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Friday, 20 December 2013

INTERVIEW: Len Webster

Library of Dreams


PSG Publishing

Well, for those of you not in the know (for shame!!) the charity anthology Library of Dreams is now on sale at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Createspace and Smashwords. Check out the Goodreads Giveaway too! You have to be in it to win it!

I have been looking at the styles and voices of some of the authors featured in the anthology, and I have more for you to come.

Today, however, I've got an exclusive interview with Len Webster, author of THE RIBBON CHASERS, another story featured in the anthology. 

ribbons3

Len 

Len Webster is a romance author and Melburnian, dreaming of her own romantic adventure. I caught up with her to chat about her writing, and what inspired her to support the charity Litworld in this way.

CMR: So, Len, it's lovely to catch up with you! Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you get up to when you're not writing?

LW: No problem, this is fun for me! I just turned twenty-one. I lived and grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and I can watch sports like I can watch any TV show. But get me in front of my team, Sunderland AFC, and you'll discover my short fuse!

CMR: Melbourne sounds like a great place to live. Did you find a lot of support for your writing? When did you start?

LW: I've been writing since 2012. I wrote secretly in the later half of the year because I didn't think writing was 'cool'. Where I'm from no one is a writer - it's very unusual. January 2013 I stepped out of my little insecure shadow and decided to start writing online. 

CMR: How did writing online help you?

LW: That decision changed my life. I've met so many wonderful people, and I've really grown in my writing. I mean, I'm still a little clueless, but I'm finding my way. 

CMR: And now you're in print! Is this the first time you've been published?

LW: Yes! Library of Dreams is my first time. I'd love my other pieces to be published one day, too. Who knows what might happen!

CMR: You said that you started writing last year. What influenced you to begin, and what are your influences now? 

LW: I'd say the same as Taylor Swift with her music - personal love, romances, boys, heartbreak and all those things that come with growing up, especially when I was a teenager. I often take my own experiences and use them in my writing - taking something that happened to me or something I've felt, and use it for a chapter or storyline. 

CMR: Writing what you know!

LW: Right. 

CMR: Tell us more about the story you contributed, RIBBON CHASERS. I loved the teaser [above] on the website! What inspired you to write it? 

LW: Two things inspired my story. One was a ribbon necklace I was given by my parents when I was nineteen. Secondly, I wanted to write something that was different to my usual romances. The anthology gave me the perfect reason to try something new, and I decided why not. Oh! And thirdly... Hugh Jackman. 

CMR: I'm liking the sound of the third one, Len...! It sounds like a bit of a departure from your preferred genre. How did you find that? 

LW: Oh, definitely, it was a huge departure for me. I was taking a step away from love and romance, and exploring thriller and action. I had more of a focus on friendships rather than on love and intimacy. It certainly has me wanting to write more stories in different genres, although I think I will always primarily be a romance author. But RIBBON CHASERS was a new step and one I enjoyed taking. 

CMR: So when did you get involved with the PSG Publishing anthology? What was your role?

LW: I got involved from the very start of the anthology, from the moment the idea sparked. My role, aside from being a contributor, was to assist in the marketing of the anthology and contact the charity, Litworld, to whom all the proceeds will be going. I set up a Skype meeting with them, and they were really excited about the project. 

CMR: What prompted you to support Litworld in this way, and what is your favourite thing about this charity? 

LW: It came down to researching charities, and as a writing group, we thought something education-based would be appropriate. There are so many terrific charities to choose from, but we could only pick one! We looked into several projects, and Litworld's Stand Up For Girls was voted the winner. My personal favourite thing about Litworld (having Skyped and directly spoken to them) is their passion when it comes to helping the community. They are so enthusiastic about helping those who cannot have access to education and literacy, and that's so inspiring. Their work makes me realize how fortunate I am to have been able to go to school and have access to books, a privilege I've taken so lightly. 

CMR: That's really amazing. It's such a worthy cause, and it's so great to be able to promote a non-profit anthology like this. Thank you so much for agreeing to chat, Len, it's been great to catch up with you! Just before you go, can you possibly give us a sneak peek at what else we can expect from the anthology?

LW: I sure can! It's been great to chat to you too. I've got a few favourite bits from the other contributors' stories, but I'll just share one or two now. You'll have to buy the book if you want the rest! 

CMR: You know I will be!



Len Webster's Sneak Peeks Inside The Library of Dreams



Finding Marty - Katherine A. Ganzel

Walking back into the parlor, he saw his boot prints in the dust covering the floor. It was clear he was the first person who’d been in there in years. Marty’s heart sped up as a bold thought filled his mind. If no one was using the cabin, then why couldn’t he? It almost seemed like a dream come true. 

