A prize for everyone!

A timely response to today’s prompt Champion

When you’ve been working on a project for so long, you can be accused of developing tunnel vision. Your project is a culmination of coffee, late nights, long hours staring at a blank page, longer hours editing the same words over and over, more coffee… you get the picture. You dream of releasing it out into the world and watching it fly…and then comes all the waiting.

So I decided that I needed to write something new, something fresh – and I’m so glad that I did.

I’ve returned to the wonderful lists of Christopher Fielden and I picked out a few competitions. I’m not much of a poet (and doesn’t everyone know it – ba dum tish) but I’ve had reasonable success with flash-fiction. Something short, something snappy I thought? I can do flash-fiction!

So I submitted a piece to Christopher’s Writing Challenges. The gratification of knowing I’d done something of a good deed – submitting fiction to raise money for charity, was only seconded by the happy glow of seeing my work published on someone’s website. Wheee!

So I submitted to Third-Word as well!

I won!

I am so excited you would not believe, I’m even using far too many explanation marks!!!

Alongside a nifty prize, I still get that lovely glow of  achievement and I’m delighted that again, the Eighty-One words will be put to a good cause. Third word are going to compile an anthology to help homelessness. Triple win!

It’s been an exciting few weeks and I’ve set Burning Embers decidedly to one side, for now. I’m even working on a new Novel – tentatively titled: Initiate

Oooo…I hear you say.

More details will be forthcoming in other posts.

Aesthetic – Strip it away

 

I like to write about things that are important to me.

I saw today’s prompt and I was excited. So excited that I’ve raced home in order to try and express my response in a slightly more logical, accurate and researched method than my usual ad-hoc ramblings.

Woman in fantasy writing, who are they and how are they represented? As a child I fell in love with Dragonlance. A mouldy paperback of the Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight by Margerat Weiss and Tracey Hickman was what sealed my love for Fantasy. I’d already explored Narnia (thoroughly), Hobbitton and the Hundred Acre wood and Harry Potter hadn’t arrived yet. So here was this book, for adults with all the things I loved about the computer games I immersed myself into: Daggerfall featuring most prominently.

However, as a young woman the main heroine of the saga is Lauralanthalassa. Now, not to discredit this character who grew into the Golden General, Dragon-Flying, Army-Leading incredible powerhouse – but for the entire first book of the initial series she is defined by her beauty. I love the writing of Laurana’s introduction, but it’s all aesthetic. She’d an elf, she achieves an untouchable ideal of beauty by her very race. Not only that, but Laurana is the epitome of womanhood, no trace of age is upon her. Even the mage who see’s decay, looks upon the elf-maiden and sees beauty for the first time.

Now I fell in love with Laurana – but I really wanted a sword. Before she becomes the general she needs to be rescued and protected – a lot. She’s a fairy-tale princess, although not necessarily passive. After all, she decides to follow her true-love instead of waiting for him to come back; and it is this decision that propels her into adventure.

But after I fell in love with Dragonlance, it felt like I spent years searching for a heroine that I could aspire to be. I could never reach the ideal beauty of Laurana and I really really wanted a sword. I wanted to be a knight if I’m honest, and I couldn’t find that story in any of the books I was reading.

I was seventeen when I picked up a copy of ‘First Test’ – By Tamora Pierce in the library. I read it, sat between the stacks whilst my parents did the weekly shop in the supermarket over the road. I still remember shivering with excitement, barely able to read as I was pulled into this amazing world and this story that I had wanted, so badly, for so long, to read. It was like when you watch Peter Pan, then spend all day jumping off the sofa trying to fly – hasn’t worked so far, but I might keep trying. I checked out the entire series and within a day had finished it off. I had to go back to the library over the weekend and took out as many of Pierce’s book as I could. Here were heroines who go to be girls, and be knights. To speak to animals and yet…they could still be girls.

