Is it really okay to write in the present tense?

 

Tenses, past and present are a vital part of any narrative. Some say you should never write in the present tense as it is a sign of amateurishness. Say that to Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens and Ian McEwan.

Still, there  are many who dislike the use of present tense. Philip Pullman is one such author who frowns upon it because of its limitations, in his opinion.

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‘I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective. I want them to feel able to say what happened, what usually happened, what sometimes happened, what had happened before something else happened, what might happen later, what actually did happen later, and so on: to use the full range of English tenses.’

You can read the full article here:

http://www.theguardian.com/global/2010/sep/18/philip-pullman-author-present-tense

I have to say that on the whole I agree with him. Personally, I’m not a fan of novels in the present tense, without some past tense in the form of flashbacks or memories. That being said, I believe the present tense can be used well for short story writing. I then thought, oh no, present tense!

A horrible memory came back to me. A creative writing tutor once shamed me in front of the entire class when I submitted a present tense short story, written in the first person, by saying, ‘Never write in the present tense. Only amateurs and bad writers do that. Don’t write in the first person either, that shows a lack of imagination and arrogance. Let’s face it, no-one wants to listen to your voice, you are nobody.’ His words hurt and I vowed to never write in the first person or the present tense again.

 

Until a year later after gaining a Creative Writing Diploma and winning a short story completion with a piece written in the first person present tense.

Glimmer

 ‘The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour. A stillness that demands quiet.’

This story is now part of my anthology – Glimmer and other stories – and is getting some brilliant 5* reviews.

‘A stunning collection of highly original short stories, written with verve and style. They do not glimmer they sparkle!’

‘Glimmer and other stories’ is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories. As I was reading, I fell into a trance of adjectival excess… they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever…’

 http://amzn.to/239YbRG

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With Mr. Pullman’s article fresh in my mind, I decided to write another short story in the present tense, with past tense mixed in. Then I thought, oh, does it work? Why not write the whole thing in the past tense and be done with it? No one will criticise me and…well, I did and I didn’t like it as much. The tone and narrative voice works better in the present tense, for me, anyway.

What do you think?

Below are two short extracts from the beginning of the story The Shivering Oak. Inspiration for the story came from a painting by Marc Chagall.marc-chagall-autumn-in-the-village

Present tense:

Coward.

To conceal yourself up a tree like a rat.

I do not hide. I am here for all to see. Lounging larger than the low roof I recline upon.

At least, that’s how it seems to me as I raise my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it. Yes, even the heavens are on my side.

I will wait.

I do not grow tired or hungry. I am nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroke my bare arms and lips, which are red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, now that I glance at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I think they resemble the hue of the roses on my dress. Or perhaps they are nearer the shade of the berries on the bush growing below your dangling feet. I notice the soles of your shoes are worn. Is that a toe, that pink protuberance sticking out from the emerging hole? The twitching thing is making Genghis yank at his leash.

I sit up to get a better look. You struggle to maintain position on the creaking branch. One hand wrapped around the frail wood, the other clutching onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me at the Christmas concert.

The village hall was crammed that night with the young, old, and those in between. Forced to stand at the back, I peered over the shoulders of the tall men. I didn’t mind, though. It was good to be in the world again after all those years cooped up with dad.

Past Tense:

Coward

Concealing yourself up that tree like a rat.

I did not hide. I was there for all to see. Lounging larger than the roof I reclined upon.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me when I raised my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it.

Yes, even the heavens were on my side.

I waited

I did not grow tired or hungry. I was nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroked my bare arms and legs, which were red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, when I glanced at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I thought they resembled the hue of the roses on the dress I wore. Or perhaps, they were nearer the shade of the berries on the bush that grew below your dangling feet. I noticed that the soles of your shoes were worn. Was that a toe, that pink protuberance that stuck out from the hole? The thing that twitched and made Genghis yank at his lease.

I sat up to get a better look. You struggled to maintain your position on the creaking branch. You had one hand wrapped around the frail wood, whilst the other clutched onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me last Christmas at the village concert.

Thank you for reading. Any comments about which tense works better for you, would be very much appreciated.

