Is Cli-fi the new, hot genre?

Hey everyone, there’s a new, exciting genre in town – Cli-fi.  Or – Climate change novels.

It seems I’ve been putting my Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian series in the wrong category.

According to an article in The Guardian, the genre has been around for some time, possibly as early as 2003 with Margaret Atwood’s  The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake. 

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Also, Ian McEwan’s novel Solar, is cli-fiso clearly not that new. You can read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/31/global-warning-rise-cli-fi

Having looked up some Cli-fi, I think the genre is a little vague and saturated by all sorts of dystopian, sc-fi, YA, romance…in short, a lot of authors seem to be using the term quite loosely. Which is a good thing, especially with a sub genre that isn’t too well known. Perhaps now is the time to promote this category to raise awareness of global warming and the fragility of our beautiful planet.

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Until I read about Cli-fi in a post by Lisa Rowan, I’d never heard of it. Stupid me!  I mean all of my books in The Song Forgetfulness series deal with climate change and the effects it has on future generations as they struggle to survive in a hostile world. As well as a host of other things too numerous to mention here. Kind of exactly the definition of this ‘new’ genre.  Well, now I know.

You can read Lisa’s article here:  https://thewritelife.com/climate-fiction/?utm_source=The+Write+Life&utm_campaign=48836be01b-main_list_11_6_13_11_5_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ae07a22b59-48836be01b-106451265&mc_cid=48836be01b&mc_eid=126bf35b6a

Right, I ‘m off to Amazon to change my subheading and a category or two.

 If you want to have a look at my work and decide if it is indeed – Cli-fi – check out my new release – The Chronicles of Mayer, prologue to the series mentioned above.

http://myBook.to/ChroniclesMayer

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Let’s start reading more Cli-fi folks!

Wishing you all a safe day, especially those people having to deal with Hurricane Harvey.

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Do we give readers what marketers say they want, or what we want to write?

Over the past year or so I have paid for a number of marketing courses to help me sell my books. Unfortunately, when I signed up I didn’t realise that when they promised that I would sell tons of books if I followed their plan, that the books they were talking about wouldn’t be mine.

What do you mean? I hear you say.

Well, I mean, that these courses are designed to help you sell books that sell, which may not necessarily be your books. They cater for genre pulp fiction or non-fiction self-help type books. If you don’t write stuff like that, then from my experience, you won’t sell that many books. If you  follow the training in all of these authorpreneurral type courses where a few writers make millions out of selling novella style crime/mystery/whodunnit stories, then you will succeed. Especially if you are prepared to give most of your books away. Literature in general is suffering because of this influx of junk food style prose, in my opinion.

Readers don’t always want safe, they want different. Give it to them – please!

I don’t want to write like everyone else.

My motivation for writing does not come from the desire to make money, it comes from the desire to write for the thrill, the fun, the wonder of the written word. I am passionate about my writing. I laugh, cry, hurt when I write. I feel exhausted sometimes after I have spent a few hours struggling with sentences that won’t work, or characters that say things like, ‘Paul, we’ve done it!’ Ah! Done what? Now I have to figure out what they’ve done. It’s called imagination and you won’t find that in any course.

So, writers, not authors, writers – write from the heart, the gut, the soul – not from the bank account.

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Here is a wonderful poem by Charles Bukowski which sums up my rant beautifully.

So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

 

If you would like to know more about my work, please visit my website  Oddly Books:

http://www.oddlybooks.com

 

Interview with sci-fi author -Judith Rook

Hello, and welcome to another author profile. This time I would like you to meet sci-fi writer Judith Rook.

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About Judith Rook

I am a semi-retired person, and very glad of it.  A couple of times each week I’m back in the world of gainful employment, but it’s very much on my terms now.  It was not like that not very long ago.  The alarm clock was the hated tyrant of the morning and at the end of the day, I’d be thoroughly exhausted.

I should say at this point, though, that I ended my professional life as a music teacher and found enjoyment and fulfilment in the job.  It was just all the work it entailed that did me in.

However, all that came to an end.  I closed the classroom door behind me for one last time, thinking, a little sadly, that next year another teacher would check out the guitars and drum-kits for lunchtime practices.  Then I went for a sundowner with other retiring teachers, and we raised glasses to our new lives in the “goodbye to the sirens” world. (For ‘goodbye’, you may read a short and telling word, also beginning with ‘s’).

