Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Publishers seeking novel submissions!

Now I have been for many years a subscribe to the UK based Writing Magazine which has always provided interesting, thoughtful and understanding articles regarding writing fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, biographys, articles, magazine stories etc and everything else to do with the publishing process such as agents and contracts.
Only just before christmas did I renew my subscription but the its sister magazine Writer's News added on for a regular sum every 3 months. At first I wasn't sure what else Writer's News would provide me with other than an extra competition to have a stab at each month.
Yet this week it has truly proven its worth with 2 small article about 2 different publishers seeking novel submissions in the Urban Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy genre - basically Twilight and the whole modern vampire craze we have at present.
Now I originally was going to type each article out for you but that would be against copy right law so I'm just going to summarise what they are looking for and are willing to accept instead. The publishers website will probably provide better info anyway but hopefully this will be enough to get you modern fantasy writers out there interested. It sure got me jumping for the moon - if only I had an actual finished novel to hand - DOH!
*(the following information is acredited and referenced to Emma Shipley, page 2, Writer's News, March 2010 issue)
First up is Juno which is part of Pocket Books which in turn is part of Simon & Schuster, a big publisher in the US.
They publish "urban or contemporary fantasy with strong female protagonists. We are currently looking for novels from 80,000 to 100,000 words in length and completed manuscripts will have an advantage. This is a fantasy imprint. Techno-thrillers, suspense, crime, science fiction, action, adventure, etc without an element of  the fantastic are not fantasies. Nor we are we interested in young adult, teen, or children's books."
Email submissions are only accepted in doc or rtf attatched.
Submitt 3 chapters or equilivant sample, short cover letter in the body of email. "This is your chance to sell both yourself and your book. It is what will make us open that attatchment or put it off as long as possible."
For more info - Paula Guran, Editor: editor@juno-books.com.
Website - www.juno-books.com

*(the following information is acredited and referenced to Emma Shipley, page 11, Writer's News, March 2010 issue)
Next up is Hearts of Fire - "currently accepting submissions in all genres, including romance (all genres); paranormal (witchcraft/vampires/werewolves); mystery/action/suspense; sci-fi/fantasy; drama; horror; shorts stories; and erotica. However we want manuscripts to be edited very carefully. Only send us your best work."
To submitt email complete manuscript as an attachment to: submissions.heartsonfire@yahoo.com
In subject line write 'Submission: *title of manuscript*. 
The body of your email should include the following: a brief synopsis (two or three paragraphs will suffice), title of book, your name, your pen name (if any), email address, postal address, telephone number, genre and word count.
For more info - Melissa Miller - email - heartsonfire@live.com
Website - www.heartsonfirebooks.com

I wish all those writers who take up the gauntlet of these publishers the very best success. And I hope this example of excellent publishing opportunities encourages more to join Writer's News or even just Writing Magazine to get started - with them you always learn something new about the big world of the writing industry.

My Author Profile is released in the Viking Chronicle courtesy of Dismorphia.com

Well it's been at least 2 months now since February when I first met and became fast friends with my latest highly importanty contact, Michael, who works as part of a team developing http://www.dismorphia.com/ where they are currently testing and creating a 3D virtual medieval Jorvik for people to play for free online as a viking trader/warrior etc.
I met Michael for the first time face to face at the Jorvik Viking Festival where I helped to cover events as well as enjoy having a very good time.It was during our discussing regarding writing for online readers (where keeping them hooked on each paragraph really matters) that he explained his plans to help promote me and my writing.
He explained that because my short stories (now confirmed chapters to my developing novel) were too long to condense to fit into the chronicle which has a limited word space he thinks that the best alterative would be to have a small feature piece on me, as a writer, explaining to people what inspires my writing and why I write what I write about - valkyries at work in present day York.
Which not only blew me away but he also wanted to develope a banner link for my blog (basically a logo with a link embedded in the image) to be part of the Dismorphia Friends list and on their home page!
Woooo! That was one of the many best days to date in my life so far to hear how much effort he was willing to put in to support little old me and help me fulfill my writing dreams.