Glimmer and other stories will be on a Kindle Countdown deal from 6th June. So, if you want a copy at a bargain price, just head over to Amazon.

 UK: http://amzn.to/1n6Hqpu

US:  http://amzn.to/239YbRG

 

 

Want Something Different To Read For Mother’s Day?

Firstly, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there.

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I am all for celebrating the joy  and hard work of motherhood. I think it is a wonderful idea to have a special day to say thanks, but I do get a bit fed up with all the over-the-top sugary sentimentality that the event conjures up.

So, as an antidote, let me share my Sestina – Echo– with you all. It may be a little dark, but it does celebrate the relationship between a mother and daughter.

Sestina – Echo

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Echo

In blackness, Mother reaches for the light

switch, but the bulb has blown. There’s a candle

under her pillow, ready for a time

like this – when the darkness grips. A cut

on her arm has festered and now the skin

appears red and taught; an angry mark.

She tries to rub it away, but the mark

won’t go. Mother cowers, whispers, ‘No light.’

Calls out, ‘Mary, quick.’ Then picks at the skin

around the wound. Mother lifts the candle

rubs it on the dirty scratch. Mary says, ‘Cut

again?’ Then sets the wick on fire. One time

she found Mother naked, another time

crouched in the corner making a mark,

a sign to her daughter. A broken nail cut

her arm, left a blood trail that soaked up light.

Mary saw it flow and seep into the candle

whose flame highlighted Mother’s aged skin

hanging in folds. Mary peers at her own skin.

But the dimness hides the truth; that at some time

gravity will win. Mary takes the candle.

Sees a rough carving of a heart-shaped mark.

Did Mother make this? A bird calls as light

shines through the window. It’s enough to cut

into the gloom they stand in, and to cut

away the chill. It shines upon the skin

they share, so similar in this half-light.

Mary shudders at the thought that in time

her fate will be to scratch out such a mark

and wear her body half melted like candle

wax. A strand of hair has stuck to the candle.

She pulls it off revealing a perfect scar, a cut

embedded. With her thumb she makes a mark

like Mother made, leaving some of her skin

behind. They smile at the symmetry; how time

has crept up behind them and how the light

transformed the candle wax into a fresh skin

to lay across the cut, giving it time

to heal the mark, slowly fading in the light.

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If you enjoyed this poem, you might like to read more unusual and darkly inspiration stories to be found in my anthology – Glimmer and other stories.

On the Eighth Day:

“He wriggled and pushed the bedclothes down. It was the first time I had seen him in the flesh.  His skin was white, and smooth as the skin on warm milk.

Never knew a man could feel so soft. More used to rough hands grabbing, not knowing what they touched.

He knew.

At least, I hoped so. Hard to tell. Been a while since I was in the company of a male.”

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‘The subjects range from humour to horror and supernatural romance to repressed creativity – they all have an underlying oddness about them which is quite refreshing. Recommended for those who enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary.’

‘Glimmer and other stories’ is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories. As I was reading, I fell into a trance of adjectival excess… they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever…’

On Offer at Amazon:

US:  http://amzn.to/239YbRG

UK: http://amzn.to/1n6Hqpu

 

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/

The Perils of Publishing

Now that my publishers have closed down, I am due to regain the selling rights for my YA dystopian/sci-fi series, The Song of Forgetfulness.

When I heard they were going under, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was pleased, as I wasn’t all that happy with them, but part of me was somewhat nervous. What now? What is going to happen to all my hard work researching and writing these two novels?

I had some options:

1.    Try to get an agent and a traditional publishing contract

2.    Send my manuscripts off to other Indie publishers. (Already had a few interested.)

3.    Self-publish.

I considered all three options.

Having heard lots of depressing stories from fellow authors about traditional publishing, I decided not to go there on this occasion. Besides, I’m still not sure about the value of an agent unless it is one with a credible track record. Since I’m not a best selling author, or any way near that, I figured a reputable agent wouldn’t want me on their books. Another reason to opt out of traditional publishing.

Since I had such a bad experience with a small publisher, they take 70% of royalties, whilst I do all the marketing and promotion, plus their editing and book covers were pretty sub-standard, I knew that I would not go down that road again.

