Author Guest Post: Patricia M Osborne

 

Today I have a guest post for you from the author of The House of Grace, Patricia M Osborne who answers some questions for us about herself and her writing.

 


Thank you, Emma, for inviting me on to your blog.

Where are you from?

I was born in Liverpool but live in West Sussex

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since I was around 5 years old but more seriously since 2011 when I embarked on a creative writing course with the Open University. From there I went on to study for an MA in Creative Writing at University of Brighton, I am now at my last hurdle, the dissertation.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been saying I’m a writer for at least five years, but I only truly believed it about a year ago. Releasing my debut novel and spending a few months as Poet in Residence at my local Victorian Park gave me confidence to say, ‘I am a Writer,’ and know it’s true.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My debut novel originated from a short screenplay that I completed for my Open University dissertation. George Orwell, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge and House of Elliot all played their part in inspiring me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I tend to write family sagas. I like writing about people and their families and I’m inclined to write in first person. For my poetry I focus on imagery and narrative.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I just want people to enjoy it.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Some of the experiences are based on childhood memories, for instance, Bolton’s town hall with its museum containing Egyptian Mummies, and lion statues and fountains outside. Otherwise the storyline is complete fiction. In my short stories however, I’ve been known to use memories and fictionalise them to create extra drama.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

If I had a chance to choose a mentor I think it would have to be Barbara Taylor Bradford. A couple of my readers have suggested that my writing has elements reminiscent of BTB’s early works. That’s quite a compliment.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Matt Haig’s, How to Stop Time, Elizabeth Ducie’s, Deception and Fay Wentworth’s, Are you Lost?

What are your current projects?

My work in progress is The Coal Miner’s Son, the second in the series of House of Grace. Because this runs alongside the debut novel, rather than a sequel, it may be read as a stand-alone or follow on.

I am also about to start on a new poetry collection as part of my MA dissertation. The plan is to study Fairy and Folklore and compose works of fantasy and myth.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved to write stories and poems and won my first poetry competition when I was around six years old. Serious writing began when I studied creative writing courses with the Open University as part of my degree and I’ve become a more established writer over the last couple of years since beginning my MA in Creative Writing with University of Brighton.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

The following shows two passages taken from my work in progress, The Coal Miner’s Son. The first is from Chapter 1 using nine-year-old narrator, George, and the second is in the point of view of his Aunt Elizabeth. Both passages are subject to edit.

The Coal Miner’s SonGeorge – taken from Chapter 1

Mam was on the couch with her face hiding in Mrs Deane’s chest. Why was she even here? She didn’t even like Mam, she thought Mam was too posh. Our headmaster sent everyone home early today because there’d been an accident at the mine. The road to the pit was blocked and bobbies were all over the place, dust flying everywhere. I tried to push through the barriers to find Da but the policeman wouldn’t let me through, said it was off limits so I asked him about Jack Gilmore but he just told us to get on our way and straight home, mind. Alice pestered me all the way back to our house, questions like, what’s going on and is Daddy all right. ‘Yes of course he’s all right,’ I told her. I hoped I was right.

The Coal Miner’s SonElizabeth – taken from Chapter 2

My mind slipped back to walking down the aisle at Loxhurst Cathedral, my arm hooked into Father’s. Our feet paced in rhythm to Richard Wagner’s Bridal March, Here Comes the Bride. Faces I didn’t recognise squinted their eyes to capture a view of me, the teenage bride, in my crisp silk-laced gown, trailing six-foot on the ground. I cuffed a bouquet of red roses dressed with gypsophila tightly between my fists. Strangers, daughters of Father’s business acquaintances, tailed behind as bridesmaids in lemon, clasping baskets of mix-coloured chrysanthemums. I turned around to see the three-year-old twins, posing as pageboys, chasing behind in green plaid kilts. Martha, her grey hair piled into a bun, pointed a stern finger at them. She mouthed towards me, face the front, where a large framed man in his fifties, barely any hair on his round head, stood at the end of the first pew waiting eagerly for his prize.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Sometimes I find it challenging to write painful scenes as it triggers experiences of loss for me too.
House of Grace, A Family Saga Blurb

It’s 1950 and all sixteen-year-old Grace Granville has ever wanted is to become a successful dress designer. She dreams of owning her own fashion house and spends her spare time sketching outfits. Her father, Lord Granville, sees this frivolous activity as nonsense and wants to groom her into a good wife for someone of his choosing…

Grace is about to leave Greenemere, a boarding school in Brighton. She’s blissfully unaware of her father’s plans when she embarks on a new adventure. The quest includes a trip to Bolton’s Palais where she meets coal miner, Jack Gilmore. Grace’s life is never the same again.

