Saturday, 29 May 2010

Summer sunshine + Savagely Good 'Raven' novel + Riveting Robin Hood movie = Half Term Hols! (+ writing! *fingers crossed*)

Well I would have blogged last weekend but as we were due a flat inspection last Tuesday I spent most of my time cleaning, hoovering, washing and tidying up. But don't despair I did manage to get out into the glorious summer sunshine we had last weekend to enjoy myself with a good book and the always cheerful company of my neighbours.
This is an above view of the garden earlier this spring to give you a better idea of where I got my teeth stuck into 'Raven' by my little tweeting friend Giles Kristian (@GilesKristian www.gileskristian.com ) and managed to race through constantly eager for more and enjoying every minute of the un-put-downable experience. I sat there in the sunshine, on my blanket engrossed in such an exciting story.
If you love anything to do with medieval/middle/dark ages, anything to do with vikings/danes/norwegians/anglo-saxons then YOU MUST GET THIS ASAP! The second installement of this new fantastic saga ,set to rival the age old talens of Bernard Cornwell and even better Tim Severin AND Robert Low (all three have given this new kid on the block of norse sagas great reviews), is already out in hardback, 'Sons of Thunder: A second Raven novel'.
I would have dived straight into this apart from the small fact that my boss Terry announced her knowledge of this brilliant author a few weeks after I bought Raven (which I hadn't started yet) and I revealed to her that I bought both books to add to my must read list. So whilst I worked my way to reading Raven I lent her Sons of Thunder. But I don't mind the wait - means the pleasure of reading will be that bit more sweet.
To breifly summarise the saga followers the young adventures of a lad named Osric who has a blood clot eye and who can't remember anything of his earlier life accept waking up at Abbotsend. Then Vikings come to trade and things go slightly wrong from there - for example the fact that Osric becomes aware he understand the language of these norwegians (who ironically nearly all the anglo-saxons they come across presume are Danish.) And so the adventure or fate whisks Osric away with these apparently savage warriors and discovers ....well I won't say anymore. All I can say is Giles Kristian has joined my list of great historical novelists.
I went on to the middle of the week where I had another greatly enjoyable medieval experience and that was with the new Robin Hood movie featureing Russell Crowe. 
                              
I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding his supposed 'accent' as Robin in the movie but to be honest it's worth seeing even if you think his accent turns out to be rubbish. After all no one knows for sure where the Real Robin originated so his accent from all these centuries ago may well be unrecognisable but to me it sounded like that of a good northerner. 
The plot was amazing, the drama was incredible, the action superb (the fight scenes felt actually genuine to the time) Kate Blanchett is excellent as Marion, no ditsy maid who stays up in a castle but shows as much passion for fairness for her people of Nottingham as Robin does when the two meet. And althought after later Wiki'ing events from the film I discovered the end battle actually has a different outcome - be blunt I didn't care! Because the ending had enough conclusion to finish the movie itself but also left a lot open and who knows - maybe there will be a Robin Hood 2 in the making?? I do greatly recommend it and give it 5/5 stars.
Now I am about to reveal something incredibly COOL and in fact AWESOME about my neighbours that I learnt from them in the summer sunshine of last weekend when they noticed me watching the GreatTit family zipped too and fro from their birdhouse feeding their chicks chirping with delights (and calls for MORE). 
Joan and Bernard didn't always live at Arncliffe Court, they lived somewhere else for about twenty years and in their neighbourhood they had a local fox. They called him Charlie. Joan would leave out balls of meat and cooked chicken pieces for him and soon he became a regular feaster in their garden. So regular in fact that he even dined at theirs with his vixen companion and apparently brought the entire litter of pups when he had a family. Joan and Bernard were so fond of him and he was so relaxed with them that they even managed to take photographs. Here are a few my favourites which they allowed me to get copies of.
Charlie and his big tea
A meal for two at Joans and Bernard's Fox Restaraunt :P
This could have been last weekend! But was in fact summer of 1997. Charlie having a time out in their garden.
Sadly Charlie died before the millenium but I think it's incredible of Joan and Bernard to continue to feed his family insuring his descendants live on. I am eternally jealous of my neighbours for the years they had contact with Charlie. The closes I got was 6 feet away from a group of young fox pups 3 years ago in Bluebell woods. But I know foxes still live there as evident by their poignent calls on full moon halloween last year when me and my boyfriend had a campfire in those same woods.
Now that's me done on here for the time being. I am off back to good old North Yorkshire for half term hols, catch up with family, my fellow friendship musketeers Tasha and Hannah and play time with my wonderful puppy dogs Bailey and Gem. If anything incredible happens whilst I'm away then I shall nip onto my sister's laptop and tell all but if not then I will report back on my mini adventures at the end of the week when I'm back. I know my 2 main goals are this half term apart from spending time with all my favourite people (and animals) is 1) get writing done on WIP 'Soul Chaser' and further editing on short story entry for Waterstones Books Quarterly competition (please do google it as there is the most fantastic prize EVER next to being published) and 2) catch up on my backlog of Writing Magazines to inspire and encourage me. Just finished May issue today so just 2 more to go. I won't be able to tweet much either whilst I'm away as lack of computer and lack of single so text tweeting will be limited us well unless I'm out on trips with Auntie Jo.
So I bid all my writing friends happy writing, all my reading friends happy reading and any other blog following people a happy half term week. Becky (aka valkyrie1008) over and out.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A Writers Opportunity - Guildford Book Festival Short Story Competition

