Category Archives: Book Signing

Plots, Sequels and Radio Interviews!

Well, what a lot has been achieved this week… lots of plotting and planning. Four hours each morning with a notebook and I think I am about ready to start my sequel to one of my novels on Monday. Yay!

I have blogged about many things on here, mostly writerly, but not on plotting and ‘idea brainstorming’. I don’t think you can force ideas to come, you have to let them show up. Sometimes they march in without knocking and plonk themselves down in front of you. Here I am! Other times they whisper as you sleep or drift in and out like a tide that you can’t hold onto, you have it, you don’t. It’s a tease until you grab it and hold onto it like a wriggling cat until it settles on your lap.

This week has been enlightening. And it’s been exciting. You just never know who or what is going to show up. The good news is that for all its convolutions and complexities that have to be part of this novel to make it a good sequel, the ideas have come mostly pretty well formed and the new characters even told me their names! I am getting to know them now! While I never planned it this way, I have ideas for the two books that will make this a trilogy — and scope for more later. I had not planned to ‘plan’ the third book but since there is this thing called ‘foregrounding’– the legwork for the next one, i.e. the planting of the seeds — then it makes perfect sense. I now know how it all ends and what has to happen in the third one. I even have ideas for the names of the books. I am excited ❤

So how much do you plan?

Well, not too much. That said, if you were to see my notebook you would say I have it pretty much worked out, and I guess I kind of do. However, the true magic of writing happens when you allow your subconscious to guide you. Plots change. They change because as you write, things need to happen: pacing things! When you read a great novel and a chapter ends with one of those moments: another body is found, someone isn’t who you think they are — you know, ‘the unexpected reveal’, well, I like to think it’s by magic. A lot of these, I think, are not planned. They just happen. I have had a character  walk in and make a statement and I’ve spent the next hours, maybe days, working out why and what it means. Truly. Something in me knew it had to happen, and every time it really was vital to the story, I just didn’t know it when I planned the book! See, magic! Writing is magic. You need to plot and plan, absolutely — but then you need to allow the magic in.

I can’t wait to get writing now.

And in other news…

Cover reveal!

My short story collection is out in July and I will be in conversation with Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex this very afternoon from 2 pm talking writing and short stories! Do tune in: here’s the link!

TONY FISHER ARTS SHOW

And, here it is… my cover. Me and my nan! Her photo was taken in the 1930s and relates to the last story in the book, the newest short story of mine 🙂

Because Sometimes Medium

Out July 2019

Launch Event, St Nicholas Church, Canvey Island, July 19th 7 pm, all welcome!

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Being a Writer :)

Logo Leicester Writes

 

Well, it looks set to be a busy second half of the year, with short stories to appear in no less than four new collections!

It starts this weekend when Mum and I will be travelling to Leicester to be part of The Leicester Writes Literary Festival! The winners’ anthology from their competition will be launched tomorrow and if anyone fancies it you can still get tickets! Here’s the link:

Winners’ Anthology Launch

I will be reading from my story We Went There. This is a new one of mine about a woman taking her dad, who suffers from dementia, to a home when she uncovers a secret… is he who she thought he was? Is she? And now she knows what will she do?

As I have so often said, writing does not have to be a lonely experience. But of course, a huge part of it is sitting alone in front of your keyboard tap-tap-tapping away! Successes are something to be celebrated since we all know how hard it is to have them, and so when you get the chance to celebrate them alongside other writers then you must!

I will be in good company with the other writers including winner C G Menon and second place Siobhan Logan, me as a humble third place 🙂 Also joined by highly commended Lynne E Blackwood and worthy runners-up: Karl Quiqley, Jack Wedgebury, Katherine Hetzel, Asha Krishna, Matthew Rhodes, Bev Haddon 🙂

Read what the judges had to say about the stories here: LINK

Judges were: writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, and Grace Haddon as well as bookseller, Debbie James.

It is a real honour to be part of this line-up and to have my story published by Dahlia Publishing, and edited by fellow writer and friend: Richard Sheehan. Can’t wait to meet everyone and celebrate our success! The book looks great; I have seen the proof and will read as many of the stories as I can before the event tomorrow!

We set off in the morning (so no Blog tomorrow) and then celebrate tomorrow night at the event, home Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

Leicster Writes

Do come along if you can… I will blog about it next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

WHOO!

 

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Who Will Be My Friend?

Dreams never die and my dad is a testament to that! Some of you will know he is a Walt Disney artist (one of only a couple back when he started approved to work for Disney) and has illustrated many children’s books and comics over the years. He was a co-creator of the BBC’s Poddington Peas when he brought Paul Needs’s characters to life, some of you might remember.

I worked with him when my little press published The Jet-Set books at Paws n Claws for Born Free helping him to realise the dream of writing as well as illustrating his own characters.

Well I am thrilled to announce that he had another picture book of his illustrations and stories published this month by Chapeltown Books and how lovely this is for its illustrations and beautiful message that in today’s political climate is just what we need.

 

Who Will Be

The book is available on Amazon; here is the UK link! Dad will be doing talks in schools and has some planned at local libraries next month; this Saturday in Benfleet!

Do please spread the word… Dad taught me that age is no limit and if you have a dream… never give up!

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Finding Your Rhythm With the Short Story Form

 

Click to go to website

The pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter is back,  rain dancing on conservatory windows; tapping thoughts gently into my head as I begin another week.

I will be blogging this week about my experiences at the London Short Story Festival which has got all sorts of creative urges, urging. It is no secret my feelings and love of the good short story; a good literary, makes you think, changes something you feel about the world short story. I was treated to plenty of those by some incredible writers on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I love this idea of daring to be bold, of using the short story form as a playground for experimenting creatively, something I have always seen it as. For me, it begins with a short story.

Short stories are different things to different people and come in many forms. For me they find a rhythm inside me and once I start writing a new one they grab me and hold me down until I write and rewrite and keep on writing until it is as near to perfection I can find; if perfection is ever truly attainable. But it’s in that search I find my bliss.

After listening to a fabulously talented panel of writers May-Lan Tan , Laura Van den Berg and Jon McGregor talk to the also highly talented Paul McVeigh about the short story and people they read I have more books to buy. It’s like my appetite has suddenly been whetted again and I think I know what my next project after Chutney needs to be, some short stories, possibly getting together a collection. I want to experiment with the form and challenge myself again. And who knows I now want to talk and be a guest at the London Short Story Festival.

I wasn’t a guest but was close to it as we saw the launch of a collection I have a new story in at the event.

It was also wonderful meeting fellow Unthologists as Saturday also saw the release of Unthology 7. These collections are a unique and interesting place to showcase what can be done in the short form. Unthank Books have now published me twice and I fully intend to submit again.

One thing I did listen to with great interest over my day at the festival was the rhythm of language and I heard some writers talk about how they used music for mood as they wrote sometimes. I only ever did this with one story interestingly; one I have yet to write in a form I want but I will. It’s about a woman finding, after all these years, the brother whose hand she let go of when she went to Auschwitz. Music plays a big part in that story because she survived because of her musicality; she played for the officers. In fact I remember having to write a memory of her playing the ‘Radetsky March’ as her best friend plodded past with heavy footsteps to the gas chambers; and she knew she had to keep playing. Keep playing. Don’t stop. Just keep playing. It wasn’t that I listened to that music, my own heart beat made that inside me, no I listened to the score of Harmony, the Manilow musical about the Comedienne Harmonists as Germany drew closer to the holocaust and there are some songs in that that evoke something powerful and enabled me to find that dark place and sustain it as I wrote. I know when I return to that story the music will instantly take me back to that place.

I liked to play in that story with the musicality, which I will revisit. Language has its own rhythm and can be explored in a musical way and I want to do more of that experimentation. When I edit it’s quite hard to explain to people the need to use rhythm but it’s in listening to other great writers, we find that rhythm and I believe that’s where you will find your true voice.

What I find interesting as well as using music as place, is using music for establishing character; I would love to use that device overtly in some form, how characters represent a certain piece of music. I think this is something that can helped deepen characterisation.

Recommendation for today:  Laura Van den Berg. I was so moved by the new story  she read on Saturday I have to try out her collections, and she has just released her first novel.

 

The way

 

Isle

 

Find Me

 

Find on Amazon

 

Tomorrow I am talking more about the short story and differences between America and the UK in how the short story form is used as a platform to debut new writers…

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Meeting the lovely people…

I know some writers who tell me they’d hate to do what I’ve been doing these last few weeks. Standing in bookstores armed with bookmarks and telling them how I’m signing in store and come have a look at my book.

Well you know, promotion like this is just one of the ways to get your work noticed. It’s baby steps. You’re making only a small dent in book sales, I know that. You can stand in store talking to everyone and really working it, for hours on end and sell just six copies. But that’s six more people who know who you are and more importantly who will read your book, not to mention the ones who they’ll pass the book onto and those who say they prefer Kindle and will download it. And since I give out a lot of bookmarks, and yes many will end up in the bin, some  I hope will buy the book later. It is hard work but I like people. And our  readers matter, so you have to do it. And you might as well enjoy it, right? It is what I always wanted to be and it goes with the job.

It’s amazing how tiring it is spending four hours or more standing and talking! But I realise that while the blurb sells the book in terms of if it’s their kind of thing, people buy into people. So yes I am annoyingly happy all the time and yes always smiling and no that’s not fake, that’s just me, my sociable approach must count. Or I hope it does. I am certain the way I approach people and really just chat to them, means if they like me, they are more likely to go and pick up my book to read the blurb and perhaps buy it.

It’s been a busy but great few weeks. Yes it means having no day off and I can feel the tiredness seeping in, but it’s so worth it. I have my final two Saturdays in Bangor back to normal, meeting writing friends etc and then once I move, and as we head closer to Christmas (yes I did use the C word!) I will be putting together a signing tour in that part of the world, so if you think your local bookshop might be worth including, preferably south-east or close, let me know! I am going to make a list of places soon and start approaching them. I figure a signed novel is an interesting and different Christmas present, right? So many books will be bought online and that’s fine but something unique about it being signed by the author. Remember I also have signed copies I can personalise on my website (sadly I do have to include the £3 postage) but I will have it an offer price of £10 with p&p in the run-up to Christmas, so if I am too far to make it to your local bookshop, please do message me or watch my website as I will be able to send a signed one.

Yes these are baby steps, but how else will people know about my book.

And that’s why reviews count so if you have read my novel please do post reviews on blogs and Amazon or Goodreads etc (if you liked it!) and it all helps!

Right. Might be bank holiday for some here in the UK, but for me, business as usual.

Have a great day everyone!

Signing in LlandudnoSigning in WHSmith, Llandudno, Saturday August 23rd 2014

 

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Lost In Sharonville

Don’t you just love the kinds of books that take you somewhere and leave you there. Like being dumped in the desert but you don’t just see miles and miles of sand but a whole other world — one that plays out inside your head. The fiction writers who do this deserve a medal. No matter how hard life gets, there will always be books.

The trick is for the images to play out like a film projected on your visual cortex. The language and the story unfold so seamlessly you forget you’re just reading words on a page. You’re seeing it, losing yourself inside the language, the place, the story.

The developing writers, me included, strive for this. You know it when you see it but you can’t always define it.

You can only look at the less accomplished fiction, perhaps works in progress at your writing group, to see the difference. When writers are overwordy, use too much TELLING, too much exposition, characters are stereotyped, you do not get that connection, nor do you get lost in that space. I guess you could say it’s like tripping up on the words. When author uses lots of clunky phrases, adverbs or  inventive words for said because they feel the need to remind us he’s speaking — conspiratorially (my most hated adverb!) or retorting angrily.

The skilled writer doesn’t have to remind you this is a book and here are my clever words, the words just flow like rich wine, effortless and wonderful.

SHOWING is FILMING; and done well you see a character speak, you observe the subtleties of the body language and you become part of it. No need for telling us how something’s said, we see it in the subtext and the construction. No tripping on clichés or awkward overwrites, odd sentences which say look how clever I am — no. We just become one with the work and lost in that space. And that is the mark of great writing — no matter the genre.

Right now To Kill A Mockingbird is doing that very thing to me, but another book that took me to that place recently was Sharon Zink’s powerful Welcome to Sharonville. Another writer with a small press, the wonderful Unthank Books who have also published one of my shorts and another one will be published next May in Unthology 6. The problem with the small presses is getting your work known, getting it seen by the world and it would be a travesty if this one slips through because it’s not got the power of the BIG marketing machine behind it or it costs a little more than a mass market paperback. But worth it. And there is always Kindle too.

Do yourself a favour and treat yourself. This is the kind of novel where the characters feel so real and the language so beautiful (but not overwritten) you get lost inside it. It is a literary novel, and I find the danger with some literary writing is writers feel the need to show off and make the language cumbersome. Not so here, this is divine.

Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads and a photo from the launch. Sharon is such an interesting person and I remember sitting in the little room at New Writing South, Brighton, American flags draped on the wall (another Brit who has written an American novel hey?), goodie bag of US candies balanced on my knee, Mum at my side, and thinking this writer is so eloquent, so funny and so talented! Yes I know Sharon, but only because we were both published in the same book but I would not review the book so highly if I didn’t think it. I read many many books, a lot by friends or clients but I only review the ones I really love! I think Sharon has a career ahead that you need to watch with interest! She is humble too because she knows how tough the journey is to get to that point.