Travel with Grace through two decades as she struggles with family conflict, poverty and tragedy. Is Grace strong enough to defy Lord Granville’s wishes and find true love? Will she become a successful fashion designer? Where will she turn for help?

Available to order via Amazon (UK) and (com) in paperback and kindle format

http://mybook.to/HouseofGrace

Author Bio

Patricia M Osborne was born in Liverpool and spent time in Bolton as a child.  She now lives in West Sussex. Apart from novel writing, Patricia writes poetry and short fiction. Her poetry and short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing with University of Brighton.  House of Grace is her first novel.

Website: patriciamosbornewriter@wordpress.com

Facebook Page: Patricia M Osborne, Writer

Twitter: PMOsborneWriter

Email address: Patricia.m.osbornewriter@gmail.com


Thank you Patricia for taking the time to answer some questions for us.

Emma-Louise x

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Planner Reflections and 2018 Set-up

Hey everyone. 

Can you believe it’s the end of 2017 already? I feel this year has flown by. I haven’t been as active on here over the last few months but I have never been so busy. 

Like many people I suffer from twitchy fingers and I have an inability to relax meaning I take on far too much, which for me came crashing down when I got very sick in November. 

However, things are on the mend and I’ve really taken stock of 2017 and what I aim to do going forward. Tomorrow there will be a post as part of the Planner Girls Collective where I will share my goals for 2018 so for today let’s reflect over what I’ve changed. 

When 2017 began I was in a pocket size TN and enjoying it. About March I swapped back to a ring planner but it didn’t last more than 2 months. Since then I have been in a TN just in various sizes. I have tried personal, micro, A6 and now I’m in B6. 

I have cut back a lot on decoration and find I am rarely using washi at all and stickers are more for function and mild decor.

I really have homed in on what I need from a planner and the purpose it should serve. I no longer seek to have that ultimate pretty planner and lust after everyone else’s, it’s simply not for me. 

My 2018 set-up is pretty much the same as how I’ve finished 2017 which the exception of one Planner which I’ve introduced. 

So what am I using? 

For my everyday carry – do everything planner which houses a weekly diary, monthly overview, book reviews insert, to-do insert and 2 notebooks (dot and lined). This will be my B6 Cinnamon Stick Nayadori. 

I am also using the beautiful B6 meadowgate for my business which has a simple incoming order tracker, outgoing order tracker and notebook in. 

My new addition which is stunning is the Recollections horizontal planner with the Galaxy cover. I am using this for my studies. I learnt at the end of this year I need to plan my studies out much better than I am as my Masters is getting so much focus my diploma has fallen to the wayside. 

So there we have it my 2018 set-up. I would love to know what you’ll be using in the new year so feel free to pop me a comment below:) 

The Stationery Geekette x

First Line Friday

It has been about 2 months since I’ve sat down and written anything. Life has just been so hectic that every moment has been spent catching up on what I missed when I was ill throughout November. Today I am breaking myself back in gently with a First Line Friday prompt from The Fiction Cafe Writer’s Group.

As always the task was to use the first line and create a story around it in no more than 750 words.

Word Count 376 – Unedited.

‘There was a strange wailing coming from the next room. Noises in this place weren’t exactly unusual but this was different. A chill ran down my spine and the hair on my arms stood on end.

The large white clock on my wall ticked loudly with each second that passed. I sat up in my bed, frozen to the spot unable to move. I let out my breath slowly afraid that I would draw attention to whatever it was that woke me from my slumber.

The silence was eerie, unusual for this place. I’d been locked up in de Luca Asylum now for around 7 months. It was hard to tell how long exactly anymore. A combination of pills and treatments had left me more confused than when I entered.  I still wasn’t sure why I was even here, I wasn’t the one who started the fire but they wouldn’t listen, they never did.

They told me that I was hallucinating, that the man I was with wasn’t real and I had imagined everything. He was the one who started the fire, the fire that destroyed my parents home and killed my father. It wasn’t me.