As always I get a tingle when a new writing opportunity presents itself in the form of a writing competition and it's excellent practice to keep writing for competitions when you don't have a writing group or class to keep you going. This newest one caught my eye courtsey of Kiggy Kinsella over at http://www.fecklessgoblin.blogspot.com/ as he tweeted it (@ZiggyKinsella) on Twitter.
Please find below details on the competition, the great prize on offer and details on how to enter and follow this link http://guildfordbookfestival.co.uk/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=40 to enter. Good luck to all who take up the challenge - I know I will.

2010 Short Story Competition
We are pleased to announce a brand new writing competition for this year's Festival, in collaboration with the Surrey-based e-publishing company, Commutabooks.
Our competition is open to both new and established authors. We are looking for short stories that inspire, uplift and inspire readers to make the most of their days and their lives.
Commutabooks specialise in producing interactive eBooks for smartphones like the Apple iPhone, Google Nexus and the many eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad.
Commutabooks is the brainchild of local author and author's mentor Tom Evans who is also known as The Bookwright. They are designed to be read, listened to and watched in a single commute.
The prize is to convert the winning story into an "App" so it can be downloaded worldwide from the Apple iTunes store and read on the Apple iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The App will also have a professionally recorded audio track so it can be listened to AND a video interview with the author. The prize also includes cover design, structural and copy editing and page design and layout.
As an example to inspire you, you can download one of Tom's self-penned narrated stories for the iPhone:
Get '100 Years of Ermintrude' FREE from the iTunes store here

Competition rules:
The maximum length of submissions is 7,000 words. There is no minimum length. More specifically, they must be readable in just a return train commute from Guildford to Waterloo stations - i.e. about 90 minutes.
Stories can be on any theme or subject in any genre.
The closing date for entries is 31st July 2010. Short-listed authors will be notified by 30th September 2010 and also announced on the Guildford Book Festival website.
Entrants must be over 16 years old.
Entries will only be possible online and there will be a £5 charge to enter which will go in entirety to Guildford Book Festival (less credit card fees).
There is no geographical restriction on entry. The Guildford Book Festival Commutabooks competition is open to everyone in the UK.
Authors may only enter a single submission. No corrections or updates are allowed after the initial submission. We expect that entries will be fully proof read. While we will not be judging on grammar, punctuation or spelling, entries with many errors that are difficult to read will not score highly.
Entries must be entirely the work of the entrant and must not have been previously published or broadcast. Any entry found to have been plagiarised will be disqualified. If a simultaneous submission to another competition is published before the end of the competition, it will be disqualified.
Entries will be judged anonymously. The manuscripts should be free of all personal information about the author. This includes age and address.
The judging panel consist of professionals from the publishing industry, published authors and a selection of enthusiastic readers.
The prize will be awarded during second week of the Festival, namely the 18th to 24th October 2010. No cash alternative will be allowed.
The winning author must agree to enter into an epublishing contract with Commutabooks for a minimum term of 1 year - you can download a sample contract here
Your online submission implies an acceptance of all these Guildford Book Festival / Commutabook rules. Entries that fail to comply will be disqualified.

Guidelines for entry submission:
All submissions must be in MS Word readable format.
Once you pay your entry fee, you will be emailed a reference code and instructions on where to send your entry. We advise you don't pay the entry fee until you are ready to send your submission. No entry fees are refundable.
Make sure you have done a spelling and grammar check on your submission.
Use a consistent font (either serif or san serif) throughout and resist the temptation to do any complex formatting.
If you have any graphics or illustrations, reduce them to less than 100KB before embedding them in the document. Do not send them as separate images.
Guildford Book Festival and The Bookwright reserve the rights to use the winning and short-listed stories in entirety or in excerpts for promotional purposes. The copyright of the story will remain in with the author and, with permission, the author will be credited with the work.
By entering this competition, you details will be entered on both the databases of The Bookwright and Guildford Book Festival. Both organisations are bound by the Data Protection Act and your details will not be shared with any other third party. You will receive emails from both organisations from time to time and you may unsubscribe at any time. If you do unsubscribe, this will not disqualify you from the competition.
No correspondence will be entered into in regards to any submissions. If you have any queries prior to submission, email them to commutabooks@thebookwright.com

