Category Archives: Literary Fiction

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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Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Character-driven

One of the key differences between literary and mainstream commercial fiction is in the handling of character. Interestingly my short stories tend to be literary and these are the ones that have won or been short listed in big competitions. My novels; the more ‘thriller-ish’ mysteries tend to be more plot-driven although I have to say I believe so strongly in voice and character, it’s hard to divorce the two.

I realised as I was working on Dotty yesterday how much character plays the central role in this and Chutney; both set in fictitious suburbs of London and both very much about dispelling stereotype. We live in a very cosmopolitan world now and, like it or not, what was British and what might have once defined us as British has changed. We need to embrace that. This is why both stories while with British voices; these come from different cultures. In fact Runner Bean Billy talks about people labelling him as a ‘paki’ at school or ‘Indian’ and he says repeatedly “I am British. I  was born in East London!” George is a Russian immigrant, in fact it’s only Emma who is white ‘typical’ British… except she is less so than both of them!

In Dotty, we meet Giles (so named because there were no other council estate sons with such a posh name and his mum was a fan of the cartoonist) but there is another reason, and he is not as British as his name suggests. He and has not left his home since 1985. While the three main characters are white British, not all of the people on Church Lane are; in fact it is quite a mixed bag. But none of them, I hope, stereotypes. I see our role as writer, or my role anyway, as taking these people and these lives and painting a realistic, funny, sad and insightful look at life now — I hope these books are a reflection of who we are now and how we live now.

I also came to a realisation yesterday that these unconnected novels (apart from both being set in London suburbs) are part of a series of three; the final one being darker but all have a connection of sorts but each an entirely different entity. I often work with writers who write series and of the things I have to remind them of is that the stories must stand alone.

So why this series, which is very different to While No One Was Watching (except that was really about character, right and breaking boundaries in colour)? Well,  it seems important to write about these people. Their lives are playing out in interesting ways begging for their stories to be told… so why not? Let’s hope they find a home with a BIG publisher, eh?  It’s what they’re begging me for: they certainly are characters with strong voices.

Have a great day.

GOOD THINGS

 

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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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Opening Windows With The Short Story Form

After some twenty short stories being published in collections since 2008, the biggest feeling of accomplishment came when my debut novel While No One Was Watching was finally published in 2013, nine years and one MA after deciding to be a serious writer. It was  finally something all in my name and the thing I had been working towards. But it would not have happened without the short story. This is why I have a lot to thank it for and why I still write short stories; although fewer now, there are still some out there trying their luck and still ideas I can’t wait to develop.

The short story form for me is this perfect thing; if you get the voice right; deepen the characters enough and capture life in those few words you can shape the story into something that didn’t exist before — and within a relatively short space of time. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I am probably most proud of three short stories (so far including the one I’ve just written, right?) — the first one ever to be good enough to be published in 2008 and that was Jigsaw. I was in the middle of working on a novel (with a lot to learn about writing) when this child’s voice entered my head and I was compelled to write it. I was nothing like anything I’d written before and I was thrilled when Bridge House Publishing (who I didn’t work for back then) chose it and it inspired the cover. What a feeling that was.

A string of success later (and rejections naturally) I wrote something while studying for my MA, but not as an assignment as an experiment in contemporary story-telling and that was The Theory Of Circles, which I have talked about here before. The faceless/genderless voyeur social media obsessed narrator in a story reporting on the goings-on on a crescent in a nameless place; but reading backward the way you scroll blogs. But of course, I had to make certain it still flowed forward for the reader in terms of story. Quite a challenge. I knew conventional publishers and competitions would pass on it but had been seeing a lot about innovative short story publisher Unthank Books. So I targeted them and waited.That wait was rewarded and the story was published in Unthology 3 back in 2012. I was even more thrilled when the publisher nominated the story for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize.

So more short story successes later ( a few short lists and anthology acceptances), between the novel writing and I saw Learning to Fly win the Bath Short Story Award; another young voice, but an important theme, coping with grief but with humour.  This story, with some autobiographical elements, is one I was so proud of — so did the dance when it won! I celebrated that night at a Bon Jovi concert and wow. They even had a tea-party in my honour in Bath (not Bon Jovi!) but the lovely ladies at the Bath Short Story Award.

Of course amongst these stories are some yet to find homes and others that made it onto prestigious short lists that I hope will find homes: namely Mirror Image that I long to adapt into a novel (short listed in the Aeon Prize in 2010) and Chutney that was short listed in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 and is the current work in progress having been adapted into a novel.

While No One Was Watching as you may also know was adapted from a short story.

