Monday, 17 March 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour; Work in Progress, Springbatts and Spreadsheets!

Last week the lovely Chitra Soundar tagged me in on her blog post, to be part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. She equated herself to a mosquito and gave a charming and funny insight into her current WIP’s and writing processes, so please check out her post by pressing here.

Firstly thanks to Chitra for tagging me in, and second, just to answer a question posed to me by Chitra last week; A Springbatt is what you get if you bread a Basset Hound with a Springer Spaniel, it’s a very short, hyperactive manically depressive bi-polar dog, that look rather like this…

What am I working on?

This is ALWAYS a difficult question, as it’s never just one project! I'm currently editing my YA science Fiction Novel Journey to the Bone Factory (which was longlisted for this years The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition), trying to get it ready for submission.

I'm also researching for a new novel which is in the midst of forming into a plot in my mind, which (hopefully) will be a YA Urban Fantasy Romance, about Eros/Cupid’s lesser known brother Anteros the god of mutual and unrequited love.

But the main project is a yet to be named YA Near Future Tale, that I'm penning about a group of kids and teens strive to care for the surviving animals in a city zoo, after an epidemic which has wiped out all adults. They have to face problems on how to feed the large carnivores, how to keep reptiles warm, and the perilous task of protecting the animals and themselves from the hungry marauding savages that see them as easy meat.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I believe this will be different as although it could be described as dystopian as it’s set in a world where infrastructure and government has broken down, but it’s not about a struggle against oppressors, but a group of children who work together to overcome obstacles for a united cause of looking after the incarcerated creatures that would otherwise perish. It’s study of nature and survival, which also brings animals in to YA.

It always amazes me that whenever you go into a bookshop or library the shelves are stuffed full of book featuring animals for children but stop abruptly when it gets to YA. Do teens suddenly stop caring about animals? I don’t think so, not if you think of how many teenagers want to be Vets, or veterinary nurses, or work with animals in some other capacity. So I’m writing this book for all the teen (who like I was as a teen) who still like to read about animals.

Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that come to me. They gradually seep into my mind and take form refusing to leave until I write them down. Most the concepts evolve in my brain for months before I put pen to paper, but the ones I do write are the ones that scream the loudest, the one that want to be told. I believe that if the stories are so passionate and ignite my imagination, that other people will enjoy them too.

With the Zoo book, I believe that I've had the upbringing to write this book, as when I was a child, we as a family, bread and hand-reared parrots, kept lizards, fish, pigeons, goats and even a stickleback. This gives me a wealth of knowledge about animal husbandry which is a great platform to start research from. 

How does your writing process work?

Well writing is a craft and my writing process is constantly evolving and I like to think improving. Each project that has had a different process of getting it down on paper, but the world building, character development and plotting process is pretty much the same. Every project starts with a an idea that lodges itself in my brain and won’t stop nagging until I do something with it. First, I write the first scene that I've imagined, capturing the voice and I note down any plot points, and character notes that have come to be, at which point I file it until I have time to devote to writing the story properly. 

When I do have the time to devote to the story, I’ll dig out the files, and think, walk, and research anything that I think will help, whist brain storming the plot and profiling characters. When I’m ready I do a brief plot plan, separating the plot into acts, and chapters and planning what I think should happen when, before writing. 

The writing is fuelled by caffeine, and the ideas by walking (so much so I brought the aforementioned Springbatt's, so when I talk the dialogue to myself that people will think I'm talking to the dogs!) or driving and I write on both my PC, and pen and paper. This happens pretty quickly and the story and character evolve and strengthen along the way, bring surprises which is always a reassuring sign that the story is alive.

I tend to use spreadsheets for plotting and editing, to make sure that i don't drop any threads. I find that to make a real convincing world, that I need to be able to visualize and even taste and feel the world. So I will spend time and draw, and collect objects to help build up the images in my mind. In Journey to the Bone Factory one character can turn gold to lead, so I ALWAYS had a piece of gold and lead on my desk.

When the first draft is done I start editing, and when it’s ready my lovely critique group read it and give me honest constructive feedback, which after I've processes I use to improve the manuscript in further edits.

Finally my long suffering husband translates my manuscript into my bespoke dyslexic form of English into actual English!

So now I hand over the baton to my two tagged authors…

Gabby Aquilina who I met at my first ever critique group, Abingdon Writers. I now hand over to Gabby to introduce herself…

I've lived in four different countries in my life and finally decided England is the place for me (although never say never. I'll probably get itchy feet again one day!). I have a degree in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University. co-founded the very successful writer's group, Abingdon Writers, and am in the fingernail-biting stage of waiting for responses from agent submissions! I'm doing a lot of baking (and running to offset the cake-eating) whilst trying my hardest not to constantly refresh my emails... 

Check out Gabby’s blog next Monday the 24th March on

Dawn Finch a fellow SCBWI folk who I met in the wonderful web world…

Dawn Finch spent over a quarter of a century working in libraries, with over a decade of that specialising in children's libraries and children's literature. She was thrilled to discover that children's books come with children attached, and has carved out a career working with children and their development as readers and writers.

After many years of trying she managed to get her own book for young people published and in 2013 her first novel - Brotherhood of Shades - was published to great reviews. She is currently working on the sequel as well as a YA novel about a fifteen year old serial killer.