'I Am No Angel' - my entry for The Four Part Land's #WritersCarnival

Here is another sneak peak at one of my various and different Valkyrie short stories wrote for orginally for the Huddersfield Literature Festival competition (sadly didn't get very far with it) but I am now going to share it with you, my readers (I hope) and as part of a Writers Carnival being held courtesy of James T at his The Four Part Land website http://thefourpartland.com/blog/?p=197 - follow link for more details on how to take part. Flash Fiction entries closes on Wednesday 26th May!

Now to those of you who are more familiar with my writing involving Valkyries and perhaps those of you have even sampled the adventures taking place in my WIP 'Soul Chaser' chapters available to read here, some of this short story may be familiar but believe when I say it is using the same characters and location but the events that unfold are different. As always I greatly encourage anyone reading this to please spare me two minutes at the end to let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading.

I Am No Angel - Short Story

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Kate asked finally joining me at Starbucks for our lunch break.


“It’s pleasant. Have you started filling your quota yet?”

“Yes, half way through already, how about you?”

I nodded, draining the last of my coffee and took out my list of fifty names. “I have a few to visit at the hospital and an old people’s home.”

“Ugh old people. We weren’t created to watch their inglorious death. We need warriors. Men of honour, courage and strength. Men who died by the sword. Not killed by disease, old age and accidents.”

“If we didn’t make exceptions you know our numbers would dwindle into non-existence. There are too many faiths and so few believers.”

“Oh I do miss the old days and our old ways.” She sighed. “Well I have a child to visit in the hospital so why don’t we go together?”

“Fine by me.” We left our seats in the shade and made our way through the throbbing streets of York.



Once at the hospital car park, we casually walked to a quiet corner, away from curious eyes, where we prepared and equipped ourselves for the job.

“Mine is on the second floor where is yours?” Kate asked, checking her own quota.

“Fourth floor. Wait for me here when you are done.”

With a final nod to each other we strode purposefully back round the corner across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance and no one got in our way.

***

I found the man I sought in a room at the end of the ward. He lay still in his bed, his drips and monitor leads hung loose on the floor. The woman who sat beside him was milk white with red eyes from tears.

“Mr Garret?” I said softly, sitting at the end of his bed, watching his eyes flutter open.

“Huh? Yes?” He became wary once he noticed me. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“There’s no easy way of saying this Mr Garret, but you have just died.” It was inevitable that he wouldn’t believe me. After all, a woman in a white feathered cloak against a skirt and blouse and holding a tall spear, promote the signs of a deluded mind.

“Preposterous! I’m sat here talking to you aren’t I? Tell her Laura, you can see I’m quite alive can’t you?” He turned to the pale faced woman sat beside him. She didn’t blink. She didn’t say a word.

“I’m afraid you are, Mr Garret. But if you are alive, give your daughter a hug. Prove me wrong.”

He shot me an angry glare and got out of his bed, unaware yet that his pain had vanished and leaned in towards his daughter. He passed straight through her, landing on all fours on the floor. Panic in his eyes, his breath quickening with fear, disbelief freezing his heart. I stepped towards him and offered him my hand.

“It’s ok, you can touch me. You can even hit me if it makes you feel any better.”

“But how? Why? I...I...was sleeping...only sleeping...I felt so tired...I...”

“I know it’s hard to accept. I went through the same thing. Now can I talk to you about what happens next?”

“Next?” The puzzlement and possible curiosity seemed to calm him down a bit as I walked him slowly towards the window.

“Yes, the small matter of life after death.”

“Oh, I never really believed in that kind of thing.”

“Yes, I know that David. Now, as you are not a follower of any faith for that matter, my Boss has decided to lay claim on your soul.”

“Your boss?”

“Yes, the deity I work for.”

“Are you an Angel?”

I laughed. “My job is similar to that of Angels but I am not one of them. My Boss is of an older faith. He has many names but you may refer to him as Odin. His followers once ruled this place when it was known as Jorvik, but you know of them as Vikings. Before you begin your afterlife there is a test you must do first.”

“Am I being judged?”

“In a way, it tests the person you have become, not the way you lived.” I gave a comforting smile, opening up a window that looked out across a still and silent city. I pointed my spear downwards and engraved runes onto the floor with its silver tip. A rainbow bridge appeared linking our window to the ground below.

“What do I have to do?” he asked, staring suspiciously at my runes and the rainbow.

“You must simply walk along this bridge. If you are worthy you will reach the other end and live happily in Asgard, if not, well....”

