Monday, 29 August 2011

WIP Update: Day One & A Trekkie Question

It's day one, albeit a week earlier than planned, and I have a confession to make. I am no-longer writing the first book in my Cosmic Seed Trilogy, Daughters of Velika. I actually made the decision a few weeks ago but wanted to be totally sure before announcing yet another project.

In early July an idea came to me that wouldn't go away. So, I decided to prepare for both novel ideas. After writing blurbs, taglines, creating mock covers, synopses, scene and character notes, I decided the new project was a much stronger idea.

Unlike my other novel ideas, I am not going to reveal anything other than it is YA science fiction, first-person viewpoint, and post-apocalyptic. This is because I have been advised me not to reveal too much information in case someone likes my idea and uses it to write their own novel before me. Of course they wouldn't be the same, and the chances of someone actually doing that are virtually non-existent, but there is still a chance. I want to stress I am not talking about my blogging friends and followers; I'm talking about the small minority of dubious individuals who may stalk the Internet for ideas.

Now I've confessed all, I can talk about my week one objectives. I have two plans in mind for writing my novel, and will choose one depending on how my first week goes:
  1. Write the first draft during September and October, five days a week, with a 2500 daily word count. Edit during November. My week one target would be 12,500 words.
  2. Write the first draft during September, October, and November, with a 1600 daily word count. Edit once I go back to work. My week one target would be 8000 words
I'd like to go for plan number one, but until I start writing I'm not sure how many words I can realistically achieve on a daily basis.

I also have come up with a daily writing schedule. Mornings will be spent writing and/or typing up new scenes on my laptop. Afternoons will be spent writing new scenes by longhand or editing/re-writing previous scenes. So that I do not overdo it with the computer, Sundays and Tuesdays will be non-computer days.

The other plan I had related to staying mentally and physically healthy during my 12-week break. The most important thing was getting out, whether that be running, going to the gym, or meeting friends and family. The last thing I wanted to happen was to be cooped up for days on end. Unfortunately, breaking my toe has put an end to the running and gym, and if I want to meet up with anyone they'll have to pick me up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my toe heals quickly.

What do you think is a realistic daily word count? How do you schedule your writing days? And what do you do to stay healthy?

Now for a Trekkie question. Below is the rather cheesy 80s video for Aha's You Are The One. Pause the video 53 seconds in and tell me whether you think the girl in the taxi is Jeri Ryan from Voyager. She would have been around 18 when this video was made, so the timing is right.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Breaking Bones, Blogfests, and Bright Eyes

I managed to break a little toe on Thursday. I stubbed it on my exercise bike (stop reading from here if you're squeamish) and dislocated it. Through some sort of natural instinct I managed to push it back into place.

It's safe to read now. At first I didn't think it was too bad - I've stubbed my little toes dozens of time. After hobbling into town, I realised it was worse than I thought. I went to the emergency room, and they told me it was probably broken. However, as it's a little toe, their advice was to just to stay off my feet. As I have a high pain threshold, and not wanting to be off sick when I've only got seven shifts left, I still went to work. Thankfully, they gave me a sit down job.

Unfortunately, the pain and swelling is far worse today. After speaking to NHS Direct, who have advised I need to keep my foot elevated, and that it can take four to six weeks to heal, I asked if I could start my 12-week work break a week earlier so as not to be off sick. They said yes, so I'm starting my new novel this Monday. I feel a little sad as I won't get to say a proper goodbye to my work colleagues but I will pop to see them.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Star Trek Blogfest - it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be. I'm looking forward to Talli Roland's Watching Willow Watts Launch Party on September 14th and Alex J. Cavanaugh's Worst Movie Blogfest on September 19th. If you haven't checked them out yet, please do.

If you want to watch something that will make you smile (or cringe), pop over to iZombie's blog and watch William Shatner sing Bright Eyes. Yes. You did read it right. The Shatman sings, again.

