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/

Meet the Award Winning author Jeffrey Cook

Prior to the Facebook Extravaganza – Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian Steampunk Bargain Books Party

I am spotlighting each author taking part. Today I would like you to have a look the works of Award Winning author Jeffrey Cook. First up his Steampunk Trilogy Dawn of Steam. By the way, I have read First Light and loved it.

Dawn of Steam is a trilogy of alt-history, emergent Steampunk epistolary novels. It chronicles the adventures of Gregory Conan Watts and the crew of the airship Dame Fortuna as they open up the world. In the process, their journey helps lay the foundations for an age of enlightenment and technology to come. First Light covers the year 1815. dawn-of-steam-first-light-w-award-badge In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England’s wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of books, which claim that the author has traveled to many unknown corners of the globe, are truth or, more likely, wild fiction. Former aide-de-camp Gregory Conan Watts is hired to find out the truth. Along the way, he describes the journeys of the airship Dame Fortuna and its crew through journals and letters to his beloved fiancee. The first recruit is, necessarily, the airship’s owner: war hero, famed genius, and literal knight in steam-powered armor Sir James Coltrane. Persuading him to lend his talents and refitted airship to the venture requires bringing along his sister, his cousin, and the crew that flew with him during the Napoleonic Wars. Only with their aid can they track down a Scottish rifleman, a pair of shady carnies, and a guide with a strong personal investment in the stories. 
When they set out, the wild places of the world, including the far American West, the Australian interior, darkest Africa, and other destinations are thought to be hostile enough. No one expects the trip to involve a legendary storm – or the Year Without a Summer of 1815-1816. The voyage is further complicated by the human element. Some parties are not at all happy with the post-war political map. Most problematic of all, the crew hired by the other side of the wager seem willing to win by any means necessary.

You can purchase this book at the following outlets: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IOC6HNU http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-steam-first-light-jeffrey-m-cook/1118848789

Gods of the Sun covers 1816 through the summer of 1817. DoSGotSCoverpng Gregory Conan Watts’s chronicle of the adventures begun in Dawn of Steam: First Light continues—as does the Year Without a Summer. The crew of the airship Dame Fortuna travel to four continents and are embroiled in combat on three of them: conflict with New Spain in Britain’s American colonies, an ambush in Machu Picchu, and entanglement in the Maori Potato Wars in New Zealand. As they progress through darkened skies, Gregory gradually discovers that nothing at all was as he thought it was. All his assumptions are cast into doubt: what their orders are, which tales of foreign lands are true, and what parts of the social order as he knows it really are natural. Also in doubt is whether they will all survive the experience.

You can purchase this book at the following outlets: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N5D9BK4 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-steam-jeffrey-cook/1120235204

Rising Suns covers the summer of 1817 through the summer of 1819. DOS_Rising_cover 1817 sees the first signs of recovery from the Year Without a Summer — and the beginning of the end of the journey of the airship Dame Fortuna. The crew first accept a unique offer from the Shogun of Japan, traveling with the Dutch contingent from the island of Dejima into the isolationist nation. From there, their travels will take them through the English colonies in Australia and India, into darkest Africa, and eventually home to England. Along the way, confrontations loom, and both personal secrets and national conspiracies are uncovered. By the time a future queen is born, nothing less than the fate of England and the direction of world events are at stake.

You can purchase this book at the following outlet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UIL0TOI/

You can contact Jeffrey on any of these Links:  http://www.facebook.com/dawnofsteamtrilogy http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Cook/e/B00IRMC3H6/ http://www.authorjeffreycook.com @jeffreycook74

But wait – there is more from Jeffrey Cook. An Action Adventure – Mina Cortez, From Bouquets to Bullets. Mina Cortez Cover correct She’d never said, “I want to join the Secret Police when I grow up.” Of course, Mina Cortez hadn’t known there were secret police. She just knew she’d rather be a ballerina than a florist. But in 2154, though the world has mostly recovered from the supervolcano, vocational education is still programmed based on aptitude testing. An implanted skill chip can give the recipient many things, but not longer legs. So Mina fully expected to end up inheriting her family’s flower shop and landscaping business someday. Like three generations before her, she had the nose for it. She didn’t expect one of her best friends to be kidnapped. She didn’t expect to be inducted into a covert organization by desperate authorities. She didn’t expect to have to be grateful for her other best friend’s ‘undead’ Chevy. She didn’t expect programmed spy information to come with the taste of aluminum on her tongue — or a burning sensation when she fought its impulses. She didn’t expect fights, car chases, family secrets, bureaucrats acting as espionage cheerleaders, electro-magnetic pulses, or the frequent scent of gun oil. She definitely didn’t expect to still have to deliver flowers while figuring it all out.

Buy link: http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/jeffreycook/minacortez.html

I hope you found these snippets from Jeffrey’s books interesting and don’t forget – join Jeffrey and me on 18th July for Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian Steampunk Bargain Books Party.

Just go to this link to download Free short Stories and watch book trailers: https://www.facebook.com/events/577034945770324/ Facebook  book banner

Signed Paperback Book on Offer

      The official launch of my brand new website is today – Wednesday – 20th August. 

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There is information about my YA Dystopian novel series, The Song of Forgetfulness, my short story collection, Glimmer and other stories, my experimental photography, and so much more!!

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To celebrate I am giving away a signed copy of one of my books, to be chosen by the winner. Just go to the site, answer the simple question and email it to me. All details are on the site. The competition will be open until Friday 22nd August, so there will be plenty of time to enter.   So keep an eye on it!

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http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/