He knew what my silence meant. “Will it hold me?” he asked, shaking as I urged him forward.

“It’s perfectly safe. Trust me, that’s it... steady ...see its fine.” Watching him stand for the first time on his own upon the colours. “Now face forward and walk, reach the end and all will be well. I hope to see you at the other side.”

He was doing well at first, five steps in and it seemed he might make it, but then the true test of his soul began. Visions of those he had wronged in life appeared before him asking for answers, explanations and apologies. All asking for one thing before he departed. David was too set on self preservation to care about appeasing these spirits. He waved them away, pushed past their pleading faces and ignored their words. When he finally got through them the bridge opened up and he fell into the abyss, screaming.

I scratched out my runes with my spear and concealed my spiritual cloak and spear with more magic. I brought out my quota, noting at least twenty souls still to visit.

I sighed. “A Valkyrie’s work is never done.”



The End

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Valkyrian Treat for my Followers and Friends

Now as some of you may know, if you regularly keep up with my sporadic and sometimes lengthly posts, you will be aware that I have currently stalled work on Soul Chaser to focus on writing new and original material to enter into several competitions coming up.
To this I have recently finished the third draft of a new valkyrie short story - its working title being Naughty and Nice OR The Wrong Angel OR The Guardian (would greatly appreciate feedback on title choice once you have read story). It has reached a point where I need fresh, unbiased eyes and probably ones with better grammar and punctuation knowledge than I.
But I am also about to share it all you know because I feel I am approaching a mini milestone that I am quite proud about. Not only am I nearing 20 followers in total of my little viking obsessive blog but also nearing 150 followers on Twitter. Through these many connections I have met some fantastic people, brilliant writers and made some good friendships.
So I dedicate this little story to you all who pay me and my writing even the smallest attention. It is always welcomed and greattly appreciated. I hope you enjoy. Feedback greatly encouraged.

