Some people write for pleasure, some people write to inform, some write for money, others for therapy. Whatever your reason, sometimes you might find yourself stuck for an idea. Don’t be; there’s loads of sites out there to get your creative juices flowing.
As a writer however, I would urge everyone to at least try to come up with your own ideas – take pictures, go for a walk, even in your own neighbourhood, take a bus ride and write down what other passengers say (old people are the best!), sit alone in silence for fifteen minutes, keep a dream diary, question yourself.
It’s a list day!
So you tried all that and today your brain went on holiday. Instead of trawling through your search engine, I have dragged together a list of 15 sites you might like to visit. I have included fiction, non-fiction, poetry and Y.A links.
1.Penguin Random House Writers Academy
Divided into categories – so you can find the genre you prefer. This is a shareable site, so you can add your own prompts if you like.
Primarily aimed at school students, but there is no reason why an adult could not find something of interest here. Can also be used to prompt essay writing as much as fiction. N.B: Star Wars fans might be interested to learn that this was set up by George Lucas as part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF)
Ideas from tutors and poets, not just prompts but how to go about writing a poem on a theme. Contains links to poets and other helpful sites. You can download and print off a PDF of ideas so that you can get off the computer and let your poetic mind wander over paper!
Although this is a tumblr blog, and I already have included tumblr, I thought this was beautifully clean and simple in its presentation. Looks like a series of prompt cards with a single sentence or word.
Non-fiction writers don’t get much inspiration handed to them, so here’s a site for those of you who love writing creatively, but not fiction. He also has extra links at the bottom of the page – to push yourself!
So today I am at my local library having to write this blog – and work on my current story. So when I say ‘Comfort Zone’, I literally mean geographic location rather than mental state (well that too; but that was always in doubt!)
I have been without my own laptop for nigh on 3 weeks; many issues with not loading, running slowly, closing down of it’s own volition, not being able to install updates – I think I may have had a previous rant about my technology – especially on Twitter. (Have been using hubby’s little mini-laptop, but he needs it today).
Well I have just managed to check my e-mail and I apparently only have 15 minutes left!! What is this?
I have only been here 15 minutes and there have been three mobile phones ringing and four phone conversations and a whinging toddler – at what point do I say something before I explode and cause immense offense?!
I hate being out of my own environment to work. I have had to pack a bag with my notebooks, pens, hi-lighters and so forth. A new environment seriously alters the way we feel as we write, sure, I have my earbuds in and I am listening to my Novel Soundtrack on YouTube, but the chair is weird, the screen not at the right height; THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE AROUND ME!
I hate it.
Forgive me if I don’t sound like I am having a good time – I’m not.
OMG! There is a woman diagonally opposite me chatting on her mobile – I thought libraries were meant to be places of quiet! Aaarrggh!
I will bid you adieu for today, have some ranting to do….
Well, writing per se is not hard. However, writing well is!
It is quite easy to put pen to paper, finger tips to keys, or quill to parchment; whatever takes your fancy, I do it all the time. It does not make what I write worthy of reading, or even particularly good.
As an adult who is fairly new to the world of writing, I realise how very little I was taught at school, and probably because teachers work to a curriculum which itself is about passing exams. I am not alone in this lack of education regarding how to write. I was not, for example, taught the difference between an essay and a story, an assignment, a dissertation, or a thesis. I have had to pick these up in the later years of my life – a huge indictment on the English Education system.
Writing is not hard because I am dull-witted; I am not.
Writing is a creative activity, it demands a skill with words that, sadly, many so-called authors do not have. Word-smiths work hard at compiling and re-arranging 26 letters (in English) into a plethora of ideas, and use the same 26 letters over again for completely different themes.
Writing well is demanding.
It requires practise. It requires persistence. It requires commitment. It requires creativity. It requires honesty. Anyone can produce word vomit – it’s recognising the good bits that makes the difference.
Recently, I have been asking myself – who cares? Or, So what?
Who cares if you wrote a tragedy about a lovelorn grass snake? So what if you ‘have a story inside’, do you really have to share it? What make you think anyone wants to read it? I have been guilty of producing some trite nonsense, I need to stop. And so do a lot of people.
Self criticism seems to be sorely lacking in many individuals. I blame the school system; everyone can be creative, everyone is a winner – no they can’t and no they are not. This lack of competition has created a society with a watery attitude to the arts; vapid outpourings of equally vapid individuals.
And this criticism is not only levelled at ‘young up and coming’ authors – there are many brilliant new writers – no, I have read some tosh from long established writers who seem to pump out vast quantities of barely edited text, in the infuriating belief that more is better. It is not.
Many authors have only ever produced one or two novels – would that the others had!!!!
Published : 2007, Hodder & Stoughton.
YOU CAN TELL A LIAR BY HIS EYES.
Special Agent Kathryn Dance reads people the way other investigators read crime scenes.