The Typewriter - J. C. McDowell
“You know, typewriters can tell a lot of stories, much like the photographs that I took.” Her eyes grew with wonder as her grandfather grabbed a photo from the table and continued. “A picture is worth a thousand words, but a typewriter is worth millions.”

Dead Girl Walking - Kim Fry

Climbing the steps to her apartment, she felt relieved to have made it home. She unlocked the door and wandered through the darkened rooms. In her bedroom, she flicked a light on and let out a heavy sigh. Myra looked down at the sleeping form lying on top of the bedspread. The body lying in the bed was the true, living version of herself.


Buy Library of Dreams today!

The lovely JC McDowell poses with her copy of Library of Dreams.
Author J. C. McDowell and her copy


Friday, 13 December 2013

Crafty Voices - JC McDowell

JC McDowell


JC McDowell is a romance and non-fiction writer, and although she is best known for her Love Bug series on wattpad. You may remember McDowell from her guest post "Writing the Romantic Hero" back in August. Well - here she is again, with a sample from Dragonfly Redemption.

Firstly, I should point out that she is not contributing a romantic story to the anthology, LIBRARY OF DREAMS. McDowell is also writing her grandfather's memoirs, an experience which is deepening her skills and appreciation for her writing, and the story that opens the anthology is The Typewriter.


In a way, The Typewriter is the perfect story for this series. McDowell's tale of a little girl and her grandfather, who helps her to discover the medium through which her story-telling adventures will begin, is heartwarming and delightful. It brings to life the idea that dreams are given life and voice by the written word, and the tools of the writer's trade are treated reverently and reflected upon with a sense of sensitive nostalgia. 


I can't think of a better opening for an anthology with the theme of 'dreams'. 


You'll notice that McDowell's style is very different to Petrik's (see this post for a sample of his writing), whose story Dream Job is also in the anthology. 

I love anthologies with different contributors, because it's very much like an exhibition by different artists, as opposed to rifling through a portfolio of one artist's work. I do like to do that, too, as it happens - Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is one of my favourite short story collections. However, my taste is so eclectic that I love to discover new authors and check out new styles, to see what I would like to read more of. It also helps me to think about my own voice and style, and shows me where I can improve and what is good or unique about my own work. 

Here's a sample of McDowell's writing, taken from her novel Dragonfly Redemption:

The waterless beach surrounded me for endless miles only ending with the pitching Afghan mountains in the distance. The lush, green mountains of home were a distant memory as I stood at attention inside the command tent with the sand swirling outside in the ensuing dust storm. My platoon and I wore the matching uniforms of the desert as we awaited our orders from Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe. While feeling the anxious hum from my spotter, I tried to remain focused and remember who I was. I was a Marine, but not just any Marine. I was Teague Harris.

I wonder what images this conjures up for you?

How do you find writing in the first person, and what difficulties have you encountered when trying to differentiate between your narrative voice, and the character's voice? Who is successful at this, and who isn't? How successful have you been, and what is the story of your journey? 

I'd love to know the answers to this! 

If you're interested in McDowell's writing, check her out on twitter, facebook, wattpad and tumblr.
She now also has a separate facebook page for her alterego, Jaycee Ford, under which pseudonym she intends to write Harlequin style romances.


I'm looking forward to reading her very different opener in LIBRARY OF DREAMS... McDowell is more than just a one-genre pony!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Crafty Voices - Miloš Petrik

Miloš Petrik


I intended to kick off with my favourite example of 'beautiful writing', which, of course, is only my opinion. I think, though, that it would be good to save that for a little bit... and look at the voices of a few other writers who are more contemporary! 

For those of you who don't yet know, a new anthology is coming out on the 15th Dec 2013, all proceeds of which are going to charity - LitWorld. The anthology, Library of Dreams, brings together a varied range of stories from vastly different authors with vastly different styles. The stories cover an array of genres, tied together by the theme of 'dreams', and I can't think of a better thing to promote than this! 

The money raised from the sale of Library of Dreams is going to Stand Up For Girls, one of LitWorld's projects. You can read more about it here


One of the contributors to the anthology is Serbian author, Miloš Petrik. His story is intriguing speculative fiction, Dream Job

I love the urgency of the present tense teaser, although present tense is not my favourite! I would love to experiment with these kinds of things, but the past tense is my comfort zone. 

I asked Petrik and other contributors to give me an example of their writing for this series, as a prelude to the anthology being published. 