The wailing had stopped now. I pulled the scratchy white sheet off and slide my legs down the side of the bed onto the cold floor. I got up slowly, careful not to make a sound. I walked over towards my door to peer out of the little square window.

I looked out at the sheer white corridor, the bright lights were glaring, reflecting off the walls.  I couldn’t see anything. A few people moved around down the end at the nurses station but that wasn’t unusual. There was no sign of anything amiss.

It was then I heard a shuffling sound, then out of no-where the face of a woman appeared at the window. It looked wild, hair all over and eyes wide. Dirt smudged across her cheek. That noise again, the wailing came from her mouth. Behind her I saw the nurses trying to grab her and she thrashed about.

I saw the glint of the metal as the needle hit the woman’s neck sending her instantly to sleep. Another new patient,  welcome to the madhouse crazy lady’.

Thanks for reading

Emma-Louise x

After Leaving The Village by Helen Matthews

Today I have a review for you for the book After Leaving The Village by Helen Matthews. Helen and I are in the fabulous Fiction Cafe book group and she approached me asking if I could possibly read her book in exchange for a review. I always like to help out new authors and found I had time in my schedule.

Blurb…

Two women. Two villages. Different destinies. Odeta’s life has shrunk to a daily round of drudgery, running her father’s grocery store in a remote Albanian village. One day a stranger from Tirana walks into the shop and promises her a new career in London. Odeta’s life is about to change, but not in the way she expected. Journalist Kate lives on a quiet London street and seems to have a perfect life but she worries about her son Ben, who struggles to make friends. Kate blames the internet and disconnects her family from the online world so they can get to know their neighbours. On a visit to her home village in Wales, Kate is forced to confront a secret from her past. But greater danger lies closer to home. Perhaps Kate’s neighbours are not the friendly community they seem.

Review…

I am not sure what I expected when I read the blurb but it wasn’t what I got. I was glued to the book.

The story follows two very different women and I couldn’t put it down. There are elements of a graphic nature but it isn’t written in a way that makes you want to put the book away.

I really felt for Odette and I kept thinking how this must actually be a harsh reality for many women in the world today. I really felt hate for this who kept her that way.

I liked Kate and I understand all to well what she was trying to achieve though I did think towards the later chapters she acted irrationally and put herself in unneccessary danger when others wouldn’t have despite those circumstances.

The main story though and bits that kept me really turning those pages was Odette.

Helen is such a great writer, she really invoked feeling when I was reading. I felt all possible emotions when I went through the story and I would really love another book on Odette’s story after everything that happened. I feel like I’m invested in her, I want to see if she does get a happy ending.

I really would recommend After Leaving The Village. It’s an amazing and thrilling read that keeps you holding on to hope.

Thank you Helen for allowing me the honour of reading your amazing book.

Emma-Louise x

Author Guest Post: Jennifer Gilmour

‘Our wings were clipped, our restrictions were made, our boundaries were tested but now we are free, aren’t we?We look above in the sky at the birds and hope to be free. But the birds make their nests in the trees high above, to protect themselves from predators. Free birds must keep looking over their shoulders the same way all of us have to.’

-Jennifer Gilmour

Today I have a very special guest post for you from Jennifer Gilmour who will be discussing a very important topic with us. I have read and reviewed both of Jennifer’s books and they were fantastic. Jennifer is an Advocare for women in using relationships. Author of Isolation Junction, Clipped Wings and columnist for CCChat Magazine.

The Darker Side to Christmas

You may think I am going to write a piece of flash fiction or talk about a recently read thriller book – but I am not. What I am going to share with you is, in fact, reality for so many people all around the world – especially at Christmas.

My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of  fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women* and men.

Christmas for me was one of the loneliest times of the year and a time when I would try to be on ‘my’ best behaviour’, meaning that I didn’t even think of not doing as I was told because I didn’t want to ‘set him off’. I wanted to keep my partner happy and in trying to do so, I endeavoured to take on the financial pressures myself despite there being rules surrounding gifts for family members. Most of the time I handmade gifts for relatives and although this is a popular option now, compared with the glossy, manufactured offerings, my gifts looked cheap and homely. This made me feel guilty and embarrassed.

