychotherapist to help me understand more of that trauma and what had enabled my survival, and having learned how to go beyond my own suffering, I wanted to pass that on. It’s something of a cliché that therapists are wounded healers, but it’s true.

My work in therapy and in writing fiction has not been so different.

For me, it’s always been about reaching for the truth, and communicating on a deep level with other human beings.

I recognise that like many introverts I also have a driving need for meaningful connection. It’s what keeps us all afloat.”

Her childhood was lived in a part of London that followers of the BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’ would recognise. However, whilst the fictional ‘Walford’ has changed hardly at all in the 40 years since its arrival on our screens, the part Lesley knew has changed beyond recognition.

covers_drowned_pic“It’s now very different – the little I’ve seen of it in recent years. I’ve looked up the street where I lived for much of my childhood on Google Maps, and it’s weird to see that it’s all part of Docklands now. The interesting thing, however, is that I only have to call on my memory to see it exactly as it was. I have strong images in my mind of the house where I grew up. I didn’t realise it was a slum, and took for granted the outside lavatory and the huge bomb site at the end of the road. Those early experiences in my working class family are vividly imprinted on me.”

Mention of bomb sites reminds me that Lesley recently turned 70. What do the advancing years mean to her in her life and her writing?

“In spite of the additional physical challenges that ageing brings, I don’t think I’ll ever feel old. The generations of women in my maternal family have been strong and feisty, and youthful in our outlook. I loved my grandmother, who in her late eighties still had a wicked sense of humour.

covers_dangerous_picMy mother died only two years ago, also in her late eighties, and she remained politically astute right to the very end – and made sure her vote got cast in the referendum, even though by then she was bed-ridden.

I’m anticipating clocking up quite a few more years than either of them. But I’m also prepared to give in gracefully at whatever age my number comes up. My friends range in age from their early forties to their mid-eighties, and

where like-mindedness and a lively, creative intelligence are present I don’t think age really matters.

As a writer I feel I am at my peak (though I’d probably have said that at whatever age I’d reached when doing this interview!) In writing my current novel I am aware that I am bringing a lifetime of experience and understanding to it. I write with increasingly more compassion and empathy for my characters – which is a reflection of one of the blessings of getting older.

As I see the end of my life no longer as a mere dot on the horizon, I am poignantly aware of my connection not just with other humans but with all creatures, all life. We are all part of ‘it’, and although I’m still no wiser about what ‘it’ is (a lifetime’s inner and outer journeying have been devoted to finding the answer to that) I feel more strongly aware that it is all-encompassing and beautiful.”

How did her past experience as a published writer influence her decision to self-publish when she returned to writing in later life?

covers_twin_pic“Initially I did put some effort into finding another agent, as the one I’d had for all those years before had retired from Laurence Pollinger. But I soon discovered that in those twenty odd years since I’d last been published the whole world of publishing had changed. It was a salutary lesson in humility to be reminded that for all intents and purposes, and whatever my previous history, I was now a new girl on the block.

I was reluctant to self-publish at first, but it was my son who persuaded me. I hadn’t even heard of kindle, never mind discovering the joys of having one. As it has been with most projects in my life, once I seized the nettle I began vigorously waving the flag for nettles everywhere.

It gets easier with each book I publish to learn the ropes of what’s required. The hardest part has been managing to generate the publicity, as I’m not comfortable with blowing my own trumpet. But I love the process of creating the ads for my books, and the covers. And the one huge advantage of self-publishing for me has been editing my own books (which I always did in the past anyway) and not having a publisher trying to convince me to put in more of this or less of that. I do like having complete creative control.”

Her training and work as a psychotherapist feed into her more recent writing:

covers_girl_pic“I’m sure the richness of those years of deeper exploration into the psyche, and more importantly the human heart, have influenced me more than I realise. I have always been fascinated in hearing people’s stories (sitting at the feet of my mother and grandmother as a child, listening to them gossip and relate anecdotes about their history, was a rich source of material for my imagination!) I brought that genuine deep interest to my work as a therapist, and I learned to look for patterns and layers in the stories people told about themselves and their families. I think that honed whatever skills I already had, so that I now embed those patterns and layers in the novels I write. I’m not sure I could write in any other way – because I have to be fascinated in what I’m writing and the characters who introduce themselves to me as I bring them into life.”