Now I write more or less full time; I live a fully creative life and consider myself to be a very fortunate person.  Although I interact enjoyably with my family, it is not on a daily basis, and sometimes I feel annoyed when my schedule tells me it is time for some exercise, or food, or some similar trivial matter.

Where Judith began to write.

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What I write

I have written four novels, two of which are straight-out Science Fiction, while the other two belong to the Space Opera genre (“Star Wars” is a space opera concept).  I have also written a novella for young adults, in preparation for a full-scale Young Adult novel, which belongs in the field of ScienceFantasy.  Then there is a rather hot Fantasy Romance, which I wrote as a sort of bet, and which I’ve published under a different name.

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My two Space Opera books (two and a half, actually) are based in a solar system where some of the planets are sentient, particularly the one called “Circe”.  They all have human populations, but Circe’s humans are slightly different from others.  At the same time, in the same solar system and beyond (other galaxies are not out of reach—this is Space Opera we’re talking about) there are non-sentient planets.  The largest and strongest of these (a sort of ‘alpha’ planet) is “First Home”.

For hundreds of years, Circe and her humans have kept themselves to themselves, but Circe has spotted a danger coming their way from far out in the cosmos.  She decides that on her own, she cannot deal with this approaching peril, so she contacts First Home and asks for help from the humans there, humans who do not believe in sentient planets.  You can imagine what happens.

Writing Influences

I choose to write my books on the grounds that I enjoy reading books with similar storylines.  I could never have become a writer if first I had not read hundreds of books.

Although I can never hope to be the stylist that he was, the influence which led me in the direction of writing was Isaac Asimov, the incredibly prolific author of ‘hard’ science fiction writing.  For some reason, I became objectively interested in the way he used the language to express his concepts, and found that I could detect technical patterns in his works.

When I began to write, the fact that a technical understanding of writing must support the unfolding of ideas was very much with me.  In fact, it is never out of my mind now, and more often than not, recognising an author’s technical ability is part of my reading enjoyment.

Research

With Science Fiction particularly, an author has to form ideas of place and existence that are not the same as the ones we come across in our everyday lives.  However, there have to be physical laws which hold any existence together, and my main type of research is in the field of popular science, and in non-scholarly books about physics.  I find a never-failing source of possibility in the videos issued by the “World Science Festival”.  As I watch the forum discussions, ideas come into my mind, ideas about things that could be.

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Writing Challenges

The biggest challenge posed by my “Circe” series was to make the idea of a “thinking” planet plausible.  I was helped by a family member who tends to refer to the whole planet Earth as “she”, as though Earth has a human personality.  Although Earth does not have a human personality, it has something.  And when one thinks about it, the planet does communicate with us.  It reacts to us and what we do, and yet at the same time it has an individually magnificent, incredibly powerful, existence that we can’t control.

So, the author in me thought about a planet whose mind has become self-aware, and whose humans follow a rule of living which provides the very best for both planet and people—and Circe appeared.

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Future Writing

I am half-way through writing the final part of the “Circe” trilogy.  It is taking longer than the first two books because I broke off to write my Young Adult novella and to begin its follow-on novel.  However, the third “Circe” story is very much on its way, and its completion will be my main writing goal .in the coming months.

Advice to Fellow Writers

I have taken on the responsibility of self-publishing.  There are a number of reasons for this, the foremost being that I would like to give other people the chance to read what I write.  This means that as well as writing, I must spend hours and hours editing and revising so that my books become polished and truly professional products which immediately engage, then keep, a reader’s attention.

Some independent-publishing authors claim to “hate” editing.  I can’t understand that position.  Editing is where a writer brings their technical skills to the fore, where they look at what they have written and, although it may be pretty good already, they set about making it better.

If there is any advice that I would offer to self-publishing authors it is: enjoy your editing hours, and be prepared to go through a book at least twice in fine detail.  If you can’t do that, then I would suggest that you either don’t publish your MS, or put it into the hands of a professional editor.  You will not regret it, and your readers will thank you for it.

Reading leads to Writing and Back

Referring again to Isaac Asimov, the scientist/writer who triggered my interest in Science Fiction, I am proud to admit that I have completely worn out the full set I had of his seven “Foundation” novels.  When they got to the stage where the paperbacks had so fallen apart that individual pages had separated from the others, I ordered a replacement set through a bookshop, some distance away from where I live.