Naughty and Nice/The Wrong Angel/The Guardian

Should I be naughty or nice? These were the mundane questions Kate asked herself as she stared through her favourite bakery window, at the trays of treats just beyond her reach. The sweet smells dancing across her taste buds, enchanting her and many alike around this small shop nestled between the arches of the viaduct bridge.
    She was just about to join the queue leading outside the door and inform the baker of her important treat time decision when she heard a scream, a harsh slap and loud crunch and then a sudden gust of wind blew all the tumult into silence.
    Kate sighed at the vision before her. The bakery now a ruined derelict, the viaduct crumbling down in various places and the bustling crowds around her were no more than the swirling dust blowing down empty streets. She hugged tight the feathered cloak that once was her white leather jacket, trying not to be disturbed by the shivers she felt. Turning around she came face to face with the cause of her most unwelcome interruption.
    “Where the hell am I?” He asked, a man of near middle age in appearance, his tie and white shirt coated in the dust that coated the ground as he got up.
    “I wish you were in Hell. You just ruined my morning tea break.” Kate snapped back, crossing her arms and glaring down at him like an angry parent.
    “Look, I don’t know what’s happened here...”
    “What’s happened here is that you have just died. Presumably from jumping off the viaduct. Thus you find yourself here.”
    “I’m dead? I’m actually dead?” He muttered, looking around him as if expecting to see anyone else appear and say otherwise.
    “Did you think you would survive that fall?” Kate pointed accusingly up at what would have been the top of the viaduct but was now void of bricks.
    “Err...no...I was...”
    “You were committing suicide, killing yourself, so here you are, dead.”
    “What is this place? Is it Hell?”
    Kate laughed. “Hell would be a darn bit warmer don’t you think with all its fires and boiling oil? This is limbo, where dead people end up. You linger here until you’re claimed by one deity or another.”
    “Is that why you’re here? Are you an Angel?”
    Kate was tempted to laugh but having heard that line so many times she just smirked. “Do I look like an Angel to you? Do you see any halo? Any white fluffy wings?” She gestured dramatically at her white feathered cloak, her silver chest plate, her sparkling chain mail sleeves coming down to loop around one finger and the thick leather leg wraps she wore. “Besides you’re not on my collection list. If you were, you wouldn’t have caught me off guard.”
“So, if you’re not an Angel, what are you?”
    “I’m a Valkyrie, the Angel version of the Norse Faith.”
    “Norse? Vikings? Thought they died out centuries ago?”
    “Just because we have a few hundred pagan believers left doesn’t mean we crumble into pixie dust.”
    “So instead of raiding towns and villages you now raid the dead?”
    Kate gave him her first friendly smile. “Good, you’re starting to understand. Now just wait here and someone will be along to sort your afterlife out.”
    “What do you mean sort me out?”
    “Judged. You know? The whole good go to Heaven and bad to Hell? That kind of thing.”
    “So I could still go to Hell?” The dead man sounded very unnerved.
    “I can’t say. Don’t know your life story. Someone will though, just wait here and they should meet up with you in a minute or so.”
    “Wait...don’t go....please! Come back!” The man called after her as Kate strode down the empty streets.
“I’m nobody’s babysitter. If some lazy sod can’t arrive on time it’s not my responsibility.” She muttered to herself storming down the street with huge strides. The world of the afterlife as familiar to her as the world of the living. The desolation, decay and broken landscape didn’t disturb her. She headed for the nearest cross roads of streets, trampling rough and hard over broken glass and rubble. Once she’d found the desired location she knelt down, took out a sharp silver blade from within her cloak and carved a series of runes into the cracked concrete. She leapt back as the expected lightning bolt struck the runes causing them to flash with flames. From within those burning runes came rainbow sparks that lay scattered across the ground like multi coloured diamonds. The sparks become fiercer, more intense; they multiplied and expanded until Kate was left facing a wall of dazzling opal colours which stretched from the walls of one street to the next. She was about to take a step into the kaleidoscope of light, with some sense of relief knowing she could finally back to her chosen treat of the day, when there was a loud cry from behind her and the pounding of running feet.
    She whisked round in a rage, the second interruption to her usually routine day now even more unwelcome than the first.
    “You again? I thought I’d told you...”
    “Please! You got to help me. Back there, was a thing...a creature...” The pale faced and terrified man pointed back up the street which was empty.
    Kate peered up the same street before grasping his shoulders and forcing him to take several steps back. “There’s nothing there. Just sit tight and wait till someone comes to take care of you.”
    “But...but...but that thing! Back there....”
    “You’ll be fine. You shouldn’t be waiting too long.”
    The man glanced over her shoulder suspiciously at the mirage of colours towering over them both. “How will I know it’s safe...there are those other things.”
    “They’ll address you by name.”
    “Ah Mr Coswell! We meet at last.” A voice called out from the top end of the street. The Valkyrie and the man looked up. Kate in disgust and the man in confusion. “I see you’ve met one of the locals too, how nice.”
    “What do you see?” Kate whispered harshly in the man’s ear, still not letting go of his shoulder.
    “What?” he asked now even more confused.
    “Tell me what you see up ahead.”
    “Oh...err...my wife...does this mean she’s dead too?”
    “What’s she saying?” Kate demanded again.
    “She’s asking me to come to her, we’re going somewhere together. She forgives me!” Those final three words were a clear source of delight to Mr Coswell.
    “Mr Coswell that is not your wife.” She took several large steps forward and threw a bright white bolt of the runic energy causing a small eruption of rubble at the spot where the creature was. “That is not your wife because she isn’t dead.” Kate held Mr Coswell firm as he struggled to reach the vision of his wife in an illusion of panic.
    “But...But...how?”
    “Fargo, you should know better than to play a woman, you could never pull it off.” Kate called out with a snigger as from the dust of the impact a strange creature emerged.
    It looked like a man in a tailor tie and black suit except his skin was blue and mottled white, he had snake green eyes and no ears.
    “Katherine, you never do play fair.” His suave, sophisticated voice replied.
    “Same could be said for you.”
    “What do you expect from the Devil? Now if you don’t mind, Mr Coswell and I have a date.” The creature spoke casually strolling towards the tense pair his arms crossed behind his back.
    “He hasn’t been judged yet Fargo. You can’t touch him until then.”
    “Says who?”
    “Those are the rules and you know it. Once his Guardian is finished with him then you can claim him.”
    “I am that Guardian! His soul was quick to damnation after deceiving his wife. Not to mention death by suicide.” A forked blue tongue slithered from its lips as he smirked, its eyes constantly alighting upon Mr Coswell’s horrified face.
    “I don’t believe you.” Kate spoke as she delved her right arm behind her back and it emerged holding a complete tall spear glittering in golden runes. She whipped its spear head in Fargo’s direction.
Fargo laughed, but as he came up his eyes were focused straight on Mr Coswell. With a move as quick as a snake’s tongue a green tendril of lightning arced out over in the dead man’s direction. Kate had just enough time to react and whirl her white swan feather cloak into its path and untie it upon the ground to smoulder and burn to ash in a couple of heartbeats. Fargo hissed and spat at her, clapping his hands hard together spraying poison green sparks that crackled as they hit the floor.
    With one great heave of breath Kate charged at Fargo, her war cry echoing out and rattling the broken walls and glass around her. Within a few feet of him she leapt into the air as high as the collapsed roofs of the buildings.  She threw her spear in a lightning quick strike and landed on the ground again. She stood tall, as Fargo, gaping in shock and possible pain glanced at the rod of metal lodged through his stomach. With a whine and a grunt he collapsed backwards, twitched then lay still.
    Kate made a gesture with her left hand and her spear slowly removed itself from the body and floated to her in one smooth action.
    “What...what was that thing? How did it know about my wife?” Mr Coswell spoke cautiously remaining a few feet behind Kate between the rainbow wall.
    “All Soul Guardians and his kind, Soul Hunters, know about your life story. We use it to judge you, they use it to trap you.”
    “Oh. Did he really mean it then about...me being damned?”
    “Don’t know. You tell me. What made you throw your life away?”
    “My little girl died several months ago. It was in the summer and I was playing with her in the garden. I’d just popped my head into the kitchen to encourage Jackie away from the washing up, turned around and she was gone. The front gate was open.” He swallowed hard. “It was my fault she got out. I forgot to put the latch on after work. I confessed to my wife after the funeral and she left me too.” He looked up at Kate with a face drained of life and love. “I deserve to die. I deserve to go to Hell.”
    “Then...you shall.” A hoarse, harsh voice croaked behind the pair.
    There was a bright green flash, a grunt and a moan then silence.
Kate leapt from her fallen position on the ground and threw her spear one final time. It whooshed through the air and pierced Fargo’s open bleeding mouth as he was about to laugh at his reclaimed victory. The spear left a hole from his mouth to the back of his head. Fargo fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Kate charged over, retrieved her spear and spat and cursed over the motionless and draining corpse of the demon.
    Turning slowly she came face to face with where Mr Coswell had stood. Nothing was left of him after he had shoved Kate aside, but a small pile of silver dust. Kneeling over the dust she gathered some into her hands and walked to within an inch of the rainbow wall.
    “Thank you Mr Coswell, I’ll see you on the other side.” She took a deep breath and blew the dust into the kaleidoscope of colours.
    There was a rumble of thunder from the dull white sky. Kate turned to face the powers that lurked behind it without fear.
    “Bah, God won’t miss him, nor will the Devil. He has a brave heart worthy of us.”
Besides, sometimes you have to be naughty to be nice she thought stepping through herself into the world beyond the world.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