She is reluctant to start listing author she admires

“because I’d have a hard job choosing which were more important or influential. The writer who has impressed me most recently has been Philip Pullman. I watched a documentary about him and felt such a rapport with him and how he described the way he works. I admire the way he delves so deeply into his characters and the invented landscape he creates in his books. He has such an incredible imagination, and he brings philosophy and spirituality into his books in a way that encourages the reader to question and perhaps even begin thinking in a way they hadn’t before. I love a book and a writer who is able to do that. I don’t know that I could learn anything as a writer from spending time with him, because we all have our unique style. But I would so enjoy hanging out with him and just talking about the process of writing, and life, and what it means to us.”

Like me, Lesley is full of admiration for the way in which other self-published and independently published writers support each other through organisations like IASD. Some say that such support is less forthcoming from traditionally published writers. Some of the people Lesley worked with in the 1970s went on to become household names. Did she consider approaching them when considering re-entering the world of publishing?

“No, I haven’t done that. I did get in touch with a local writer who has had some success (and ironically, all those years ago, just before I gave up writing for psychotherapy, I gave him the name of my agent, which started the ball rolling for him!) I contacted him a few years ago, just before I started writing my last novel, when I was considering trying to get back into mainstream publishing. He wrote back and said he’d had a look at my profile on Amazon and all the reviews I had, and his advice was to stick to self-publishing. Although he had continued to be published by one of the ‘big’ publishers he was making very little money, and being messed around by them. As for those who worked with me on the magazine, it honestly hasn’t occurred to me to get in touch with them. I tend not to look back once I’ve moved on.”

I am envious of her disciplined approach to writing:

“I’m quite disciplined, which I think is essential. I’ve always had to have a ‘writing room’, wherever I’ve lived, although it’s also an internal space. The one thing I’ve always required is non-interrupted silence – which is probably why I’m much happier living alone, and have a cat who doesn’t even purr. I work in the mornings. My preferred routine is between breakfast and lunch, although because I also have a healthy routine of meeting friends in the mornings, that can be reduced. If I’m burning to get on with a particular chapter I’ll return to it later in the afternoon, but never past 6.30 pm. Every day I go back over the previous day’s writing and edit before starting anew. It helps to keep the thread active, and I’ll sometimes see where I need to insert a couple of paragraphs that link to something that has gone before or is about to be written.”

There is nothing not already exposed here or on her website that she would wish to reveal about herself:

“As you’ve pointed out, I reveal a great deal. Possibly too much. When I was writing the material for it (her website) I lost sight of the fact that complete strangers would one day be reading it. On the other hand, anyone who reads my novels can guess certain things about my own life (although the tease is – which bits are fictional?) I’m an odd combination of being both open and private. I’m honest about who I am, and the truth has always been important to me. The details I wouldn’t want to reveal are those that cause me pain to talk about or would in some way impact on someone else.

I’ve always been good at keeping other people’s secrets… and a few of my own.”

Connect with Lesley on Facebook, Twitter, and follow her blog here.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

That’s what makes a great writer, according to Rebecca Bryn and she should know, being one of the greatest. Her work deserves much wider recognition. “For Their Country’s Good” would make a TV series to rival “Poldark” and “The Dandelion Clock”, which I had the privilege of reading pre-publication, has echoes of Michael Morpurgo’s “War Horse”.

Writing that comes from the heart, with deep emotional overtones and well developed characters, will always captivate me as a reader. Ms. Bryn does that brilliantly.

via It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

A Date With . . . R.L.Andrew

My ‘date’ this week is a truly inspiring woman. R.L. (Robyn) Andrew suffers from the debilitating condition Psoriatic arthritis. This is similar to the condition which afflicted the English television playwright Dennis Potter. Being from Australia I wasn’t sure if she was aware of the English writer who I would imagine would be an inspiration. I sent her a link to Mark Lawson’ s tribute to him.

