Anthology Update

Before I go any further, I must mention the anthology I founded in early 2007. Unlike the other anthologies I’ve organised, this one did not die a natural death. In fact, I’m presently waiting for the first proof copy of the published book to arrive on my doorstep.

I learned from the other anthologies that short story collections are not favoured by publishing companies, unless stories by successful authors are included. I had no such luck in that department, so while editors were kind and encouraging, they quickly rejected every submission I made. It was for this reason that this latest project saw me going down a different path. I decided to try self publishing. Before you raise your eyebrows and tut, please hear me out.

My views on self publishing are quite simple. Do not do it with novel length manuscripts! Short stories, however, are a different matter altogether. Speculative Realms was born from that thought and…let’s make one thing quite clear…this is self publishing for me, but not for any of the other contributors. Approximately 130 manuscripts were rejected. No one, but me, makes decisions. Yes, I’ve asked other people’s opinions/advice along the way and I had a reading panel that helped me find the right stories, but I’m the one who made the final decisions in most areas of the project. The other contributors didn’t have a say in anything, so it wouldn’t be fair to say they self published. In fact, it would be totally wrong to suggest it.

Everyone associated with this project has put in a lot of time and effort to produce top quality stories. It’s been a good 15 months from the beginning to now and it’s not over yet. This has been an experience to remember, I will say that. It has been very stressful yet it has been so exciting too. Shortly, I will be moving into the marketing phase of the project. I have no idea what to expect, but I don’t expect it to be easy.

The Speculative Realms collection will be available for purchase in September 2008. I hope you will support fellow writers and buy a copy when the time comes.

Who Am I?

It’s highly likely that no one visits this website any more. I’m not surprised and I’m not discouraged either. Blogs are only successful if the owner posts and I haven’t done much of that over recent months.

Some months ago, I clearly announced to the world that I had decided to stop writing…forever. Some caring (online) friends supported my actions, but advised me that forever is a long time and should I ever feel the need to write again then I should allow it to happen. I appreciated the words and acknowledged that I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

At the time, I needed to walk away. I needed to free myself of guilt and/or blame. And, more importantly, I needed to allow myself the time to heal in body and mind. Now, looking back, I believe I was close to a nervous breakdown…caused by grief over one son and fear for the other. The grief will always be nearby, it is a normal emotion in life and I know I will learn to live with it (I can already feel the improvement within myself). The fear, on the other hand, was not normal and it was eating me alive. It is the fear that I had to deal with and I think I finally have.

Today, I make another announcement to the world. I feel like writing again!

This time, I’m going to be nice to myself. I will write what I want, when I want. There will be no pressure or guilt. I will use this blog as a personal diary – keeping tabs on my writing progress, but I will not veer into my personal life anymore. I will not give excuses or reasons when I don’t write. I will not feel obliged to post unless I truly have something to say. In fact, I will even go as far as to say that I intend to “clean up” this website. I have downloaded a free computer diary which I am currently copying old (more personal) posts into before I delete them. And, yes, I think I’ll change the template again. The colouring is drab and I really would prefer something happy and cheery.

Who am I? I’m a woman, a mother, a lover, a daughter, a sister, an aunt…and I’m a writer. This website is about the writer in me. It has been, and will probably continue to be, a hard road I’ve chosen, but I feel ready to follow it once again.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells the story of a man sentenced to ten years in a Russian work camp for being a spy, even though the accusation is false. However, Ivan is wise enough not to make waves or he might find another ten years put on top of his existing sentence. He also knows that extra years might be slapped on him anyway, because the Soviet would never trust him again and they wouldn’t want him returning to those “bad habits”. When, or if, he was released, he knew he could be sent to an even worse place, so he actually talks himself into not wanting to leave the camp. Going home was something he felt would probably never happen, so it would be better to stay where he was – in a situation he had learned to cope with and live in – than be sent to that worst place.

The story is not filled with suspense and twists and turns. This story holds a reader for another reason – it is character driven. The reader feels for this man (and his companions) and wants to get through the day with them.

The one thing that was very clear to me was how it shows humans adapt to their surroundings and learn how to survive even the most inhuman situations. When a person can find good fortune in receiving a few grams of stale bread and a ladle of something that resembles dish washing water each day, it should make the people of today appreciate what they have.