Natalie Babbitt calls fantasy “the most wrenching, depth-provoking kind of fiction available to our children’.”[1]

My desperation was to find a strong, female role-model that I could identify with, and that’s what I want to write.  As study was conducted by Laura Solomon, who analysed 45 fantasy novels for children and young adults. This is one of the results:

Statistically in the books studied: “In Alternate World/History fantasy, beauty is a defining trait for 25% of females.”[2]

That’s it. For a quarter of heroine’s beauty is their defining trait. They don’t get to be brave, intelligent, they don’t have hobbies, talents or skills – they’re pretty.  What’s worse, is if you’re not pretty in the story then you fall at the other end of the spectrum and you’re a hag. In stories, how much emphasis is placed on appearance? It’s something hard to avoid when writing, because you want the reader to be able to visualise your protagonist. However it feels as though there is something deeply harmful in only allowing our young woman to be either an epitome of beauty, or a hag.

“Certainly most children will not describe themselves as ugly, making those at this end of the spectrum unlikely candidates for close reader relationships. Females noted mostly for or only for their appearance fall at the other end and, while some readers may relate to them (and many girls wish to be them), these types of depictions only strengthen society’s message that beauty is all-important.”[3]

I want my characters, male and female to be defined by more than their appearance. I want my readers to engage with role-models that offer ways to deal with a complex and changing world and to come away with a sense of hope; that no matter how crazy this place gets – it’ll be alright.

Here is a brilliant article about writing strong female protagonist and how we’re loosing them. When an inevitable aesthetic is stripped away, I want it to be clear to my reader that their heroine could never be replaced by a floor lamp.

I also agree that being a strong, female protagonist doesn’t mean that you can’t like pretty dresses and make-up. Readers, especially our young adult readers, should be able to engage with characters that they feel represent them or they can identify with, no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or disability. There’s another amazing series of articles here if this is something you want to carry on reading about.

[1] AUTHOR Solomon, Laura

TITLE Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults:  Comparative Analysis.

PUB DATE1998-10-00

Solomon, Laura. “Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults: A Comparative Analysis.” (1998). – Page 6

[2] Ibid., Page 15

[3] Ibid., Page 16

My Response to the Daily Prompt: –Aesthetic

Invitation to Digress – Songs with Story

Response to a Daily Prompt: Invitation

I was planning a blog post about Songs With Story and I will circle around to my intention shortly, however I thought I’d check the daily prompt to see if it tied in with my thoughts today. It doesn’t lend itself to the words I had in mind, however I’m currently working on a very exciting project – wedding invitations! Today’s inspiration came as I’ve been hand tracing a monogram onto invitations. The groundwork is done, tomorrow embossing powder!

Aside from my other creative interests I wanted to talk about music. There are reasons that when I’m writing, I struggle to concentrate when there’s music or radio playing in the background. I’m aware there are some creative bods out there who can’t be without a background melody and it helps them keep going. I can’t, which is a shame; because I love music.

If there’s music whilst I’m working or writing I find it impossible to work around and distracting. However, when drawing, painting, embossing or anything else then I take the opportunity to blast something from an eclectic range. I may well have the worst taste in music, ever. Or it might just be the best. I thought I’d share a few of the current playlist with you.

The theme, as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, is songs with a story. The best thing about writing, is that you get to weave and create a story. I don’t think that it’s any surprise that some of my favorite songs are lyrical expressions of a tale. They’re more of a poetic exploration and set to melody’s I can only dream of reaching, but they’re beautifully written.

Here they are, three from the collection today:

LionHeart – I love the folk tale feeling to this. It also never fails to remind me of Alanna from Tamora Pierces’s ‘Song of the Lioness’

Fairytale – This song always makes me smile. An alternative to a traditional fairytale. A different outcome for the feminine hero of a classic.

Scars – A  new discovery with heartfelt depth and some gorgeous sweeping lyrics – poetry!

I’d love to what you listen to for inspiration! Leave me a message.

Fibi

 

Someday

Response to a Daily Prompt: Someday

Someday, all my Dragons will come true.

Eleia stood at the window, with her hands in the sink. Beyond the horizon purple clouds were touched with silver. The tang of fresh-brewed tea drifted with soap suds. Despite the autumn warmth, the fire roared and crackled behind and she wore layers of heavy wool. Sleeves pushed back to the elbow to keep them out of the washing. A sponge was held by limp fingers, and a plate in the other hand. A shape separated from the mountain tops, lifting with a flap of outstretched wings.

