Wandering thoughts of a Writer

I have the honour of having my new book featured on the blog of my friend and fellow author Rebekkah Ford, author of Beyond the Eyes Trilogy and Tangled Roots. She has a great blog, with loads of interesting interviews, book spotlights and articles. Hop on over and have a browse.

Book Feature – Fetish ~ Sinclair V-Log BY915/M – click here

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Observation exercise for character development

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There’s no getting away from the fact that your story will need people. You will need to invent characters to populate the imaginary world within your stories. Making them honest and believable can be hard; I’ve read books containing characters that seem like robots, so devoid of honest emotion are they. So what can we do to make our characters more real? You practice observing real people, that’s what.

Go into the busiest part your nearest big town or city, find a seat, sit on it, and watch. Have a notepad and pen with you, and an ipod if you must. Watch the people passing you by and ask yourself questions.

What is their mood? How do I know this? What gestures and facial expressions are they making to show me their mood? What is their gait like? Write down the mood you think the person is feeling and everything they’re doing to show you that.

For couple or groups, watch how they interact. What is the group dynamic? What place do each of the people hold within the group? Who’s the leader and who’s the wallflower? What are each of the participants doing to show you all of this? Their facial expressions, gestures, gait, tone of voice, speed of speech, words used (if you can hear their conversation). You can even write each of these things down as a keyword if you find it hard to remember what to look for.

If you see a couple arguing, fantastic. Note those expressions, gestures, voice characteristics etc and see how they differ from the other people you’ve watched. Parents with children will have another unique set of expressions, gestures and voice characteristics. Are they telling the kids off? How are they showing their frustration, irritation, anger?

Groups of youths will interact different from senior citizens, groups of men will be different from single women, police will be different again, stall holders, newspaper salesmen, market traders, every person will have their own unique set of facial expressions, hand/arm gestures, body movements, and voice characteristics to show you their moods. By watching, asking yourself the right questions, and making notes, you will build a valuable store of information to help you show your characters’ moods and interactions in more believable and true way.

This may seem like basic baby-steps kind of stuff, but it’s amazing how little notice we take of each other these days. Our society has become so insular and self centred that we have forgotten how to interact with each other. Everyone seems to be texting or talking on their smart-phones and everyone’s head is permanently turned downwards to look at the little screen in their hands.

We’ve forgotten how to recognise the non-verbal language of our own species, and this is a simple way of getting that skill back again.

Fetish ~ Sinclair V-Log BY915/M

I am delighted to announce my brand new release.

Volume 4 of The Sinclair V-Logs is now available in both paperback and ebook.

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Many thanks once again are due to JL Stratton for his considerable expertise in producing this cover.

We all have dirty little secrets, don’t we?

When Sam Sinclair is called home to help solve the murder of a fellow law enforcer, he assumes the motive was revenge. Within hours, this case quickly becomes everything but straightforward. As the evidence points to deviance of the most horrific kind, they realise that a new breed of killer is stalking the streets of Sam’s home city. Fear grips the people of Alimenika and even the most hardened of criminals are terrified into silence.

A fetish is just harmless fun, until someone dies of course and as more victims come to light, Sam and his team must delve into the darkest side of man’s nature before they can hope to stop this monster’s reign of terror. Swept along by the most unsettling case of his career, the killer’s insidious influence makes Sam doubt himself as never before.

As his personal life is turned upside down, he suddenly becomes the killer’s latest plaything. Unable to free himself and battling the rising panic, the accusation of his own deviance forces him to examine his actions during those terrible four hours, almost twenty years ago.

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For all purchase links, click here. To read excerpts, click  here. 

Fetish is registered with Authorgraph (formerly Kindlegraph) and you can get your personalised copy via the widget to the right.

The bubble has to burst some time soon

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Have you ever blown up a balloon and reached that point where you know it’s gonna go bang any second? I think we’re approaching that point  in the literary world. When I say ‘I think,’ I actually mean I hope.

