Sunday, 31 July 2011

WIP Update: First Draft Completed and CassaFire

I have finished the first draft of Dreaming of Sleep! Total word count 93,137 words. 

It seems an eternity ago when I started it for NaNoWriMo 2010. There have been major changes, not least renaming the main character several times before finally settling on Hayden Monroe. I was thinking of modelling him on this guy:

Just kidding.

It has been a challenge, but I've learnt a lot. I now know what does and does not work for me as a novelist. I know I'm neither a planster or a plotter, but a plotster,which is halfway between the two.

So what will happen to Hayden Monroe now? He and the manuscript are being put aside for a few weeks, so that I can prepare for my next project. Hopefully, when I pick up the manuscript again, it will be with a fresh outlook. No doubt scenes will need to be re-worked or cut, and I will curse at sentences that need tightening and silly grammatical errors I should have spotted. But doing the first edit is my favourite part of writing - we get to play God with our stories. How about you? Do you enjoy the first read through and edit?

Now check out the fabulous working cover art for Alex J. Cavanaugh's sequel to CassaStar, CassaFire. Isn't it spectacular? I can't wait for it's release next year. If you haven't read CassaStar, and you're a science fiction lover, why not? I know you will love it. 

See you tomorrow for the Novel Films Blogfest.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

QOTW: Who's Your Best Book Friend? Novel Films Blogfest & Deadly Intent

I have to admit I copied the idea for this post from Laura at Daily Dodo. In yesterday's inspired post she asked the question, Who is your best film friend? My answer was A Fish Called Wanda because it makes me laugh every time I watch it, even though I know the plot and dialogue by heart. Do pop over to her blog and let her know who your best film friend is.

My question is who is your best book friend? You know the one. The book you've read several times, and will return to again in the future. The book that makes you smile, or scream in terror if you're that way inclined. The book that makes you caress the cover fondly, and quote lines from when someone asks you about it. The book that you insist your friends and family should read because they don't know what they are missing.

For me that book is The Tales of Olga da Polga by Michael Bond. I know this is probably the last answer you'd expect from a science fiction geek, but I first read this book as a young child and have re-read it numerous times. It's witty, clever, and just plain adorable. Here's a teaser:

"From the very beginning there was not the slightest doubt Olga da Polga was the sort of guinea-pig who would go places."

Sticking with the theme of books and films, Madeleine at Scribble and Edit is hosting the Novel Films Blogfest from August 1st to 3rd, where you can discuss films based on books. Pop over to her blog to read the details and how to sign up.

I'm pleased to say Laura Eno's new book Deadly Intent is now available in paperback and ebook format. You can read the first chapter of her horror/thriller novel here.

Finally, I've now completed 94% of my current WIP Dreaming of Sleep. I'm hoping to have finished the final scenes by the weekend. I feel a celebration coming! Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Tuesday Teaser (19): The People Next Door by Christopher Ransom

Today's Tuesday Teaser comes from the horror novel I will start reading tonight.

Title: The People Next Door
Author: Christopher Ransom

For a moment, as they touched him and kissed his cheeks, he was certain that these people, while bearing every hallmark of his pairing and making, were not his real family at all, but others hiding beneath clever masks of artificial skin.

I read Ransom's first book The Birthing House in 2009, and even though I found it awkward and confusing in places, I gave him another chance when he published his second book, The Haunting of James Hastings. I really enjoyed his second book, although I had to re-read the opening several times before I had some idea of what was going on - I suspect he didn't want the reader to fully understand until the end. The problem is I'm still not sure if I did understand by the time I'd finished reading it.

At this point you're probably wondering why I'm giving him another chance. I'm not sure I really know myself. All I can say is that there is something about Ransom's books that draws me in and then hooks me with it's understated terror. I shall let you know next week whether his third novel was a dramatic improvement or another big question mark.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

Do you have any books or stories you'd like to tease us with?


Changing the subject completely, here's a photograph of myself and fellow colleagues before starting Sunday's Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research. 