“I did not know that, Frank, and I truly appreciate the thought you’ve put into this question. He truly is an inspiration and proof of determination. I believe the man who wrote Simply Alice suffered from ALS. While not the same disease he achieved incredible things with basically no ability to physically move. I hope to inspire others in kind.

While I’m chronically ill I am still able to achieve many things albeit mentally and via technology. It’s only my physical self that’s inhibited, my mind is more than eager and capable of learning. I can’t do most of the stuff I used to be able to like work outside my home, surf, dive, swim, run etc but while sick I’ve achieved things I never believed I would. I’m about to have my second book published by an American Publisher, my first has won an award and has five-star ratings. I sell signed paperbacks at markets once a month when able and I participated in my first book fair. I’ve also met some amazing, wonderful and inspirational people through social media which has likewise opened up many doors. Instead of it being the end when I became ill, it’s become a new beginning.”

On her website she says her illness made her determined to “use the sponge like brain I have before it turned to mush.” I asked her to expand on that.

“Admittedly it took a couple of years before I realised I could not only be happy and in pain/suffering but have realistic goals. I’d always been physically and mentally active with a burgeoning legal career so when I first became sick that all stopped. My world crashed, what I had been, known or knew got stripped bare and thrown away. Pain quickly became my closest friend, enemy and confidant.

It’s almost impossible to see anything else when you’re consumed by body malfunctions, other diseases and damage that accompany it along the way, let alone dealing with different levels of pain. Your life starts being about medical appointments, tests and medication testing, instead of graduating law school. In the midst of it were my three daughters, husband, friends and relatives also affected by this. It’s a dark existence and in the process it’s easy to lose your own identity.

But, I’ve always been stubborn, determined, focused and have an unquenchable mind. I would not allow myself to be consumed by something I could not control.

I can’t change what happens to my body, yet I can change how I deal with it and how much attention I give to it. I swallowed my pride and accepted any external help I needed and continue to need. I also embraced technology and ways in which that could give me a life.

I’d written short stories and poems from the time I could write and I’d always wanted to write a book. When I put two and two together light returned to my day. I returned to writing short stories and found anthologies looking for submissions. One after another they were accepted and before I knew it I had fifteen plus in different anthologies.

a722b5b2-7652-4f9f-b774-5d78de60b408These not only gave me confidence but taught me about structure, working with editors and constructive feedback. I came across several Facebook writing groups and one in particular changed my writing life – Writer’s World. It’s an online critique group that offers other services such as novel writing boot camps. I signed up, swallowed my pride again and delved in. It’s a humbling experience and at the same time when you’re open to learning from others you become a much better writer. This is how my first book came to be and I met long lasting friends in the meantime.

Now I worry about plot holes and first round edits. I have gone a bit too far in that regard and sometimes forget about my health, but I’m working on it.

Long story short, never give up, never give in, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. The only person who can ever stop you, is you.”

Robyn lives in Victoria, Australia.

“I was born in Victoria and moved to South Australia at five until fifteen. At nineteen I moved to Sydney in NSW and had three daughters. We lived there for seven years and then moved back to Victoria. On and off I’ve lived here for around thirty five years. Despite several attempts I’ve not managed to move back to South Australia where I still have family, but Victoria seems to be in my long term future for a number of reasons, mostly my three daughters are in this state and the medical care is better here. Overall it’s a nice state but no matter where you live you can make it home.”

She published her first book last autumn at which point she was already working on two more. I wondered how these second and third books are progressing, given that her condition limits the amount of work she can do each day.

“My second one is in second round edits and hopefully will be published by mid year! It seems to take me about a year from first draft until it’s ready to publish and that takes into account my health. I do some writing every day. Some days I’m able to do a couple of hours in fragments, other days it’s less. However, the beauty of technology these days is that you can write on your phone or tablet. It doesn’t matter how much I do as long as I do some.

