Merry Booking Christmas…

So, this will be the final post for 2016. I am going to take a break from ‘social media’ during the Christmas period, starting after this post.

It has been an up and down year as regards my writing. I had three short stories accepted for publication; e-magazines and actual paperbacks, I completed a novel (100,740 words) that I had begun in 2014, and submitted it for consideration (awaiting response!) And also completed a story for Wirral Writers anthology (5,000 words) plus two poems – that we will be publishing early 2017. I had six rejections and am still awaiting to see if four other submissions have made the grade. I joined National Novel Writing Month, reaching the 50,000 word target, thus securing myself a certificate (that I couldn’t print my name on as it’s a PDF) and the knowledge that I can work without distraction; sort of!

It isn’t complete yet, that NaNoWriMo story; 50,000 words does not a novel make.  Chuck Wendig – terribleminds blog – has some great stuff to say about NaNo and writing in general; http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/10/27/why-you-should-do-nanowrimo-and-why-you-shouldnt/

I’ve lost count of how many word counts I have done ,and  worrying that I haven’t written enough words, or too many; how on earth am I going to cut that 13,000 down to the requisite 7,000? I am beginning to realise – I am a writer, this is what I do. Oh sure, I have a day job (a real job some might say). I used to be a painter – no not houses, a real painter! Did I sell stuff? Yes I did. Did I make a living from it? No I bloody well didn’t. And it looks like writing will be the same. I know quite a lot of writers now, in fact, I know more writers than I ever did visual artists, and none of them is wealthy. NONE. The world is not really geared towards creative types; unless you create a sit-com (preferably American!), an advert for silky legs or yoghurt that’s great for your gut bacteria.

But it’s the continuous trying that makes us what we are, not the fails, in the words of Michael Jordan, Sportsman:- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

 

Oh, so it’s all about money?! I hear you say. No, it isn’t. I would be delighted to have a book published by an actual publishing house. I’d wet my pants if it got turned into a movie! The acceptance of my creativity is far more exciting and important than mere pounds, shillings and pence – but it would be lovely to have some! I look forward to writing something that I myself knew was as good as J.G Ballard or Tim Powers or Angela Carter, that would be this writers dream. Most of all though, creative types have heart, and that’s worth more than any cheque.
So, next year, keep writing, keep submitting and hoping and praying…

Maybe Father Christmas will bring me ‘genius’ for Christmas, or ‘excellence’. I never got ‘excellent’ at school – for anything. Maybe some publisher will take pity on me and give a  generous contract! (And if it doesn’t happen, I might go all Hellblazer on them)  Next year, maybe next year….

So in the words of a fictional character, “God Bless us, everyone!” (I just threw up a little)

And in the words of Bob Hope, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

Success is marked by your inner self, not stuff. In that respect, I have had a remarkably successful year. (By the way, you can feel all fuzzy and warm if you buy books, that way, you keep authors alive!)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful New Year,

A x

 

*set image: John Constantine from Hellblazer.

 

 

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Advice I should Take Myself

Some snippets now, on how to be a better writer. There are so many people out there writing, it just makes it harder for editors/publishers to sift through the nonsense.

I grew up in a time when it was considered okay to be a winner, and that therefore there would be losers. I studied sculpture at university, but my degree means nothing; who needs artists when we have the TV and cinemas?!

Now, however, everyone can be a bloody artist! We all have the right to be creative and then force our dross onto others. I’m just hoping that my dross is better than other peoples.

So, what do the ‘real’ writers advise us?

  1. Elmore Leonard – “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.” Sadly, I am guilty of this.
  2. George Orwell – “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Again, feel the need to impress much?
  3. Stephen King – “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Okay, so I get a gold star for this one.
  4. Michael Moorcock – “I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.” A silver star for this one, beginning to avoid the kind of writing genres I write.
  5. Will Self – “Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”
  6. Anton Chekov – “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Ah, the poetry in prose, I’m rubbish at poetry, I try, but I am aware of how incredibly difficult an art it is. Poetry is the Tai Chi of writing.
  7. Neil Gaiman – “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” I joined a local writers group, very useful for getting this required feedback.
  8. PD James – “Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.”
  9. Paul Theroux – “Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.” At my age this is not applicable, I left home 33 years ago.
  10. Oscar Wilde – “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

I didn’t want to put too many down here, I’m sure you can go research your own. I just thought I would share some hints and tips I try to work by, try being the operative word.

Now, go out and write!!

Writers write about rights: EU Referendum

I would not describe myself as a political animal, but sometimes I just have to say my piece. But despite being a writer, I actually find in difficult to voice my political ideals and opinions, to formulate arguments without sounding like a simplistic child saying “But why mummy?”

Instead I have collected some wordsmiths together, to voice their opinions; which strangely, correlate to my own. Best of all are the letters ‘Dear Britain’ from the Guardian, written by 10 writers and thinkers from France, Sweden, Germany and more. I have to admit, a couple brought a tear to my eye.

It reminded me of that film, Contact, starring Jodie Foster; when she travels to the other place (I don’t want to give anything away to those who have not seen it yet), she says:

                                             “They should have sent a poet.”