Competitions Calling - Imagining Ideas - Sensational Storytelling

Wow has it really been 2 weeks since I last posted anything up here? Well all I can say is the word busy was greatly the cause of that but I can also happily say that it was also involved with writing and stories.
My first bit of news is my awakening to the wonderful and longforgotten and little practiced art of telling a good story the old fashioned way - orally. Not by reading a book though oh no, all from the mind, involving emotions and actions to help bring the story alive around us and not just in our imagination. My awakening to this was brought about by an amazing lady called Rachel Rose Reid - have you heard of her? She is a greatly talented and captivating woman whose voice can transport you as fast as Scotty could beam you up and can captivate you as much as Darren Brown can hypnotise you. She performed at the Peacock Lounge in Huddersfield as part of the many ongoing Huddersfield Literature Festival events which occur once a month until the big week each year.
I went along sadly by myself as boyfriend was busy doing lots of course work and my boss Terry had to be at home that night. But I still had a fantastic time catching up with my old tutors from Hudd Uni, in particular my favourite Michael Stewart who taught me all I know about short stories and writing fiction. I was quite suprised though when my old poetry tutor David Gill remembered me (considering I was rubbish at it) and proudly remarked on how often each week I came in with a new draft and new rewrite showing I took everything on board. Michael said that was a mark of a good writer *grin*. 
Anyway when Rachel came on stage everyone became silent and she introduced herself as someone who likes think 'we find parts of ourselves in all sorts of stories' and how she was going to tell stories from different lands and cultures. The first one was set in Africa I think and dealt with theme of overcoming obstacles and trusting yourself. It was really interactive this one as she encouraged us all to provide appropriate sound effects to scenes she described. The second story was set in Arabia, and about how the strength to success can appear in many forms. The third final story was set in Ancient Rome involving the Greek Gods Zeus, Hades and Persephone. All were amazingly told, each of her characters was well voiced and you could really feel the passion behind her words as she told them, using her arms and hands to add movement and flow to the tales. I was enchanted with the magic in her voice, the power in her words and the wonders of her stories - I was reliving the special moments created by a good story well told.
Yet Rachel wasn't the only one to tell stories that night at the Peacock Lounge, there was also an opportunity for students and members of the audience to tell their own pieces. I was one of those brave souls, stepping up onto the stage with a snipper from my novel 'Soul Chaser'. I won't lie and say I wasn't nervous - it's nearly a full year since I last voice my writing aloud before anyone and this was a small crowd. I had it all on a bit of paper and began with an introduction of myself and the ideas behind my story. I grew a bit more in confidence when at the mention of vikings and norse gods I got a cheer from within the crowd. I was only up there for no more than 2 minutes but I did my best to speak slowly, clearly, add drama and tension to this snippet of a tale and got a nice applause when I stepped down. The other performers didn't have to do much to out perform me and one guy was truly fantastic! Almost as good as Rachel as she too did all from the top of his head, voiced his characters well and made the audience join in.
Then to my shock Michael Stewart stood up and announced that David was going to pick the best 3 story tellers of the night - of course minus Rachel. So during the break I just calmed myself down, believing that there was no way I would even get third place yet.... I DID! Michael came on stage and called out my name, I went up trying not to go red with embarassement or go too shy either. David said although I didn't befriend the microphone well enough I told it well and got us all curious for more. I won a poetry book by someone I hadn't heard of before but I was just happy with the honour of 3rd place. My night got even better when I told Rachel how amazed I was with her talent and how fantasticly well she did it when I would be a nervous wreck - she then replied back that she wanted to know more about my story. What a compliment just from asking! So I quietly mentioned that I have it all on my blog at present and I follow her on Twitter (@RachelRoseReid) so I'll tweet her the link. I did the following day and few days later she tweeted back saying thanks. Don't know if she read anymore if yet but I hope she liked some of it. You can learn more about this funky lady and where she performs at her website www.rachelrosereid.com .