Anyway all the patience and effort has finally paid off! For the latest Viking Chronicle was released back in early April (for some reason I keep getting it late or not at all but that might be because of inbox settings etc) and I am in it!

I'm still waiting for Michael to send me it as a webpage file etc so I can link you all directly to it as I did with my original appearance in the Viking Chronicle last year (see other blog and links section to the right down the screen) so here is an image of my little section instead: Apologies for small writing (hope you can read it) but picture won't get any bigger sadly.

Enjoy and do mention Dismorphia to any viking loving friends you know - it's a fantastic website and the Viking Chronicle is always full of interesting information as well as a good old saga or two.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Power of Complaint - Developing Novel Blurb and Brief - Extra sneak peak at Chapter 4

I recently posted about the Waterstones Books Quarterly Short Story Competition with an amazing prize (please scroll down to archive to check out its details) and as I shared it out here for people to learn about it I also spread the word to the students I know at college who do a bit of creative writing as well. All who were told came back to me super happy that I had told them and made me feel deeply grateful at being able to provide them with this opportunity whereas otherwise they might not have found out.
Yet it ended abruptly when one student came to me as she had discovered a problem with it. She had wisely read the terms and conditions where it gave a contradicting statement to the one on the website.
One the website it said 'as long as you're over 16 you can enter' yet in the term and conditions it said 'entrants must be over 18 to enter and be accepted.'
This proved to be a dream shattering flaw for my students as most aren't 18 and some have only just turned 17.
So I emailed the editor of Books Quarterly demanding to know they are misleading young writers on their website and haven't corrected it to mirror the terms and conditions.
I suprisingly got a quick response from Ed Wood who explained that the 18 rule was brought in due to advice from their legal team who said that if a lucky under 18 year old writer won the competition than parental consent and guardian attendance and other child protection/safety rules would be needed to be applied due to the types of prize on offer (a meeting with a publisher and a place on an Arvon writing course).
Yet Ed was deeply sympathetic and understanding towards the new plight against my young writers and so offered to be contacted by those students who had any questions to do with writing and the publishing industry.
I explained all this to my students who were sad they couldn't enter the competition but equally delighted that they now had a valuable contact to question.
So through the power of my complaint my writing students didn't get chance to win a major prize but Ed provided them with the next best thing - an insight into how the writing and publishing industry works which I'm sure will prove invaluable to them.

Now in my last post (discussing the response from potential readers regarding my developing novel title and tagline now greatly improved due to this interaction so early in the writing process) I have now I think completed the next challenge which was writing some kind of blurb/briefing to easily explain what type of novel it was and summarising the plot into a hooker for readers. It is now available in it's own page section (please see top of blog) but here it is again (any comments on it would be greatly appreciated):

Title: Still to be decided.
Genre: Magic Realism/Urban Fantasy (where magic/supernatural forces are involved in the unknowing modern world)
Current Length: 3 Chapters (currently drafts) and growing.
Cover tagline: "There are more than Angels and Devils after your soul."
Rough Blurb:
In present day York in North Yorkshire a group of women go about their work - collecting souls of the dead. But they are not God's Angels - at least not of the Christian God divinity. These women are Valkyries, who used to select the slain warriors after battle in order to increase the undead army of Odin, Ruler of the Aesir. The Old Pagan Gods of the Vikings.
Through the centuries strength and faith in this religion has faded but not entirely. Even today there are those in the old Viking homelands of Denmark, Norway and Sweden who still follow in the ways of their ancestors.
Yet this old faith operates more like a business, it has had to change it's ways and methods in order to survive in a world where increasing numbers no longer believe in divine influences or are squabbled over endlessly by the growing conflict between Christianity and Islam. Not to mention that hardly anyone dies by the sword anymore with the development in science and technology.
One such Valkyrie, Jennifer Wallace, is a perfect example of this new adaptation of this old religion. As she is a fairly modern 20th Century girl having only departed the living world in early 2000. She has managed to adjust to the strict way of life Valkyries must live in order to work amongst the living and the dead - not to mention the other supernatural and holy forces which are after their dead 'clients' for other purposes.
Yet Jenny thinks she has the afterlife all worked out until her mentor and fellow Valkyrie Katherine is vanquished in disturbing circumstances and a chance encouter with a pair of mortals, brother and sister Chloe and Nathan (who is blind with Odin's Sight) thrusts Jenny into the intricate secrets and agendas of the Aesir Gods.
Before she is prepared for her new role, truths are shattered, dark secrets are discovered and she is made to realise that there is more than Death that entwines the lives of those in the world of the living and the afterlife.