You can find out more about Dawn at her website; or follow her on Twitter @dawnafinch

To read Dawn’s post next Monday check out her blog at

Thursday, 27 February 2014

An Slightly Late Celebration of Tell A Fairy Tale Day (which was yesterday)…

Usually I’d be shouting from the roof tops on Tell A Fairy Tale Day, last year I posted a video blog of me telling a self-penned fairy tale [press here to view] but yesterday I was somewhat pre-occupied. However today is a bright sunny new day, and I shall mark the great Tell A Fairy Tale Day, a tad late with this small post of  how, on the Tell a Fairy Tale day, 26th of February 2014, Fairy tales are featuring in my family.

My small people got Kindle’s for Christmas and were reading Grimm’s Fairy tales, the original darker less edited versions and when I spotted them stumbling into some of the grimmest tales, I thought I should possibly encourage them toward more age suited tales. Enter Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, the middle grade adventures of Daphne and Sabrina, the fairy tale detectives who discover their descendants of the famous Wilhelm and Jacob, and must save their parents from a fairy-tale villain in the town of Ferryport Landing, which is populated entirely by fairy tale characters called Everafters. I ordered the first book for my daughter (aged nine), who read it in hours, and then continued on to book two, and is now nagging for me to purchase book three. Then my son (aged seven) a more reluctant reader liked the sound of the books so much he’s how reading the first book too.

I’m currently reading Jasper Fforde's fantastic first Nursery Rhymes Division book, The Big Over Easy, which is a hilarious detective yarn, following DI Jack Spratt (who has a nasty reputation for killing giants) as he and DS Mary Mary, try to crack the murder of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty’. I’m immensely enjoying watching the detectives as they try and work out who done it, with an escalating pile of corpses, and growing list of suspects, from Humpty’s lover Rapunzel, small time crook Thom Thumb, to crime king-pin Giorgio Porgia. It’s a cleaver, witty and  quirky read, that takes fairy-tales to a genre which is unique to Jasper Fforde.

My husband, and me and well everyone who comes around to visit are dipping into the remarkable and humorous, ‘Tigger on The Couch’ by Laura James. This coffee table book was published back in 2007, and is incredibly hard to come by, but is worth the search. Tigger on The Couch, diagnoses the ‘Neuroses, psychoses, disorders and maladies of favourite childhood characters’. Of course Fairy Tale characters feature heavily, for example; Snow White’s Stepmother who has ‘ Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which manifests with her experiencing severe problems with personal relationships and in controlling her obsessive impulse. It’s an entertaining read from Cinderella’s trouble with Approval Addiction, to the more serious Bluebeards Psychopathy which results in callous disregard for others and serial murder.

Finally, my son is practicing every waking moment for his upcoming concert, which is a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk. So as you can see on Tell A Fairy Tale day 2014, my family is indeed focused on fairy tales!

If that wasn't enough, I'm off to the fantastic book launch this evening of fellow SCBWI member and Undiscovered Voice 2012 Honorary Mention Liz De Jager's fairytale YA Novel Banished! 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Always the Bridesmaid?!

Today, The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction shortlist is announced both in the paper and on the Chicken House site [Press Here], and I'm not on it.

So here is a little blog about NOT making the shortlist.

Back in 2011 I submitted my first ever piece of writing to my first ever –ANYTHING – the SCBWI Undiscovered Voice Anthology. To my absolute shock and joy, my entry (an extract from my first novel a YA fantasy Fairy Tale yarn ‘Through Mortal Eyes), was longlisted. Then after an agonising wait I found, not unsurprisingly, that I didn't make the anthology, however I did receive an Honorary Mention, which was great. The Honorary Mention really helped my confidence giving me the assurance I needed to persevere, but also gave me something to put in covering letters having a positive impact in various slush piles.

In 2012 after several re-writes with the input of both my great writer buddies and professionals (you know who you are and a BIG thank you to you if you’re reading this) I submitted the same story to The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, and to my amazement and jubilation it was long-listed for the 2013 competition. Sadly, Through Mortal Eyes, didn't make the shortlist. This got me worrying that maybe I was a 'not quite' one book wonder. A One Horned Unicorn!

However, having fabulous friends and a supportive family, I started writing again, and produced in ten months another YA manuscript, this time a SCI-FI adventure called 'Journey to the Bone Factory', which I sent it off for the 2014 The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition.  As the book was written so much quicker than my first book, I wasn't expecting it to do well. Then I received the an unexpected and gleeful news that Journey to the Bone Factory, had made it on to the longlist. Overjoyed, and much relieved, I saw this as a sign that I can stop worrying about being a one horned unicorn, and promptly gave myself that second horn.

So this brings us around to today, and The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction 2014 shortlist announcement, which I’m not in. What does this mean? Well this obviously is disappointing, (anyone who has had a rejection will know just how much of an understatement that is) but it's more than that! Three long-listings; UV 2012, Chicken House 2013 and Chicken House 2014. No improvement?! No escalation?! Stagnation?!

So, what does that make me? A Two horned unicorn, that’s destined to always be the bridesmaid, never the bride? How do I take my craft from the bridesmaid level, to being the bride?

So after sometime licking my wounds, it’ll be back to writing, planning and plotting with a new goal; how I make the jump from bridesmaid to bride? Fortunately I've been accepted into the much praised Golden Egg Academy, so here’s hoping that out of a golden egg, a phoenix-multi-horned-unicorn-bride will be born.

Oh, and one last thing, to everyone who made it on to the shortlist; 

Congratulations and Good Luck!