My second time consuming activity is coming across some more good competitions and then trying to write something original for each one because of varying word count limits. I recently posted regarding the Waterstones Books Quarterly Short Story Competition (http://www.wbqonline.com/feature.do?featureid=505) but I've recently come across 2 more I would like to share with you:
Aesthetica Creative Works competition for Artwork, Photography, Fiction and Poetry - find out more details via www.aestheticamagazine.com and selecting the competition option there. £500 up for grabs plus publication in their annual Creative Works portfolio.
Rowan Coleman Short Story Competition - a short story contest special online writing course tuition from Rowan herself, a meeting with Rowan and director from Random House publishing, £100 to spend on any Random House published book and winning story displayed on Rowan's blog - for more details please visit www.rowancoleman.blogspot.com .
Please do check out all three of these brilliant publication opportunities and good luck to all who enter!

I aim to do so myself but I thought, instead of entering my first chapter from 'Soul Chaser' titled 'The Old Ways Never Die' which is in fact a short story which inspired the growing novel, to try and write something fresh and new.

I still find myself writing about Valkyries though (still want to get their unheard voices out to the world) but in a different setting and location. My recent new short story idea involves a Valkyrie on her coffee break being rudely brought into the After Life when a guy commits suicide from the viaduct train line that runs above her favourite bakery. That part I've written fine so far (more editing and rewriting intended) but I still can't make up my mind about how it should end. I don't want the ending to be too weak, I want it to pack enough punch to stick in the judges minds and leave them thinking about it. Thing is what is right and what is wrong. Currently I am considering two possible alternative endings - here's the plot so far from Kate's morning intruprtion by death - the lost soul of the man follows Kate (the Valkyrie) out of fear in the devestation of the AfterLife, gets hunted by a Demon in the guise of his wife, now here are the alterantvie scenarios leading to end of story:

A) Kate fights on behalf of Simon (lost dead man's soul) as he must be judged (by whatever soul guardian is assigned to him) before being tossed to the evil demons, the fight is brutal, Kate struggles against the demons power, Simon meanwhile isn't sure what to do and then finally throws himself in harms way just before Kate looses, his soul is vapourised into dust and demon walks away smugly. Kate collects dust in bag and walks with it through the rainbow wall to Asgard whispering 'welcome to the next life' as she leaves that realm. Hopefully leaving reader thinking that in Asgard she can reincarnate Simon and he can live happily ever after as reward for his bravery.
B) Kate fights on behalf of Simon, struggles against demon, seeing she can not totally over come Demon and that Simon must escape she tells him to run through the rainbow wall, even though she forbid him not to earleir, Simon runs through in fear for Kate's safety and comes round to find himself in a hospital with two badly broken legs and the wife he has meant to have beaten (according to Demon but it was a one off event for Simon) by his side glad he's alive and willing to forgive and forget. Wife leaves to get a drink and Kate arrives in guise of a doctor and informs Simon this new life is a lucky mistake and of course the old motto not to waste it.