With the first one published I have to work at selling it which is difficult given my limitations, but I make it work. If I have to miss a market or something I will. On the same token I take as many opportunities as I can to promote it even if it means leaving my house.”

She writes about relationships with humour but her books are set in an alien world.

“No matter how crappy life gets you can laugh about it and it makes you feel better.

I’ve always been fascinated in life on other planets and I love making stuff up so it went from there.”

Her experience as a Legal Executive “has not come into my writing at all as yet. I’m not sure it will.” Instead she “finds writing an escape from reality. I love getting absorbed in my worlds and characters. It’s so much fun and it’s often cathartic.”

She is published by JaCol, a small independent. I asked about her experience with them and editor Randall Andrews.

“I have loved every minute of it. It has not been easy, it’s been a lot of hard work, thinking, plotting, planning and tossing away parts that don’t work. Randall has a way of getting me to see where something doesn’t work or what I need to change without saying much. He also knows how to get the best out of me and my story and knows I’m prepared to do what it takes. I highly recommend Randall and Jacol to all authors. I want to see it grow bigger.”

I always ask my ‘dates’ about their writing space and time. Robyn’s is dictated by her illness.

“Until a week ago I wrote from my bed or couch but our former office is now my writing room. I have a motorised bed in there which lifts the feet and head however I need it and it vibrates! It’s also the warmest room and all my books, market and writing stuff in there. Now I’m on the third book with another five planned in this series I needed more room.”

She admires “so many [authors] it’s hard to choose one. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe was the first author who really grabbed my attention and holds it to this day. My Great Grandmother had a full collection of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I read everyone of those too.”

Asked to reveal something about herself that might surprise her readers she admits to being “big into the UFO scene and spend time each day researching it. I’m also a keen gardener, such as I can, and a great cook.”

I am in awe of someone who manages to write something every day despite the obstacles life has placed in her way, with the ambition to complete an eight volume series. I hope you are, too. You can connect with Robyn on her website and Facebook. Better still, buy her book here. You can also arrange to receive a signed paperback copy via her website.

A Date With . . . Val Tobin

My latest ‘Date’ is with novelist and parapsychology graduate Val Tobin who hails from Ontario. As usual I began by asking her to tell me a little about her home state.

I’ve lived in Ontario all my life. What I love most about it is the beauty of the countryside and the tight-knit community we live in.

The downside is the bugs, particularly the mosquitoes in the summer. I’m not a big fan of winter either. I’ve learned to bundle up for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it. Some folks here participate in winter sports, but the closest I get to a winter sport is reading in front of a fireplace.

Val writes across several genres but has no strong preference for any, preferring to allow the story to dictate the genre:

For example, when the idea for The Experiencers, book one of the Valiant Chronicles series, came to me, the UFO conspiracy aspects and the death-ray technology dropped it into SF. The action and suspense make it a thriller as well, and there’s romance in it, because you can’t have people interacting in pressure-cooker situations without something developing between them. It also contains supernatural elements.

I’ve written more romantic suspense than any of the other genres, which might make you conclude it’s my preference. Perhaps that’s correct. I enjoy when characters find deep connections with one another.

24169671_10155427444817982_1744726250_o-300x200In the Valiant Chronicles, one of the secondary characters goes through hell before he matures enough to enter into a monogamous relationship. This character treated women so cavalierly in The Experiencers that one reader emailed me to insist the character die for his sins in the sequel, A Ring of Truth (this was when I was still working on book two of the series).

At first, I’d been headed in that direction. I’d considered redemption for this character through death by self-sacrifice. But that’s not what happened when I reached that point in the story. He meets a woman as lost and broken as he is, and together they find healing.

What I enjoy exploring the most is flawed characters who manage to heal and grow towards their potential.