Finally, I've joined Facebook. Now I know I said I never would but I realised last week just how much I am going to miss my friends at work. I won't miss the work but there are a handful of my colleagues I'm going to feel a little lost without. If you're on Facebook, please feel free to send me a friend request. There is a link on my sidebar. I've set my account so that only my friends can see me. Plus, I'll be posting daily updates on my WIP progress.

So, my friends, have you ever broken a bone? If you have, I want all the gory details.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Star Trek As We Know It Blogfest

These are the voyages of the Starship Blogfest, its one-off mission to explore strange character choices, to seek out favourite episodes and incredible films, to boldly go where no blogger has gone before . . . I think.

The adventure begins, my fellow Starfleet Bloggers. Have you reported for duty? Is your keyboard set to stun? Have you dared wear red? Read Science Office Garratt's choices below the linky, and don't forget to report to your fellow officers' duty stations. Engage.

Top Five Characters

1. Tribbles

Come on. You know you want one. Just don't take them near any Klingons.

2. Seven of Nine

In my opinion this character saved Voyager. I just wish I looked that good in a Starfleet uniform.

3. Khan Noonien Singh

A genetically altered superbeing. Evil. Calculating. What's not to like?

4. Spock

Pointy ears. Logic. Dodgy eyebrows. Every Science Officers dream.

5. James Tiberius Kirk

The Captain. Need I say any more? You all know I love William Shatner.

Top Five Episodes

1. The Trouble with Tribbles

I've always loved this episode because it was so ridiculous. You have to laugh once in a while!

2. Year of Hell

In this fourth season episode Voyager spends a year getting beaten to hell by an alien race that possesses the power to change the timeline. As ever, Janeway would not surrender, and took the ship and her crew to near oblivion before beating the aliens.

3. The Best of Both Worlds

For me this was by far the two best episodes to come out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and set up the back story to the first solo Next Generation Film, First Contact.

4. Amok Time

Spock. Emotions. Nurse Chapel. A fight with Kirk. Just superb.

5. Space Seed

The legendary episode where we first got to meet Khan. I hear rumours that Khan maybe in the next film, and I have a bad feeling that it won't work. Who will they get to play Khan? Ricardo Montalban is Khan. Mr. G suggested Jean Claude Van Damme. I told him to never utter those treacherous words again; after all, revenge is a dish best served cold. 

Top Five Films

1. Generations

Kirk: "I take it the odds are against us in a situation this grim."
Picard: "You could say that."
Kirk: "Sounds like fun."

2. The Voyage Home

Kirk: "Everyone remember where we parked."

3. Star Trek (2009)

Scotty: "I like this ship."

4. First Contact

Lily: "Jean Luc. Blow up the damn ship!"
5. The Wrath of Khan

Khan: "He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!"

So, those were my choices. Do you agree or disagree? Will you be beaming me down to some desolate planet where the odds are grim, and anyone wearing red will die? Or, will you be beaming into the Captain's private quarters?

If you're looking for another blogfest to satisfy your creative urges, the mighty Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting another of his awesome blogfests. Go on, you know you want to take part.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.

No. No. No. Not that kind of Borg. I mean this kind.

All those signed up for the Star Trek As We Know It Blogfest should report for duty Monday, August 22nd.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

William Shatner Letter Advice Needed!

I know I said I would only post once a week but I need your help. As some of you may know I had two stories accepted for the Tribute to the Stars Anthology, which has just been published by Static Movement.

The anthologies theme was to write stories which if made into a film would have a specific actor in mind. My acceptances were Night of the Therapist, starring Ben Stiller, and Why Do Aliens Love Iowa? starring William Shatner.

On Tuesday I received an email from the editor, Chris Bartholomew, to let me know that the anthology was now available, and that Ben Stiller would be receiving a copy soon. Unfortunately, due to a close family bereavement  Chris is not able at the moment to arrange sending a copy to William Shatner. Understandably, she needs to take time off to be with her family. So, I asked if she would like me to forward a copy to him. She has said yes, and sent me what I assume is William Shatner's agent/ publicist's address.