Irvine Welsh writes, in The Guardian (online): However we vote, the elites will win the EU referendum

“One cast-iron guarantee in our polarising age is that this unedifying chauvinism is only going to get uglier. The other certainty is that whether you back red or black in the tawdry, crumbling casino of neoliberalism, and whatever the slimy croupiers of the mainstream media urge, it’s the house that invariably wins.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/30/eu-referendum-neoliberal-irvine-welsh

 

J.K Rowling writes:  On Monsters, Villains and the EU Referendum

“… how can a retreat into selfish and insecure individualism be the right response when Europe faces genuine threats…”

http://www.jkrowling.com/en_GB/#/timeline/on-monsters-villains-and-the-EU-referendum

 

And finally. Also in the Guardian: Dear Britain: Elena Ferrante, Slavoj Žižek and other European writers on Brexit. These European authors tell us what they think about the possibility of the UK leaving the EU. It is heart warming, truly.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/04/dear-britain-letters-from-europe-referendum?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_

 

Who has the time to promote their work?

You know, when you write (or try to write!) sometimes the last thing you want to do, is write some more, sounds strange I know but bear with me.

As a visual artist, what I was interested in was art; I painted pictures. Although I trained as a sculptor, I had to adapt simply for the sake of time and space. We; my then boyfriend now hubby, lived in a three up two down, with the landlord. We’re both artists, so making life-size sculptures was, as you can imagine, near impossible -having bags of clay and plaster around someones else’s house is not a good idea. So I decided to train myself in painting. (*Just as a matter of interest; I took my degree in the 80s – when no-one really taught you anything at Uni.) It might sound peculiar, but when you do an art degree, it is subject specific within the subject of art; so the painters painted, the printers printed, the sculptors welded metal, hacked at plaster and formed clay – and we rarely, if ever, crossed paths.

To begin with, I thought painters had to work in oils. What a tragic mess! I could draw well, but once the paint hit the canvas, it was a mud bath. Then I discovered these wonderful things called ‘acrylics’. Hear the opening chorus ‘Hallelujah!’ And I was away. I was very influenced by my own emotions, but history, mythology, legends and books too; The Master and Margarita‘ by Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘Nights at the Circus‘ by Angela Carter, ‘The House of the Spirits‘ by Isabel Allende, all fed my chaotic, colourful, fragmented mind-set.

I painted every day, and I mean every day, had exhibitions, formed an artists support group, sold some work, blah, blah, blah – yes you visual artists out there know exactly where we’re going with this. A sale of £300 a year ain’t going to feed you – so you get a job. You have a kid. And it’s au revoir painting time.

The point I am trying to make is; artists, writers, musicians, whatever creative type, do it because that is what they are good at, it isn’t a job, it is more a way of being. It is a particular form of communication that we use. I painted because I couldn’t write. That was my language and I was fairly good at it. I didn’t want to spend time promoting it. There was no internet then, all images were on slides (now lost) or photographs (also, many lost) and so without touting your work, networking (I hate that word), getting out of your studio/bedroom/garret/whatever, no-one knows about you. You could be the finest artist in the world – but if you don’t make the effort to put it out there, who knows the work exists?

So, now I write, have been writing for just about 4 years now. And what do I know about promotion?! Squat.

I write practically everyday. I write short stories, novellas, poetry, plus – I blog! Blogging takes up time that has to be factored into the creative and promotion equation too. I have a job that takes up four days a week. My child is independent and away at university, but now there are ageing parents and in-laws. When am I supposed to promote my writing?!

And that is what I mean when I said at the beginning,  when you write (or try to write!) sometimes the last thing you want to do, is write some more…

On top of that, technology has moved on soooo fast in the past few years, and as a person of ‘maturer’ years, it’s a slog learning it, never mind keep up with it. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation, in my day would have meant searching for a car with the best engine in it! Blog – short for Weblog, only came about in 1997! I was thirty two and a new mother!! Facebook began in 2004, and Twitter in 2006. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the Circuit de Monaco on a go-kart…

upblog4

Sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet and get on with it.

Now here comes the promotion – Sticks and Stones is my collection of short stories about witches and their craft. You can buy it on Amazon. No, really. And at only $5.50 PB or $2.79 Kindle, that’s magic! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

“A compact collection of well-crafted short stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft. There are some graphic and quite uncomfortable stories in this collection, but the vivid use of language makes it a very entertaining read. For me the stand out stories include Passing On, a chilling and disturbing first person account of medieval a witch trial; the vivid and poetic Sticks and Stones; and probably my favourite, the heart warming tale, Rescuing Robert.” M. Wood  Sticks & Stones

If you are not a creative type, you may not be able to understand how much reviews mean to writers, and how uplifting it is when someone likes your work. It is a self-published book, so what? I wrote it, it’s my creation and this review makes me proud. So, if you want to get something for someone this coming Mothers Day; if she is a writer, give her a great review. If she is an artist; promote her work for her. If she sells online; help promote and Favourite her work.

And if you want to be nice to me! Write a review of my stories!

I thank you

 

(Originally written < GMT = June 2016> updated 22nd February, 2018,/17:23> )