Her latest release, which I have just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed, is set among the members of a writers’ group in which petty jealousies lead to murder. She tells me such rivalries do sometimes exist in real life groups, and goes on to comment about the latest scandal inflaming the world of publishing.

I’m a member of a number of writers’ groups. The majority, such as our Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), are on Facebook, which makes them virtual groups. The Writers’ Community of York Region (WCYR) provides the physical connection I need and resembles the group in the story more except for the petty jealousy part. My preferred groups don’t have that kind of nonsense, but yes, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head over the years.

Every once-in-a-while you read about authors behaving badly and that stems from insecurity, fragile egos, and fear. The murderer in my story embodied all that’s toxic in any competitive industry.

It can be particularly appalling when writers get nasty. Written assaults can do more long-term damage than physical assaults.

poison-pen-ebook-cover-30june2017In Poison Pen, the character chose the ultimate physical solution: murder. Naturally, eliminating a competitor doesn’t pave the way for success, and that’s what the killer in my story doesn’t see. He can’t understand why, even with the guy he holds responsible for his failure out of the way, he continues to struggle.

If there’s a theme in the story, it’s that acting out of jealousy and envy destroys the perpetrator from the inside out.

Jealousy and envy can result in horrible behaviour. The movie I Tonya recounts how skater Tonya Harding‘s career was destroyed when her husband hired a hitman to kneecap rival Nancy Kerrigan.

I recall a writer who was so angry with a teenage reviewer that he tracked her down and smashed her over the head with a wine bottle. Another author once wrote on her blog suggesting that J.K.Rowling stop writing books for adults. I’ve heard of authors receiving fake one star reviews the way my murder victim does in the story.

As I write this, #Cockygate rages on. For those who haven’t heard, an author has trademarked the name “Cocky” and has sent cease-and-desist letters to other romance authors who have the word in the titles of their books.

I find that with a number of the books I release, life reflects art. Releasing Poison Pen just as Cockygate broke was an interesting coincidence. Instead of wanting to own the whole cocky pie, the author should have considered doing a cocky anthology with other writers who use the word in their titles.51xtkof2hbl-_sy346_

In my opinion, cooperative competition is the way to go. Just because a reader falls in love with one author’s books doesn’t mean he or she won’t ever read books from another author. As a voracious reader myself, I consume works from a huge variety of authors and am always hunting for my next favourite author.

When I find that author, I make a point of following them. I’m never confused about whose book I’m picking up. Any author can use the words “in Death” in their title, but I’ll recognize Nora Roberts’s “in Death” books because they’ll say “by J. D. Robb.”

Indie author Eric Lahti doesn’t have to trademark the word “henchmen” for his readers to recognize that if they come across a book with henchman in the title and it’s by Joe Author that Eric’s not the author. Cockygate would be laughable if it wasn’t so devastating to those authors facing frivolous and expensive lawsuits over it.

I next asked her about that parapsychology degree and her interest in the paranormal, something she shares with a previous guest.

I’ve been attracted to the paranormal all my life, probably because my mother was interested in it. My father, who was a tool and die maker by trade and heavy into math and logic, read palms. I suppose it’s part of the search for meaning or the quest to learn what’s beyond the physical realm.

51yqcxlkull-_sy346_While working in the computer industry, I obtained the B.Sc. in Parapsychic Science and then I went for the master’s degree in parapsychology. I also became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher in 2005 and an Angel Therapy Practitioner© with Advanced Training certified by Doreen Virtue in Kona, Hawaii in March and October of 2008. I returned to Hawaii for mediumship and spiritual writing courses in 2010.

This provided me with hands-on training in addition to the theory I was getting from my other studies. If you’ve never tried to develop your psychic skills, you might be sceptical that it’s even possible, but I draw on these skills and experiences in my novels.

In the Valiant Chronicles and in Walk-In, I have characters with psychic abilities and much of what they do and how they do it reflects my training. When Carolyn glances down and to the right as she connects to a spirit, she’s doing it the way I do it. It’s not something I was taught to do — it’s something I do instinctively — but it works for me.