Being a shorty, I'm in the front row, second from the right. We had a great time, with some running and others walking double-time like myself. I did 5km in 45 minutes, not bad for my first race. More importantly, we've helped to raise a lot of money for a worthy cause. 

I'd like to dedicate this year's race to my father-in-law Tom, who lost his battle with cancer in 2005. You really were dad number two, and I miss you more than words can say. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Star Trek As We Know It Blogfest (August 22nd)

I'm skipping my WIP Update post this week to tell you about my exciting new blogfest - the Star Trek As We Know It Blogfest.

As I'm sure most of you know, I love Star Trek. I also know a lot of you feel the same way. So why not do a blogfest just about Star Trek? Have I tempted you yet? Here are the details on how to take part:

  • Leave your name and rank on the linky below (i.e. scienceofficergarratt).
  • On August 22nd post your top five Star Trek characters and episodes and/or films, and tell us why you love them.
  • Warp your way over to as many of your Starfleet comrades as you can and comment on their choices.
  • Spread the word on all hailing frequencies, and feel free to post the image on your blog.
  • Wear red at your peril.

Remember - the needs of the many bloggers outweigh the needs of the one!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

QOTW: Electronic ink screens for writers. Would you buy one?

If there is one thing above all others that would make my life as a writer easier, it would be a computer with an electronic ink display. Why? Because traditional LCD screens are backlit and flicker, and this can trigger migraines.

Backlit screens can cause glare and eye strain, and whilst the flickering, or refresh rate of the screen, is too fast for the eyes to see, it can also cause headaches or migraines. All of this means the amount of time I can use my laptop is severely limited, not just to one day, but to how many days in one week.

As a writer I cannot put more emphasis how big a problem for me this is. Last week I bought an Acer Notebook because it only has a ten inch screen, in the hope less glare and flicker equals less eye strain.

Of course there are things we can do to help ourselves when using a computer:

Use your computer in a well lit room to reduce glare.
Set the background on your word processing software to blue and font to white.
Use a white background and black text for your blog or website. White text on a black ground is difficult to read.
Look away from your screen and focus on a distant object at regular intervals.
Make sure you blink regularly - dry eyes cause extra strain.

I am sure that you will have plenty more suggestions. But no-matter how careful I am, I still can't use my laptop for extended periods of time. But an electronic ink screen - as seen on the Kindle and other electronic book readers - are not backlit and do not flicker. I can use my Kindle for hours with no ill effect.

Of course, there are drawbacks. At the moment ink screens are only available in black and white. They cannot be used in a dark room, as there is no light. But the technology is being developed, and I am sure eventually there will be computers with colour ink screens because they have one major advantage - they have a much longer battery life because there is no screen to light.

But where does that leave me and anyone else who would happily trade their laptop for a new electronic ink screen version? It seems that for the moment this new technology is at the development stage, and considerations such as gaming and viewing the internet in colour are more important than the possible health effects of LCD screens.

So my suggestion would be for one of the major computer companies to develop a basic word processor for writers that comes with an electronic ink screen. As long as it is compatible with major software programmes such as Word, and has a USB port so work can be saved, I would buy it. I would pay good money for it as well. As for browsing the Internet, well that can still be done on my LCD laptop.

What do you think? If such a machine was to become available, would you buy it?

Update: Further to one of the comments, I want to reiterate that electronic ink screens do not work in the same way as LCD screens, and it is those differences that can trigger my ocular-induced migraines. Unlike traditional backlit displays, electronic ink displays reflect light like ordinary paper. They are not lit in any way.

The image itself is produced by polyethylene spheres between 75 to 106 micrometres, which are suspended in a bubble of oil embedded in a transparent silicon sheet. The polarity of the voltage applied to the spheres determines whether the black or white side shows. Because this creates a stable image, is does not need to be refreshed. Thus there is no flicker. Unfortunately for me, ensuring my laptop's screen refresh rate is 60hz or over, or using a larger PC screen does not help.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tuesday Teaser (19): The Ask And The Answer by Patrick Ness

Today's Tuesday Teaser is the second of the Chaos Walking Trilogy, and winner of the 2009 Costa Children's Book Award.