Alongside this, Christmas was a perfectly orchestrated opportunity for arguments and the reality was that my ‘best’ behaviour was never ever going to be acceptable to him. There was always something to nit pick at even if it was that I didn’t react to a gift the ‘correct’ way. This criticism nearly always escalated and I always felt he was  simply looking to create conflict with me and I could never understand why this should be the case. It was a relief to be able to look forward to him going back to work after Christmas and thankfully his job didn’t allow for much time off over the (not so) festive period.

I have reduced the price of Clipped Wings which is my latest publication until 25 December to mark this time of the year. I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding this kind of behaviour this Christmas.

* https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/12/it-s-hardest-time-year-why-domestic-violence-spikes-over-christmas

You can find link’s to Jennifer’s profiles below.

Website; www.jennifergilmour.com

Facebook; www.facebook.com/isolationjunctionbook

Twitter; www.twitter.com/JenLGilmour

Clipped Wings on Amazon UK; https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076KNZJZQ

Clipped Wings on Amazon USA; https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076KNZJZQ

Goodreads author profile; https://www.goodreads.com/JenniferGilmour

Clipped Wings on Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36449221-clipped-wings

Huffington post blogger profile; http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/author/jennifer-gilmour

Thank you so much Jennifer for taking the time to talk to us today.

Emma-Louise x

Author Guest Post: Liz Taylorson

Today I have a Guest Post from Author of The Little Church by the Sea, Liz Taylorson. Liz talks to us about Inspiration. 

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Inspired by …

Many authors draw inspiration from the view outside their study window. The rolling hills of the Cotswolds, perhaps, the Lakeland fells or a windswept Scottish beach … Ah, smell that sea air, how could anyone fail to be inspired?

The view from my desk is rather more suburban. I can see a wide patch of tarmac intended for turning vehicles but mostly used as a handy little car park by the neighbours, and a road beyond it. It’s not an exciting road, it’s a small hill that goes up towards the railway station. The most exciting things about it are the blossom trees in the spring and watching cars slide down it in the snow.

However I still spend an inordinate amount of time looking out of my window when I should be working … So other than gazing out of the window, where do I get my inspiration?

When it came to writing my first novel, the first thing I did was make a list. I love lists and pretty notebooks to write them in and I knew I wanted my story to have a wintery setting – I wanted the bleakness of the seaside in winter and I wanted the prettiness of Christmas, frost and snow. So I listed all the things that inspired me about winter – the contrast of dark nights and pretty lights, frost on the windows and flames in the hearth, holly and ivy hanging against a wood panelled wall and silver candlesticks. I listed half remembered childhood customs, songs and stories. And then I tried to imagine the kind of place I could set a story that included all these elements.

Then I came across a door. A picture of a door, in fact, an old wooden door belonging to a tiny cottage in Robin Hood’s Bay, a fishing village not far from Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. It had a beautiful old door-knocker and a Christmas wreath hanging on it. It would be just the kind of place for wood panelled walls, silver candlesticks, mulled wine and mistletoe, but what kind of things might happen in a cottage like that?

Now I had a setting of the seaside in winter, I knew that with it would come an element of danger – high tides, storms, cold and a community that could easily be isolated by the wrong kind of weather, plenty of drama there! It gave a lovely contrast to the warmth and tradition of Christmas.

Finally I had to think about who was going to be at the heart of the story. I knew that I wanted to write about a lonely woman who had never had a full relationship with a man, so I asked myself who might find themelves in this position? The answer came quite quickly – someone with a strong belief that sex before marriage was wrong. Someone religious … a vicar perhaps? A female vicar. But why on earth would a single female vicar be living in a pretty cottage in the middle of a seaside village and not a in vicarage?

Because something had happened to the vicarage and she couldn’t live there. Something dramatic and unusual that would make a good starting point for her story, her quest to find a home and the right man to share it with … And this is where another kind of inspiration came in. I sometimes work with an author of local history books, helping him prepare his manuscripts for publication – and he had written a book about the North Yorkshire coast, which documented several cliff falls including the demise of the Holbeck Hall Hotel in Scarborough in 1993. So, what if her vicarage had fallen over the cliff?

And there you have it. The things that have inspired me – books, pictures, pretty notebooks to make lists in and looking out of the window!

Liz’s novel The Little Church by the Sea is published by Manatee Books and can be purchased from Amazon at: goo.gl/Wwr5uG  

Liz is on Facebook at @TaylorsonLiz and Twitter @taylorson_liz. She has a blog at liztaylorson.wordpress.com 

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Thank you so much to Liz who happens to live local to me, your time writing this is much appreciated. 

Emma-Louise x

Author Guest Post: J.K Ellem

Hey, today I have a Guest Post from J.K Ellem author of the No Justice Series, who discusses his take on writer’s block and what he wish he’d known before becoming a writer. 

On…Overcoming Writer’s Block

 I don’t really get writers block. What typically happens is that I will be struggling with a scene in the book and realise what I have written is terrible. What I then do is stop, get up and get a coffee or if I need inspiration to write better I will pick up a book from one of my favourite authors and read for a while. That usually does the trick. My advice is that if you get stuck, don’t know what to write or the story has grinded to a halt then go and read. Reading someone else’s book is one of the best ways to overcome this.

On…What I Wish I’d Known

I wish I knew how wrong it was when people say it’s a very lonely existence when you are an author. It is completely wrong. When you spend hours a day just writing you will feel lonely. But when you spend hours a day living in the scene or inside you protagonists head or in a villains perverted mind, you are surrounded by people, places, smells, sights and emotions and it can be as busy as standing in Times Square on a Friday night. It’s the same tactic you need to embrace when you get writers block. You are not sitting at a desk gazing at words on a screen. You’re in a forest in the snow at night, someone is following you and you have just stumbled on a body. What would you do next?

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today JK Ellem. You can find out more about this author on his website jkellem.com

Emma-Louise x

Guest Post: Natali Simmonds

Hey you lovely lot. Today I have a Guest Post by the amazing N.J Simmonds who discusses the Top 5 YA Book Myths. Natali has not only author with a 5 star rated book but she has experience with writing and marketing in the bucket load.

TOP 5 YA BOOK MYTHS

YA fiction, otherwise known as Young Adult literature, gets a bad rap. If I got a pound for every time someone misunderstood what YA really is I’d be making a lot more money than I am now as a humble writer!

From Twitter comments to conversations in book stores and right through to my own reviewers, I am forever hearing comments such as –

‘I can’t believe I really enjoyed that book when I’m not even a teenager’

‘Oh I don’t want to read YA, it’s for kids’

‘YA writers aren’t proper writers because they don’t write for adults’

‘YA books are all about high school dramas and boring teen issues’

So what does YA actually mean?

‘Young Adult’ is simply a description of books with teen protagonists covering issues that concern young adults. Therefore you won’t find a book about a divorcee struggling with her failing business (unless that person is the main character’s mother) – but you will get a story packed with tension, page-turning intensity and some of the coolest protagonists ever created.

For those of you that are still unsure what YA is – here are my 5 top YA myths!

  1. YA is a genre

Whoa! Did you think it was? Most people do and it’s a topic that is argued a lot in the book world. But if Romance, Thriller, Fantasy and Crime are literary genres then YA can’t be. ‘YA’ in itself is not going to explain to you what kind of book you are going to read because YA lit also has sub-divisions. YA Fantasy, YA Thrillers and YA Contemporary are all very different; the only thing they have in common are character ages and themes. You wouldn’t say that books by Marian Keys are the same as books by Stephen King because the characters in them are in their 30’s and have families, would you? Well it’s the same with YA.

  1. YA is a recommended age limit


Whoa! Another myth busted. I’m not kidding…if you’re avoiding YA literature because you think you’re too old then you are missing out on some of the best books out there right now. Take ‘The Hate U Give’ (Angie Thomas), for instance. Why is the book YA? Because it’s written through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, yet its political themes inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement are far from childish. This book has won all the awards of 2017 and been enjoyed by all ages, genders, race and backgrounds – because a good book is a good book. The fact that the YA book’s main character is a twelve year old wizard, a torn black schoolgirl or a heroic dystopian teen is neither here nor there – and it shouldn’t put you off reading it.

  1. YA books are simply written

No. They are not. Middle Grade books (think Roald Dahl, David Walliams and Enid Blyton) will certainly have more cartoon-like colourful characters and a simpler linear plot because they are written for kids aged 10+ BUT YA is read from 12+ such as the Harry Potter series (J.K.Rowling) or in some cases 15+, such as my own novel ‘The Path Keeper’ (N.J.Simmonds). When you go from Middle Grade books to YA the writing style jumps dramatically to a much more adult level in terms of both vocabulary and theme.

If you compare the writing styles of YA authors you may be in for a shock – each one is just as unique as non-teen based literature. There is no dumbing down for teens in the book world. YA bestsellers such as I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson) and ‘We Were Liars’ (E. Lockhart) are both written in a poetic and whimsical fashion compared to the more dramatic language and style used in fantasy books such as the Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) or Divergent (Veronica Roth) series. So when you pick up a YA novel, you may be surprised that the language, pace and structure is just as challenging and unique as any ‘grown-up’ novel out there.

  1. YA books are tame and have no sex or violence in them

Actually, they can do – especially fantasy novels. Fans of Sarah J Maas will be the first to tell you about chapter 54 in A Court of Mist and Fury (put it this way, I struggled not to blush on the bus while reading about Feyre and Rhysand and his impressive wingspan). When writing my own YA Fantasy Romance series The Path Keeper I never intended for it to be enjoyed by teens until my publisher at the time told me it would be marketed as YA. It has three pretty explicit sex scenes, plenty of swear words in two languages and a few gory scenes (and book two Son of Secrets, release date to be confirmed, is even darker). I was shocked that it wasn’t going to be edited – until I remembered what I got up to at 17. YA isn’t written for impressionable young kids, most readers are young adults, so they want to read about people just like them acting like real teenagers do. And the best bit? YA books are full of way more drama, intensity and excitement than the boring reality of adulthood – so they are the perfect escape for everyone.

  1. YA books are not as high-brow as the classics

Have you ever read To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)? How about Lord of the Flies (William Golding), Catcher in the Rye (J.D.Salinger) or The Outsiders (S.E.Hinton)? They are all YA books. So does that mean, because you are no longer a teenager, you should avoid them? Of course not!


YA literature has been around for decades, it’s nothing new. The only difference, in this age of marketing and social media, is that by differentiating books that will appeal to teens publishers and authors have a better chance of reaching their ideal audience.

By writing YA and covering the concerns that young adults encounter during the most tumultuous period of their lives, authors (myself included) hope to not only show their readers that they are not alone…but bring them together through the love of a good story.

So next time you read an article about the best YA books of the year or see the New York YA bestsellers list – don’t dismiss it. No matter how old you are now, we were all young adults once. By exploring YA literature, not only will you revisit the angst and excitement of your youth but you’ll also get to enjoy some of the best books out there right now!

 

N.J.Simmonds is the author of highly-acclaimed The Path Keeper series, a YA fantasy romance set in London. She is currently working on book three in the series as well as a number of contemporary YA novels. Learn more about her work at njsimmonds.com or follow her on Facebook,

Twitter and Instagram.

Photo by Jeremy Standley (jeremystandley.com)

Thank you so much to Natali for taking the time to write this post for us.

Emma-Louise x

Author & Editor Guest Post: S.D Mayes

Today I have another amazing Guest Post for you. Author S.D Mayes not only discusses her writing but offers some fantastic tips to others who want to write.

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S.D. Mayes – Journalist, Author and Editor

I always liken editing to cleaning the skirting boards. I don’t really want to do it, but afterwards I feel so much better. However, after doing many rewrites and edits – and that was around eighteen drafts of Letters to the Pianist, my historical suspense novel, I was ready to throw the blimmin’ laptop out of the window. Yep, this novel was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. Timewise, I spent a year writing and nearly two years editing and rewriting, so getting it finally published at the end of September this year was a huge relief.

I’ve worked as a journalist for over twenty years and had already written a best-selling self-help book, Be Your Own Psychic, published by Hodder & Stoughton – one of the big five, so I thought writing a novel would be easy. How wrong I was. I had chosen a complex multi-layered plot with a parallel father and daughter story, simply because the story popped into my mind years back and I loved the premise of it – a Jewish man who loses his memory and marries into a family of Nazi sympathisers. I thought it was going to be hard work, but it just kept popping into my head, and one rainy Sunday afternoon I got started. I had two protagonists: teenage Ruth Goldberg, and her father Joseph Goldberg who was renamed Edward Chopard by his new aristocratic wife Connie.

A protagonist is the character your story revolves around. And I chose to write Ruth in the first person so her story was right up front and in your face. I then chose to write her father, Joseph and all the other characters in third person – both of which was clearly delineated by change of chapter. Many of the reviews I’ve received have said that they like getting the many third person point of views of different characters, but this book was a steep learning curve in many ways – and as I also beta read and edit other authors manuscripts as part of my other work, I’ve seen the many mistakes we can all make as new writers.

Show not Tell

I’m sure you have heard this phrase. It is essential for good writing, and most new writers don’t fully understand what this means. With ‘telling’ many paragraphs can end up being summarised instead of really engaging readers in the powerful elements of a story, so there is a huge lack of description throughout a book where the writer generalises far too much and expects the reader to join the dots as to what’s happening. As writers we need to be painting a story with pictures. A good parallel about the difference between show and tell is that with ‘telling’ the reader becomes an observer of your story. When you ‘show’ however, the reader really experiences your story, often becoming one of the characters in their minds. So that’s a huge difference in the experience of reading.

Here’s some examples with the authors consent on manuscripts I’ve edited.

Telling

‘My father died when I was young and my mother raised me. She was very pious, prayed constantly and took me to church every Sunday. The bitch didn’t allow me to read any book other than the Bible and she didn’t allow me to listen to music either. She was very strict. Every minor infraction would lead to a severe beating with a belt, rod, or cane.’

This paragraph gives a quick summary ‘telling’ us. There needs to be description and detail about how the relationship developed between mother and son. There is barely any description of Jack as a boy and no description of his mother’s character.

Showing

‘One afternoon I walked into our house after school. I was only seven, a small, thin waif of a boy because I didn’t get fed much, only rice and beans if I was lucky. My mother was scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, pushing the bristles back and forth. It was a strange sight to behold as she barely did a scrap of housework. As usual, she stank of rum and her shirt was partly undone showing her huge breasts wobbling about.  I stood in the doorway staring.  ‘Mom’, I muttered, feeling ignored yet again. ‘Mom’, I’m starved. Can I have some bread?’  Finally, she looked up at me with bloodshot eyes, peering at me strangely. ‘Hungry, huh, well there’s no food for you, boy. Get upstairs and read that bible,’ she shouted. You have a darkness in you, I can see it oozing it out of every pore – the spirit of Beelzebub is in you, and you need to read that bible over and over to get it out. Do you hear me?’

With ‘showing’ the reader gets an immediate understanding of the dynamics of this boy’s childhood and relationship with his mother.

Another example of ‘telling’ from a sentence is this.

‘The food was retrieved from a counter where a team of cooks worked furiously to get enough food out for the encroaching students.  They ate well, the food was good. Few words passed as the food went down.’

So what’s wrong with this paragraph?

Firstly, the word ‘food’ was used four times in one paragraph. It’s important for a writer to vary their language. Repetition of the same words too close together reveal boring lazy language – and you want to keep your reader on their toes. But it’s also important to be descriptive to state what this food is. The author needs to make sure it sounds delicious. For example, a description of ‘showing’ with food would be this. ‘There before us, was a long table set out in front of the bay window with the most mouth-watering display of food: platters of buttery smoked haddock and crispy potato cakes, bagels oozing with cream cheese, a dish of boiled eggs, a sponge cake trickled with honey, and my favourite, big round sugary doughnuts all set out on lace doilies. I was drooling, picturing the sweet jam exploding into my mouth.

You get my drift? This kind of detail is what brings stories alive so the reader can see and taste the food.

POV

POV relates to the point of view of a character and many writers resort to head hopping which can confuse the reader. And this is very common. When you write from first person it’s obvious you are in your protagonists head, and that can be up front and powerful as the character tells their story. The problem with first person is that it is limited to that one perspective. So events can only unfold from that characters perception as they tell their story.  Many novelists such as Paula Hawkins author of ‘Girl on the Train’, and Gillian Flynn author of ‘Gone Girl’ use this first person POV for all their characters by putting the name at the top of the chapter, so they get another characters perspective. And in my view ‘first person’ is the easiest way to write.

Third person is far more complex when you go from one character to another, and this is something many authors struggle with where they resort to ‘head hopping’. There is a golden rule with POV. The rules in writing are that you cannot head hop from one character to another without first changing scene or chapter. For example, in this para the characters headhop from Jenny’s thoughts to David’s in two consecutive paras.