Since writing the blurb and brief I've spurred myself on to continue writing Chapter 4 - Know Thy Enemy which is nearly half way now although having reviewed my rough plot plan for this individual chapter I may well have to split it into to two and continue it in Chapter 5. But here's a sneak peak at what I've recently added to it since the last sneak peak at this chapter. *Remember you can still vote and help me decide a working title - just go to the poll at the top of the blog - all votes are greatly appreciated and welcomed*

Half dead were words that suited Hel’s complexion for it was more subtle than the obvious difference between her hands and arms. She didn’t have the half skull face I’d imagined but in a way I was relieved to see she had a whole face. She did look quite deceased through the pale blue and bone white tones to her skin, patches of wrinkled mouldy skin, her torn ears and cut lips. But it was her eyes that were more striking and in the complete opposite manner to Freya’s. The skin all around the sockets had shrunk and become taught revealing a black ring of space around her eyeballs, making them appear to be on the verge of popping out at any moment. The eyes themselves were like mini moons, chalk white unlike the fog whiteness of the blind.
My heart stopped for the second time when I saw her smile, revealing broken and missing teeth in a small black pit. Hel’s two magpies had recovered also and were cackling at the miserable soul trapped in her bone grasp.
“Tell me your name.” She spoke, the voice of an aged crone creeping into the darkness.
The soul girl sobbed before muttering, “Sophie.”     
“Sophie.” Hel’s smile changed to hide her teeth. With a wave of her hand she silenced her bird companions. “How would you like to live forever young? Just as you was when you died?”
“Will I see Mummy and Daddy?”
“Yes Sophie. You will see your parents again. Would you like that?”
The poor soul nodded.
“Come to me then Sophie, I will grant your wish.”
I wanted to stop her, to prevent what I knew was about to happen but I could feel the protective hands of Geirölul on my shoulder, the shake of her head told me she knew what I was feeling. So I watched on, helpless as the soul of Sophie cautiously stepped forward and was lifted up onto Hel’s robed lap by the same hands that had picked her from the jar and held her close. Hel cradled Sophie’s head in her hands and lent forward as if to kiss her on the forehead but it was a kiss that lasted longer than any true kiss of affection should. Once Hel’s lips made contact with Sophie’s essence she was sucked up, like a grotesque milkshake through a straw. The soul’s glow went into Hel’s mouth and shone out from behind her eyes. It then turned red and spread all over Hel’s face. When it vanished a few seconds later she was transformed. Her skin was young and well toned, her teeth were all visible and clean and her eyes were a startling emerald green. She smiled a beautiful and cruel smile like a snake about to strike. I had witnessed a beast becoming a beauty.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Reaching out to readers - Feedback results - Title change - Identifying Genre