I now have to write a suitable letter to go with the anthology, and given that William Shatner has been one of my all-time favourite actors from a young age, I am a bit starstruck. I have no idea whether he will ever read the anthology, but what if he does? What if my letter is the only thing standing between him receiving the anthology or not? I don't want to be too gushing in my praise but I do want him to read my story.

So, my blogging friends, what should my letter say? I've already decided I need to make mention of the editor and all the hard work she has put in to making the anthology a success. Other than than that, I've been to nervous to think of another thing to say.


Monday, 15 August 2011

WIP Update: A Squirrel Called Brian, Rusty Webb, & Free Kindle Content

On Wednesday evening I started re-reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer to re-invigorate my will to write before September. If you haven't read this book, and especially if you are just starting out on your writing journey, I urge you to obtain a copy. Her inspirational guide does not focus on how to write, it focusses on training both your concious and unconscious minds to work together so that you do write. It is a must read for all writers.

On Thursday morning I set the alarm half an hour early so that I could carry out her first piece of training - writing for a set period of time every morning before you do anything else. It doesn't matter what you write - in my case I'm making notes for my next WIP - as long as you do write. No excuses.

Anyway, I am sat in bed at 7am with a notebook and pen, and I hear someone shout 'Brian!' several times. As the voice did not sound human, I went to the window and peeked through the curtains. At first I thought it was an escaped parrot. Then I saw a squirrel sat on the wall. Yes. The squirrel was making a noise that sounded like Brian.

Since then I've been woken every morning with the sound of 'Brian!'. In honour of Brian the Squirrel, my morning writing sessions will forever be known as Brian; I just have to make it clear to Mr. G that Brian is a squirrel and not some man I'm hiding under the bed.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a squirrel in possession of a good fortune of nuts must be in want of a nutcracker.

`'You mistake me, my dear. For I am not a gentleman.'

Anyone for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Squirrels?

Changing the subject, Rusty Webb over at The Blutonian Death Egg has taken the plunge and released a novelette on Kindle. Here is the stunning cover and blurb:

In 1895, deep in the Southeastern U.S., a sleepy little town is home to one of the most violent criminal families in the country. When Thomas O’Brien witnesses the brutal murder of his best friend and the kidnapping of his beloved Mary at the hands of the O’Malley brothers he thinks things can’t possibly get any worse.

But when a mysterious stranger shows up to help, Thomas begins to suspect this man is more than he seems. This stranger pledges to help bring Mary safely back from the O’Malley brothers, no matter the cost.

Tom’s real nightmare is about to begin.
At just under 10,000 words, A Dead God’s Wrath is a Science Fiction novelette.

Pop over to his blog and follow him on his journey.

Whilst we're on the subject of Kindle, you can now get a free trial version of the Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine on your Kindle. It is not the full magazine, but you will get one story and all the articles. A full edition is available on a 14-day trial. This is the perfect opportunity to check out a market you might be considering submitting or subscribing to in the future.

So, what have you been up to during the last seven days?

Monday, 8 August 2011

WIP Update: Prepping Hell ...Only A Month Away

One month from today I will have started my 12-week work break aka novel writing holiday. Let me say it again - one month. Four weeks. Twenty-eight days.

Am I excited? Yes. Am I as nervous as hell? You bet I am. I've never done anything like this before. I have written the first draft of a novel but it took me nine months, with odds snippets of time grabbed here and there. Hang on. Nine months? I wonder if that was why working out those final scenes felt like I was giving birth? Might explain a lot.

Where was I? I've never had this length of time to concentrate on one project with no work to distract me. But I'm also realistic enough to know I will still need to be careful with my time. I've got one chance to get this right. So, I've made some tough decisions this week. For the next 16 weeks I will be posting just once a week, my Work-In-Progress Updates, which will move to Mondays. There will still be the occasional guest post and blogfest. Don't worry - I'm not leaving the blogosphere, rather cutting back on my post writing and responding to comments. I will still be lurking around your blogs and commenting; in fact, I'm counting on you all to keep me sane. 