The whole, review, sock puppets, paid reviews, fake reviews, deliberate bad reviews cycle is fast reaching the point where the literary world will just implode. Then there are the overpriced promo sites, like that really well known one that costs hundreds of dollars for one day’s promo, whom I won’t name because they haven’t paid me hundreds of dollars for ad space here on my blog. They require your work to have reviews, sometimes a minimum number of them at a certain star rating or above, and can still refuse to accept your work at all. So you save for months or don’t bother to pay your credit card bill, then use the money to apply for an add at that book promo site or others like it. What are you going to feel like if they refuse you because you haven’t the right number of reviews, or perhaps they just hate your cover or notice a spelling error in your blurb? You’ve just flushed several hundred dollars down the shitter. If I lost so much money like that, I think I would either commit murder or suicide.

You can buy reviews on various selling websites. Fiverr is a well known one where you can purchase book reviews. It’s dishonest to get reviews this way, but I’m sure the vast majority of reviews you can see on Amazon, have been purchased. I’m not yet that desperate, but I can’t guarantee I won’t get there.

I hope the bubble bursts soon. We need the floor to fall out from under the whole self publishing world and the entire thing to be reformatted. Rebuild it from the ground up, with concrete rules that are heavily enforced, even some legislation in law would help keep things in line.

This can’t go on, or I can’t. One or the other.

The passing of the pen

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Since man first began recording his language in written form, the pen has been an integral part of life. Whether that pen take the form of stone tools, wooden sticks, paintbrushes, quills or what we recognise as a pen today, man has used an implement for marking down a physical representation of the sounds he makes when he speaks. When I was a girl, there was no way life could continue as normal if pens and pencils suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth.

When I was at junior school, we were taught to write with pencils, with the promise of graduating to pens when we ‘went up’ to senior school. It was a signal that you’d grown up when you used a pen at school instead of a pencil. The other important right of passage was going from what our teachers called, script, which was non joined up (non cursive) writing, to ‘joined up’ (cursive). I can remember one of my first year senior school teachers commenting to me her surprise that I was not yet writing ‘joined up’ like the other kids, and how embarrassed I was.

Part of our learning was concerned with the physical act of writing. We were taught to write neatly, how to do the little tails on the lower case letter a and how to form a proper lower case s. It was regarded as important back then, when writing and writing implements were an essential part of life. No one ever imagined things would change.

Not so now.

For the first time since man hunkered down in caves and grunted to each other, we live our lives without pens. We have laptops, tablets, ipads, desktops, smartphones but no pens. Thankfully we do still need to understand written language, but we don’t actually write it any more, and that is sad. The standard of written language I see every day on social media is appalling, with text speak making up the majority of it. It seems the vowel is fast becoming extinct as our way of expressing ourselves evolves. Even our kids use keypads at kindergarten.

What’s even sadder is that no one seems to mourn the passing of the pen. Fountain pens are now sought after as collectors items and few shops sell them.  They are thought of as intriguingly retro, humorously victorian, and fascinatingly steampunk, but never useful. No longer will you see a man with a small blue stain on the bottom of the breast pocket of his shirt, nor anyone with a similar blue stain on the inside tip of their middle finger. Most probably won’t even understand what I mean by that last sentence. Those few writers who do still write with pen and paper are thought of as weird. We smile at their funny habit that prevents them from writing as fast as the rest of us. This should not be so. Using a pen takes time. As you write, you think about what you’re writing. That investment of thought means you have a real ‘connection’ with what you’ve written, more so than you ever do with typed words. It’s a subtle thing, but profound.

We can’t move backwards. Nor can we un-invent technology. We can however, make an effort to keep hold of what is important, and the ability to write down your language is more important than you know, especially in this nuclear age. Just think, if they drop the bomb and we lose all our technology, how are you all going to survive if you have no pens and don’t know how to use them?

Word of the day – Artifice

Noun

A clever trick or stratagem. A cunning, crafty device or expedient. Wile. Trickery. Guile. Craftiness. Cunning. Ingenuity. Inventiveness. A skillful or artful contrivance or expedient. Subtle deception.

Synonyms

Subterfuge, deceit, deception, duplicity,

No matter what genre you write in, your plot needs some artifice to keep it real and maintain your readers’ interest. This word always makes me think of the antagonist in a story, due to its inferred connection with untruth, but there is no reason why your protagonist can’t use artifice as he makes his way through the story.

Maybe your protagonist needs to use artifice in order to prove a lie and to maintain his position of truth and honesty. A side character might use artifice in such a way as to manipulate the protagonists onto a certain path, whether for good or bad.