But she’s never seen eyes like Daniel Pell’s. Back cover blurb.
I have been a fan of crime fiction; and non-fiction, since my late teens. My habit was to read a book and if I enjoyed it I would then acquire and devour everything published by this author. My only surprise, to myself, is that I have neglected my crime reading in recent years, returning to it this year with Jeffery Deaver’s The Empty Chair. Also, I realised I had never written a review of a crime novel. So here goes.
Even if you have never read one of Deaver’s books, you may be familiar with his work as many have been turned into films:
Dead Silence (1997) starring James Garner. The Bone Collector (1999) starring Denzil Washington and Angelina Jolie.
The Devils Teardrop (2010) starring Tom Everett Scott and Natasha Henstridge.
The Sleeping Doll introduces a new detective; Agent Kathryn Dance, a widow with two young children who works for the Californian Bureau of Investigation, “Like an FBI for the state.” Dance is a specialist in interrogation and reading body language, so we get, not only her analysis of a criminal but of some of those around her in her working and private life. In this way, Deaver uses this as a tool for the reader to have a window onto the minds of other characters without having to head hop and it works really well, as not only do we get this inkling into another characters possible feelings, but we spend over half the book in the mind of Kathryn Dance – and considering the line of work she does, it is not an unpleasant place to be. For the rest of it, we enter the thoughts of Daniel Pell…
The Sleeping Doll of the title refers to a little girl (who is a teenager when the story begins), who survived a murderous assault on her family because she was asleep amongst her toys; hidden. The perpetrator of the crime, Daniel Pell, is currently serving time in a Correctional Facility. Dance has come to interview Pell regarding a newly uncovered crime. Pell has never spoken about his involvement in the ‘sleeping doll’ murders, and neither has the surviving child.
Dance recognises a Svengali type personality in Pell, who’s chilling blue eyes are equally taking the measure of Agent Dance as she does his.
Dance is smart, capable and strong, she is going to need to be on peak form when Pell escapes, leaving a bloody trail in his wake.
Deaver is a great storyteller who engages his readers without any superfluous text. He gets straight down to business; much in the manner of Kathryn Dance, and keeps us hoping and guessing all the way through. He nearly always adds a twist in the end of his tales, and The Sleeping Doll is no exception. I’m a great one for trying to second guess who did what, to whom and many times I’m pretty close.
If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘diabolic shrimp’ is, you’ve come to the right place! Imagine a James Bondy villain type living in his underwater lair, directing sea creatures with his super-duper-gonna-take-over-the-world-tech; Joshua Grant is the self-proclaimed leader of shrimp – I’m kidding, really (or am I?)
Seriously though, American author Josh has created his website under the name Diabolic Shrimp and with pretty altruistic reasons. He not only wanted to create a platform for writers to support one another, but he is giving 10% of his takings from his latest book to charity; one of which is oceanic research. Not such a diabolic chap at all. I invited Josh to share something of his life and his website with you.
Josh’s iconic shrimp brigade
1. Tell us something about yourself Josh.
I am a caring, compassionate guy with a moderate imagination and a mild case of misadventure. I have a huge passion for science (particularly space exploration) and for making a difference in the lives of kids.My favorite color [sic] is blue, I absolutely hate peanut butter (not allergic, just hate it), and I hope I live to see the day we colonize Mars.
2. Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?
My walk through life has been a pretty turbulent one (hence the ‘mild case of misadventure’). I’ve suffered some major traumas in life, truly the worst things that anyone should have to go through, but God brought me through it and has allowed me to land on my feet a wiser and better person.I’ve also experienced some crazy things in life like surviving a major flash flood, encountering several bears, facing off with a mountain lion while ghost hunting, and weathering a vicious storm while sailing the ocean.So…maybe flailing?
3. What is Diabolic Shrimp and what are its origins?
Diabolic Shrimp is my author website that’s also designed to support other authors. I personally buy a book each week from the list of authors signed on to Shrimp.I then go on to review that book.I also buy a book each month to give away to readers for free.
I didn’t originally intend Shrimp to be an author support site. Shortly after I published, I realized how difficult it could be for authors to connect with readers, and just how many sites and venues out there took advantage of authors without providing much benefit.It was here that I saw a chance to make a difference for a group of people that needed it.I decided to step forward and create a free space that authors could come to for concrete support.It wasn’t very successful at first (I had 6 members for about half a year) but a belief in helping others and a bit of persistence has allowed us to grow to nearly a thousand members in the past four months.It has honestly been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to meet tons of interesting people and create a truly caring community.
4. Shrimp – why shrimp?!
Haha! It’s kind of an awkward story actually.My site wasn’t originally called Diabolic Shrimp.It had another name for about six hours.I chose that other zany name on a whim.It was only later when I was out with my friends that they told me it sounded kind of dirty.I was moderately mortified, ‘cause I could totally see what they were talking about!I then quickly changed it to Diabolic Shrimp.