I will also be asking my friends and family not to call or text me - unless an emergency arises - before 1pm each day, so that I at least have the mornings to write in peace.

What sacrifices have you had to make in order to complete a project? Were you able to stick to your resolutions?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Guest Post: Maria Zannini on Self-Publishing

I'm delighted to have Indie author Maria Zannini guesting on my blog today, making her final stop on her Indie Roadshow.

Take it away, Maria.

An Indie Checklist

This is the last stop of our Indie Roadshow and it only seems fitting to end it with a checklist on what it takes to self-publish your own book.

An indie author is self-motivated, self-determining, and willing to take chances. If there’s one thing I learned about this journey so far, it’s that you can’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity. Self-publishing is all about giving yourself that opportunity.

But there are definite down sides to this business model.

• You are competing for an audience that is already over-saturated with options. Find something that sets you apart.

• Whereas traditional publishing pays for editing, cover art, formatting, and a little (usual minor) marketing, you must either do these things yourself or hire someone to do them for you.

• Stigma still exists, though it does appear to be waning. My best advice is to put out the best book you can, that way you can stick your tongue out at the naysayers with pride.

The positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion.

• You get a larger chunk of the royalty.

• There is far more freedom in cover design and deadlines.

• Review sites that welcome indie authors are growing in leaps and bounds.

• Self-published books that sell well do get noticed by agents.

• It is really a lot easier than it looks from the sidelines. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

So what does it take to be an indie author?

1. Have a great idea. Novellas are a good way to test the waters without much investment.

2. Be willing to do the work and put in the time. No pain, no gain.

3. Set your ducks in a row before you begin. Create a timeline so you know if you’re on schedule and what you have to do next.

4. Do not skimp on necessary things like editing and cover design.

5. When it comes to formatting, follow the instructions step-by-step. I’m not kidding. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, should you decide to cheat.

6. Make a list of potential reviewers. I did this way too late and I’m paying for it now. Contact them as soon as you can because they usually have a backlog.

7. When your book is officially out, make an announcement, but don’t pimp it like a red-light special. People get tired of sales pitches.

8. Write your next book.

One of my very first editors told me that the way to increase sales is to build a back list. She was right! The Devil To Pay is my fourth book since 2009. I am selling more of my books now (including my first book) than when I started.

I hope you enjoyed The Indie Roadshow and I hope you’ll try The Devil To Pay. Thank you, Ellie for hosting me on my last stop of the tour.

If you have any questions, fire away.


The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels. 
Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

Thank you, Maria!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Novel Films Blogfest Part Two

In parts two and three of the Novel Films Blogfest Madeleine Maddocks has asked us to review the book and film pairings we listed yesterday, and list which books we've read that we want to see made into films.

I've decided to break this down into The Good, The Bad, and The Books I'd Like To See Made Into A Movie. In the interests of brevity, I will only review my top three good and bad films. Afterwards, I'll list which books I'm desperate to see made into films.

Please note for a film to have made it into my good list it did not have to be a faithful line by line re-telling of the book. I've also given the date of the film or television series where I know there has been more than one made, but I may have missed one or two.

The Good

2001 & 2010
The Andromeda Strain (1971 version)
Bladerunner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Dune (1984)
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981 television series)
Jurassic Park
Little Women (all three versions - 1933, 1949, 1994)
New Moon
Postcards from the Edge
Pride and Prejudice
Raise the Titanic
Silence of the Lambs
The 39 Steps (1935)
To Kill A Mockingbird
We Were Soldiers (We Were Soldiers Once . . .And Young)
The World According to Garp
The Green Mile
The Running Man
Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
Stand By Me

Eleven of the 27 books were read before seeing the film, so, perhaps not unsurprisingly, I went on to read 16 of the books the films I liked were based on.

My top three are:

I wish that I had read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? before seeing Bladerunner, just to be able to compare the image of the futuristic world with the one my own mind would have conjured from reading the book. The plot of Bladerunner is a lot different from Philp K. Dick's novella, but the film captured the essence of the world he portrayed. And who can forget Batty's closing lines?

