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.

 

New Release!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Just in time for the festive season, I have managed to finish and publish The Chronicles of Mayer – parts one and two. They are prequel stories for The Song of Forgetfulness Dystopian/Sci-fi series and give insight into how the world of NotSoGreatBritAlbion came to exist as it does in the books.

There are more stories to follow so I will be releasing them as and when I complete the manuscripts. I takes time as I have to do a lot of research into global warming, diseases, ice cap melting etc in order to get the facts right. I tell you, writing Sci-fi isn’t as easy as you might think. Creating future worlds is so creative, but I do need to male sure it is credible, hence the research.

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Here is the link and blurb for The Chronicles of Mayer:

 An Apocalyptic tale in The Song of Forgetfulness series.

A story of survival and courage in a devastated world.

When mother nature turns against mankind in the latter stages of the 21st century sending hurricanes, earthquakes, and deadly viruses to wipe out the human race, a small community of Buddhist monks and scientists are forced to evacuate Mahabharata House on the disused Lakenheath airbase, as rising waters engulf their home.

With many humans and animals drowned it is up to devotees Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, cow herds at Mahabharata, to protect the sacred bovines and take them to a safe haven in the highlands of Scotland.

During their arduous journey on foot and hoof, they meet other refugees of the catastrophic flood who join them on their mission to survive and build a sanctuary for themselves and the cows on the mountains of the Trossachs.

Tension mounts as dwindling food supplies cause friction and distrust amongst the disparate group. Their trek north becomes fraught with danger as hungry survivors clash and rogue soldiers try to butcher the holy herd.

As dangerous lightning storms, traitors and disease threaten to wreck their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must do battle not only with the elements but those who would kill to get their hands on the last remaining cattle in the ever diminishing island of Great Britain.

This is an accompaniment to The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure series.

 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

FREE Sci-fi and Fantasy ebooks!!!

On Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June there will be 100 Sci-fi and Fantasy ebooks to download for FREE! Not only from Amazon but many other retailers too.

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Grab your copies here: http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

Including book 1 in my Dystopian/Sci-fi Action Adventure novel

Whisper Gatherers

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You can download your 100 FREE ebooks at the link below:

http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

Also on offer this weekend book 2 and 3 from The Song of Forgetfulness series only $0.99 and £0.99

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You can purchase Echoes from the Lost Ones and A Silence Heard from the following retailers:

Echoes:

Amazon:      http://amzn.to/1Tg9DHH

iTunes:         http://apple.co/1UN1XhA

Nook:            http://bit.ly/23hJMFH

Kobo:            http://bit.ly/1RIshqw

Silence:

Amazon:      http://amzn.to/1sRA2kL

iTunes:         http://apple.co/1qxQq95

Nook:            http://bit.ly/1NdpD70

Kobo:            http://bit.ly/1qxQJ3K

So why not grab yourself some Bargain and FREE ebook this Weekend!!

http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

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Does changing your book cover help sales?

I have heard many authors say that your book cover is what sells your book. True, to a certain extent. The cover has to reflect the content in some way and be the branding image for your books, especially if they are a series.

These were my book covers after I changed them when my publisher closed down. I was in  a rush to get them out so as to keep my reviews. The one that really stood out for me was A Silence Heard.

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Now, I really don’t like most of the book covers I see. However, I do realise why in some genres, the images are the way they are, to attract a specific fan base. That would mean for example, that these days a YA Dystopian covers will almost always look something like this.

510FKrsZfwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ Yeuk, as far as I’m concerned, but I am not the target reader.

Dystopian with a strong female protagonist, such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, and The hunger Games Suzanne Collins, also my genre for The song of Forgetfulness series, take a more abstract approach to their cover design. They sell a lot of books.

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After delving into the some of these books, the content is pretty much the same, so yeah, the covers reflect that.

I have noticed recently in the Dystopian genre a huge trend  in favour of the fantasy style covers with images of pretty girls on them. They all look like romance books to me.Yet they are listed as Dystopian.

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My problem is that my story is different, my narrative style is very different. If I were to choose a cover similar to the ones above, then the reader would be disappointed with the content, perhaps. At least, it would not be what they expected. That is if they bought the book solely on the merit of the cover.

With that in mind I decided to choose  covers that were very different in style from those in the same genre, yet reflected the content in some way. I want to attract readers who will like my quirky style of writing by using a cover design that would stand out from the others.

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In the words of the late, great Umberto Eco. “Eco discussed his approach to writing in an interview at a Guardian Live event in London in 2015. “I don’t know what the reader expects,” he said.

“I think that Barbara Cartland writes what the readers expect. I think an author should write what the reader does not expect. The problem is not to ask what they need, but to change them … to produce the kind of reader you want for each story.”

I have been told by a few authors that I am wrong to do this and that I should get a cover like one of  these.

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Will I sell more books if I use a design like the ones above?

I’ll never know because I will never have a cover like that.

I want to stand out.

Have I ruined my chance at selling my books because I dare to be different?

I took a chance with the narrative style of my book and it worked, so why not the covers?

To my delight, I have gotten some excellent reviews often praising my slang-based language. Echoes from the Lost Ones was even used as the basis for a graduate thesis by Mattia D’agostina. You can read the blog post here: https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/translation-can-it-work-for-every-book/

So, I think I’ll see how these new covers work when I start to re-market my books.

What do you think?

Am I right?

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You can purchase any of the books from The Song of Forgetfulness series on Amazon:

US: http://amzn.to/1TlwaBP

UK: http://amzn.to/1O01bZ1

For more information about The Song of Forgetfulness series, please go to 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/