Here’s my review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/980382552

 

The launch!

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Sharon has worked long and hard for this day, like so many. It was many years in the crafting and the success all the sweeter! Well done 🙂

Highly recommended read!

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Being Well Known Enough…

As a newly published debut novelist (albeit after several publishing successes with short stories), published by a respectable, but never the less small press, and even those published by the bigger presses, we all have to get our work and our name our there and that means a lot of doing it yourself. The sad fact is, even authors with agents and big publishers are often confined to the mid lists. They might have a good following and write full-time, but being a household name is something more elusive.

Talking to a successful novelist friend last night who is writing full-time and doing very well with his self-published crime series (he did have an agent for a while) a lot of his success is measured a lot in how much time he can give over to marketing. In fact he now pays for someone to do that for him. So how much of getting known comes from how much time and money can be invested in getting your name out there? And how much is purely based on the quality of the books?

I would like to be able to say how talent speaks for itself, and if you write well it doesn’t matter, but you can’t find fans if they don’t know you exist — right? He is a good writer by the way, but his background in marketing and business also helps!

I don’t write for fame or money but I do write for success, measured in how many people read and appreciate my work. I, like all writers, still have much to learn, but have also learned so much on this journey so far. While I don’t seek fame I do hope my work is recognised and awarded even and for that I will strive to always write the best I am capable of. And to do what I love doing every day is indeed an honour for which I am profoundly grateful — every single day. TRULY.

But even when you don’t seek fame as such, for your books but not you, maybe, it still involves a lot of self-promotion and contacting bookshops to arrange signings etc. In fact one of the large bookshop chains would not have me in one of their bigger flagship stores because I am not well known enough. I did so want to say a rude thing to that. Like weren’t all the successful authors once unknown? I guess I know which stores to decline when I am well known enough to draw a crowd. Flippancy aside, they have their reasons, they might just learn how to express themselves with a little more tact if they want an ongoing relationship with those they turned down who might just be the next BIG THING.

Luckily many stores have said yes and I will be signing, even if as the debut unknown I have to hand out bookmarks and smile a lot to get noticed. But I love it! I do. I love everything about this writerly life of mine. And while I wish I could afford to pay someone to market me more and get While No One Was Watching to a larger audience, I also have to focus on the writing and believe in that.

While it might be naive to hope if you write well you will get noticed anyway, there will always be a little naivety, like there has always been — that I will win big awards for my novels, that movies will be made … the same touch of naivety that got me this far — so I think I will hold onto it.

Dreamers Never Disappear. So don’t you.

Believe 2

 

 

 

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In The Spotlight Guest Post R J Ellory [Spotlight On Crime Series]

I have a very special guest in the spotlight this morning — a very special guest. R J Ellory is the author of many books, perhaps shot into the public eye when A Quiet Belief In Angels made the Richard and Judy list. I love his writing style, writing sometimes on the darker side — crime/psychological thrillers — just my bag. Well worth looking at his extensive list — not that he needs me to sing his praises, the books speak for themselves.

I met Roger (in the virtual sense) through a writing friend and we have stayed in contact. He signed his novel Bad Signs to me and I loved it. So I asked, even though I know he is SO busy, if he would share some of his journey with fellow writers (and readers.) As Roger will tell you himself, it has been a long journey and he is testament to the fight, if you want it enough and you’re prepared to work at it, you can get there. So without further ado I would like to welcome to the spotlight, author R J Ellory (pause for RAUCOUS applause) …

 

Spotlight

 

Welcome R J Ellory

 

RJ Ellory Image

“I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop…”

 

Introduce yourself: Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book published.

 

Okay…well, my name is RJ (Roger Jon) Ellory, and I was first published here in the UK in 2003.  That was the end of a fifteen year-long ‘battle’ to find a publisher.  The first published book was the twenty-third I wrote, and the gap between when I first put pen to paper and first secured a publishing contract was fifteen years, taking into account that I wrote nothing for eight of those years due to accumulated ‘disappointments’ and mental exhaustion!  Of course, my own experiences are unique, and I am sure that there are great many more published authors out there who secured publication with their first or second novel, but this was just my journey and this was what it took for me.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

 

I tried to work through an agent, and secured the services of three or four, but nothing came of it.  I think they just didn’t have the persistence that I had, and they each gave up after two or three attempts to find me a publisher.  I ultimately secured a contract with a publisher (Orion UK) directly, and my editor advised me to get an agent, recommended three or four, and even then – knowing that I already had a publishing contract with one of the most prestigious publishing companies in the UK – only one agent contacted me and met with me.  That agent is still my agent twelve books later.

 

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group?

 

No, I never belonged to a writing group.  I never had anyone read my work before I sent it off.  My wife used to read my work, and she was never anything but convinced that I would one day be published.

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

 

My wife, of course.  She said, ‘About bloody time!’

 

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

 

Working with a good editor is the same as learning any new subject.  I have studied music, graphic design, photography, all sorts of things, and working with an editor starts with the same premise.  There is a great deal of difference between writing a novel and writing a novel for public consumption.  Your editor, usually, is the first person to read your novel as an ‘audience’.  He will see holes that you didn’t see.  He will see plot weaknesses that remain unknown to you, even when you have dragged your way through two rewrites.  There is an old expression: A wise man is a man who knows he knows nothing.  I approach my working relationship with my editor on this footing, that he does know better, that he can teach me a great deal from his own experience, that he is working towards making the book as good as it can be, and I am very fortunate to have one of the finest editors working in the UK book industry.  There is no book I have written that is not better as a result of his working on it.  He advises, we discuss, I then amend, rewrite and/or edit as applicable.  After working on twelve books together, we have a system that could not be better.  Not that I have any criticism of self-publishing, but that basic and fundamental relationship between writer and editor is missing, and I do not see how a book could be as good as it could be without that external and objective critique and input, especially from someone who is vastly experienced and knows exactly what they are doing.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

