Monday, 23 February 2015

A Short Story Collection

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy pulling a number of my short stories together into a collection. This is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while, especially since a good number have already been published but have now gone out of print. I originally thought I might self-publish them, but then a friend of mine told me about a publisher he had been doing some work with, CFZ publishing. Like many small publishers they are quite niche, but their niche is one that fits well my style of fiction. So I’m going to give them a try.

But pulling your short stories together into a collection isn’t such an easy task, and here are a couple of things I’ve had to take into account:

Running order: This is a tricky one. The stories need to be sufficiently distinct from the ones they are adjacent to but not so different as to be jarring. I also wanted to mix up the previously published with the new material.

Opening stories: These are the ones that will appear on the kindle ‘look inside’ option and will determine whether the reader clicks the buy button or not. Therefore they need to give a good representation of the anthology and also be some of my better stories.

Final story: The collection needs to finish on a high note so the final story needs to pack a punch. This was quite easy. I have a piece of flash fiction that I feel rounds off the collection quite well.

Character names: I never noticed before that I have a tendency to reuse names. So for example where I had two stories featuring a character called Lucy, one of these needed to be changed, otherwise the reader might think the characters and the two stories are connected.

Editing: Some of my earlier stories, when I re-read them, needed a bit of tidying up since my writing has improved a lot over the years. Even some that have previously been published!

Title: Finally what should I call my collection? I thought about using the title from one of my short stories but none really stood out. Then my friend suggested I use the title from this blog. It is certainly fitting with the style of stories – science fiction and mild horror that could well be described as ‘weird fiction’, as well as echoing the cryptozoological bent of the publisher. So The Scribbling Seaserpent it shall be.

Early days yet – but I’ll keep you up to date with developments.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Dorset’s Digital Stories

On a bright but bitter February morning I was joined in my local village hall by thirteen eager writers. The reason for this? Well, the Dorset Writers’ Network is running a competition for local writers. The aim is to produce an e-book with stories up to 500 words, which reflect the diversity of the county. In order to encourage people to put pen to paper a series of workshops were scheduled at rural locations during January and February, and I was one of the writers involved in running these.
As sunshine streamed in through the windows of the Old School Hall we explored setting and sense of place. We then went on character development and touched on dialogue and self-editing. I could see some really interesting stories starting to develop and I do hope the participants go on to complete these and enter them. Workshop participants can enter their first story for free but even if you didn’t attend a workshop you are still able to enter.

The Dorset Writers’ Network is run by professional writers and arts facilitators and its aim is to promote events, projects and training opportunities for writers in the county. The Dorset’s Digital Stories project is funded by Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts and Dorset Community Foundation and the book is scheduled to be published later this year.

For more details and to check out the competition rules visit the Dorset Writers Network website.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Look Again

Over the next few weeks the Dorset Writers Network will be running a series of short story writing workshops in various rural locations across Dorset. These are leading up to the launch of Dorset Writers Network e-book competition for short stories of 500 words or less set within the county.
 
One of the main things we will be discussing in these workshops is sense of place. All the stories are to be set in Dorset, and so sense of place will be a major component of any work produced. In fact capturing a good sense of place is essential in any story. The reader needs to feel grounded and be part of that setting. Place can become a character in its own right.
 
 
 
But what of Dorset? What sense of place does the county conjure up for you? Is everything quite what it seems?

Do you imagine a sea front, golden sand and donkey rides, children eating ice cream and splashing in the sea, easy laughter and sunshine?

Look again.

A homeless person shivering under a sleeping bag in a bus shelter. Desperate. Alone.

Perhaps you see a pretty harbour, yachts with jolly flags and trawlers sporting bunches of pink buoys? Sitting eating chips and watching children fishing for crabs?

Look again.

An empty mooring with floral tributes. Memories of fishermen who did not return. The sea is not kind.

Maybe you see pretty cottages by a stream, honeysuckle and thatch, kingfishers darting over the water?

Look again,

Sandbags in front of the doors that were still not enough to hold out the floods. Boarded up windows, garden a tangle of weeds.

Or do you see green fields and grazing cattle, swathes of poppies beneath the summer sun, clouds of butterflies along the footpath?

Look again.

Crops flattened by a storm and rotting in the field. Another farm up for auction.

Look again. What do you see?



For details of Workshops and to see if there is one close to where you live check out the Dorset Writers Network website, and do join us for the launch of the e-book competition at Dorchester library on 24th January.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Magic

Tucked away in the Devon countryside is Killerton House – a gem of the National Trust – and at this time of year it is one of my favourite places to visit.

Every year in December they deck out the house for Christmas, tinsel and Christmas trees, baubles and lights. It’s a chance to be transported back in time to Christmases a hundred years ago, and it’s lovely.