The third option seemed to me to be the most logical. I have already self-published a collection of short stories, Glimmer and other stories, and although sales aren’t fabulous, I do sell some books on a regular basis. With my publishers I sold hardly any, if at all.

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With no promotional skills whatsoever, I decided to pay for an online book-marketing course. Wow! What an eye-opener. I didn’t realise there was so much that a self-published author can do to generate readers/fans and ultimately, sales. I am still learning, but have been working very hard to try and make sure that I do things right this time.

So, it’s just over a week to go before the ALL NEW versions of Echoes from the Lost Ones and A Silence Heard are re-launched. All with brand new book covers.

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But, wait, there’s more!!

A Prequel, which will be book 1, Whisper Gatherers, is also being launched.

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Watch this space for more news about how you can get Free copies!

Yes, that’s right – FREE COPIES!!!!

Also, a short story about our heroine Adara, called Changeling Fog, will be a FREE DOWNLOAD

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I’m actually excited!

Wish me luck?

You can learn more about The Song of Forgetfulness here: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness

FREE ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT STORIES

I haven’t done a lot of blogging lately, been burying my head in a book promotion course in an attempt to prepare to self-publish my YA series, now that my publishers have gone out of business. So I decided to experiment with Glimmer and other stories. I re-edited my collection of short stories and changed the cover. Then I targeted Amazon’s key word section, looked at a few successful short story anthologies, and got some ideas to describe my work. After changing the sub categories in Kindle, I sold some books and gained an excellent ranking in two new sub categories. All part of my drive to become better at marketing my books. I hope it works.

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To celebrate the slightly altered Glimmer and other stories, it will be FREE to download on Amazon Kindle from 16th-20th April 2015. If you do decide to take advantage of this offer, there is another FREE story for you to download as my way of saying thank you.

A brief description and 5* review snippets to help you make up your mind:

From metaphysical speculation to sophisticated eroticism, these beautifully crafted tales explore human nature in all its diversity. Sometimes disturbing, sometimes inspirational, they all have a metaphorical richness that will take you into an uncanny world that straggles the line between the real and the imagined.

“Glimmer and other stories is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories….they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever.” Review by Lesley Hayes

“Ms. McDonagh has created a world that is like an out-of-body experience almost. The stories took me out of my confined world and took me into science fiction, a little horror, drama, and wonder.” Review by Oscar William Case

Don’t forget that Glimmer will go back to it’s normal price after 20th April, so please do take advantage of this limited offer.

Amazon links where you can download my FREE book:

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-Nicola-McDonagh-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?

 http://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-other-stories-metaphysical-supernatural-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

 

 You can follow me on :

Twitter:                      @McDonaghNikki

Facebook:                   https://www.facebook.com/nicolamcdonaghauthor?ref=hl

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

Concordant Vibrancy Book Release

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Welcome one and all! Thanks for joining us today in the celebration of the Release of Concordant Vibrancy: Unity, An All Authors Anthology.

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Blurb:

All Authors Publishing House, a subsidiary of All Authors Publications & Promotions, is pleased to present its first short story anthology, Concordant Vibrancy .

Concordant Vibrancy represents the interweaving of unity and uniqueness through the eyes of eleven incredible writers. Through the array of genres, all of these talents share a phenomenal love of writing which aims to leave imprints in the reader’s imagination.

Short stories in this collection:
Butterfly Mask” by Nicola McDonagh
Messarii’s Blood Hunt” by D. John Watson
Seven Days” by Harmony Kent
Touch Me” by Andrea Houtsch
… and we” by Adonis Mann
Til Death Do Us Part” by A. Lopez Jr.
Coalesce” by Da’Kharta Rising
Her A to Z” by C. Desert Rose
Lester’s Release” by Synful Desire
The Authentic Snap” by Queen of Spades
Alma’s Unsung Angel” by Y. Correa.

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What makes Concordant Vibrancy Different than most Short Story anthologies?