For years I wrote longhand, almost three million words, but now I use a computer.  Sometimes when I’m away from home I’ll write longhand, and then transcribe when I return.  I tend to write a whole book, furiously ploughing through it, and then I go back through from start to finish and handle all the snags, anomalies, mistakes, cut back on the over-writing as best I can.  It’s kind of organic in a way, like it’s something that takes on certain character aspects of its own.  It’s like living with a bunch of people for a few weeks, and you watch them grow, watch them take control of certain elements of the story, and then when you’re done it’s like losing something.  Capote once said that finishing a story was like taking a child out into the yard and shooting them.  Perhaps a little melodramatic, but I know what he means!  When a book is finished it kind of leaves a hole in you, and then you have to start another one right away!  I am disciplined.  I start early in the day.  I try and produce three or four thousand words a day, and work on the basis of getting a first draft done in about twelve weeks.  Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes shorter.  For me a book always begins with the emotion I want to evoke in the reader.  That’s the most important thing for me.  How does a book make you feel, and does that memory stay with you?  So that’s my first consideration: the emotional effect I am trying to create.  The second thing is the location.  Location is vital for me as the location informs and influences the language, the dialect, the characters – everything.  I choose to start a book in Louisiana or New York or Washington simply because that ‘canvas’ is the best for to paint the particular picture I want to paint.  I buy a new notebook, a good quality one, because I know I’m going to be carrying it around for two or three months, and in the notebook I will write down ideas I have as I go.  Little bits of dialogue, things like that.  Sometimes I have a title, sometimes not.  I used to feel very strongly about having a good title before I started, but now – because at least half the books I’ve published have ended up with a different title – I am not so obsessive about it!  And as far as little idiosyncratic routines and superstitions are concerned, I don’t know that I actually have any that relate to starting a book.  I do have a routine when I finish a book.  I make a really good Manhattan, and then I take my family out to dinner!

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

 

Other writers inspire me.  I spend my time finding books by writers that make me feel like a clumsy and awkward writer.  I love film, too.  Music, of course.  Artists in all areas inspire me, especially those who have had to really work hard at creating recognition for something special or unusual.  I am inspired by the achievements of people in all fields, to be honest.  The basic truth that kept me going for yeas despite many hundreds of rejection letters was a quote from Benjamin Disraeli: Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose.  I also love the following words from Eleanor Roosevelt: It is never too late to become what you might have been.

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 

I was always creatively minded, right from an early age.  My primary interests were in the field of art, photography, music, such things as this.  Not until I was twenty-two did I consider the possibility of writing.  I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about a book he was reading, and he was so enthusiastic!  I thought ‘It would be great to create that kind of an effect’.  That evening – back in November of 1987 – I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop, and now I think it just took me those first twenty-two years of my life to really discover what I wanted to do.  Now it seems like such a natural part of me and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  As for what I am trying to achieve as a writer, for me the most important thing about any novel is the emotion it evokes.  The reason for writing about the subjects I do is simply that such subjects give me the greatest opportunity to write about real people and how they deal with real situations.  There is nothing in life more interesting than people, and one of the most interesting aspects of people is their ability to overcome difficulty and survive.  I think I write ‘human dramas’, and in those dramas I feel I have sufficient canvas to paint the whole spectrum of human emotions, and this is what captures my attention.  I once heard that non-fiction possesses, as its primary purpose, the conveying of information, whereas fiction possessed the primary purpose of evoking an emotion in the reader.  I love writers that make me feel something – an emotion, whatever it might be – but I want to feel something as I read the book.  There are millions of great books out there, all of them written very well, but they are mechanical in their plotting and style.  Three weeks after reading them you might not recall anything about them.  The books that really get me are the ones I remember months later.  I might not recall the names of the characters or the intricacies of the plot, but I remember how it made me feel.  For me, that’s all important.  The emotional connection.  Those are the books I love to read, and those are the books I am trying to write.

 

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

 

I did over one hundred and fifty library events in the first year of being published, all of them without charge.  I set up Facebook pages, Twitter pages, a website, whatever else I felt would help get my name out there.  I went to festivals, book-signings, seminars, and did anything and everything I was asked to do.  I think publishing has changed so very dramatically over the last twenty years, and the nature of how books are read (or not, as the case may be), has meant that we have had to adapt quite markedly.  It is an audio-visual age, and reading as a leisure activity seems to have declined so very much over the last decade or so.  While everyone is running around scratching their heads and trying to figure out why book sales have deteriorated so much in the UK, we seem to be ignoring the fundamental fact that literacy levels have collapsed, educational standards are at a record low, and reading for pleasure is rapidly disappearing.  It has been suggested that e-books and other digital formats have contributed to this decline, but that makes no sense as the shortfall in book sales is not being compensated for by downloads.  Also, changing the way in which books are being read does not make a non-reader into a reader.  Readers are readers, and they will read regardless of the format.  If the combined might, influence and financial power of the key publishing companies in this country devoted their energies and resources to a huge literacy and reading campaign, then they would secure their own future, both organizationally and financially.  However, it may be too late to reverse the dwindling spiral.  I hope not, for losing the book as a mainstay of entertainment, pleasure and education would be a huge tragedy.  Even though it may not sound so, I am an optimist at heart and I hope we can revive the book in the country.  We still publish more books per capita than any country in the world, and I think we carry a responsibility to maintain what we have created with our language.

 

Tell us about the latest published work …

 

The latest book (released on May 22 this year) is called Carnival of Shadows.  The blurb is as follows:

 

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michal Travis is sent to investigate. Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence. As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust? In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart.

 

 

On facebook I can be found under both Roger Jon Ellory and R J Ellory

On twitter, it’s just @rjellory

My website is www.rjellory.com

 

The book can be obtained anywhere on-line and in bookstores.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

 

The work I progress is a slow-burn mystery set in West Texas in the early 1970s, but there are two stories that run parallel.  The backstory, for want of a better term, is in the same town but twenty or thirty years earlier.  Very little violence, very little bad language, and the crimes perpetrated are deception, falsity, greed and jealousy.  Currently there is no title, but I am close to competing the book and we shall see what transpires!  As for where I will be in ten years’ time, I am sure that there will be another ten novels published, but I am also branching out into music, and I don’t doubt that I will have a good few albums and a few national and international tours under my belt.  That’s what I hope, for music is something I very much want to pursue as vigorously as writing.

