Every Cloud . . .

Sometimes bad things happen to us in our lives and being human, tend to ask “why me?” and “what have I done to deserve this?” And I’m no different. However, it’s how we handle the situation that defines who we really are.

When tragedy of whatever scale strikes, we always think of ourselves first, and then the impact on our immediate family. Our first thought is never “Well, there’s always someone worse off than me!”

As some of you may know, I have a back condition. This is due to two accidents I had in 2005, one of which was a nasty car crash. However, after the initial recovery, I was able to continue with my daily life without it impacting too much. Extreme sports were out, but I wasn’t too bothered – I never fancied bungee- jumping anyway! Every now and again, my back would play up, but after treatment I was able to carry on again and didn’t think much of it . . . until twelve weeks ago.

Now, before you think, ‘aww she’s after sympathy’, let me assure you it’s the farthest thing from my mind. I’m not going to mention how much my back has deteriorated or the amount of pain I’m in – this isn’t what this post is all about. It’s about finding your silver lining in the black cloud that sometimes hovers above our heads.

When I was at school, I met a lovely girl called Theresa. She was a victim of Thalidomide and was born with no arms. I never once saw her without a smile on her face. She taught herself to write and paint with her feet. Her writing was more like calligraphy; it was beautiful and far beyond anything I could achieve even after loads of practice. Her paintings were stunning in their detail and use of colour and looking at them, you would never in a million years think they’d been painted by someone with no hands or arms. She turned her ‘disability’ into a positive – she found her silver lining.

If we look around us, every day we see small miracles where people have turned adversity into something amazing and positive for them and their families. You only have to think of the athletes taking part in the Paralympic Games in two months as prime examples.

So where do I fit into this? Twelve weeks ago, my back went ‘into meltdown’ as I’m calling it. None of my usual treatment was working, the pain began to increase significantly and now complications have set in which is preventing me from going to work and has reduced my mobility.

Not long after these problems began to escalate, I was asked by an author friend of mine, if I would line edit her latest novel. I agreed, but warned her it would take some time as I would need to fit it around the day job and my own writing. She was fine with this and duly sent over the first draft of her manuscript.

I made a start on it (she did warn me it was raw and needed quite a bit of work), but progress was slow. I was struggling to juggle my time between the editing, my writing, running a writing group and keeping up with my social media connections. So fate (or whatever you want to call it) intervened. The doctor signed me as ‘unfit for work’.

It may have been a bit of a double-edged sword, but I found the thread of my silver lining and, like a kite taken up by the wind, I’m not letting go! I now have the time to concentrate on the editing and have time left over for writing and everything else I need to do.

And yes, despite my worsening condition and the pain with goes with it, working on the editing and writing Heart Search 2, helps take my mind off my suffering and I’m coping with a smile on my face.

The old saying ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ is so true – you just need to open your eyes to look for it!

 

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This, That and the Other Thing by Connie J Jasperson

This, That and the Other Thing.   This post appeared today on the blog “Life In The Realm Of Fantasy”, belonging to Connie J Jasperson. I was so impressed by it (and the fact she name-dropped me once or twice) that I thought I’d replicate it here for you. Alternatively you can follow the link direct to her page. She is definitely an author and blogger worth following!

“New and beginning authors often (loudly) assert their ability to edit their own work.  Let me just say this is not always a good thing.

As authors, we see what is supposed to be there.  We do not see what is actually there, so we misread clumsy sentences and overlook words that are missing or are included twice in a row.  The first draft is the story as it flowed out of your mind and onto the paper (or keyboard).  Yes, there is life and energy there, but it is not yet ready to be published, no matter how many times you go over it.

Unless you have an unbiased eye upon your work, your book will not be the easy, wonderful reading experience that you want it to be.

We need that Super Hero of authors everywhere!  We need …  Line Editor!!!

As we speak, I am writing from both sides of this issue.  I am currently doing line edits and a beta read on a fantasy manuscript, and editor Carlie Cullen is doing the same for me, poor girl.  WE all need editors who read and understand the genre in which we write.

Now just because I can see 6 instances of the word ‘long’ in one paragraph of someone else’s work does not mean that I will spot it in my own!

To the author in the first flush of victory, the completed first draft of his manuscript is a thing of beauty, a flawless diamond to be cherished and adored.  It is the child of his creative muse and, as such, it is perfect in every way.

Alas, this perfect child is flawed in ways that you are unable to see, for just like the child of your body, this child of your heart appears to you exactly as you wish it were. When these flaws are pointed out, kindly and with consideration, we are one step closer to having that wonderful story emerge from the chaos that is the first draft.

Let us consider the word ‘that’.

Sigh.  We shall now examine the following sentence from ‘Forbidden Road’, which is currently being beta read and line-edited by the wonderful Carlie Cullen, who worked with Alison DeLuca on her book, The Lamplighter’s Special.

“Just go to sleep, please.” Marya was not upset over something that he had not done or not said. Now Edwin sensed that it was a mixture of anger, hurt and guilt that she was feeling.