An aquiline neck and serpent body that coiled like smoke as it rose. The beast screamed fire into the falling night and was silhouetted for a breath, before it was swallowed by darkness and vanished against the night. The screech raced along her arms and lifted the fine hairs. It tingled down her rigid spine as she lent forward. Soapy fingers slipped on the catch as she reached for the window.  The metal lifted with ease and the window opened at a touch.

She could smell the acrid singe of Dragon-breath. One day, she promised herself. Someday soon, she would do it. She would throw away the dishcloth and humdrum life. One day she would learn how to fly.

Slim Grip on Reality

In response to the Daily Prompt: Cling

Rough seas rise up, dark and murky. Toes stretching in a frantic search for solid ground and arms flail for the coarse grip of rope.

The submissions are sent and my author-neurotic self is running circles, yelping oh my god, oh my god what if no one wants it! What if it’s not worthy, what if I’m not worthy?! Years of hard work and effort wasted? What will I say? How will I explain that I have failed? Once I’ve found a moment to breathe I remind myself that if traditional publishing is not my route, then the world won’t end. In the words of Obama, the sun will continue to rise. In the words of myself, of the things that are certain in this world, it’s that there is always change. Sometimes it just seems to take longer to get arrive. (Sometimes it feels like change got on the wrong bus and is now on a circular route and stuck in M25 traffic, but hey – it’ll get here.)

My journey as a writer will continue. Having simply finished the manuscript and sent it out, I feel rejuvenated (and then terrified) but mostly rejuvenated to start new projects; exciting projects! The second book in the series, a selection of short pieces for radio, a collaborative novella with an intended publisher in mind! Exciting, exciting, exciting!

Burning Embers will also, one way or another, live on. I believe that as Young Adult Fantasy is has a current market. As a genre it’s a saturated market, but I have to believe that I’ve got a unique voice to offer and a story that my readers will fall in love with, a world they won’t want to leave and characters that they’re desperate to champion. That is after all, the dream.

So, in the moments after the panic and in between the project planning, I look at self-publishing options. This blog was always supposed to explore the traditional and the non-traditional and so today I’m going to share a few things that I’ve recently learnt about self-publishing options.

  1. The book needs an ISBN if I’m going to do this. It’s not strictly needed for e-book but I’m vain and prideful and I want to hold my book in my hands! If I want to sell a printed version, it needs an ISBN and then and ISBN printed barcode – this means it can be sold. Hooray
  2. I want the ISBN to be registered in my name. This means I retain the rights as the publisher as well as the Author – double win.
  3. I need to generate more of an online presence. Kew twitter feed, reviewing other peoples works, finding an audience of peer reviewers (how do I find you lovely people?) Beta testers! I need to create a circle of people who are going to be just as excited about the book as I am. To be honest – this works in both versions. If there’s an agent or a publishing contract out there for Burning Embers, then building this circle up is still going to be important.
  4. I would like Burning Embers to be available as an ebook, and in print. I’d like it on Amazon and I’d also like it with Neilson and Gardeners, so that this way the big chain stores have a chance in stocking it. You have to fill out a lot of appropriate paperwork and there is still no guarantee, but if the book is not with a wholesaler/distributer – it’s not going to happen.
  5. I would really like someone to do a lot of the hard work for me. You have to send five copies of your printed book out to specific libraries here in the UK so that it’s legally listed. It’s something I’m capable of doing but right now my brain hurts.
  6. I would also like someone to make the copy-set pretty. This is also beyond my skill.
  7. Could they make the cover too?

So this is what I’m looking for, and I don’t have an enormous budget. My list of demands are the above plus 100 copies of the book. A press release, merchandise and other things I think I can probably do. I’ve even worked out how to get a paypal button on here, wordpress, so that I could sell and distribute the book myself. I’m doing a lot of research and maybe I’ll never need to use it. Perhaps though, I will.

If you’re considering self-publishing, do all of the reading. The pages and pages of PDF’s offered on the company websites. Compare them for the services they offer and the rights that you retain. If you get 100% royalties, that’s awesome, but do you own the ISBN?