“Get them on the internet,” I was told.  But, making the special trip to the bookshop was what I needed to do.  While I was there I browsed and came away also with other authors:  Ursula K. Le Guin,  Arthur C. Clarke,  Terry Pratchett,  C.J. Cherryh,  Julian May,  A.E. van Vogt,  Orson Scott Card.  I had ten new books to take with me, and a very special order placed.  For a Science Fiction writer, at that moment, there was little else that the world could offer.

Where Judith writes now.

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Thank you for a wonderfully in-depth interview Judith.

You can find Judith’s books  online at the links below:

“Planet Woman”     http://geni.us/p1w2

“Man of Two Planets”     http://geni.us/m1o2p

“First Steps for a Hero”     http://geni.us/Hero1

Follow and keep in touch with Judith:

On Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/JudithRookBooks/

On Twitter:     https://twitter.com/JudithRook2

Blog:     www.JudithRook.com

Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

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My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

Have you heard about Mattia D’Agostino? – A translator in the making

 

You probably haven’t heard about Mattia, I didn’t know who he was until he contacted me to ask if he could use my book Echoes from the Lost Ones for his thesis. Here is the initial email:

Hello Nikki !

First of all, congratulations on your work! I’ve recently read the Song of Forgetfulness series and I enjoyed it very much. I’m a university student currently writing my bachelor’s thesis. I chose Echoes from the Lost Ones as subject because of its particular language. I initially wanted to translate a chapter or two into Italian, but then my supervisor suggested that a linguistic analysis would have been more interesting.

The general idea is that of choosing a few linguistic phenomena, counting the number of occurrences throughout the novel, analysing the syntactic context and then suggest a possible translation.

So I would like to ask you for your blessing on this project and if maybe you could answer a couple of questions if you have time. Please find attached a picture of my cat

Best regards

Mattia D’Agostino

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How could I refuse, especially when I saw his gorgeous cat! I am a hopeless cat fan, by the way, so expect more photos of felines throughout this post. Oh look! There’s one!

boris and my fingersThis is Boris, my feral cat.

Mattia was featured in my post The Secrets to Translating Books – http://bit.ly/1SKf6Hn and I thought it might be a nice change to spotlight someone other than an author on my blog. Translators, or in Mattia’s case, potential translators, are a vital part of publishing and I don’t think they get enough credit for the hard work they do. Some are better than others. I believe Mattia could be one of the best, simply because of his enthusiasm and attention to details.

So, without further ado, let me officially introduce you to Mattia D’Agostino!!!

20140123_161203Mattia with his cat Aries

Plus cats!!!!

20150819_115920Mattia’s kitten  Bruttino – which apparently means ugly. In an affectionate way

Aries again.
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 Mattia, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, I live in Milan and I recently received my bachelor’s degree in Cultural Mediation from the Università degli Studi di Milano. I am very much a cat person. My girlfriend and I, we have in all, four cats, of which three were rescued.

I like drawing and films, and drawing film characters from the films I liked. My passion for foreign languages started around the age of 12, when the English teacher let the class pick a song to translate. The fact that after translating it I could understand the lyrics just blew my mind. Until that moment, I used to only care for the tune. Of course, I knew that the words meant something, but they didn’t register into my brain, as their meaning was unintelligible for me. From then my interest in all things English sparked.

However, by the time I was 18 I had not been once to any English-speaking country. It was when I went on a two-week field trip to Bristol that I fell in love with Britain. After that, I’ve only been back to Britain once. I really look forward to coming back, one day or another

 Why did you decide to train as a translator?

Actually, I studied something called Cultural Mediation. Translation is just one side of it. Anyway, around the age of 14 I realised I was better than my classmates at learning English, so I decided to change schools and I went to a place where they taught you three foreign languages instead of just one. I had to repeat the year, but it was worth it if it meant doing what I liked. That was the point where I sort of erased many possible careers from my mind (I’ll never be a mathematician for instance). I would have loved to study anything in an English university, but the cost was far too prohibitive. So I chose to study Cultural Mediation because it gave me more options career-wise as opposed to just translation.

What is the most difficult book you have tried to translate?