It was best described by Y. Correa, the Founder of All Authors Publications and Promotions …

Excerpt of Concordant Vibrancy:

Once upon a time I sat under a large and old tree—the tree was surrounded by many others like it, all of them contented with one another.
I marveled at the wave of wind that passed by, which like an invisible tide drew past the trees making the leaves on them swish like the perfect choreographed symphony—first one, then swiftly and smoothly the rest followed in suit. It was an inspiring thing to behold.
I thought …
There is no better demonstration of unity than that of Mother Earth. She teaches us that all things are connected—the heavens to the earth, the earth to the ocean, the ocean to the heavens—round and round it goes, dancing without squabble in absolute unison. It truly is a beautiful thing to see.
In addition I pondered …
As the matter of fact, the bigger picture is that the entire universe is connected. Whilst our planet is the size of a marble in comparison to the enormity of our universe, that by no means makes us any less valuable. She, Mother Earth, depends on the universe and vice versa. Could you imagine the impact on our solar system if just one planet became misaligned with the rest, just the smallest bit askew? We would all feel the repercussions of that micro-movement. The surface of earth would spin out of control, ravaging humanity with a cataclysm of natural devastation.
And so, I thought further, and said to myself, “Does humanity not realize the impact they have between one another? Do they not see that one action of strife can cause a wave of destruction?”
While it is true that I do not know you, I know this; you and I are linked simply because we are inhabitants of this planet.
Why do I say these things? Because unity was the foundation of the establishment of All Authors Publications and Promotions.
A year and a half ago a thought occurred to me, it was “Why are authors competing with one another? Why can’t they just work together?” Now I’m certain that I was not the first person to think that way, and certainly not the first to act on it, but I did see that while some authors were trying to work together they were doing it in a way that rivaled one another. It was around that time that the idea of the All Authors Blog Blitz crossed my mind.
I’d done some research on Blog Blitzes, their use and aim, and I thought, we can all do that together. We can create a tidal wave of recognition if we just work together.
What I did not expect was all that would follow after the All Authors Blog Blitz. In less than a year’s time, All Authors Publications and Promotions was born. A place created by an author, for authors, trying to establish unity in this market.
In time the All Authors Magazine was born, then All Authors Graphic Design, then the All Authors Certificate of Excellence, and many more projects.
Some people ask me why I chose the name All Authors. Well, that’s pretty self-explanatory, it’s because we advocate all authors, and try to reach all readers.

So, like leaves on a tree, we are all connected.

Mother Earth, the best example of unity mankind has.

Today, marks the historic event of the RELEASE of Concordant Vibrancy: Unity, An All Authors Anthology. In commemoration of this wonderful day we’ve decided to give 3 lucky people a chance to win a Paperback Copy.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Concordant Vibrancy by Adonis Mann

Concordant Vibrancy

by Adonis Mann

Giveaway ends January 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Also Available NOW at Amazon.com

Cover Reveal of Concordant Vibrancy

Cover Reveal

Welcome!

Today we are happy to present you with the cover of
Concordant Vibrancy: Unity, An All Authors Anthology

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Before we show you the cover, lets tell you a little bit about Concordant Vibrancy.

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Blurb:

All Authors Publishing House, a subsidiary of All Authors Publications & Promotions, is pleased to present its first short story anthology, Concordant Vibrancy.

Concordant Vibrancy represents the interweaving of unity and uniqueness through the eyes of eleven incredible writers. Through the array of genres, all of these talents share a phenomenal love of writing which aims to leave imprints in the reader’s imagination.

Short stories in this collection:

Butterfly Mask” by Nicola McDonagh

Messarii’s Blood Hunt” by D. John Watson

Seven Days” by Harmony Kent

Touch Me” by Andrea Houtsch

… and we” by Adonis Mann

Til Death Do Us Part” by A. Lopez, Jr.

Coalesce” by Da’Kharta Rising

Her A to Z” by C. Desert Rose

Lester’s Release” by Synful Desire

The Authentic Snap” by Queen of Spades

Alma’s Unsung Angel” by Y. Correa

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It was important to portray both the unification and individuality of each author as well as the theme of this anthology on its cover. In the introduction of Concordant Vibrancy, Y. Correa, the creator of All Authors P&P explains it this way, “… like leaves on a tree, we are all connected. Mother Earth, the best example of unity mankind has.

Without further ado, we present you with the cover of Concordant Vibrancy created by All Authors Graphic Design.
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Now available for Pre-Order at:
Amazon.com

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