Title: The Ask And The Answer
Author: Patrick Ness

There's so many of 'em, so many long white faces looking back at me, their eyes too big, their mouths too small and toothy and high on their faces, their ears looking nothing like a man's.

But you can still see a man's face in there, can't you?

I cannot recommend this trilogy more highly. The central characters of Todd and Viola are engaging, and the use of first person POV perfectly handled. When I first started reading book one, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, I wasn't at all sure I liked Ness's style. However his use of both short and long sentences really works, building and maintaining tension from the beginning to end of each book. But be warned - this is dark fiction, and features violence throughout. I also suggest you have all three books in the series at hand - you will want to read them all. This is YA science fiction at it's best.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

Do you have any books or stories you'd like to tease us with?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

WIP Update: When A Writer Takes A Vacation . . .

Are they always flooded with new ideas? 

Mr. G and I had a wonderful few days away eating out, relaxing, and buying yet more books. But whilst we were away I had two more novel ideas. Yes. That's ideas number four and five for anyone who is still counting.

I did my best to dismiss the post-apocalyptic and space-opera tales from my mind by making a few hasty notes on my phone. Alas I failed. Over the next three days characters, scenes, and story arcs popped up in the most inconvenient locations. Ever tried making a quick note of something whilst programming a satnav, looking out for a Harvester restaurant, and listening to Mr. G ranting about Bournemouth's seemingly impossible road layout? Not easy, I can tell you. So when we got back Friday I did what all worthy writers would do, I opened up a new Word document and made detailed notes.

Unfortunately, I now have several more people - I mean characters - demanding my attention. There were enough voices in my head already! But I guess that's all part of the profession, along with copious amounts of coffee, eye-strain, carpel tunnel syndrome, and spreading behinds.

Changing the subject, did you know you can now visit the End of the World?

The Worlds End turned out not to be the doom and gloom we've all come to expect, or falling off the edge of the planet into space, but a pub near Weymouth. Who would have guessed it involved a ploughman's lunch and pint of cider? Of course The Muse took it as a sign that I should be writing my post-apocalyptic novel. But when we drove a few hundred yards around the corner and saw The Botany Bay, I just shouted Khaaannnnnn!

So, what's been happening with you over the last seven days?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

WIP Update: Final Name Change, Blogging Break, & Up-coming Blogfests

Okay. This is the final time I am changing the name of my main character from Dreaming of Sleep. You read it here. Poor Myron, who then became Landon - which clashed a little with other famous literary characters - is now, and will remain forever more as, Hayden Monroe. If there are any other characters with this name, I don't care. As Scotty in Star Trek would say - she canno' take no more, Captain. But thank you to those who did point out Landon was too similar to other notable characters - I do appreciate your comments.

On a more positive note, my word count for Dreaming of Sleep increased this week - I'm now 86% done. 14% to go until the first draft is written.

I am taking a blogging break for a few days, as next week will be the last holiday Mr. G and I have together before my 12-week novel writing period begins. I promised Mr. G he would have my undivided attention, and we are planning to catch up with friends and family, and have a few days out.

Before I go, here are a few up-coming blogfests:

Poetry Schmoetry Blogfestfrom the 11th to 14th July, hosted by the wonderful Shelly Brown.

Inspiration Blogfest on the 18th July, hosted by the talented Summer Ross.

Novel Films Blogfest from the 1st to 3rd August, hosted by the inspirational Madeleine Maddocks.

Finally, a blog post that caught my attention this week - Death by Critique. Let me know what you think.

I shall be back towards the end of next week. Until then, have a fabulous week.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

QOTW: If you were selling your muse, how would you describe her/him/it?

Sometimes I ask myself the most bizarre questions. After reading about Army of Dave's attempts to sell the Universe on eBay last week (do read his blog post, I still have a smile on my face every time I think about it), I started wondering how I'd describe my muse, if I ever tried to sell her.

Of course I wouldn't! What do you take me for? But if I did . . .here's what the advert would probably say:

Second-hand speculative fiction muse.

