Blog 56: Christmas Book Recommendations.

It’s the run up to Christmas and you’re looking for the perfect present that isn’t plastic toys, socks or alcohol? Well, maybe I can help. When it comes to books that are being read by the people around me, particularly those closest to me, I like to keep my ears and eyes open. So the last few months I’ve done just that, I’ve watched what people have been reading and what customers have been buying at the large bookshop where I work part-time. I’ve got book recommendations from myself, friends, family, bookshop owners and complete strangers, so without further ado, here are my book recommendations this Christmas… read more »

Blog 55: Artists and Authors.

You might not think that authors are often artists too, but it seems to be true that creative people like to explore lots of different creative avenues even if their efforts are purely for pleasure and never taken seriously. With the recent opening of the British Library’s ‘Harry Potter – A History Of Magic’, I was surprised to stumble across blogs and articles claiming that J.K. Rowling herself has drawn pictures of her characters, though it is unclear as to whether or not any of these drawings are actually on display at the British Library. But if you’re dying to have a look at Rowling’s artwork, you should be able to find her drawings with a quick google search or a visit to her Harry Potter website Pottermore. read more »

Blog 53: One Year In A Book Shop.

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So it’s the one-year anniversary of when I finally moved out on my own and started volunteering part-time in a book shop, and it has been an amazing and rewarding year, both for my general confidence and my writing. I’ve learnt more about the world through direct experience and talking to people in one year, than I ever did at school or university, and I feel that that is a really important thing to note. I’m not saying that traditional education doesn’t have it’s uses, it does, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that our educational systems are somewhat lacking in life skills. But enough about that, education is a topic I could talk about for forever and I want to share with you what I’ve learnt in the last year. read more »

Blog 51: What Writing A Novel Looks Like.

When I tell people that I’m an author and that I write YA fiction, I am often met with looks of wonder and awe. Most people seem to think that writing a book is an amazing feat, something that ordinary people just cannot do. It is flattering to say the least, and as much as it does take a certain type of person with a good imagination and determination, a lot of it actually just comes down to hard work and perseverance. These looks of wonder and awe are often followed by questions about my work and life. Questions which I struggle to answer adequately on the spot, so here is a picture instead.

This is a conservative picture of what my work and life looks like when I’m working on a novel. I say conservative because this picture is minus the caffeine, sleepless hours, hundreds of binned crumpled notes, dozens of typed draft versions, culling of characters, the rewrites, and the final edit. This picture is just part of what it takes for me to write a story, a story I’m not sure anyone is going to read or like at the end of the day, and as for sales, well, I hope so!

People often ask me how do I write a book and what is it like? read more »

Blog 49: Four Twitter Micro-Stories

I’ve written several micro-stories for Twitter, but inevitably tweets are drowned and lost in the thousands of tweets posted every second, which on average is actually 6,000 tweets per second. So I thought I would share my Twitter micro-stories for you here, just in case you missed them. Writing a micro-story for Twitter is no small feat if you ever want to try it yourself, you have 140 characters to play around with and that includes all your spaces and punctuation too. Here are four of my micro-story tweets and I shall explain my thoughts and ideas behind the writing for these pieces.

For this micro-story I was actually daydreaming about characters, more specifically creating characters and how our ancestors gifted certain circumstances and natural objects to human-like deities. read more »

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 »