Artifice in all its forms, due to its position as part of normal human behaviour, is a necessary part of all fiction. To leave it out would be to take away a certain realism, a feeling of authenticity, from your story.

Check out Artifice on Thesaurus.com

Make your own Star Trek shirts cheaply

If you’re into cosplay, there are some extremely talented people out there making the most amazing costumes. Some of them spend hours every day for weeks making the various bits they need for their costumes, and although not a cosplayer myself, I love the look of it and enjoy seeing the photos that are all over the internet.

If you’ve always fancied doing cosplay but  don’t have a lot of money to buy fancy costumes, you can make your own easily and cheaply. With some second hand clothes, basic tools and a little creativity, you can hold your own amongst the cosplay crowd and have fun with others like yourself.

I found his video that shows you how to make yourself a Star Trek shirt with almost no sewing.

Moving to other dimensions

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I’ve been watching Fringe and it’s got me thinking about different dimensions and what that might be like. I believe in a multi-dimensional universe, let’s get that out of the way right at the start. No, my problem is not in its plausibility, it’s in whether it would be advisable to traverse between different dimensions and alternative universes.

Movies and TV shows make meeting one of your ‘other’ selves an interesting experience that brings positive benefits but I’m not so sure that would be the case if we did it for real. If you’re having a shit time of it here in this dimension and you get the chance to pop over to an alternative one where you find another you is living what you believe to be the perfect privileged life, how are you going to feel? Yeah, me too.

What would you do, use the experience to positively motivate yourself here in this dimension? Shoot the other you and take their place in theirs? Get suicidally depressed and do nothing but mope? I doubt too many would do the first. Most of us would do either of the latter two.

Supposing it was the other way around and you found the other you living a shit life. Wouldn’t you be tempted to try to sort them out? Would you not try to give them the benefit of your experience? I know I would.

The main thing is this, how would all this interfering affect both your own dimension, and theirs? Would the general universal time line (if there is such a thing) be able to cope with millions of people ‘meddling’ in each others’ dimensions? I’m tempted to think not. I can imagine millions of lives collapsing, and millions of people not knowing whether they’re coming or going, whether they belong here or there or somewhere else. Who’s dead and who’s alive and which one are you sleeping with tonight?

No, I can foresee nothing but chaos if we fiddle about in other dimensions, and let’s face it, coping with all the shit in this one is enough work, isn’t it?

25 things you won’t believe actually happened

I find these list videos compelling viewing. They offer facts without the fluff. I can learn without having to sit through hours of meaningless guff. I’ve always been one of those ‘just get to the point and gimme the fact’ type of people, and these videos suit me perfectly.

Slimming World friendly Prawn & Mushroom Couscous Stir Fry

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My mother and I have joined Slimming World in a desperate attempt to combat our weight issues. I’ve never been this fat before, and I hate it. I’m determined to shed the blubber no matter what it takes.

Being the ever adventurous type, I decided to experiment in the kitchen and see if I could produce a decent, quick lunch that doesn’t break the S.W rules. I can confidently call this dish a roaring success. It is syn free, so you enjoy as much as you like. The basis is frozen prawns and veggies, not fresh ones. Frozen ones contain water, which will leach out during cooking. That liquid is what we want. If you must use fresh, add a bit of vegetable stock.

Ingredients:

Frozen chopped onion

Frozen sliced mushrooms

Frozen sweetcorn (and any other small frozen veg you have or fancy)

Frozen prawns

Garlic if desired

A sprinkle of Soy Sauce

Tarragon

Couscous

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Give your frying pan a couple of squirts of fry spray. Then add the onions, mushrooms, frozen veg and frozen prawns and cook for a few minutes until the water leaches out. Add the garlic, tarragon and soy sauce and continue cooking in  the liquid for a few minutes until everything is cooked through. Add enough couscous to absorb the liquid. It will absorb the liquid fairly quickly, so you will know whether to keep adding more or not. If everything becomes too dry, add a little water or spare stock if you have any kicking around. I was able to add half a dozen large teaspoons of couscous to make the perfect consistency. Put a lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Leave for a couple of minutes while the couscous absorbs the liquid. Enjoy with salad or veggies of your choice.