Has given immense satisfaction during usage, and provided all my best ideas. Both ink and computer trained. Will require a weekly trip to a book store and Costa Coffee, and a few days holiday a year. Will disappear from time to time, but always returns with new ideas.

£1,000,000 or nearest offer.

If you were selling your muse, how would you describe her/him/it?

Disclaimer: Ellie would like to apologise unreservedly to her muse and any other muses who may have been offended by this blog post. She would never attempt to sell her muse. She worships the ground her muse walks on, and understands that without muses all writers would not . . .well, write.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tuesday Teaser (18): Divergent by Veronica Roth

Today's Tuesday Teaser comes from a book I bought at work, which is a rare occurrence. They hardly ever stock genres I like.

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth

My problem might be that even if I did go home, I wouldn't belong there, among people who give without thinking and care without trying. The thought makes me grit my teeth.

Speculative fiction, dystopian worlds, and a back cover blurb that is near perfection - what more could entice me to read a book? I'm fast discovering I love YA fiction, and this book is no exception. Here is part of the blurb to tease you: Once choice decides your friends, defines your beliefs, and determines your loyalties . . .forever.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

Do you have any books or stories you'd like to tease us with?


Here's a teaser of what will be included in each issue:

•Agent, author and publisher profiles
•New releases for the month
•Giveaways and contests
•Cool book trailers
•Must-visit websites and blogs
•Industry news
•Notice of upcoming conferences
•Book reviews

If urban fantasy is your thing, pop over and sign up - there are prizes to be won! You have until July 10th to enter.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

WIP Update: Slow Progress, Blogging Authors Wanted, & A New Blurb

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends!

In the last two weeks progress on my science fiction novel Dreaming of Sleep has stopped, run around in circles screaming, before finally realising it should be placed in the 'you-weren't-well-so-give-yourself-a-break' category. My grand word total was an amazing zero. Nothing. Thankfully, the main characters were very understanding - neither of them gave me a hard time. Of course they offered lots of advice. One suggested sleep. The other suggested not sleeping. No surprise there then.

I have a few announcements to make:
  1. I have decided to cut my blogging schedule to three posts a week. Friday Fun has gone, and question of the Week has moved to Thursdays. Four posts a week, along with the occasional blogfest, is too much to sustain on a weekly basis. I need to give my poor eyes a rest.
  2. I am putting together a Blogging Authors page, where I will list bloggers who have published a book. If you want to be on this list, please leave a comment here or email me via my contacts page. Each author will have a picture of one of their books and a link to their blog. Please note: you must be the sole author. No anthologies.
  3. I've finally re-named my two main characters from Dreaming of Sleep. Myron and Talia are now Landon Monroe and Blue. There is a very good reason for Talia becoming Blue, but I can't explain why without giving too much of the plot away. Sorry. But if you follow the link, you can read my new back cover blurb. A huge thank you to Alex J. Cavanaugh for reading the original and offering advice - I hope you approve of the new version. 

Finally, I have re-written my blurb for Cosmic Seed Book One, Daughters of Velika. A huge thank you to everyone who read my original blurb and offered advice. Although a few of you liked the blurb as it was, there were too many who were confused by it. Worse still, it failed to get across that there were to two female main characters - The Keeper and the daughter. I think only one person picked this up.

This new blurb is a complete re-write, and could probably still do with some tightening up. I've also had a major re-think as to the direction the novel was headed in, so there are a few changes:

Two daughters. Two races. One will fulfil a prophecy; the other will stand in its way.

Bria’s birth was kept secret from the people of Velika. The ancient Prophets foretold the birth of a male heir to the planet’s throne, a son who would bring new life to the dying planet. But Bria was female, her existence proving the prophecies false and endangering the people who preach them. Her true identity must never be known.

Kaylan's ancestors have served the Velikians for longer than history is told. Like her mother before her, she is a Keeper and a scientist, positions considered beneath the race they serve. But the Velikians are dying - their life-giving seed finally depleted - and they look to the Keepers to save them. To re-seed the planet Kaylan must risk exposing the very secret she swore to uphold - Bria.

How have the last two weeks been for you? Did you make any progress with your writing?