When I first started the quest to develop my psychic abilities, I was convinced they didn’t exist.

I had experienced enough by that point to be open minded about others having psychic ability, but I was positive I was, well, a Muggle.

The surprises came slowly, but they came. Developing psychic intuition when you’ve blocked yourself or when you’re sceptical is difficult and takes commitment and dedication. It’s time consuming and frustrating but well worth the effort.

Val is about to embark on her first attempt at a non-fiction work, based on her masters thesis. I wondered how much she enjoyed all the work that goes into such an enterprise.

I’ve always loved research. Most of the courses I’ve taken involved a lot of research and essay writing. In my software developer years, I wrote for on-line magazine Community MX about web development using Macromedia products. Somehow, I have this burning desire to be both creative and logical.

I wrote my thesis on the after-effects of near-death experience (NDE) and think it would make a fascinating book. Not only are the lives of those who’ve experienced an NDE changed, but those who hear their stories and interact with them are impacted as well. Research has shown that you don’t have to have an NDE to have your life changed by it. You can be affected by it vicariously. Many of the effects are beneficial, though not always. I’ll delve into all that in the book.

She doesn’t rule out the idea of traditional publishing but is happy with her present status as an independent author.

I have one little story in a traditionally published, non-fiction book (Doreen Virtue’s Angel Words published by Hay House), so you could say I’ve dipped my toe in traditional waters. However, when I wrote The Experiencers (my first novel) and consulted on the subject of trad versus indie publishing with a hybrid author who has been writing books since the 1970s, he made a good case for me to go indie.

518tswurnpl-_sy346_Of course, I don’t rule out traditional publishing, but at this time, I like the freedom and control I get form being an indie author. It certainly has its trials, and it’s expensive to pay for covers and editing myself, but if I have to do my own marketing anyway, I might as well stick with the indie way.

She works from a home office with no door where you can find her most days “from morning to dinner time.” I wanted to know if dinner was taken in the middle of the day or in the evening. She confirmed that it is the latter.

Asked to reveal something that might surprise her readers she certainly surprised me!

My readers might be surprised to learn that I’ve had a cameo in two indie lesbian films. One was Route of Acceptance and the other was I Met You First. Route of Acceptance is out and available for download and I Met You First is still in production.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog where you will find links to all her books.

Writers and Readers don’t always Understand Each Other

This post from Rebecca Bryn resonated with me because I recently received a couple of critical reviews of Strongbow’s Wife. In one case the writer of the review kindly e-mailed me pointing out a couple of minor period details that I got wrong. The other claimed to have had his faith in the book destroyed by the appearance of a minor  character who aspired to write ‘poetry in the Greek fashion’. Impossible in Medieval Britain according to my critic. Trouble is he was a real person who did indeed write epic poetry emulating Homer.
Rebecca is definitely one of my favourite authors, though I have yet to read The Silence of the Stones. I guess it’s time I did.

via Unpleasant and juvenile? Bad reviews -2

A Date With . . . Graham Watkins

In 2003 Graham Watkins and his wife sold their Marine Engineering business and escaped to the country by purchasing a small-holding in the Brecon Beacons. His first venture into publishing was a “how to” book based on the experience, entitled ‘Exit Strategy’. I began our ‘date’ by asking him about his Welsh hill farm.b88573_12bc012d15d5498dbf67883562dbe26c

“My hobby farm is six acres. When we first moved here 15 years ago a neighbour asked, with a knowing smile, if the animals had started arriving yet? I had no idea what she meant at the time. Since then they have, including dogs, chickens, ducks, Welsh Black cattle and sheep together with foxes, polecats, buzzards and red kites proving we are, ‘red in tooth and claw.’ I’m actually an apprentice farmer under instruction from friends who know what they are doing. There’s no money involved but our freezer is well stocked and we eat honest food.”

The couple enjoy walking and this inspired Graham’s next publishing venture.