Well, Echoes is actually the only book I tried to really, methodically translate. Aside from that, I like in my free time to read passages in the original language, translate them in my mind and compare them to the actual translation.  Keeping that in mind, I’d have to say Melville’s Moby Dick. A couple of years ago I started reading it and I tried to translate lines as I read, but it was so difficult that it took all the fun away. So I settled for just reading it once, and then try the translation game later, but I gave that up too. So far Moby Dick is the only book that I gave up reading because of how difficult it was. You could say that it’s my literary white whale. I’ll have to make up for that as soon as possible.

DSC05813.JPGBruttino’s official name is Brugola. 

Do you have a favourite book written in English?

I do. My favourite book is Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

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I had seen the film before reading the book, but I decided to read it anyway because I was interested in Welsh’s transposition of the Scots accent. And I have to admit, he really does wonders with language. Not only the Scottish accent is extremely well rendered, in general, every character has his/her own specific idiolect, which makes them that much real. I actually laughed out loud at certain bits, while I found others to be very dark. There’s also a fair bit of wisdom in it.

Do you have a favourite author that you would like to translate?

I’m part of the generation that started reading because of Harry Potter. When the fifth book came out I was around eleven or twelve and I remember having the Harry Potter book hidden inside a textbook so as not to get caught reading it at school. I read it in five days. To this day, I still have a particular connection with that series, as I’m sure many other people my age do.

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The Italian translations, while not being bad, are not exceptional either. The whole series has recently been retranslated, but according to reviews, not much has been fixed. Aside from the peculiar names, what the Italian translation lacks is the linguistic characterisation of the characters. The Italian Hagrid speaks as an average Italian adult would.

Also, I feel like the Harry Potter series grows with the reader. As the characters age, their feelings become more complex and the unsheltered world outside the school gets more and more into their lives. In order to describe these sort of things, Rowling’s language becomes more articulated the further you get in the series. I believe there is much to be learned as a translator from working on the Harry Potter series.

Calypso, my cat, agrees with you, Mattia.

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Does a translator have a duty to faithfully interpret a book, even though that book may have language that is colloquial/slang-based to that particular country?

I do, even if I understand it’s tricky to translate a book like that. When all else fails, you could simply translate everything into the standard target language (in my case, standard Italian) and eliminate any form of slang or colloquial language. You would lose the characterisation of the individuals and many shades of meaning, but you would have something at least.

Alternatively, you could translate such a book using a dialect or your country. For example, the Scottish groundskeeper in The Simpsons has become Sardinian in the Italian dubbing. This, of course, becomes an issue when there are clear references to Scotland, which sometimes are left as they are, while other times they are Italianised.
The best course of action in such cases is to pick random regional linguistic features for the translation, coupled with archaic or even invented words. In doing so, you can preserve the feeling of otherness. Depending on the translator’s skill, such a translation may or may not do justice to the original text, while in some cases it may even enrich it.

Time for another cat photo.

20141219_115046Bufalo and Elvis – Mattia’s girlfriend’s cats

 What are your future plans?

At this time, I intend to continue study and get my master’s degree. As of now I’m meticulously researching and classing all the available degrees the neighbouring French-speaking countries. I’ll send my applications as soon as possible and from then it’s fingers crossed I guess.

I’d really like to study linguistics, be it English, French, Italian or general. I would also love to research the countless English or French dialects, their structure and the peculiar view of the world each of them expresses. In the long run, I’d like to find an occupation doing linguistic research, maybe coupled with teaching. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is very determined to become a professional baker, so I may be looking at a future baker’s helper career.

DSC04637Mattia and his girlfriend outside Prague Castle

Mattia would like this opportunity  to say a huge Thank You to his college lecturer. ‘Thank you’ on my part to my supervisor, professor Heaney. His help has really been paramount, especially for what concerns the traditional language of folk songs underlying the whole thesis.’

And, thank you Mattia, for a wonderful insight into your life and work. Best of luck with your future career. (Please, please, please, let it be translator)

Finally – More Cats!!!!!

storm 3My cat Storm

 

 kimi close upThis is Kimi – she is half Tasmanian Devil – I swear!

For more information about Echoes from the Lost Ones please visit the website:

http//:www.thesongofforgetfulness.com

Writing Tips From Neil Gaiman

I’ve just finished writing a middle-grade action adventure book, working title – Revenge upon the Mummy Snatcher – yes, I know, not a great title.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20 (1)Anyway, I gave it to a number of Beta readers and have had some really constructive feedback. However, sometimes, one or two readers went beyond the requirements of pointing out flaws in character, plot, dialogue etc, and sent me full-on editing with occasional re-writes they have done themselves.