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 

Very simply the tenet from Disraeli above, and also something else that I feel is very valid, in that the worst book you could write is the one you think others might enjoy, whereas the best book you could write is the one that you feel you yourself would enjoy.  There is no formula for a good book.  You cannot predict what will be successful.  If you try to jump on a bandwagon and catch the current genres of interest, you will inevitably finish your book right about the time that the interest has waned and the public are following another thread.  True commercial success has come about as a result of writers creating their own genres and sub-genres, but writing for commercial reasons is always the very worst reason to write.  I think it was Hemingway that said, ‘Compared to writing novels, horse-racing and poker are good solid business ventures’.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

 

I am a guitarist and vocalist in a band called Zero Navigator.  We have just completed our first album, produced by Martin Smith of ELO, and featuring percussion by Hossam Ramzy, he of Page & Plant, Peter Gabriel, Shakira fame.  We are currently filming a video for the first single, and will be on tour soon.  I think this is a good example of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘It’s never too late to become what you might have been’!  Our website is at http://www.zeronavigator.com

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

 

I think that’s a really tough question!  There are characters who I see I would like to know, those I’d like to find out more about, those I feel sympathetic or paternal towards, those I feel could teach me a few useful lessons about life.  Actually, I think it would be interesting to raise the issue of autobiographical writing here.  How much of an author’s work is autobiographical?  I think we absorb so much from life – some of it good, some of it bad.  We take in events and circumstances, we deal with them (or not), we recover, we carry on, we try our best with everything we do.  Sometimes we get it right, other times we get it wrong.  That is life, and that is living.  As with any field of the arts – whether it be painting, sculpture, choreography, musical composition – the creator must draw on personal experience and personal perception in everything he or she creates.  I think that what we paint and what we write and what we sing are merely extensions of ourselves, and that extension grows from personal experience.  I think there are very few writers who write their own lives into novels, but I think there are a great deal who write their perceptions and conclusions and feelings about their own lives and the lives of others into the characters they create.  From that standpoint, every character I have ever created must have some small aspect of me within them…and that, in itself, could be quite a scary proposition!

 

Thank you so much Roger for being so honest and generous in your answers. You truly are testament to the journey and that if you have the talent and the belief you can make it. I am thrilled to have you in the spotlight on my blog and I am sure your story will inspire the readers of this blog. Thank you so much.

Have a great day everyone!

 

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In The Spotlight: Guest Blog by Sharon Zink

I met Sharon when we our short stories were published in Unthology 3 by Unthank Books and I was at the launch in Norwich. We since made Facebook a place to hang out and I very much look forward to a weekend in Brighton this weekend where she launches her debut novel — also published by Unthank Books. She is a literary writer and like me tends to write very American novels (so there is a kindred spirit there) — so I will be reporting on her launch, but I wanted to introduce you to her first by inviting her to the spotlight now her book is released!

So without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Sharon Zink … (pause of raucous applause!)

In the Spotlight …

spotlightoj-md                                                                                              …    Sharon Zink

 

Author Sharon Zink

Author Sharon Zink

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story/poem published or your most recent success.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about five, scribbling stories and even an autobiography (weird kid that I was!) on the top step of the stairs. I was lucky to know what my calling was from an early age and even luckier that I had mentors who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I dedicated my first novel, Welcome to Sharonville, partly to Bryan Ricketts, a brilliant English teacher who helped a messed up teenager become Young Poet of the Year and get my first collection, Rain in the Upper Floor Café, published when I was seventeen.

The transition from being a baby poet to a grown up one was hard though and so, once I went to university, I got caught in the grip of becoming an academic and creative writing was set aside for pretty much a decade. Bryan and I continued to correspond and he was proud of my studies, but he said to be once in a letter, “You should write” – meaning, real stuff, poems, stories. He sadly died before I started writing fiction – something I never imagined I’d ever do – but I hope he is happy now the novel is being published. I’m pretty sure he has been meddling from on high to make it happen!

My fiction writing journey is one of paradoxes really – of early successes and great luck (as with the poetry), followed by years of work and waiting. I was incredibly fortunate that the first ever story I wrote, “Lobsters” – which you can read on my website – won me the Writers Inc. Writer of the Year title and was published in their winners’ anthology. My novel, Welcome to Sharonville sprang from that story and there was a flurry of excitement as I nearly got taken on by an agent when the manuscript was only 100 pages long. But then – as is the way with my life (and probably every one else’s!) – lots of things happened which dented my confidence. Things unrelated to writing – such as multiple bereavements and falling ill with M.E. – and other more literary struggles, such as my uncertainty about dealing with the book’s opening chapter and rejections from agents, which finally led to me putting the book into a virtual drawer for a few years.

I completed my second novel (which is currently ‘resting’ and may stay that way!), but when I met Jacqui Lofthouse, the novelist and writing coach, she forced me to let her look at Sharonville (as it was titled then). I remember my relief and absolute joy when she rang me and said, “It’s brilliant! This is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in years!”  She instantly breathed life back into a project I’d felt was permanently dead. After that, she began submitting to agents for me as a scout and I gathered courage and approached a few myself and had various near misses, plus the book was even shortlisted in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition out of 4000 entries. It was hard to face the rejections, but I told myself that I was getting mostly personal responses (which is unusual in the agent’s world of standard letters) and that near misses meant I was getting nearer  – but then I tried Unthank Books – the first independent publisher I’d approached – and they took the novel!

I felt like it was the perfect home for the book because of its reputation for literary fiction, but also because one of its founders, Ashley Stokes, had critiqued the first draft of the novel years before and had been so enthusiastic and positive about me completing it. I’m a writer and love symmetry, so this circling from the beginning to the end of this novel’s journey really tickles me.

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

As Unthank Books is a small press, I didn’t need an agent to get my novel published and this seems to be the way many first time authors get their break. Independent houses are often more willing to take risks on newcomers and those whose work doesn’t fit well with the standard genres. Because of this, I think the independent houses perform a really valid role in terms of allowing innovative writing to find readers who are still hungry for something different and often challenging. The success of many writers from small publishers in recent awards, such as the Baileys, attests to the quality of the books they are producing.

I managed to find a publisher before an agent and it does often seem like it is as hard, if not more so, to find an agent than a book deal due to the increasingly cautious nature of the publishing industry and the sheer number of writers trying to get a book out. Although I would really like a great agent and a conventional publishing deal as it’s the dream of most authors, I also write primarily to be read, so if it is a case of having an agent, but my book never seeing publication (as has been the case with several of my writer friends’ work), I would rather go to the small houses and keep getting my novels out there in people’s hands.

As a literary consultant, as well as a novelist, I would say if you are serious about getting an agent or publishing through one of the small houses, you really need to make sure your work is tip top – I’d strongly recommend hiring an editor to look at your book and the submission package. Agents and publishers are very busy people, so you only get one shot at success – don’t give them reasons to reject you due to rooky errors.

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I am a bit of a lone wolf and so haven’t really even been part of an ongoing writing group – I have attended some wonderful courses over the years though which changed my perspective, such as one at City Lit in London which made me realise that, though I was 55,000 words into my first novel, I didn’t have a plot! (Even after doing an English Literature Ph.D.!)

Generally though, I like to beaver away in privacy and then show my work to people I trust, such as well-read friends and literary consultants. Jacqui Lofthouse has been invaluable to me as she offers much-needed ego strokes for the stuff which is good, but she also challenges me when my work could be improved.