The book is just one long chapter, with not even a single scene break. At first, I found this irritating, but I got used to it. The writing is a little confusing. One moment the viewpoint was third person and then suddenly it turned to first person. The main character had two names and for a long time I wondered where Ivan Denisovich fit into the story as I didn’t realise I was reading about him because of this other name being used. (I’m not sure if I missed the connection at the beginning of the story or not. I did skim through those early pages again, but found nothing that made it clear. Maybe the confusion came about in the translation.)

Even with the confusion, I found this story interesting, which shows content is important. It made me wonder how well I would cope in a similar situation! I suspect not terribly well.

Anyway, this is a book I would not have picked up without recommendation, which proves – once again – a book cannot be judged by its cover.


Bad Monkeys

Wow! I finished this book in two days. That should say everything! But I guess I should say more than that, so I will.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff is not a book I would have picked up in the library and brought home for myself. Someone else would have to pick it for me. In fact, that is exactly what happened. I arrived home from work one afternoon to find the book sitting on my bed.

“I saw that and thought you’d like it,” said G.

I looked at the cover. It wasn’t pretty, or intriguing, or special in any way. It was plain and quite boring looking. “Oh, thanks.”

I didn’t intend to give the book another thought, except to put it in the “Return to the Library Pile” at the end of the week. However, G is always thinking of me and I never show gratitude by even reading the book cover. This time I thought I’d at least do that.

Hmm, not bad, I thought. OK, I’ve got five minutes. I’ll read the first chapter or, at the very least, the first page. Then I can tell him I attempted to read it but got bored.

Two hours later my eyes left the pages of the book and I was surprised to find that I had read over 100 pages. I went to do some things around the house. Whilst my hands did the washing and the vacuuming, my mind was still thinking about the story. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Why? The author planted a seed that needed watering. He answered questions but kept filling my mind with more issues that I needed answers too. I was obsessed and needed to return to the book.

So I did. Several times over the two days it took me to read the book. I lost sleep over it too. I’m not particularly happy about that, but doesn’t it tell you how hooked I was? It does me.

So what is the book about? I can’t tell you! You’ll have to get a copy and read it for yourself. You are, however, guaranteed twists and turns that make you giddy. You will love the characters, they are so real. The words will play with your mind so that you won’t know what is true and what is real for that matter. And the author has a nice sense of humour too, which makes for an even more enjoyable read.

The library classified this as a detective story. OK, it is in a small way, but slotting this story into one genre is hard unless there’s a genre that covers science fiction, mystery, humour, fantasy and a touch of … weird.

Do yourself a favour. Read the book.

The next book I’m going to attempt is another book that I would never have picked up at the library myself. This book was listed in a Top 20 Books “considered the best of all time” – compiled by David Meadows. The book is called A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Is This a Breakthrough?

I haven’t wanted to write since last November. In fact, I felt so disconnected from the craft that I decided to give up on it. However, I’m involved in an anthology and the story to be included in that [strong]must[/strong] be edited.

Last weekend, I sat in front of my computer – on one screen was my manuscript awaiting changes, on another was the document the editor had sent me. I spent the better part of an hour switching between the two, but not actually doing anything. Then I decided that it had been a long time since I wrote the short story and I no longer had a clear understanding of what was happening, so I read it (yes, I should have done that at the beginning, I know).

Having read the story, I felt a bit better. I now remembered the issues I had with the story and reading through the editor’s comments I could tell those issues were a problem for her too. Surprisingly, I decided to rewrite the beginning. I say “surprisingly” because this is the last thing I expected to do. I really wanted to make the required changes quickly and email the thing back to the editor. You know, get rid of it and the responsibility. But…here I was thinking about what was wrong with the story and wanting to make it better. This doesn’t sound like a non-writer to me.

I think it took me four days to write eight double spaced pages. I admit that it was extremely hard – almost like trying to pull my own teeth out. I had to force myself to sit down and open the document. I found it hard to concentrate. I worried about the quality of my words. However, I did it because to [strong]not[/strong] do so would have let so many other writers down. I didn’t want that.

Once the beginning had been rewritten, I continued on with the rest of the story. It has been very slow going, but I’m getting there. Last night, I made myself open the document, I procrastinated for a while and did everything and anything else for about half an hour (mainly listening to some music; thankfully, the computer is not connected to the internet) and then I turned my mind to the edit. At first, my mind stubbornly groaned and grunted at every word I looked at or tried to write, but then something extraordinary happened…I lost myself in the story!

That hasn’t happened to me for so long.

When someone knocked on the door, pulling me out of the scene I was working on, I felt two things – joy at the fact that I didn’t even know what had happened or how much time had passed, and, disappointment that it was over. For the first time in a very long time, I was willing to sit in that chair and work quietly into the wee hours of the night.

It was late and I had to get up early to go to work, so I went to bed. I slept soundly for four hours. Then I woke up and found myself thinking about the story, the characters and the scene I was working on. And then, I actually thought about getting out of bed and turning on the computer. At 3.30am! I didn’t do it, but I can’t believe I even gave it a serious thought.

Now that is what writing should be like. It’s something that has been missing for me. I hope this isn’t an isolated incident.

Promise Me Tomorrow

Promise Me Tomorrow (Rocky Mountain Memories, #4)I actually finished reading Promise Me Tomorrow by Lori Wick almost three weeks ago. Life has been busy, which has stopped me from posting.

Promise Me Tomorrow is a romance story written by a Christian writer. The religious parts of the story were not too bad, generally speaking. The characters and actual story held me through most of those scenes. There was only one scene that was too much for me, which I skipped altogether. Apart from that it’s a romantic story about a man and woman and the obstacles they must overcome to be together. It’s sweet, sloppy and totally predictable, but I loved it.

I feel shy in admitting this, but it’s a story that could easily have been written by me (except for the religious content), because it’s exactly what I used to write when I first started writing. I adore reading and writing about the attraction between two people. You know what I mean…the sly glances, the adoration in the eyes, the fluster, the touch and the wanting to see the person again. And when I first started to write, I would build entire stories around these tender moments.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I read a book that I couldn’t put down. I honestly think this book spoke to me because I have denied (openly and privately) my desire to write the type of story I really enjoy to read and write. OK, I know that a lot of people would read this book, or any number of other books similar to it, and think it is complete dribble, but I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of doing what other people expect of me. Maybe I’ll enjoy writing again, if I do what I want to do. This is totally my own fault, by the way. I’ve allowed general consensus to rule me. But no more!

Promise Me Tomorrow is recommended to those with a tender heart.

Dying to Help

Dying to HelpLast night I finished reading Dying to Help by Penny Kline. This is a detective type story, without the detective. Someone dies and the main character finds herself trying to put the facts together and come up with the truth. The title of the book suggests that the main character finds herself targeted because of it. This is true, but there was no real fear, no urgency and, unfortunately, no real action.

The details of the murder were put together quite nicely and the writing itself is good, but reading the story was dull. After 200 pages I could have easily put the book down, but I forced myself to keep reading. Having read fantasy for so long, I wanted to ensure I had given this other genre a genuine chance.

Upon reaching the final page, I felt happy that it was finally over. The actual “action” scene lasted all of a single page and I felt disappointed by that.

I have nothing else to say about this book, except…I can’t recommend it!

Next on my reading list is a romance novel.

The Last Family in England

The Last Family in EnglandIf you have ever own a dog…or a cat…then The Last Family in England by Matt Haig might be of interest to you. The story is told from the dog’s point of view and the view point is so convincing, I found myself looking at my pets and wondering if they were thinking the things Prince, from the book, was thinking. And, I almost convinced myself that they were!

The book covers a wide range of topics; some of which are quite embarrassing so I won’t even attempt to go into those here. But the safer ones include adultery, suicide, growing up and disjointed family life. At first, I found the book hard to get into, but that was nothing to do with the writing or the subject matter. It was because this is the first book I’ve attempted to read in months. Before long, I found myself gasping with shock at the embarrassing parts, empathising with the characters in other parts of the story and snickering at Prince’s thought patterns. Not to mention getting choked up and crying. Any book that brings out that emotion must get brownie points, in my opinion.

I picked up this book completely on a friend’s recommendation and I had no idea what the story was about and I didn’t read the blurb on the back cover. In other words, I had no expectations and I found the story to be completely different to anything I’ve read in the last decade or more. Even with the rude bits…and the swearing, it was refreshing and interesting. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that’s unusual for me. I’m usually quite straight laced. Anyway, the characters are human (except for the dogs in the story, of course), the problems are real and the emotions strong. I recommend this book if you’re looking for something different.

I finished the book in less than a week. I can’t believe it. It looks like I’ll get at least two of those library books read at this rate. 😀