This year the house was decorated to the theme of the Nutcracker, we had the land of sweets and a Russian and a Chinese room to stroll through. In the Russian room the tree was festooned with spoons. In the Chinese Room there was a large red dragon on the ceiling, and when you went upstairs you walked between wintery branches and silver lights. It was like walking into Narnia – and there was even a wardrobe that you could go through to get there.

But by far the best part was the roaring fire that greeted you when you first went into the house, seats set out for the visitors to sit on and soak up the warmth and admire the decorations, and, in the corner, around the piano, was a choir singing Christmas songs. Their voices swelled and filled the room and everyone gathered around the fire to watch and listen.

And even when the music stopped and the other people wandered off to explore the house, we sat on, by the fire, watching the glowing embers and wondering what sort of a Christmas the people who once lived here must have enjoyed.

Outside the rain was lashing and it was windy and bleak, brown fields, grey skies. But here in the warmth was a little piece of Christmas magic.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Books for Christmas

The festive season is upon us and for many this is a time for giving – and of course – what better to give than a book! Books really do make wonderful presents! So in order to help you make up your mind I would like to make a number of recommendations.

I’ll start by introducing you to my fellow Dorset authors, the Littoralis. We write in a variety of genres.

If you like romance then I suggest you check out Laura James’s books. Follow Me Follow You is her most recent.

For a charming fantasy inspired by the Isle of Portland then look no further than Kathy Sharp’s Isle of Larus and the sequel, Sea of Clouds.

For children’s books you won’t go wrong with Carol Hunt’s Portland Chronicles. There are four books in this series, the first being The Portland Sea Dragon.

But I won’t stop there. There’s one more recommendation I have to make – Bone Jack by Sara Crowe is a superb book – aimed at the Young Adult Market – but adults will enjoy it just as much – I know I did.


I could go on – but maybe you have some recommendations you would like to add?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Yeovil Literary Festival II

I have just returned from a brilliant couple of days up in Yeovil, where I have been participating in the second Yeovil Literary Festival. The festival has been amazing and I had a really fantastic time, catching up with old friends and immersing myself in all things literary!

In all I was involved with three events. The first was the Past Winners of the Yeovil Prize panel event on the Friday morning. The list of success stories continues to grow and this year it was lovely to be joined by several of the poetry winners. Here we all are. As you can see several of our winning books have now been published.


Winners of the Yeovil Prize, past and present.

In the evening I was the host for an ‘In Conversation With” event, and the lovely gentleman I was asked to host was Jason Hewitt, debut author, whose novel, The Dynamite Room is simply superb.


In conversation with Jason Hewitt

And then, the next day it was off to the library, to run a writing workshop for a fabulous bunch of kids. Sadly my friend and fellow author Carol Hunt had flu and couldn’t be there, but they were such a great bunch of kids – so enthusiastic and imaginative, that even when the workshop had officially ended, they were all still sitting, scribbling away. I’m sure there were some budding authors in their midst!

Children's Writing Workshop at Yeovil Library
So congratulations to the organisers who made all this possible. Last year’s Yeovil Literary Festival was really good. This year’s was even better! I can’t wait until next year!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bridport Story Slam III

Judging a competition is never an easy task, and that was why I was so glad to be joined by fellow Dorset authors Penny Deacon and Laura James for the judging of the Bridport Story Slam which was held at the Beach and Barnicott on Tuesday night.
The Judges, Laura James, Kate Kelly and Penny Deacon

The annual Bridport Story Slam is an open mic event. Registered authors take turns to read a short story within a strictly enforced 5 minute time slot. This was something they all managed to keep to, although one author cut it very fine – the last word of her story right on the buzzer!

There were twelve brave authors in all and we were treated to a broad range of subject matter, themes and settings, losing ourselves in the worlds created, a cold chill of something sinister, shortly followed by a story that would make us laugh out loud. Stories performed at an open mic event should entertain and these certainly did that.

We then had the difficult task of selecting the winners, retiring to the cosy upstairs of the Beach and Barnicott to discuss. Fortunately the decision was a fairly unanimous one with last year’s winner Jill Smith taking third place with her chilling tale ‘Hide and Seek’.

In second place was Richard Green whose hilarious piece ‘Health and Safety I Presume’ had us all laughing out loud. This was so well performed that we found ourselves wondering if the character he portrayed was really him, but when me met him afterwards we soon realised it wasn’t.


Laura with Richard Green
 
The winner was another very entertaining piece – ‘A French Tale’ by Wendy Breckon which we loved because it packed so much into such a short time frame with great character voice, vivid sense of place and lovely touches of humour. So congratulations Wendy.


Presenting the prize to winner Wendy Breckon

Proceeds from the event went towards the Words for the Wounded charity, Words for the Wounded is a fabulous charity that raises money through writing competitions to help injured servicemen and women for which Penny Deacon was one of the founders.

So thank you to everyone involved in making the story slam such a successful event, to the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport for providing the perfect venue, to Frances Colville for organising everything so well, to our fabulous compare Declan Duffy and of course the authors without whom this simply wouldn’t have happened.