I was lucky enough to have two Arts Council Free Reads for Welcome to Sharonville and one for my second novel and would really recommend people look into that scheme as critiques can be very expensive and this scheme allows authors to access editorial advice for free or at cut price. I honestly think no one should attempt publishing – whether self-publishing or through traditional channels – without a good structural and copy edit.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

I can’t remember who I told about my poetry collection as that was a while back, but I screamed so loud when I got the email saying Unthank were taking my book that my cat, Muse, ran away, looking horrified!!And then I texted all my lovely friends who kept me going through the years I was waiting for this to happen and danced to “The Eye of the Tiger” (complete with hand moves). Yeah, I know.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

The main reason I didn’t want to self-publish is because I wanted to work with an editor and learn from that process. Even though I am an editor myself, with my own writing, I can’t see the wood from the trees, so it was good to have Robin Jones at Unthank go through the book and pick up the points where the writing could be polished. I was lucky that the novel had been critiqued by multiple people before it reached the publication stage, so a lot of the roughest edges had already been sanded down, but Robin really got the vision I had for the book and was able to put it in words in a way I never could and I gained so much from that. It wasn’t until he described my novel as being “nuanced psychological fiction” that I realised how much of my writing is about the workings of the human heart – that is a hugely important insight to be given after over a decade of writing!

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

I wish I had a routine, but generally, life and my health issues mean I seem to work more as a “binge” writer these days. I tend to write loads at one sitting or in a few days and then pause for a while. I’d like to get back into a more regular writing pattern though as I think it helps keep your style even and generate more ideas as your mind is constantly focussed on one project. I find afternoons the best time for me as I’m more awake. I am very fortunate and have a seaview from the desk in my new flat, so I’m looking forward to settling down there and getting books three and four finished after the summer’s promotional events are over. They’re exciting though, so I can’t complain!

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

It’s hard to single out one book really, but I am mainly inspired by American literary fiction – I would love to be mentored by Richard Ford as he’s a genius and was totally lovely to me when we met not long after I’d finished the first draft of my first book. I also adore Paul Auster, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx – I could go on all day!

I also find myself really inspired by music, TV and movies. I find scenes coming to me from song lines – Aimee Mann’s “It’s Not” inspired the ending of the first chapter in my novel, for instance, but David Lynch also deeply affected the book as I worshipped Twin Peaks and just adore his quirky take on the world in general. I often use art as prompts in my creative writing workshops, so sometimes I will look at paintings or photographs and see characters or scenes appearing in them. Images can be helpful to me in terms of generating the atmosphere of a setting and are one of the most fun parts of research.

I think all the art forms can enrich each other though, even if only in terms of allowing us a sense of belonging. I remember being amazed when I heard Talking Heads and seeing David Byrne as I suddenly knew I was part of this bigger creative family, that I wasn’t the only weirdo in the world!

I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe for her beautiful vulnerability too – an aspect most artists need, but which makes life harder too – and Madonna for her absolute determination. She’s been very important to me in terms of the way she conveys the sense that anything is possible if you work at it – something you have to believe if you are going to work in the arts, where rejection and self-doubt are rife.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

Because I love words and the worlds created by them and I can’t imagine not doing it now. I could give up most things except writing.

I also write because I want to touch people with my work in the way that others’ books have touched me. Literature – especially poetry – has had a profound effect on the way I view life and helps me cope with its darker aspects, as well as bringing humour and enjoyment. If my novel could do that for one person, all the work will have been worthwhile.

How much marketing have you had to do? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Unthank Books provided me with a marketing assistant to help me with the legwork thankfully, but all writers – even my friends who write bestsellers – are expected to do the lion’s share of the promotional work. I’ve been very active in terms of working on the creation of websites, my new blog, The Book Diner, where I interview authors, arranging the making of the book trailer and organising the Brighton book launch and so on. I don’t think any of us is really that comfortable – at least at first – about pushing our books on social media and in other ways, but people are usually very generous when you have a big project coming out and tend to bear with you! I’ve had tremendous support from friends and others in the writing community and that makes this busy time easier.  It’s a steep learning curve as, like most writers, I don’t come from a marketing background, but I’m actually enjoying finding out more about it all and I know that, through this process, I will hopefully be much better prepared when my second novel comes out.

Tell us about the latest published work …

My debut novel, Welcome to Sharonville,  was published on June 15th —  it basically explores what happens when a young History professor, Toni Sorrentino, crashes her pickup in the Arizona desert a few days after 9/11 and the big secrets which come out in her small desert home town of Sharonville as a result.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I’m currently writing my next two novels – Empiness, a literary thriller about female astronauts I was lucky enough to research at NASA, and Low Tide, a bit of seaside-set literary noir, involving mental illness, destructive relationships and a murder on a beach.

I have no idea where I will be in ten years’ time, but I would hope I’d have published a few more novels by then and found a lot of lovely readers. I hope I’m travelling the world, having adventures, surrounded by love and being happy.  I’d love to win the Bailey’s Prize as it’s a prize I really respect, but we’ll see!

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

Don’t listen to the odds, don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t send out novels to the industry before they’ve really gone through the editorial mill. Find literary consultants or literary friends who are prepared to challenge your work as well as praise. Enter competitions to help get your work noticed. Seek out a mentor who is ahead on the path and can shout back advice about the hurdles of the writing life. Treasure role models who make you feel hopeful – they can be rock stars or movie actors, but just find figures who inspire you with what is possible as a creative person. Tell yourself good things are going to happen for you artistically. Tell yourself good things are going to happen for you all over as everything is connected to your writing. Envision your victories ahead of time. See yourself succeeding in your mind – it works! Get back up after every rejection or bitchy review – expect them to come and develop a non-stick coating! Don’t let the winds of praise and blame, which the Buddha discussed, define you too much – don’t depend on external success. It’s hard not to look for validation and books are meant to be read, but the writing is the main thing always – love that process and everything else won’t get to you so much. And read, read, read – without knowing how others have pulled it off, you will find it hard to learn your craft yourself. Some people light a candle or pray before writing – rituals are helpful. Do anything to make yourself feel as safe as possible as then you’ll take more creative risks.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it …

My family see ghosts – they’re like something out of a Marquez magic realist novel. My gran used to tell me how she’d told my long-gone grandfather about my school reports as if it was completely normal. That’s why one of the characters in Welcome to Sharonville, the Chinese American lingerie maker, Happiness Chong, is a ghost-seer – I had to do something with that craziness! I feel blessed to have grown up in such an interesting family – a writer needs that. My grandmother was an incredible storyteller and a lot of her tales are in the book. I just hope she is proud of me.

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

I adore Uncle Franco, the central character in Welcome to Sharonville, as he’s basically a non-violent Tony Soprano – a huge Italian teddy bear of a man with self-esteem issues, an eating problem and enough guilt, as Tori Amos would say, to start his own religion. I love his compassion, warmth and loyalty to those he loves – loyalty is something I value highly in the people I care about and I know Franco would offer that, even if he’s prone to anger and impulsive actions. (I know it’s bad, but whaddyagonnado?)

Can we have a taster of your novel?

Of course!

Opening of Welcome to Sharonville …

Toni tapped her pickup’s cherry Kool-Aid-colored hood twice in greeting: her hand flew back, bitten by a coyote heat. Three months in New York had made her forget the egg-frying-on-the-sidewalk mood of late summer Las Vegas. She sucked on her stinging fingers and yanked the Redsmobile’s door wide with her still good limb, the enclosed heat smacking into her face like an opened umbrella. Clambering across the seat, she wound down the passenger window and set her backpack on the floor, before standing with the door ajar for a few moments, letting the truck breathe, letting herself breathe, though the difference between inside and outside was between Venus and the Sun.

She hadn’t driven for a long while, but, once seated, the pickup’s large white wheel, with its soft, rubbery indentations, felt friendly in her hands. She’d had the Redsmobile – her nickname for her 50’s Chevy truck – since she was a teenager, so there was something of comfort in gazing out over its humped dash, the ways its simple black and chrome dials eyed her as if remembering all their times together.

The engine churned  at the first turn of the key, the radio hurricaning to life–Toni punched it off. All the talk of what happened that Tuesday in Manhattan was too much and already too late, even if it was only three days ago. Those voices–grieving, bribing, selling their interpretations–reached her and yet they didn’t.

She was running home from the smashed Twin Towers, the broken city, from terrorism as never seen before, but it still seemed like she was moving under water, the blue surface jellying above as her own life’s uncertainties, like stones sewn into her clothes, dragged her down to a place where the world and its events–however bold and tragic–hardly mattered. After all, here she was, heading back to Sharonville, no nearer to finding the truth about her father or about who she really was than before she left. Some History professor she’d turned out to be.

 For all she knew, she could be the daughter of a Mafia mobster. Perhaps Uncle Franco was being honest when he claimed he’d lied to protect her, that he’d only sent her on that wild goose chase through New York’s hospitals and libraries to keep her safe.

She didn’t know who was dumber anymore–him for setting her up like that or herself for going along with it. But false names and false hope were possibly better than no hope at all.

 Toni squinted into the rear view mirror as she prepared to move off–her loose black molasses hair, usually so smooth, looped out at odd, static-stung angles following her flight from the East Coast—hours of turning and twisting in her seat to see whether hell was coming. Sleep had been out of the question, even though her eyes–usually such a dazzling amethyst-blue–were dull with exhaustion when she’d looked in her pocket mirror on the plane, a sadness which even kohl couldn’t cover.

God, she was so tired of wondering where her face came from. It was a beautiful face–even she could acknowledge that, at times–but it didn’t seem to matter when, over and over, she found herself returning to the same absence, the same lack of resemblance, the same failure of recognition. She was thirty-three and still didn’t know who she was.

Her best friend, Mila, was so similar to her mother–though you couldn’t tell her that. Mila and her mom, Aunt Happiness, were like Russian dolls, except they were Chinese American and the daughter was very much taller than the mother–the dolls going from small to large in this case. Still, in a way, she’d never really felt motherless–Betta had always been dead to her and her grief at that just walked quietly alongside her, only ever raising its voice when she witnessed generations of women shopping and laughing together in Vegas, or warm, apple-cream arms encompassing her students on the day of commencement. Uncle Franco loved her enough to assuage most moments of loss though–she even felt sometimes he loved her too much. Like his moving to Vegas when she went to college there, just to give her a home. It was generous, yes, but it also felt like she was running beneath his zeppelin-huge shadow.

And yet it wasn’t enough–even while she had this strong male figure in her life, with all his sheltering ways, she couldn’t silence the yearning to find her father. Perhaps the pull of biology was too powerful, the mystery of his name too irresistible for her inquisitive mind. Something kept tapping at her soul, gentle, but sharp, like a kitten’s playful paw. She wondered if he was alive, if he knew of her existence, if he would want to meet her and she was both terrified and electrified by the prospect , by the thought of this enigmatic man’s rejection or embracing. She needed to know the truth–and not just for herself, but for any children she might have some day.

But maybe she wouldn’t want reality when it finally came–maybe she couldn’t take it. After all, Uncle Franco swore he was ready to tell her the full story now, if only she would just go talk with him. Except now she couldn’t believe a word he said.

Toni pulled off, nodding to the security guard as the Redsmobile finally left the university parking lot after three long months, braking as she reached Tropicana Avenue. She should go to Uncle Franco’s place and figure things out–she should try to understand. That was the way he’d raised her–to be tolerant, to consider others. She loved him and so she should do this. Should. Should. Should. The accursed word of civilization, forcing people into forgivenesses they weren’t ready for, obliging them into lives which they never wanted. She “should” visit, but she wouldn’t.  That water she sensed around her–it boiled.

But she didn’t want to go back over the border to Arizona either. Mila would be working late at her office in L.A., leaving their apartment terrifyingly empty–the rising sounds and smells from the restaurant below would bang against her loneliness like a bell. And then there would be Buzz–he adored Uncle Franco and would try to persuade her to give him another chance and she was way too exhausted to justify herself again tonight.

 She pulled off in the direction of the Strip, jolting with the limousines and tour buses past Egyptian pyramids, glittering volcanoes, and the shrunken Eiffel Tower.  Her arm lolled against the side of the Redsmobile as she drove, absorbing the gaudy glory of neon names now emerging in the high desert evening which–if all else failed–would dry your tears.

Las Vegas apparently existed to prove that nothing lasts–hotels shape-shifted like aliens according to market forces; towers fell on film to become golf courses; stars lost their shine and were replaced by lions; boxers bled onto the canvas floor and crawled back up again. And that always made her feel more eternal. She remained while everything else changed–or, rather, everything changed and this told her, in its rough language, that whatever she was going through would become something else.

And if that impermanence failed to comfort you, you could always feel blessed that you weren’t the bird in the Chicken Challenge, tortured into playing tic tac toe, while being blitzed by color and the cock-a-doodle-doos of regretful gamblers. Although there were days when it felt like you were right there with them, chasing an elusive feed that would never come.

Toni took a right down Flamingo, looking into the as-yet-unleased office buildings, their empty white-lit rooms lighthouses warning of the city’s dangers. There was so much construction in Vegas, so many new beginnings. She wished she could start again. She wished she could flee through those rooms, screaming.

