Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!

 

 

Aftermath #BlogFlash2012

Hi. I felt a little lost this morning. For the last 30 days we had the task of wrestling with a prompt, trying to come up with something creative and entertaining yet staying within the word limit. It was no easy task I can tell you – but I loved every minute of it! There’s nothing like stretching those creative muscles in the brain to set you up for the day! I’d like to share with you some of my experiences from taking part in this event and my feelings about it.

 

To begin with, the support and encouragement we all received from Terri Giuliano Long was fantastic. She was a superb host, came up with some challenging prompts for us and made a point of commenting on our work every day. We all owe her a huge debt of thanks. Her posts were pretty awesome and very insightful on occasions too!

Part of the challenge was to visit at least 5 other blogs each day to see what they’d written and leave a comment. I think I ended up visiting virtually all the blogs almost every day, but it was so worth it. All the people who took part in this challenge are wonderfully talented and it was interesting to see how many different takes came from the same prompt. Some of the people even did a series for the whole 30 days, leaving us in suspense until Day 30 to find out whether there was a happy or successful ending; the way these writers worked the prompts into their stories was awesome and incredibly creative.

I feel I’ve made some great new friends from taking part in #BlogFlash2012 and fully intend to keep in contact with them, either through their blogs or on Twitter. I’ll miss the day to day interaction with them though. Those that visited this blog left lovely and encouraging comments about my writing, which has boosted my confidence.

I’ve also had some awesome comments from my followers who aren’t involved in the challenge too – thank you all for your great support!

As for me, wearing my writer’s hat, I believe I’ve grown even more in my ability by taking part in this challenge. Some of the prompts were quite easy to write about, some dregged up painful memories and beautiful ones too, but some really stretched my imagination as well as my writing skills. It’s not easy to tell a story in 100 words or less. Ultimately, I feel that my writing has improved, and I proved to myself that I can write in genres other than just fantasy. I’m very sad it’s over!

So, would I take part in the next #BlogFlash? You try stopping me!!

 

Seven Cans Short of a Six-Pack?

A writer’s life can be quite strange in some ways. That’s not to say we’re strange people (well maybe a few are, but on the whole…), but strange things happen to us. Let me explain.

I can only tell you how it is from my perspective, but some of my author friends have voiced the same things so I know I’m not alone here.

When I’m working on Heart Search: Found (book 2 in the trilogy), I’m totally focused on it to the extent I sometimes forget to eat lunch (like yesterday). I’m totally engrossed in the story I’m creating, the interaction between the characters, building the next twist, where I’m taking it next, but at the same time the story seems to write itself. I start writing a chapter knowing what I’ve got planned for it and suddenly I find I’ve thrown a curve ball into the mix and something I’ve not planned for takes shape on the pages. It happened when I was writing Heart Search:Lost (book 1) as well.

In some ways it’s like the books actually write themselves and I’m just the channel to put the words on the screen. I believe my Muse has something to do with it. Many writers believe they have a Muse who helps and guides them on their writing journey – I know I have, and can describe her, tell you her name and a little of her history! But anyway, I digress.

It’s when I’m away from Heart Search that things get strange. On the rare occasions these days when I leave the house, I watch people more closely than before, scrutinising their expressions, mannerisms and listening to the inflections in their voices when they speak (that’s probably one for another post), basically anything I can use to help bring my characters to life. Those of you who have been following my blog for some time know my feelings on this matter, but for those of you who have just found me, check out the archives and you’ll see how much emphasis I place on making characters real so readers can relate to them.

The other things I suffer from are random characters running around in my head begging me to tell their stories. They have nothing to do with my current project and yet they make themselves known to me. They give me just enough to pique my interest and if I’m able, I jot down some notes for future reference. I just never know when one or more of these characters will make it into one of my stories.

In addition, I get new story ideas floating around and they can appear at the most random places and times. The weirdest things can set this off; an overheard conversation, a painting in a shop window, a building, a person, or just walking (or in my case hobbling) or driving somewhere and letting my mind wander.

If I write all the story ideas running around my head which I’ve made note of, I’m going to be writing about 30 books and that’s just what I’ve got at the moment!

I love how inspiration for a story can appear ‘out of nowhere’ – it’s strange when it happens, but it’s what we writers live for, to get that spark to start the next book or a new twist for one we’re working on. It’s our form of sustenance and without it, we can’t create the stories to entertain you.

So the next time you’re walking down the street and you see someone grab a small notebook and start frantically scribbling or they have a slightly glazed look in their eyes, don’t write them off as someone who’s seven cans short of a six-pack, they’re probably authors getting inspiration for what could well be the next best seller!

Be Prepared To Be Amazed

A couple of months ago, I was asked by my good friend, J. R. Wagner, to write a guest post for his blog. I came up with the idea of writing about inspiration and where I get some of mine from and would like to share this with you:

Writers are often asked where they get their inspiration from and every one of us has our own sources.

I write Fantasy. My love affair with this genre began when I was quite young and has continued through the years. It began with stories written by Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm and grew from there. I was the proverbial bookworm as a child and nothing has really changed.

I was inspired by the wonderful worlds created by the books I read and began composing my own short stories and fairy tales before my age reached double figures. That inspiration has stayed with me, but these days I find inspiration in a number of different ways.

People watching can provide a rich source for creativity. Whether you’re on a bus or plane, sitting in a café, shopping or just walking down the street, there are some amazing characters around that you can incorporate into your writing. It might be the way someone walks, the way they dress, their mannerisms or even their turn of phrase. Sometimes a line from a song can trigger inspiration as well as films, novels (of course), conversations and new places.

Going somewhere new will usually prove a source of inspiration, but where you go can have a dramatic effect on you. This can best be demonstrated by a short mid-week break I took back in September to Dublin. Apart from being a fantastic city to visit, with lovely friendly inhabitants, not to mention the rich literary heritage, the folklore of the country is fascinating.

Everyone has heard of leprechauns and they are synonymous with the Irish. They are portrayed as little men dressed in green, carrying a wonky walking stick and hiding their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. On my trip I decided to find out a little more about them and visited the National Leprechaun Museum. What an ear-opener.

There was a great deal more to the museum than just leprechauns; during the visit, a guide told the tourists other tales about the Sidhe (pronounced Shee), the fairies of the land. A large map – showing the country and some of the ancient place names – was used to tie together tales of adventure, great battles and betrayals. It was a veritable smorgasbord of inspiration. I even bought a book about the Sidhe from the gift shop.

I have so many story ideas from this four day trip it will keep me going for a good couple of years!

Inspiration can come in so many guises and usually when you least expect it, so be prepared to be amazed wherever you go.

For writers: where does your inspiration come from?

For readers: what inspires you in your favourite books?

I’d love to read your comments!