I read Fannie Flagg's book before seeing the film, and fell in love with it. So much so, that I even have a copy of the accompanying cookbook. Fortunately, the film did not disappoint in anyway. If you have not read the book or seen the film, make sure you do both - there is a lot more to the plot than fried green tomatoes. Mystery. Murder. Friendship. Love. All the right ingredients. Excuse the pun.

Another film I saw before reading the book. In my opinion, this is a masterpiece in film making, and one that belongs in the Stephen King Finest Adaptations category. Films or television series based on King stories seem to fit into two groups - brilliant or awful. This is a film that is both funny and sad, and it's emotional punch will stay with you long after it has finished.

(narrowly missing out were The Shining and Silence of the Lambs)

The Bad

Alice in Wonderland (any version) (sorry, I hate these types of films)
Animal Farm (any version)
A Perfect Storm
The Bicentennial Man
Bridges of Madison County
The Hotel New Hampshire
The Lovely Bones

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
The Perfect Storm
The Pilot's Wife
My Sister’s Keeper
Starship Troopers

Yes Man 

Pet Cemetery
Salem's Lot

Only five of the seventeen films were seen after reading the book, because generally I don't like watching movies based on books.

My worst three are:

I think maybe it's just me but I did not like this film, especially after reading the book by Issac Asimov. I found it long, mawkish, and too sentimental.

I have to be honest here - I only watched the film out of a kind of morbid fascination after reading the book. I really dislike Eastwood in these kinds of roles. I also only read the book because in On Writing Stephen King cites it has an example of bad writing. I think no one told the author Robert James Waller about show not tell. Anyway, I'd better stop there before I offend anyone. But if you see a copy read through the first few pages and let me know what you think.

I love Piccoult novels. The effortless way she handles several viewpoint characters and tackles issues many other writers would avoid has always impressed me. Having said that, I don't think her books translate well into films. The multiple viewpoints get lost in the process some how. My Sister's Keeper was no exception, and what irritated me more than anything was that I saw it before reading the book, and overheard the person behind me in the cinema telling her friend it had a different ending. Thankfully, I was able to escape before I heard the rest.

(narrowly missing out were all the other Stephen King films and The Hotel New Hampshire)

The Forgotten

Marley and Me

The Books I'd Like To See Made Into A Movie

I think it is safe to say this list could go on forever, so I'm going to list my top ten favourite novels, novellas, and short stories I want to see made into movies. In no particular order they are:

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness.
Across the Universe by  Beth Revis
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Under the Dome by Stephen King
All the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde
Marley and Me by John Grogan (this would be a remake; the first film is awful)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

And just to be really cheeky:

Why Do Aliens Love Iowa? by Ellie Garratt (starring William Shatner)
Night of the Therapist by Ellie Garratt (starring Ben Stiller)

So, do you agree or disagree with any of my choices?

Monday, 1 August 2011

Novel Films Blogfest Part One

Today is the Novel Films Blogfest hosted by the awesome Madeleine Maddocks at Scribble and Edit.

For part one of this blogfest, Madeleine asked us to: Post a list of books we have read where we'd also seen the film.

For some reason I was expecting the list below to be longer. Perhaps I have forgotten some? One thing I do know is that I'm not a great fan of watching films, or TV adaptations, after I've read the book. So often the results are a disappointment. Having said that my list does include a few examples where the films did work, and sometimes surpassed my expectations. After watching some films, I have even gone out and bought the book.

Here is my list:

2001 & 2010 by Arthur C. Clarke
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov
Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dune by Frank Herbert
Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
A Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shrieve
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The 39 Steps by John Buchan
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
We Were Soldiers Once . . .And Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Yes Man by Danny Wallace

And by Stephen King:

The Green Mile
Pet Cemetery
The Running Man
Salem's Lot
Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
The Stand
By Me

How many of these films have you seen?

Call back tomorrow for parts two and three of the Novel Films Blogfest, where I'll be discussing The Good, The Bad, and The Books I'd Like To See Made Into A Movie.