Toni eventually left Las Vegas as a violet dusk drifted down, the Redsmobile coughing its way toward the I-93 and the state border. It was her usual journey home, along the same road  Uncle Franco had taken before she was born. She didn’t want to see it that way, but she’d heard the story of her family origins so often, both from him and her now dead Uncle John, that it had bubblegummed to her memory. And so here it was, despite everything–a kind of dusty pilgrimage past careless trucks and distant mountains, a Passion she knew every inch of.

 

© Sharon Zink, Unthank Books, 2014. Can not be reproduced withour permission from the author and/or publisher

 

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Thanks Sharon for the great interview and I can not wait to read this and see you at the launch!

If you want to be treated to some great writing folks, of the literary kind, get this book!

Over the next few weeks I have some more Spotlighters waiting in the wings, including the crime thriller writer, Richard and Judy selected … R J Ellory, as well as children’s writer Pauline Burgess and more … so watch this space!

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

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Spotlight On Crime (In The Spotlight Series) Guest Author: Jane Isaac

Spotlight On Crime

Well I promised another guest (we have a few of these lined up) so without further ado I would like to welcome to the spotlight a talented writer I met through Bridge House when we published one of her stories, and on the day of her book launch party! Please join me in welcoming Jane Isaac …

Welcome Jane Isaac

Welcome Jane Isaac

jane-isaac

Introduce yourself:  Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, although I’ve never thought of it as a career. This changed almost fourteen years ago when my husband and took a year out to travel the world and kept a daily diary recording our experiences. On our return I found that the photos we took drew on memories, but it was reading the diary that transported me back to the sweet smell of Kuala Lumpur, to hear the of street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia. Realising the power of words, it was this diary that prompted me to study creative writing, first at The Writers Bureau and later with the London School of Journalism.

I wrote a few short stories and in 2008 I decided to embark on my first novel.

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

 Hmm. The road has been a little rocky. When I finished An Unfamiliar Murder I was still studying creative writing and it was my tutor who encouraged me to submit it to agents. I didn’t expect a positive response (you get so used to receiving rejections in this industry) so you can imagine my surprise when two agents expressed an interest!

I signed with a London agent and we worked on the novel to edit it before he submitted it to the major publishing houses and, although the feedback was very positive, nobody signed the book. The rights reverted to me and I decided to try my luck with the independent publishers and quickly signed with Rainstorm Press.

For my second book I decided to pursue a UK publisher to help with the distribution over here which meant I had to plunge myself back into the submissions process once again. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team in London.

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I am a sort of honorary member of Creative Minds Writing Group in nearby Corby. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t attend their meetings because it clashes with my yoga class, but I do get invited to their social events which are always fun and inspiring.

My husband is my harshest critic and reads all my work before I send it anywhere. With my second book, The Truth Will Out, I also enlisted four beta readers to critique it before I submitted it to publishers: two writers and two readers, and I was very grateful for their feedback. The book is certainly richer for their input.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

My husband. I phoned him at work and ‘whooped’ down the phone! I think I almost deafened him!

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

Having worked with an agent and then two different publishing houses on my novels, my editing experiences have been quite varied. I think books benefit tremendously from input from an experienced editor, both structurally and within the copy.

Before I signed with Legend Press they suggested a couple of structural changes which were great ideas and really improved the flow of the story. Afterwards, changes were restricted to copy edits to tighten up the text.

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

With a day job and a family, I don’t really have an established writing routine. I pen my words whenever I find a gap: before work when the house is quiet; beside the pool when my daughter is in swim class. I’ve even been spotted jotting ideas down while standing in a supermarket queue. For me it is a labour of love.

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

I’m still a huge Jane Austen, J D Salinger and Louisa May Alcott fan, yet I also love the murder and mayhem of Jeffery Deaver and Peter James, and the psychological suspense of Elizabeth Haynes and Alison Bruce.

One of my favourite books is The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – I love the way she depicts the character of a serial killer amidst a beautiful American and Mediterranean backdrop.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

I love escaping into another world when I read. I set out to write a page turning, rollercoaster ride of a book with characters that feel real, and twists and turns aplenty. Basically, a book that I would like to read myself. I figured if I enjoyed the story, then perhaps others would too.

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Both my books are lodged with small independent publishers, although with Legend Press I have been supported by a lovely publicity team who are so helpful and work tirelessly for their authors. That said, writing the book is only a part of the process for any author. A presence on social media seems essential these days, as are running a regular blog and attending real events. We may have written the best book in the world but unless people know about it, nobody is going to read it.

I’m a quite a shy person, so self-promotion doesn’t come naturally. It’s certainly a learning curve!

Tell us about the latest published book …

The Truth Will Out is the second book in the DCI Helen Lavery series, although it can be read as a standalone novel in its own right, and sees the detective face her toughest case yet. There’s plenty to keep her busy as she clashes with superiors in pursuance of the truth and she has a love interest too.

I am fascinated by what happens when extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. Most of us live our lives in a bubble and never cross paths with law enforcement. I like to explore what happens when we are taken out of our comfort zone and alternate the police perspective in the book with the story of another person affected the by the investigation – in this case Eva Carradine.

Let me share the blurb with you:

 

“Everything’s going to be okay.”

“What if it’s not?”

Suddenly, she turned. For a split second she halted, her head inclined.

“Naomi, what is it?”

She whisked back to face Eva.

“There’s somebody in the house…”

Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.

Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.

Someone is after them both. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And as the net starts to close around them, can Helen escape her own demons as well as helping Eva to escape hers?

The Truth Will Out is available here:

Amazon UK

Amazon Com

I love to hear from readers and writers. You can contact me via the contact page on my website at www.janeisaac.co.uk or reach me on Facebook: JaneIsaacAuthor and Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

My latest work in progress is a crime thriller based in nearby Stratford upon Avon. I’m presently undertaking lots of research field visits which I am enjoying immensely! I’ve also started the third in the DCI Helen Lavery series which I hope to finish by the end of the year.

I don’t have a fixed plan for my work. I just want to write books with characters that people can relate to and enjoy.

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 Write, write, write. Share with others and invite critiques, rework your script until it is the best you can do, then submit and start a new project. Never give up.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I’ve had my hair highlighted since I was about sixteen years old. I have absolutely no idea what the natural colour is these days.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your lovely blog, Debz. It’s been great fun!

 

Thank you Jane for being a guest and I hope some of my lovely followers will get their copy! I will be!

 

Have a great weekend everyone! After being away and then a touch of flu my blogging has gone a little awry but I hope to resume next week and I have some more lovely guests coming up too!

 

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