So it’s clear how important short story writing has been for me, in three key ways: the first in teaching me how to write, to experiment, to develop and to grow (and you learn faster and get the satisfaction faster with this shorter form). The second  being that some short stories get bigger and inspire development into a novel. And thirdly, the more I write them, it seems the more the ideas fall from the sky. So ideas seem to be around me all the time and some get scribbled on bits of note paper… and when I am between drafts of novels beg to be written. Once I finish Chutney I plan to write a few more.

When I was thinking about moving back to my home town over the past two or three years I wrote ny first short story set on Canvey Island about a group pf friends meeting at Canvey sea wall after the wake of one of their friends, Adam. I called it Open Windows; which has more than one meaning, but the main theme is making the time for people while you still can. Something happened to Adam when he was thirteen and he got stuck. He is the real boy who never grew up.

The story was selected for another Unthank books Unthology and I got to hold a hot off the press copy in my hands yesterday! Don’t you love the smell of fresh ink! This book is officially released on June 20th. There will be copies at the London Short Story Festival Unthology event that I plan to pop along to and say hi to the lovely Ashley and Robin. And its official launch event is June 25th in Norwich where I, and others, will be giving readings.

While this might be something like publication success number 20, or 21 (which is an odd but humbling thing and to lose count!), and it might be that we all strive for that next novel success (and trust me I do) but we must never negate any success, and to be alongside such a calibre of writers in Unthology 7 is indeed a thing to feel very humble about and feel very grateful for. I am immensely proud to be in another of their collections. Thanks for choosing it Unthank Books.

I will post a small excerpt of Open Windows tomorrow.

Wave your banner BIG and PROUD for the short story form, and thank the publishers for keeping the stories out there…

Happy Wednesday folks!

I hope to invite some of the other unthologists onto the blog to talk about their writing and their stories, so watch this space… and there will be photos and a post about the launch of course!

Unthology 7 coverOrder from Amazon, release date June 20…

Yay!

Yay!

 

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The Day the World Stopped #JFK51

Tomorrow marks the 51st anniversary of that fateful day in Dallas when John F Kennedy was assassinated. Today, the Friday, is the actual day of the week, 12.30pm.

 

kennedy for president buttonjpg

From website: LINK

With the Zapruder tapes, it remains one of, if not THE, most watched and most studied murders captured on film. The very public nature of it and the conjecture that came from it, puts it up there as one of the most iconic moments in history and it sits in the top ten list of conspiracy theories; being labelled THE quintessential conspiracy theory.

Why it captured my imagination the way it did and hence became integral to my novel, I don’t know. It hit me one day what other news stories are overshadowed when something as big as this impacts on our lives. That concept inspired our On This Day short story collection at Bridge House and some later works of mine. And of course is the premise of While No One Was Watching; Eleanor Boone goes missing from the grassy knoll at that exact moment.

I know I have talked about it here before, about the role of fact in fiction, but it continues to fascinate me and I am itching to recapture that sense of time and place, as I did for Lydia and the American civil rights movement when I revisit Colourblind. This was one of my training novels and one I really want to dive back into. I know it has something.

It’s a year on since we marked the 50th anniversary with my big launch event on Canvey, a day I remember so well and so fondly, having already celebrated its release and started to get some great reaction to it with my lovely friends in North Wales as well. And it marked the start of Lydia coming into her own when I started to give readings in her voice.

And a year on, some 60 reviews later (virtually all 5 star or 4 star) and reasonable  sales (not anywhere near the figures reached with the big presses but respectable never the less) I am still plugging away. And I still hold the dream alive that one day While No One Was Watching makes it onto the BIG screen. Keep dreaming they say and I always will. Come on!

I will mark tomorrow in WHSmith in Southend-on-Sea signing books with my stars and stripes bunting and tablecloth and I might even have some candy to share! Please come and see me if you live local and consider a signed novel (£8.99 so less than a tenner!) for a Christmas present! My mission is to outdo my afternoon in Liverpool and again SELL all my books but we have more! Come on Southend –prove you can do it! Help the local lass!

And of course if you can’t make it, I have signed copies for £12 on my website if you are in the UK! It would cost more if shipping elsewhere! http://www.debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk/Pages/BuySignedCopies.aspx

The book is on Amazon too as you know! So please add it to your lists. And what a pertinent weekend to buy it, right?

Amazon.co.uk: LINK

Amazon.com: LINK

My Goodreads Giveaway finishes Sunday so if you haven’t had a go yet — please do! LINK

I was also in the local paper yesterday so as soon as I have a copy I will also post that here!

Have a lovely weekend.

I will leave you with my book trailer again for those who haven’t seen it, or want to see it again and my poster.

 

Have a peaceful one.

Signing again!

Signing again!

RIP JFK

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In The Spotlight Guest Author Laura Wilkinson

I have a very special guest in the  spotlight today — some of you already know, the talented Laura Wilkinson whose first novel BloodMining won the first and only Bridge House Publishing Debut Novel prize and has since gone onto to have great sucesses.

Laura’s new novel is now out and after we met Kit last week with her novel based around the miner’s strike I want to introduce you to Laura’s novel — downloaded and waiting to be read, along with Kit’s. Both inspired by the same period in history but very different. So I hope you, like me, will read both and see how the writers handled it.

So without further ado I would like to hand my blog over to Laura …

Welcome Laura Wilkinson

Welcome Laura Wilkinson

Laura Photo

 

Remembering our Foremothers by Laura Wilkinson

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, an industrial dispute which divided the nation like no other and whose effects are still reverberating today. The role of women in the furore cannot be overestimated. The strike made feminists of many miners’ wives – women formerly used to fulfilling a very traditional role – and after the conflict, there was no turning back.

My novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, is set against the backdrop of the strike and tells the story of a young wife and mother who finds her voice, and love, during a time of great hardship and struggle. I have been asked why I’m interested in an industrial dispute decades old, who wants to read a feminist novel, and what relevance does it have for modern women?

I answer these questions by quoting Elie Wiesel: ‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.’

While I was researching the novel, I spoke with a number of the women involved, miners’ partners and women from the political movements who rallied round – Labour Party activists, Marxists, Feminists and others – about the often profound impact of the strike.

Memory is key to our identity, image and awareness, and for many women, the conflict was a defining period in their lives.

I have my own memories. My step-father was a steelworker, an industry crushed by MacGregor and Thatcher before they turned to coal, and my mother was an important role model. Growing up in a working class family in the 70s, I was unaware of the feminist movement until I studied for a degree in Manchester. Whether or not she wore the badges, read the books and attended the marches (though we did visit Greenham on route to a CND demonstration when I was a child) my mother was undoubtedly a feminist, and her involvement in local politics had already helped shape her identity – she took public office as a town and county councillor, as well as becoming mayor of our town. My stepfather was also a feminist, though he too would never have described himself as such. Even before he lost his job, there was never any question of him not pulling his weight in the home, with cooking and cleaning and shopping and so on. Theirs is a relationship of equals with the mutual respect this implies. In this, we were different from many friends’ families in the rural Welsh town I grew up in.

When the miners came out on strike, I was in my first year of an English degree. Like so many of my fellow students, I marched and rattled buckets. My mother helped the women of the Point of Ayr Colliery and it was women like my mother who became role models for women who previously lacked confidence and belief in their abilities.

There is a stack of writing about the strike, but the bulk of it is non-fiction and none of the three novels I’m aware of focus on the women. Until now, with the release of Public Battles, Private Wars and Kit Habianic’s novel. While much of the non-fiction available makes for compelling reading, nothing sticks in the memory quite like stories. Narratives evoke emotion, take readers on journeys and allow them to walk in others’ shoes, to live the life vicarious, and learn from the experience.

There is still widespread oppression of women across the globe, but as the women’s role in the miners’ strike demonstrates, there is power in collective action and the cross fertilisation of ideas. History (herstory) is important because we learn lessons from our pasts, collective and individual, and it helps us to understand our present and shape our future.

Public Battles, Private Wars is published by Accent Press.

Yorkshire 1983

Miner’s wife Mandy is stuck in a rut. Her future looks set and she wants more. But Mandy can’t do anything other than bake and raise her four children. Husband Rob is a good looking drinker, content to spend his days in the small town where they live.

When a childhood friend – beautiful, clever Ruth – and her Falklands war hero husband, Dan, return to town, their homecoming is shrouded in mystery. Mandy looks to Ruth for inspiration, but Ruth isn’t all she appears.

Conflict with the Coal Board turns into war and the men come out on strike. The community and its way of life is threatened. Mandy abandons dreams of liberation from the kitchen sink and joins a support group. As the strike rumbles on relationships are pushed to the brink, and Mandy finds out who her true friends are.

Here’s a buy link:

AMAZON

E-book is on special offer at the moment too – just £1.

You can find out more about Laura and the novel, including Book Group Questions, here: http://laura-wilkinson.co.uk

Accent are running a giveaway over at Goodreads. There are 6 paperbacks up for grabs. Competition ends 25 April: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21488069-public-battles-private-wars

 

 

Thanks so much Laura and I have to say I am looking forward to this — so come on followers and get buying!

Have a great day everyone! Something amazing is about to happen, if you believe!

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