Recently over the Easter Holidays I held a little one question poll on my blog, here, in order to potential readers and anyone at all interested in my novel in progress.
The poll question was
If you saw a book with the title 'Valkyrian Ventures' and tag line 'Working to recover lost souls means your afterlife is never boring?' would you be interested in it?
The results are now in as that poll closed the weekend just passed.
Yes 4 (22%)
No   7 (38%) 
Maybe   5 (27%)
Not sure  2 (11%)
To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect and I was pleasantly suprised by the amount of votes I got in total which was 18. But the results made me think even harder about where I'm intending to up with my current novel in progress.
The first issue I came up with was the matter of title - what to call my piece of writing. I had until presently been calling it 'Valkyrian Ventures' simply because I liked the alliteration and I thought the name suited my adventurous tales of valkyries. Yet this showed how much of a mistake I made - I settled on that title simply because I knew what it meant, what it was about because I was the author. I wasn't thinking as a potential reader. I wasn't thinking of whether it would actually catch anyone's interest, whether it was too vague, too out there, too ambitious, too presumptious? None of these questions even went across my mind. These results taught me a real lesson about the importance of what a title adds to a book. Albeit a novel in progress on my part. The evidence that more said 'No', 'Maybe' and 'Not Sure' showed what little meaning potential readers saw in my working title. If I could not attract any readers even at this (Some might say ridiculously) early stage then how on earth am I meant to impress an agent let alone a publisher. I fear even the 4 that did vote Yes they would be interested is perhaps only due to the draft tag line I used 'Working to recover lost souls means your afterlife is never boring.'
So the solution here was a change of title - now that is where I thought a bit harder about it. Instead of choosing another title that I felt was good I decided to hold another voting poll with a selection of title options in which voters must read at least one chapter from my work so far in order to help them better decide the title choice they vote for. This vote poll can be found at the top of this post at the forefront of my blog - if you wish to participate it would be greatly appreciated and any comments, tips or further advice is always welcomed. 
The new title selection was created with my trying to think about what words would represent the world and characters in my novel as well as have at least some relatable meaning to a potential reader.
'No Angel' - came from part of a title of a re-written version of Chapter 1 as a stand alone short story which was titled 'I Am No Angel'. The phrase 'No Angel' stuck with me as it sums up Valkyries quite simply for a modern audience without actually giving too much away, it also shows the paranormal/supernatural elements and it also suggests something quite naughty as you would perhaps describe a naughty girl as 'no angel'.
'Valkyrie's Touch' - came from a suggestion on Twitter by @G2L who noticed my endless tweets about this pole and title suggestions. He suggested 'Betrayed in Valhalla', 'Death by Valkyrie Dust' and 'Valkyrian Amulet'. Of course none of these titles suited by novel in progress (not because I didn't know where it was going therefore it might appear harsh of me to dismiss the possibilites suggested in these titles) but because I don't think @G2L had actually read my current works. But 'Valkyrie Dust' caught my imagination. I didn't want 'dust' to remain part of it though as it kept making me think of Fairy/faerie dust like Tinkerbell uses which was the wrong kind of first impression I wanted to give any reader. However something directly to do with the Valkyries did intrigue me so I got thinking about how they collect souls or how people of medieval times might have believed they did so. I'm not entirely sure if medieval pagans believed they collected souls in jars or not but it ight be something quite evocative like 'calling' out a soul from a slain warrior or merely a 'touch' to bring them into the afterlife. I myself preferred using the latter to create 'Valkyrie's Touch' which is evocative, curious, intriguing and also suggestive of angel like actions - linking it back to the phrase 'touched by angels' etc.
'Soul Chaser/Soul Catcher' - both came from the same idea of what how to summarise what Valkyries actually do. Which in my depiction is to capture souls (although they do lay claim to them it's not as brutal as it sounds) to take to Valhalla if they pass the Bitfrost Test and in some cases chase them if their target soul (of clients as they call them) are siezed by an opposing entitie be it from the same religion (to feed Hel, Queen of the Underworld) or from an opposing religion or some other darker paranormal force.
Again if any of these titles even catch a spark of your interest please do read my draft chapters via links at top of blog before you vote upon the title you prefer.
Next issue brought about by the first poll was genre identity and/or book space (which shelf in a Waterstones or WHSmith would your book be located if published?). For me this also tied in with my tagline which is what would appear on the front cover to suggest or hint what kind of story lies within the pages to readers.
Firstly the tag line used in the previous pole I now feel upon reflection revealed perhaps too much, might have been offputting to readers to learn immediatly that the main character is dead and somehow busy in some kind of afterlife. Plus the use of 'recovering lost souls' might have been too strained a play on words. So after several rewrites I have currently resulted in this (I hope) better alternative:

"There are more than Angels and Devils after your soul."

This refined tagline has also helped me put my developing novel's genre in perspective. I have always found it hard to describe where my novel would fit in the gigantic realm of Fantasy Fiction. Although my story does use fantasy to a certain level in which to enable such characters as valkyries to run around in the modern world. My current writing couldn't and shouldn't be labelled with just Fantasy. There are several subsets of Fantasy and I believe mine fits the subset of Magic Realism -  "the plot may concern an inexplicable intrusion of the magical or otherworldly into otherwise ordinary lives." as described by Lisa Tuttle in her book 'Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction'. I think that phrase and this genre is what my writing is involved with. Although it could be interpreted now as Dark Fantasy as there is now a huge outburst of books dealing with paranormal characters in a relatively parallel modern society and world. Need I any other example other than Stephenie Meyer's global hit 'Twilight Saga'??? Vampires alive and well in modern USA? Except of course my story doesn't deal with 'dark' characters such as Vampires or Werewolves or Witches or even a Huccobous (as I saw one book proclaim). My own tale deals with the unseen spiritual side of life and the wide range of characters, entities and gods provided by such a variety of religions (modern and old) to choose from and how in my vision the afterlife has equal impact on the current lives of the living. So my novel if it were finished and published would probably be found in the Dark Fantasy section of any good bookseller as it tends to suit the mix of characters breeding in this new modern genre.
There you have it - a whole lot of serious thought, changes and decisions all because I asked one question regarding my writing and the feedback from it (and I do say a big thank you to those 18 who voted) has helped me not only rethink the title of my developing novel but also the tagline, genre and book space. So if you as a writer find any particular problems with such isses as those I've discussed try turning it out to your potential or current readers - let their voices be heard and opinions made and you may well be provided with an answer or at least aided in thinking it up.
My next big writing challenge is not the always present task of continuing to write it (which I admitt I've been too relaxed about of late but I have been thinking up some ideas and doing plot out lines for Chap 4 etc) but to come up with a pitch of no more than 3 lines and write a good synopsis/brief.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Celebrating Sunshine

Here is a poem I wrote last summer that I am repeating in honuor of todays glorious sunshine and summer warmth.

Summer is…:

Summer is sunny days, sunburnt skin and sizzling barbeques.
Utterly clear blue skies, umbrella used for shade not rain and ultra violet rays.
Millions of people mowing the lawn, money spent at summer sales and mingling on beaches.
Men buy sunglasses and women buy hats, melting ice-cream over hands, fingers and faces and meals eaten outside on a cool evening.
Excitable children splashing into the sea, energetic families go to centre parks and expenses are paid for those day time events that keep the children busy.
River trips upon the canal in a longboat, relaxing by pool or in the garden and rest in general to help keep you smiling through the damp and windy months ahead.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Waterstone's Magazine Book Quarterly launches Short Story Competition

Copied from the Waterstones Website - here is the link http://www.wbqonline.com/feature.do?featureid=505

Perfectly Formed Short Story Competition

Perfectly Formed is our first short story competition, in association with Pan Macmillan and the Arvon Foundation

Want to have your work read by thousands of book lovers and get professional guidance for your writing career? Then enter Perfectly Formed, our first short story competition, in association with Pan Macmillan and the Arvon Foundation.
The competition
Books Quarterly is proud to announce the launch of the inaugural Waterstone’s Books Quarterly short story competition, Perfectly Formed: the search for the best unpublished writer in the country who can create a story that is small but... perfectly formed.
We’re looking for the best short story of 2,000 words or less. All our readers are eligible, as long as you’re over 16 and haven’t had fiction professionally published before. Your short story can be about any subject and in any fiction genre, be it drama, comedy, crime, historical or modern – just make it punchy, original and imaginative.
The prize will be judged by: Waterstone’s booksellers; the Books Quarterly and Waterstones.com teams; Arvon Centre Director Claire Berliner; Editorial Director Will Atkins of Pan Macmillan and its top Macmillan New Writing discoveries, James McCreet, Ann Weisgarber and Brian McGilloway:
Get handy tips from writer James McCreet
Get handy tips from writer Ann Weisgarber
Get handy tips from writer Brian McGilloway

How to enter
To submit your entry to Perfectly Formed, click below and attach the document of your original story of 2,000 words or less (please read the terms and conditions for details of format, entry requirements and deadlines). Remember to include your name, address and telephone number with your entry.
Please make sure you read the competition's terms and conditions (please note these terms and conditions are subject to revision) before submitting your entry.

This competition closes on 1 July 2010.  
The prize

Photo: Phil Grey
The winner will see their work published in the October issue of Books Quarterly to our readership of more than a quarter of a million, and online at www.macmillannewwriting.com, www.arvonfoundation.org, Wbqonline.com and Waterstones.com. But that’s just the start. The winner will be invited to attend an exclusive publisher’s lunch with Will Atkins, Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan, and author James McCreet to gain feedback and ideas on where to take their writing career in the future. And just to top things off, they will receive £200-worth of quality reading from Pan Macmillan of their choice.
To develop their skills, the winner will also receive a place on a week-long Arvon Foundation creative writing course of their choice.
The prize includes all tuition, food and accommodation (like that at Totleigh Barton pictured above.) During the week, the winner will have plenty of opportunity to spend time working on their own writing, as well as taking part in workshops, readings, and a one-to-one session with a course tutor. This year’s tutors and guest writers include Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, top screenwriters Jez Butterworth and Patrick Marber, and award-winning novelists Lionel Shriver and Sadie Jones. This is a fantastic opportunity for any aspiring writer.
The three best runners-up will receive concise written feedback on their entries, which will be published online, as well as winning £50-worth of Pan Macmillan books. So get writing on something small yet perfectly formed – and good luck!

Out of Dark Fantasy comes Light Fantasy - Could these winged counterparts to Valkyries create a platform for Valkyrian Ventures?

As a writer who dreams of being published there is a lot of thinking involved. That thinking usually is about not what publisher or agency would be best to promote and organise a publication but also where my book fits in to the large world of printed word. What genre does it fit in? Is it a new genre? How would I summarise it in one line? What would my blurb be like? What part of a bookseller would my book be displayed in? Who is my target audience? Do I have one? Etc.

I've only recently become aware of a handful of books that are starting to shine a light (open to interpretation of course) upon the new recent phenomena of Dark Fantasy/Dark Romance which entails Vampires, Werewolves, Witches and Supernatural Bounty Hunters and the like as it's leading favourite character type. Now a few writers are trying to add a bit more purity into this supernatural mix - the new ingredient is - Angels.

I was in a WHSmith store yesterday and noticed a handful of books both in Adult Fiction /Dark Fantasy/Fantasy and Teenage Fiction sections and found a few more online at Waterstones. Here are the small selection I've found:

This book is about the Nephilim, creatures reported to be on Earth in it's Adam and Eve days and who are still around and eager to enslave the human race to their will. To do so the Nephilim must find certain artefacts which have so far been protected by a society called Angeologists. 
Basically I'm thinking Dan Brown plot but with added spirituality. It's out in hardback if you're interested.

This was found in the Teenage Fiction section and is a supernatural romance story, and seems to be on similar lines to Twilight I'm judging from the book blurb about a teenage girl falling for the new boy only to find herself in the middle of an age-old battle between the immortals and those that have fallen.

Out in Hardback also and I do find it refreshing though the plot may be too similar that a girl hasn't fallen for a bloodsucking or moon cursed bad boy in class.

Again discovered in the Teenage fiction section (and yes I do read some books from there if only because they're not just good and equally enjoyable as adult texts but also keeps me up-to-date on what kids are reading).

This book though has a more adult feel to the tale of love as it's not about an Angel living on earth but how a lover died and became the guadian Angel of their greaving partner.

So it may well be more a thriller than a romantic piece with the challenge of the characters being that if Tristan (the dead lover turned Guardian Angel) saves Ivy (bereaving partner) from the killer who seems to be after her his unfinished business on earth will be finished and then they will be truly parted until death reunites them both.

Now this one is of particular interest as it's written by the author behind 'Interview with a Vampire' of all things so I will be seeing how much attention this new page of her talents gets her and how it supports this new genre.

The plot to this seems rather complex from reading the blurb but to put it simply a killer in present day California and is approached by a new client, a mysterious client, a Seraph, who offers him the chance to restore and save lives instead of taking them. Lucky (aka Toby O'Dare) accepts and is transported to 13th Century England where Jews are badly treated and children go missing and are found dead.

This one is also out in Hardback.