If you any ideas or thoughts on these two alterantive endings I would greatly appreciate any feedback given so I can make my mind up about which is more suitable and would impress the judges in the competition I send the finished stort off to. So to get you thinking why not tell me which ending you prefer?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Potential Readers vote 'Soul Chaser'! - My Fav Vikingy films in honour of 'Thor' the movie

Now some of you may notice and even have taken part in my potential readers poll in order to try and choose a good title for my work in progress developing novel featuring figures from norse mythology in the backdrop of present day York (or Jorvik to you die hard viking fans :D). That poll is now CLOSED! The title has been decided - 20 potential readers and kind people have voted for the winner which is........'SOUL CHASER'!
Here is how the 20 votes went:

Valkyrian Ventures 
      4 (20%)
No Angel
      4 (20%)
Soul Chaser
      5 (25%)

Soul Catcher
      4 (20%)
Vallyrie's Touch
      3 (15%)

To be honest I am greatly suprised how close the previous draft title of my developing novel 'Valkyrian Ventures' came to be winner. I had the poll open for 2 weeks and during that time it turned into quite a roller coaster between which title was winning and which ones weren't. During this last week it became quite tense for me as the author of this piece of writing as most of the time at least 2 of the options always seemed to be neck and neck in equal votes. Those two were 'Soul Catcher' and 'Soul Chaser' and the latter only one by one mere vote in the end. I must admitt that I do prefer 'Soul Catcher' but 'Soul Chaser' has equal merits to it as it sounds more intriguing not a spin on the object of a 'Dream Catcher' and from what I know there isn't any other book titled 'Soul Chaser' whereas a lot of people have been tweeting and messaging me saying they already know a book titled 'Soul Catcher'. In the end 'Valkyrian Ventures', 'No Angel' and 'Soul Catcher' become joint second place preferences and 'Valkyrie's Touch' was the least preferred.

I would like to wish those 20 people a big thank you for taking the time to consider and vote and I do hope that some of you at least read some of my work to help inform your decision and that you perhaps enjoyed it. Thank you. Your input helped me as a writer more than you will know.

Now, some of you may be viking and norsemythology fans so you may know what I'm about to say already with great delight: KENNETH BRANAGH IS DIRECTING THE MOVIE 'THOR' (MARVEL'S NORSE SUPERHERO) WHICH WILL BE RELEASED NEXT YEAR!
So in honour of this fantastic event I am going to reveal my favourite list of vikingy films:
1)  "1066 - The Battle For Middle Earth" is a fantastic movie/documentary portraying the bloody battles of the fateful year in English, French and Viking History. Fulford, Stamford and Hastings are protrayed in excellent detail including all the gore and death that comes with such great battles for survival. And the characters that you follow through this horid year really do awaken you to the fear the common folk of England felt. 
If anyone is interested about 1066 then this is an excellent choice to watch to familiarise yourself with events from the common folks point of view. 
2) "Beowulf and Grendel" - a really fascinating portrayal of this amazing Norse Saga of Man vs Monster and really shows a human side to Grendel and a wise side to Beowulf which is as captivating as it is refreshing compared to the now stereotypical He-man super strong sword mad Beowulf and grotesque man eating beast of Grendel. 
3) This is a lengthily and very well made telling of the famous Norse Saga - Legend of Sigurd and Nibbungs. Basically how a blacksmith creates a fantastic sword from a fallen meteor, falls for the Queen of Iceland, bewitched into falling in love with the wrong woman, kills a dragon and baths in its blood and of course is betrayed on multiple levels. But over all, despite a fantastic story of the dangerous of wealth and love, it also highlights the subtle battles between growing Christianity and fading Norse beliefs during the middle ages.
3) I've blogged about this film before regarding the Vikings brief stay in Northern American and their encounter with Native Indians and this is basically what this film portrays albeit it in a very dark and bloody manner. Be warned there are lots of bloody scenes in this film but it truly captures the demonesque nature these white foreigners must have seemed to the native people of the land. But it is an interesting tale by having a stranded viking lad adopted into the community only to have to fight off a horde of his true native people to keep the indian community he loves safe.
 4) Time for a big dollop of fun mixed with vikings - thats what you get with the great comedy Eric the Viking. Which has an amazing cast, great witty lines and crazy adventures norse style with characters who defy the very stereotypical image of vikings and their culture. As the tag line says "A Viking warrior who did not want to rape and pillage".
5) Now I know when this came out many weren't impressed with Banderas performance or the fact that it portrayed Vikings as illiterate but I disregarded all that. What I liked is that it capture the viking influence upon the world in the most unlikely of places - Arabia and the far Eastern countries. Now this actually has some historic grounding as they did travel as far as Constantinople (aka Istanbul) and further afield in search of trade and glory and discovery. That what I found refreshing and that it took the viewer into their world and culture as a complete stranger through a genuine stranger to their culture in Banderas as a Muslim Duke of some kind who had gotten in the way of someone else in high places in the pursuit of a woman.

So there you have it my 5 favourite vikingy films covering their legends, history and culture.
Do let me know your thoughts on each of these or recommend any others I've not listed. What's your favourite vikingy film?

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