It’s actually my little joke. The Diabolic stands for my diabolic plan to eventually get every single author on there and take over the world.The Shrimp is because individually we authors are the little guys, but when we band together we make a pretty impressive swarm.That, and shrimp are fun little creatures.
5. Would you describe yourself as an environmentalist? And do you believe that people like yourself can make a change for the positive in the world?
I’d say I’m an environmentalist to a degree. I believe all people have a responsibility to leave the world better than when they came into it.That applies to everything, environmentally, relationally, or otherwise.I know for certain I can make a positive difference in the world and will continually encourage others to do so.
6. Your latest publication, Pandora, is about a space leisure cruise ship that picks up the apparent survivor of an accident. Would it be right to describe it as sci-fi horror?
I sort of had a hard time classifying Pandora. I wanted to have a new take on the classic ‘ghost ship’ trope, but also capture all the actiony thrill of the 90s horror films I used to watch as a kid, and thencouple all that with a deep moral heart.So it’s really more of a Sci-Fi Thriller packed with strange creatures similar to films like Aliens or The Thing, with an emotional twist.
7. Are there any authors that influence your writing, who are they and why?
Several authors have made a big impact on me over the years. I always have to give a shout out to JRR Tolkien.The Fellowship of the Ring film came out when I was a freshman in high school and I became a huge Lord of the Rings fan.I read all the books (yes, even some of the Middle Earth histories), and that’s what really sparked my writing career.Then Lois Lowry’s works like The Giver and Number the Stars really taught me the power that books have to inspire emotions.
I came upon the Horror genre only a few years ago. S.D. Perry really blew me away with her fast paced, heart pounding novels.I then got onto the Dean Koontz train.Ultimately, I strive to make my writing a blend of these two masters.
8. What genre do you enjoy reading? And do you have a favourite book?
Oddly enough, Young Adult Fantasy is pretty much my favorite thing in the world to read. Basically anything Rick Riordan writes works for me (shout out to The Lightning Thief).
9. You’re a teacher I believe, what subject do you teach and do you ever bring your experience into the classroom or vice-versa?
I used to be an elementary teacher, so I taught all subjects. These days I just guest teach in both elementary and middle school.I also work with middle and high schoolers at church (more on the emotional side of things).I truly love getting to share my experience with the kiddos.It was always a goal of mine to use my writing to inspire the younger generation.I actually struggled with writing growing up so it’s empowering to show kids who also struggle that they can make it.The only downfall is that parents keep showing up and saying ‘hey, I bought your book for my kid!’I’m always a little mortified when I have to explain that it’s more for adults and watch them give me weird looks!I guess it’s more motivation to finish Silly Tales from Albanon! (AP: You have said it, and now it is public Josh, it’s got to be done!)
10. When working on a book, do you have a special place you like to write, i:e: a garden shed, a room with a view, an underwater lair?!!
Ooo, an underwater lair would be awesome! Oddly enough, my brain only likes to write at the kitchen table.I can’t seem to write anywhere else.Maybe I’m just hungry for more stories?(I know, cringe) (AP: well there goes my image of a watery lair with the high-tech-gadgety-thing going on!!)
11. Who or what has been your biggest influence to date?
I’ve had a few major influences in my life. My parents are the hardest working, kindest people I know.I dedicated my book to them for their endless care and selflessness.The kids I work with always inspire me to be a better, more creative person.God is a huge influence in making me the functional, altruistic person I am today.And on the business front, Elon Musk is a major role model.He likes to help others and is constantly pushing the envelope.
12. If you could tell your 11 year old self anything, what would you say?
I would probably tell myself some lottery numbers. JBut aside from that, I’d tell my 11 year old self that he’s a worthwhile, good person with a heart that has more love and endurance in it than even he knows.
13. And finally – if you could be any sea creature, what would you be and why?!
I would be a…drumroll…actually, not a shrimp. They get eaten by literally everything!I’d either be an otter or a squid.Otters are super cute and squid are some of the coolest animals ever.Hmmm, maybe I should have called it Diabolic Otter…
Thanks for the interview Josh, and good luck with your secret-domination-world-takeover, ahem, with your writers site.
Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.
I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.
I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;
The Milford Papers
The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!
Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.
The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”
*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.
Today saw the posting of my first piece for the School For Autism Blog.
We can see the growing numbers of people diagnosed Autistic/Asperger’s across the world, not as an increase in this ‘condition’, but as the ability of specialists to recognise it due to increasing their understanding and knowledge through constant research.
India is one continent that is noticing an ‘increase’ in Autism, and some are dealing with it beautifully; with understanding, kindness and positivity.
I first heard about The School for Autismvia Linked In and a woman who was advertising for writers. The piece I wrote, entitled ‘Working with Benedict’ retitled ‘Benedict* – A Special Child With Regular Needs’, can be read here: