Blog 48: On ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

A children’s book? Fiction? Or philosophy? There is no unanimous agreement, but then that’s probably because ‘The Little Prince’ appears to carry aspects from all three genres. Antoine De Saint-Exupéry or his much longer name, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Rodger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator born in Lyon on the 29th June 1900. He was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, joined the French Air Force until 1940 and later joined the Free French Air Force where it is sadly believed he died on a reconnaissance mission in July 1944. read more »

Blog 47: On ‘The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë was born on the 17th January 1820 and was one of five daughters and one son to Patrick and Maria Brontë. Patrick Brontë, originally Patrick Brunty, changed the spelling of the family’s surname at some point, there are many theories as to why he chose to do this but no one knows for certain. Sadly, Maria passed away shortly after the birth of her sixth child (Anne) due to developing cancer, and the two eldest daughters (Maria and Elizabeth) passed away in their late childhood due to TB (Tuberculosis/Consumption). Charlotte, Emily and Anne also passed away due to TB at the ages of 38, 30 and 29 respectively, although the cause of Charlotte’s death may have actually been due to severe morning sickness. The sole son, Branwell Brontë, passed away at the age of 31 due to TB, alcoholism and other addictions. Patrick Brontë outlived his wife and all of their children and passed away at the age of 84.

Anne Brontë wrote under the pseudonym Acton Bell, a name that is masculine according to online baby name forums. Acton means ‘village with oak trees’ and the surname Bell has many origins but is probably an occupational name for a bell ringer or bell maker, or a read more »

Blog 46: An Interview With Young Writers’ Short Story Competition, 2017 Winner, Holly Kybett Smith.

  1. I loved “Laboratory Angel” and the exploration of science ethics in your ideas. Science is obviously something that interests you. Do you have a science background at all?

To be honest, I don’t. I’ve got GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology but that’s about as far as my background certifiably extends. My interest in science – biology especially – has always had a strong influence over my writing, though. A lot of what I read is science fiction, and when I was studying biology at school I had a very enthusiastic teacher; she taught my class way more than what was on the syllabus and all of it with this crazy-excited gleam in her eyes. These days I think any background I have in science can be classed as hobby-work. I like reading and learning about it when I have the time.

  1. What are your thoughts on AI and the growing trend for creating intelligent robots?

I love this question. The whole concept of AI – specifically robots mimicking human cognitive functions – seemed like absolute fiction when I was growing up, and it astounds me to think that that wasn’t even very long ago, considering how far scientists have come since then. Personally I’m both excited by the prospect and terrified. While I would love to see where we could go with these sorts of technologies, I’m worried about how we as humans will play it. I don’t want things turning out the way they did in Laboratory Angel, for example! read more »

Blog 45: A Trip To Pendragon Castle

The 12th century Pendragon Castle is now a ruin located in Mallerstang dale, Cumbria, south of Kirkby Stephen, and close to the hamlet of Outhgill. You can reach the ruins today via the B6259 or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous and confident in your driving skills, you can take the single track Tommy Rd, which is what I did by mistake, but if you’ve read my Wigtown blog you won’t be surprised by that.

Legends say that there was an original castle built here by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur during the 5th century. Unfortunately, there is no current evidence that there was a former castle at this location before the 12th century, though given that a previous castle would have probably been made out of wood this is hardly surprising. Many places throughout Cumbria claim connections to the legend of King Arthur, but only the author of the legend, Geoffrey of Monmouth (if he were still around) would be able to tell anyone for sure. However, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about Pendragon Castle. The first mention of Pendragon Castle was apparently in the 15th century written in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. Malory didn’t invent the stories independently either, ‘he translated Arthurian stories that already existed in thirteenth-century French prose and compiled them together with at least one tale from Middle English sources to create his text’. Despite mentioning the illusive Pendragon Castle, Malory left no clues as to where it’s actual location may have been. read more »

Blog 44: The Language And Terminology We Use In Writing.

I already touched on this topic in Blog 37: On The Importance Of Words, but I wanted to write more about the language and terminology that we use.

As a writer getting the language and terminology right for your characters, setting, plot and storyline is important. The writers who nail this often have the best-selling novels, whilst the writers who don’t, often trail behind. Now that’s not to say that every best-selling novel is a good book and every other book is bad, but you can definitely tell when a book is more likely to be good, based on the language and terminology that the author uses.

Language and terminology can be used to add colour and complexity to your characters without compromising on your word count. Sticking to stereotypes for now, the evilness of your antagonists can be increased with the language and terminology that they use. If their language is mean, cold, and/or condescending, it is likely that the reader will ‘dislike’ these characters. Similarly, the goodness of your protagonists can be amplified by the honesty, good-will and politeness that may shine through in how they speak and interact with other characters. Not only this, but the language and terminology used by characters when they talk about other characters, can be used to paint pictures and nudge the reader’s opinions of those other characters. This happens all the time in real life, you see it in advertising, music, the media, and pretty much every single thing that is written, everyone has an opinion and their own lives, and naturally this will come through in their work, their mannerisms and what they say, even if they’re not aware of it. read more »

Blog 43: Notes On Book Marketing.

The idea of marketing your book can be overwhelming, especially if you’re an indie author and you’re just starting out. Below are some of the thoughts and suggestions from a marketing friend of mine who has been looking at the most effective promotional tools for authors. From branding, to online and offline marketing, here is everything you need to know to get started…

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Blog 42: Writing All The Unsaid Things.

The wonderful thing about writing is that you can write anything, including all those things that you really want to say but are too afraid to. Writers are commonly described as introverts, and I would tend to agree since I lean towards the introvert end of the spectrum myself. During my school years I was painfully quiet, every parent’s evening my teachers would praise my work and grades and then they would say the dreaded ‘but’ word, usually followed by something like read more »

Blog 41: Total Originality Is Probably Impossible.

A friend once told me that they had an idea for a book that they wanted to write. When I asked why they weren’t writing it, they listed a number of excuses, but one stuck out to me in particular. They wanted their idea to be completely new and original, and they didn’t want to write something that wasn’t. Now I was puzzled by this, the idea of creating a completely original story is something that I think many authors would love to and dream about achieving, but I don’t feel that this is a realistic possibility. read more »

Blog 40: Why You Should Invest In An Editor.

“The funny thing about writing is that whether you’re doing it well or you’re doing it poorly, it looks the exact same. That is actually one of the main ways that writing is different from ballet dancing.” – John Green

If you’re an indie author and either have, or are considering self-publishing, then let me borrow a few minutes of your time to tell you why I think investing in a good editor is important.

I’ve read many books over the years and I’m by no means an expert in the field of writing, but I have noticed reoccurring patterns and feelings. Particularly feelings of disappointment and confusion when a book I’ve been reading has fallen flat or the characters have just acted bizarrely for no apparent reason, and yes I have fallen into this trap too.

As a writer and author, I know how difficult it is to come up with compelling, yet realistic ideas that make sense for your story. When I was writing my first published book Anomaly, which I rewrote dozens of times with the help of a couple of editors, I found that in later rewrites my mind had become so saturated with my story that I could no longer decide whether my writing and ideas were good, or if they were just plain terrible. I experienced feelings of panic and anxiety for weeks and months, even after I finished the book and it went off for publication. In fact, the earliest versions of Anomaly bear very little resemblance to what I eventually wrote and published in 2016. read more »

Blog 39: The Evolution of Fiction Writing

‘Once Upon A Time’ to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive’. How and why did story writing change so much? And what can we learn from it?

Traditionally, word of mouth was the only way to communicate and share stories, but with the advent of writing implements and machines, stories were recorded and eventually, mass produced. Paperbacks and hardbacks adorn our bookshelves today and it is as simple and easy as going to the supermarket to pick up your next novel. We don’t even have to leave the house anymore; the rise of electronic books and portable tablets has given the modern world instant access to billions of stories with just a single touch, and I’m sure stories and technology will continue to evolve in ways we can barely imagine today.

It is argued that the earliest forms of storytelling can be contributed to read more »