 There you have it, a few books showing a new surge in 'lighter' and 'purer' paranormal characters to try and stem the flow of vampires, werewolves, vampire and werewolf hybrids and witches.

If you can think of a book involving Angels in the fantasy sense (not so called real life encounters with) please do leave a comment about it and let me know what your thoughts on it were.

I do hope this little rise grows much further and readers adapt to it ok as I feel if there is only a little stable grounding of books involving winged religious figures (such as Angels which are universally recognisable) then the waiting reading public of dark fantasy and fantasy alike might be willing to accept and sample my adventurous tales featuring the 'angel' of vikings. My Valkyrian Ventures may yet gain it's wings - in time.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Another day in Ancient Jorvik - More settings from/for Valkyrian Ventures revealed...

As it is the Easter Holidays and as my one of my bestest buddies in the world Tasha also works at a school we thought it would be an opportunity not to miss for a good old chin wag catch up.

So as I wasn't meeting Tasha until later on in the afternoon I thought it was also a writing chance not to be missed for as I am on holiday I had the time to go in to Jorvik (aka York) mid morning and have a good old strowl around and visit the places I actually write about and feature in my Valkyrian Ventures series. So here are the pictures of the real life places that are featured (somestimes with sligh adjustment) in my Valkyrian Ventures. You can read them by accessing the Valkyrian Sanctum Quarters (contents list) down the left.

This is the Starbucks Coffee Shop where 2 ordinary women meet for a coffee break. Little does anyone know or suspect that they are in fact Valkyries at work collecting souls in and around York.

Featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 1 - The Old Ways Never Die.

Lendal Bridge, where a pair of Valkyries stalk in flight a dark elf who has snatched one of their appointed souls.

Featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 1 - The Old Ways Never Die.

The unnamed bar/club a Valkyrie waits at her until her next soul collection appointment.

Featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 2 - Trouble After Midnight.

The corner where a Valkyrie catches a Werewolf trying to do something rather naughty.

Featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 2 - Trouble After Midnight.

There are no images for Valkyrian Ventures - Part 3 - Sacred Secrets - as that is all set in the spiritual realm of Asgard. Imagination required during reading :)

Lendal Tower where 3 vallyries hide during a reconnaissance mission.

To be featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 4 - Know Thy Enemy. Still a work in progress so is not yet released on blog.

View down to the River Ouse flowing beneath Lendal Bridge alongside Lendal Tower, where from the depths and in the shadows a dark Goddess emerges.

To be featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 4 - Know Thy Enemy. Still a work in progress so not yet released on blog.

A dark emptry crypt like alcove where open and broken stone coffins linger. This is the place where a Valkyrie has a rather tense meeting with 2 Alpha Males from York's rival Werewolf packs.

To be featured in Valkyrian Ventures - Part 4 - Know Thy Enemy. Still a work in progress so not yet released on blog.

I hope these photographs entice you to enter the world where the Old Gods are still much alive and kicking and as a treat for managing this long post and even bothering to read it you can now play a little game I've made:

Spot the Author? and guess where am I?
Please leave answers as comments.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Birds, castles, editing, reading and writing:

Ok I'm back from my Easter holiday with family which was spent at home. So where to begin:

Basically I spent the first weekend helping Mum do a lot of house work, tidying, cleaning, re-organising, sorting stuff for a car boot sale and whilst having a nasty little cough with a big blocked nose and a large tissue box never being far from reach. So come Easter Sunday I spent the day struggling to read the books I'd brought amongst lots of sneezing. Come Easter Monday though I felt a bit better, was too tired after a bad nights sleep with blocked nose to help Mum at car boot sale but I did have strength and stamina left to help her load the car 3 times full of stuff to drive to skip and chuck.

Yet there were a few nice highlights to my very busy week at home helping Mum run and look after the house hold. And that is it gave me chance to spend ages sat at the kitchen window watching birds feed on fat balls hanging on our crab apple tree in the garden. Waiting for the elusive woodpecker Mum swears she's seen feeding on it yet it never showed when I was watching - typical.

A little BlueTit and a greedy Starling

A Chaffinch and one clever or foolish Sparrow reaching up on branch tip to peck at fat ball.