Whilst I appreciate their effort and thank them profusely, it left me in a quandary, because they have given me completely opposite views/pointers on my work, leaving me somewhat confused.

My head was in such a whirl that I almost gave up on the novel until I came across Neil Gaiman’s 8 rules of writing. Number 5 resonated with me immediately, as did number 8.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/09/28/neil-gaiman-8-rules-of-writing/

Thank you, Neil Gaiman, you have rescued my befuddled brain and set me back on course with my book.

Just need a better title.

Here are the first 500 words  from Revenge upon the Mummy Snatcher:

Chapter 1: We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. It seemed to gather friends as it neared, and soon the sad laments of dozens of disembodied voices surrounded her. The moans continued, drifting in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her ankles, forcing her to stop and listen to the muffled chatter that swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“What a wait we’ve had. So many years spent lying in a state of half-remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited. It disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light,” then shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say ‘froggin’ I know what it really means.”

Cleo mouthed the word again, and then once more, just because she could.

If you enjoyed the extract, you might like to have a look at  my YA Dystopian/Sci-fi Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness – here:

http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

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The problems with Prequels and short story writing

I have taken a break from novel writing. I wrote a prequel to my YA Dystopian/Sci-fi/Action Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness – a few months ago, and to be honest, it was more difficult than writing the first two.

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Why?

Well, because I needed to explain some of the backstory whilst avoiding having my heroine, Adara, know more than she does in the prequel than in the following books. It was quite gruelling. I changed it so many times that I became confused as to what version was the correct one.

Then I did a silly thing.

I uploaded the un-edited version onto Createspace and KDP. It wasn’t until I got the Proof paperback copy that I realised my mistake. Thankfully, I hadn’t started promoting it and only sold a few copies.

Note to self – don’t do this again!

Anyway, as I said, I decided to go back to short story writing and began working on Crow Bones, the title story in my next anthology. To my surprise, it was even more difficult to write than the prequel Whisper Gatherers, which is over 60,000 words. This story is a mere 9,000.

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Sylvia Plath once said that a writer needs to be, ‘An expert packer of suitcases.’ She was right. Choosing the right words to tell a story, especially a short one, is crucial and difficult. I’d been allowing myself the luxury of going with the story and letting it wander this way and that. A bit like I tend to do when writing a novel where I allow myself to be generous with words in the first few drafts.

I admit I was struggling with Crow Bones because I didn’t really know what it was about. I was putting words down and making interesting descriptions, blah, blah, blah, but saying nothing. So I looked at my story and asked myself, ‘What is it about?’ When I answered the question, the words changed. The story changed. The genre changed. It is now Sci-fi. I got rid of unnecessary characters, over complicated plot twists, and concentrated on my theme – guilt and grief – and the new story came alive, as did the dialogue and characterisation. Finally, after months of struggling with it (It took only six weeks to write the novel) I have arrived at a version I am happy with. I think.

Here is the beginning of Crow Bones:

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The window is dirty. Blotches of grey obscure the decaying houses and unmended pathways before me. I’ll not clean it. I prefer not to watch as bit-by-bit my community perishes. I turn my eyes upwards, away from the sad scene outside.

Squinting, I observe the pale yellow sun hanging alone in the cloudless sky. Poor thing, its fire has weakened so. Causing our once lush land to succumb to frost and stone-hard earth. Now we drape thick coats around ourselves, even in summer.

The spots of grime on the pane look like tiny birds halted in mid air, by what? The knowledge that their existence is almost up, like the rest of us. Not yet, though. Stargazers say we have many more years before that fading star expires. So why do I feel as if that time has already come?

Because we are dwindling and can no longer repair our lodgings or roads. We have lost the spark to continue and thrive. The barley blight was tough on our community. My mumum and dadad, and many other of the older generation succumbed to the lung clogging disease. We became weakened by it, dying out like most of the other creatures in this shrivelling planet. Yet we adhere to the one-child rule. That was our shame, our guilt, and our crime, to allow two to germinate inside my womb.

I listen to my babe softly breathing and watch a piece of wall from my parent’s house opposite, crumble and fall, leaving a small hole like a puncture wound.

I hope you enjoyed reading the extract.

If you would like to know more about The Song of Forgetfulness, or my short stories, here are some links:

Book series site: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Author Website: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/