“Welsh Legends and Myths started as a walking book containing sixteen walks each associated with a local legend in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.b88573_58d60192600d4c2a813db86f57daff17 It was an excuse to get out and explore.b88573_93836c5afb4a44de905539334c62b227 The project grew into five walking books ‘Walking with Welsh Legends’ covering the entire country and took four years to complete. Since then I’ve republished all eighty legends in one volume ‘Welsh Legends and Myths’ as a paperback, eBook and an audio book.”

The couple’s interest in travel and exploration is not limited to Wales, however, and in 2016 led them into unanticipated danger:

“I’ve always enjoyed travelling and started my working life as a marine engineer visiting the far east, South America and other far flung places. Since retiring we have continued to travel to other countries including, America, China, Africa and New Zealand – We were whale watching in Kaikoura in 2016 when the 7.8 scale earthquake struck.

The quake hit just after midnight obliterating much of the town and cutting it off from the rest of the world. All roads were destroyed. Marooned, we spent three days sleeping in our hire car, living on marmalade sandwiches, before being rescued by military helicopter.

Our next adventure is a month long road trip in Canada later this year.”

Graham also writes historical fiction. That requires a good deal of research and I wondered if he enjoys that aspect of the genre.

b88573_995f0e9c55c84f42a249845550323c17“For me, research is part of the joy of writing. I have a family connection to Merthyr and it was great fun delving into the history behind my book ‘The Iron Masters’. The timeline I produced for the novel contained a wealth of facts which I found fascinating, in some cases, almost stranger than the fiction I was creating.b88573_1897612c0b8d44e39d8cdadc7bc68cd0

‘A White Man’s War’ my South African novel was inspired by a tour of the Zulu and Boer War battlefields and a book written by Thomas Packenham containing the photograph of a young African man stood at attention in front of a group of army officers.

He looked terrified and with good reason; he’d just been sentenced to death for stealing a goat.

The title for the book came from a letter Boer General Cronje wrote to a Colonel Baden-Powell – that’s a name you might be familiar with.

Sir

It is understood that you have armed Bastards, Fingoes and Baralongs against us – in this you have committed an enormous act of wickedness…reconsider the matter, even if it cost you the loss of Mafeking… disarm your blacks and thereby act the part of a white man in a white man’s war.”

With Graham having written about the Napoleonic period in European history it should come as no surprise that David Howard is high on his list of favourite authors.

“His treatment of Napoleonic history is breathtaking. Another is Daniel Yergin. Who would think a book about the history of the oil industry would be a page turner? Perhaps the most inspirational is Jean-Dominique Bauby. His book ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ was superb. It reduced me to tears. I’m currently reading ‘Popski’s Private Army’ by Vladimir Peniakoff. I once worked with a friend, long since dead, who was one of Popski’s men. It’s an incredible story of heroism and endurance.”

He has been published by traditional publishers but now prefers to be independent.

“The publishing landscape is changing at a rapid pace. I’ve published with traditional publishers but more recently as an indie author. Why? Because

I like to keep control of my work and unless you’re a J.K. Rowling or a ‘Celebrity’ there’s no advantage in being with a traditional publisher.

Either way, the author ends up doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing.”

Asked about his writing process he begins by referring to Enid Blyton.

“I read somewhere that Enid Blyton wrote at the rate of 6000 words a day. Mind you, she was writing about Noddy. My limit is about 1000 words which I write in the morning. After that my eyes glaze over and it’s time to go and do something else, mow the lawn, paint the house or perhaps walk on the mountain.”

Graham is an accomplished public speaker, a skill about which he is characteristically modest.

“I’m told I like the sound of my own voice which must be true because I’m sometimes invited to give talks to different audiences. How good I am is debatable and I confess I once put a listener to sleep at a black tie Rotary event where I was the after dinner speaker. The poor chap almost fell off his chair. It might have been what I was saying but I suspect his wine consumption was the real culprit.”

I thanked Graham for an enjoyable date full of interesting insights. You can find out much more about Graham from his website, his Facebook page and his Amazon Author page.