Get up, you two! Quickly!” Jenny yelled. The emphasis in her voice appeared to be sharp and impatient. Knowing that assisting the slumbering twins could get her in trouble, she quickly removed her head from underneath the ivy-covered entrance.

David was shocked that Jenny still had such pent up energy despite being up all night. Although he overslept, he felt like an extra hour would have helped him feel less groggy.

So this has gone from Jenny’s point of view to David’s in the same scene. Dialogue can of course go back and forth between characters, but you need to choose whose head you are going to be for that scene or chapter and stick to it, or create a new scene if you are changing POV to another character.

Adverbs: I often find new writers over complicate a sentence by using too many adverbs. I know I did initially. Strong, direct language is best. Adverbs are fine in moderation, but many manuscripts I’ve seen use very similar phrases within a few paragraphs, so there’s a lot of glaring eyes, saddened eyes, brooding eyes and bulging eyes. Writing is about being creative in how you write, not saying the same thing with a few different words.  Find different ways of physically showing how your characters express themselves. For example, instead of saying saddened eyes which is technically ‘telling’ – say ‘she hunched over, clenched her hands together, her eyes wet with tears.’  Leaving in adverbs can look amateurish and lazy as if you can’t be bothered, so describe things properly instead of generalising and be confident with leaner sentences that read in a cleaner, crisper way.

Cliché’s

It’s considered a big no no to mention too many clichés. Expressions of speech, are different if they allude to a certain way of speaking, but it’s important as a writer to find ways of saying the same thing in different ways and finding unique metaphors. Who can forget ‘Hills like White Elephants’, a short story by Ernest Hemingway. What a great description, and one that immediately evokes a visual picture.

What I did in Letters to the Pianist was if a cliché came to mind, I would try and put my unique spin on it, so instead of saying ‘trapped in a gilded cage’ which is a well known cliché, I used, my own – ‘Everything else came under his list of possessions and she was merely another, ‘trapped in a mink-lined dungeon.’

None of this came easy to me at first, and it takes consistent work to keep going through a manuscript and cleaning it up. And I don’t profess to be an expert on any of this, but I have learnt a lot through the years, and as tough as it might be, it definitely gets your creative mind ticking over, and that to me is what writing is all about.

Letters to the Pianist is out now in hardback, paperback and eBook

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Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Sherron. You can follow Sherron on Goodreads or via her Facebook Page.

Emma-Louise x

Study Woes and Pretty Planners

Hey, 

Well I have to say that my studies have been a bit of a nightmare so far. I spent most of November really ill and in and out of hospital which has had a massive impact on my studies and I am seriously behind. 

My first TMA was due on the 30th November but I was granted an extension until 14th December. It’s now the 13th and I’m still not finished. My toddler was poorly and off nursery and very clingy so I’ve literally just started getting my mornings back. 

It’s a 1500 word assignment primarily on the doctrinal approach and the strengths and weaknesses of this approach. 

I have about 500 words so far on the strengths and I will type the rest up this morning. 

It has been a very interesting topic especially in using mental capacity to highlight the pitfalls of using such an approach. The next block which I am 2 weeks years behind on is regarding the historical approach to legal research, this also looks like an interesting block to do. 

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we have the Christmas break off as it will give me a chance to catch up on everything as I will admit I am starting to feel overwhelmed by how far behind I am. I particularly like to read a lot around subjects and currently don’t feel like I have the option to do it much due to the amount I am behind. It’s a good job I love to study:)

On the plus side I have a beautiful new study planner which I will be using for 2018 and I plan to break things down better so I am always more aware of what’s coming up. I have another TMA due on the 1st Feb and I start Jury Service on 29th January so I must get it done before then as I really won’t have time otherwise. 

I am really looking forward to going into the new year. I feel like after this year things can only get better and I want to excel at what I’m doing. I haven’t even looked at my Fiction Writing course since October, that’s my problem with non deadline courses. I’m going to set myself deadlines for that one as well so it doesn’t get left behind especially as writing is important to me. 

Anyway that is enough rambling from me thanks for reading:) 

The Stationery Geekette x

P.S for those who are interested, the Galaxy 2018 planner is a Recollections branded planner from Michaels in the U.S. A beautiful soul (Francesca) brought one over for me on her visit to the U.K. The top planner is a Nayadori from Naya Paperie and it is a B6 travelers notebook in cinnamon stick colour