It might be construed that I am procrastinating as I wait for replies to return to my inbox. I know myself though, I need to keep my mind busy. Research into a positive outcome is currently my life line and I’m going to hold on dreaming, for as long as I can.

If you have any advice of finding that circle of reviewers, I’d love to hear it!

 

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions – No More!

The manuscript is done! The Christmas Holidays gave me a good opportunity to finish the final edit. It has been a lengthy process and would have been quicker with so few distractions. The majority of last year was spent writing short stories on writing forums. With so much history with Burning Embers, I couldn’t face returning to it.

Was the time wasted? No, I don’t think so. Most of it was spent feeling very guilty about my neglected manuscript. The printed papers were moved from desk, to drawer, to desk and then at what I consider to be the lowest ebb – stuffed in a bookshelf. The guilt though, the writing guilt is gone. Writing on forums I was able to rediscover the sheer joy of putting prose to paper and working to captivate an audience. I’ve developed some new characters and their voices are strong and their stories are interesting. I’ve enjoyed playing with technique, expanding dialogue and exploring a new world with other writers and I’m confident in the impact it has made in my writing. I worry that some of the rules on structure, grammar and style have slipped out of my ears but I can tweak those more easily than I can learn to write a sense of place and expand emotion. I’m proud of the thousands of words I’ve churned out in the last year, even if they’re not on my blog and won’t make it to print. I’m excited to work with writing partners in the future, with a few collaborative projects in development.

Back to the manuscript – you see how easy it is to be side tracked?

In my mind, it was an insurmountable task. 310 pages of printed 1.5 spaced A4 text. 110,000 words to be carefully cultivated and on occasion, brutally hacked with a machete, (there’s shredded paper everywhere) The edit has been my Everest, my Mount Doom and now it is done. I feel like I’ve shaken off a huge weight around my ankles and I’m floating around. This isn’t namby-pamby floating though. After the colossal final edit was done, I went through with a few additional culls. The filler word culprits this time were: but, though and so. Cut them! Cut them all!

Once the post-edit euphoria has faded I’m sure I’ll come down from my excitement. It is difficult though, as I’ve started submitting to agents and indie publishers who accept Young Adult, or New Adult Fantasy. A whole new genre appeared whilst I’ve been writing my book, who knew?! (Apparently not me, as I’ve had my head in a computer for a year)

I might be back to where I began with this blog a few years ago, but I’m better for it and I am excited for the future.

Scratches on the Surface

In my foolish endeavor to return to my prolific blogging self I’ll be joining in with the Daily Prompt ‘s once more. Hooray!

I’ve been caught up with the Olympics again. I feel like a fool, because when the medals are presented I lose that sense of proprietary and the tears start building.  Athletes that realize that they’ve won a medal seem to have the same struggle. Hit with emotion that they struggle to contain. Euphoria, excitement, tears and weak-knees all break through to the surface, for all the world to see. There’s something vulnerable in those moments and sometimes I wish the camera would turn away, and let them regain their sense of control.

But I’m afraid that what gets to me, is that this moment is their culmination of years of sacrifice and training. The metallic disc is their representation of teenage years spent in a swimming pool or gym. Time away from friends and family, early starts and late nights. In their moments of triumph, I can’t help but feel that the absolute joy is made all the sweeter by the difficulties and the long journeys to this point.

In the stories I like to write and love to read, I’m propelled through the plot twists because I’m seeking that moment of triumph. If the protagonist is not victorious then I can’t help by feel cheated. But what is that moment worth, is if the journey is too easy? Nothing can be gained at the end if nothing was ever at risk of being lost.

At the close of a novel, and perhaps shorter fiction, and certainly in a lot of films there is usually that moment of ‘all hope is lost.’ There’s a metaphorical death of the protagonists’ purpose. If they set out seeking love, then the object of their affection might have made it absolutely clear there is no future. Without this moment of utter failure to meet their purpose there wouldn’t be the sweet sense of victory when it’s achieved and they run off into the happily ever after.

So for anyone who is editing, or coming to the end of a piece. Where is your moment of utter failure? Where are the scratches on the medal?