In one paragraph my stream of thought included 3 instances of the word ‘that’ and an extraneous ‘not’.  In my own mind, when I read this before sending it off for beta-reading, it was as good as I could make it.  I didn’t see those unnecessary words, because sadly, my speaking habits are rife with ‘that’, ‘eh’ and ‘cool’.  I can spot it in YOUR work, but in my own it disappears because like a beloved but unruly child, I see my own work the way I WANT it to be and not the way it is.

This is how that paragraph read in my mind:

“Just go to sleep, please.” Marya was not upset over something he had not done or said. Now Edwin sensed it was a mixture of anger, hurt and guilt she was feeling.

Thanks to Carlie it now actually does read this way. Now that she has the care and weeding of ‘Forbidden Road’ she will gently pry the real story out of the debris that lurks in every first draft.

Just as Carlie does this bit of magic for me, I do it for others. Each time I go through this as an author, I learn something new about myself and the way I write.  At the very least, I learn what NOT to do when the stream of consciousness takes over my story.  Better writing habits are learned over a period of time, and the only way to gain them is to write. Once you have written it, it is a real bonus to have someone you trust and admire as writer to cast a gentle but firm eye on your work.  If you can see it through their eyes, you will be able to take your story to the next level.

What is the next level, you may ask…

The third draft and edit, followed by the final edit!  After Carlie has looked my precious child over and “found all the nits in her hair”, Danielle Raver and Alison DeLuca will each read and edit the book.  Hopefully, this will help me avoid the editing problems I have struggled with in the past.

The fact is, unless you can really and truly accept criticism, your book will never be what you want it to be. You must be open to what the reader will see when they read what you wrote. You don’t need to do everything that the editor suggests, but 9 times out of 10 I make changes along the lines they suggest, because when I look at the problem area I see exactly what they meant!

If it takes a village to help a mother raise a child, I can assure you that it takes a village to help an author write a book.”

 

I have to say I’m honoured to even be asked by an author of Connie’s calibre to edit her book and thank her so much for all her kind comments.

 

Book Review: The Lamplighter’s Special by Alison DeLuca

Before you moan at me – yes I know I’ve done 2 book reviews in a row, but both books are so worthy that I just had to pass on my thoughts to you all. So forgive me, enjoy my comments and then go and get the books – you won’t be disappointed!

The Lamplighter’s Special

 

I have been eagerly awaiting this third book in the Crown Phoenix series, having read and immensely enjoyed The Night Watchman Express and Devil’s Kitchen, and I’m overjoyed to report, it was well worth the wait.

This book centres primarily around Ninna and Lizzie and how they become embroiled in the magic surrounding the Crown Phoenix.

This story starts a little slower as the author sets the scene for what ultimately culminates in an unexpected and somewhat explosive ending.

Despite the slower pace at the beginning, Ms DeLuca intricately weaves an amazing tale which connects to the previous two books in unforeseen ways, making it all the more exciting.

Once again, she has given her characters great depth and the reader can truly relate to them. I found myself connecting with Lizzie and Ninna on many levels; some of the more emotional scenes tugged on my heartstrings, especially their concern and worry about their parents and younger sister.

Her fantastic world-building is as believable as it is imaginable, and that to me is one of her great strengths. She describes her settings with such skill that you can picture yourself there whilst still leaving enough to the imagination to make it enchanting.

The fantastical and magical elements are totally unique and have been devised with great ingenuity. What’s more, they have been written with great skill whilst still not revealing all the secrets. She definitely leaves you with unanswered questions, but not to the extent where it spoils the unfolding tale.

The gripping twists in the story are fabulous tie-ins with book 2 of the series and even though The Lamplighter’s Special was only released yesterday, I’m already chomping at the bit for book 4!

Alison DeLuca is a master storyteller who deserves much more recognition than she gets. I would not hesitate to recommend not only this book, but the entire series. This is Steampunk adventure at its best!

Available from Amazon.com  http://amzn.to/K2W9q3  or Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/J4EWn2

Book Review: Tower of Bones by Connie J Jasperson

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was going to be the typical fantasy premise of boy hero in training and female warrior who saves his butt. But I decided to give it a chance and was more than pleasantly surprised. I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’m going to talk more about the overall writing than the plotlines.

The author wove an interesting story with some very unique elements that I’d not come across before. Her world-building was cleverly done in such a way that she made it believable and her descriptions were so good you could easily picture each area the characters found themselves in, particularly in and around Mal Evol .

Her magic system was well thought out and again used inimitable components that were surprising.

Her characters were designed with exceptional depth; I found the main four protagonists extremely likeable and rooted for them when they faced their trials and tribulations. I loved the way the relationships intertwined and how a novice mage (Edwin) became like a brother to those involved in the quest with him, and ended up instructing his teachers and mentors.

The antagonist was skilfully crafted, both in terms of description and the depths of his depravity. His magic system was different to that of the protagonists which made for an interesting twist. She built the tension well at the appropriate points and I certainly did not see the curve ball coming at the end.

The snippets of back story interlaced well, provided clarity to some of the unfolding events and were by no means overdone or overlong.

On the downside, I did find a few minor errors in the text, but they didn’t spoil the pleasure of reading the book.

In conclusion, Tower of Bones was an enjoyable and entertaining read and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Available from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/KcXTTs or Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/LqPiKK

Also by Connie J Jasperson – Last Good Knight

Connie J Jasperson