I also witnessed another piece of country side bird life action in that of 2 male pheasant cocks having a squabble in the field directly opposite the house. I only noticed them when I spotted a black cat slinking through the grass closer but when they started fighting it got bored and wandered off. Here's the 34 seconds of exclusive footage I managed to capture of their fighting display.

I also had the lucky chance to go with Mum, an Auntie and her carer also called Rebecca to the pleasant town of Helmsley on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon. So I got to see the grand ruins of Helmsley Castle that I last visited when I was really young and Dad brought me here with my siblings to see a 16th century sword fight.

A post card tells me that the castle was begun in 1120 by Walter Espec 'Walter the Woodpecker'. A Norman baron renowned for piety and soldiering. He also founded the nearby Revaulx Abbey and Kirkham Priory.

Yet somehow amongst my busy week I did manage to at long last do some editing! Went all the way through Valkyrian Ventures 'Trouble After Midnight' and edit, re-write and cut out. Suprisingly mainly dialogue both between characters and Jenny and the reader as I came across a phrase in one of the many bloggers I follow (I believe it was the Publishing Guru - look him up in the long list down the bottom right side) that said "first person narratives are tricky as they can often talk at the reader than to the reader". This I felt was becoming the case the more I re-read the draft as there were many occasions where when Jenny wasn't in conversation she was politely 'wittering' away AT the reader giving really non-essential hints, clues and private giveaways on what was happening and being said. So I cut a lot of that nonesense stuff out which made it much more concise in dialogue and the character a lot more interesting as she wasn't acting on a rather close level with the reader and maintained some distance between them and her. Just VV Part 3 to edit and to continue work on VV Part 4.

I've also just finished reading the amazingly funny and catchy story behind the hit 3D movie 'How to Train Your Dragon'. I can now understand why the poor lad before me in the que to meet Cressida Cowell at the Jorvik Festival 2010 was grilling her on why Toothless wasn't very small. Because to put it simply the plot in the book and some of the characters in the book are very different and some don't even appear in the movies interpretation. But on the whole it is a very good different story of how Hiccup and Toothless could become famous heroes withouth Toothless being small and without Hiccup knowing Dragonese.  But both book and film are equally good in their own right so both should be watched and read to fully emerse yourself in the world of vikings and dragons - tales that will be enjoyed by both young and old.

Also I have recently been brave and bold by spreading my writing wings and joining a a local creative writing group set up and led by Stephen May (author and playwright) in Halifax's Square Chapel. I attended my first meeting this past sunny Saturday and was thrilled to bits immediatly upon attendance when I spotted a pair of Kestrels fly out screeching 'keee-keee' to each other from the very impressive steeple of the church next door.
Another thing that suprised me was how small the group turned out to be - just me and 4 women and 3 men. All typically older than me but I didn't hold out much hope for anyone around my age attending as it isn't in the style of my generation to openly attend events for when you're younger than me you treat writing more like a hobby than anything serious. Yet it was very good though as Stephen was very nice and welcoming to all. He led us through some interesting exercises such as 5 minutes none stop writing time as a 'warm up', write your biographg in exactly 50 words (made you realise what events n details are necessary to mention and what aren't) and then writing events from our parents past (made us realise the difference in age we all were although one woman was from Former Yugoslavia so she had some dramatic stories to tell from both her parents side and her own) and writing about moments from our own lives in second person which proved interesting as it showed the distance between reader and character.
One very suprising thing was that one woman called Maggie Handlsey has actually already had a book published, in 2008 in fact by the title of 'Waiting for the Other Shoe' and the woman from Former Yugoslavia had read her book as part of her own run reading group so a lot of excited fan talk came from that side of the table.
It was all very interesting and good fun to do with other writers so I immediatly booked myself in the group next weekend and when I get paid the week after this I will pay myself onto the other 10 or 11 weeks or so of the rest of the course.

So the message for today is - feed the birds they all need a helping hand, look out for your own local pieces of history be it monument or building, go see 'How to Train Your Dragon' in 3D or read the book to your kids and grandchildred (ages 12 and under) and find out if there are any writing groups near you (particularly ones led by authors) so you can learn new skills and meet new writing friends.

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