The following paragraph is what he provided, unrelated to his story, but telling a story in itself. I've been privileged to get to know these writers over the past year or so, and what I really admire about Petrik's style and talent is that he is so able to construct a short narrative from minimal prompts, and to make a complete image or scene from a few well chosen words. It's a skill that I need to develop, because it doesn't come naturally to me in the way that it does to Petrik. At least, I assume it does. He makes it look effortless.  

Knives never knew another of her kind. Years passed, and she learned how to be shadow, invisible to all, and listen in on whispered conversations in secret languages of birds and bugs and foxes and cats. She learned of things, dark and bright, that lived in the canal when it had been a river, and on the estate when it had been a forest, and knew that they were like her, but also not like her. She fed on the humour of the fear of the night and grew, until she was bigger than any of the foxes that lived in the dark recesses of the estate. It wasn’t long before Mr Tiddles was found in a pool of piss and cat blood, between two skips, gutted and with paws cut off and mangled. A child poked him with a pencil and went off to call her mother, but the other cats ate him while she was gone, and took his power.

I liked this. 

I liked the contrast between the childhood innocence and fascination with the grotesque, and the human world side by side with the kill-or-be-killed savagery of the animal kingdom all around them. I love the way you see Knives and don't see her, at the same time. I love the way the child's activity bridges the gap between barbarism and civility, and makes me feel inexplicably uncomfortable. 

I'm not going to critique it - that's an editor's job, and I'm neither an editor nor a critic. I'm just interested in looking at it on its own merit, not in trying to change anything. When something isn't the way the reader would like it to be, I wonder whether that's just saying, "it's not how I would write it". Maybe that would be better. Maybe it would divide opinion. Maybe it would make it worse. But "better", "worse" and "about the same" are subjective concepts, too. 

So, I'm just offering up teasers with a few of my own random thoughts, and leaving you to make your own minds up. 


Petrik has published works in his native Serbian, but if you would like to read more of his style and unique twisted take on the world, check out Dream Job in the forthcoming Library of Dreams


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Christmas Crafts (I)

The Craft of Writing (Part I)


Following on from my last post, which you can read here, I'm starting a new series which is sort of experimental... I'm going to be looking at the actual craft of writing, not as a teacher or from a "how to" perspective, but as an aspiring writer on their own journey.


Along the way I will be picking up with other writers on similar journeys, and pondering various questions.


Firstly, I want to make it clear that I'm not advocating one "style" or "voice" over another. I'm not going to use this as a platform to push complex sentences, or no adverbs allowed, or that dialogue tags are an unforgivable sin. I've seen it bantered about often in writing forums and elsewhere that the 'rules of writing' should be applied "except when [the things we shouldn't do] work".

I would advise you check out some books on writing craft for that kind of thing!





Show, don't tell - except when telling works better than showing.

Don't use adverbs - except when they create the emphasis you want, or when they help rather than hinder the flow or the feel of the scene.

Everyone has their own style, their own voice, and their own techniques. They may use them consciously or unconsciously, and bad habits can creep in as well as recognisable motifs.

What I want to do is to explore a gallery of writing samples, like an art gallery, and try to look at them from different perspectives. It's going to be a chance for me to look at my favourite authors in a new light, and take you on that journey too; to look at my own work in a critical way and give you updates on how that's going; and to showcase other writers' work as well.

I'd love to see how my work compares, not necessarily in a negative way, just in a ... different way.


The artists in Sky Arts 1's Portrait Artist of the Year (yes, we're back to that) were advised by the judges to check out the work of different artists while they were on their assignment in Paris. They each had their own style and their own portfolios, which were vastly different and fresh. Yet their styles got compared to different French artists throughout history, and they spent some time checking out the paintings they had been advised to study while there. They then went on to paint Sophie Dahl over two days, in six hours, and they each produced a strikingly different portrait of her.

Sophie Dahl said she loved them all and couldn't choose her favourite, because they were all so completely different - from the techniques to the colour palette.


The artists themselves were not 100% happy with their finished products - they only had six hours - and they weren't sure if they had done all that the judges had advised them to do / not do. But one of the judges admitted freely that the advice they had given was entirely subjective, and they trusted the artists' judgement to take or ignore parts of it, depending on what made the most sense in terms of what they wanted to do.

You could see why the artists were not all happy about their work, but you could also see what was good and what was not so good about the finished pieces... as could the judges. The really interesting thing was the fact that by this point, it was much clearer that the pieces were not being judged comparatively by the styles of the others - they were being judged against the quality of the artist's own work, and the potential for growth that the experts could see within that work.

When we write, we are also just judging our work against the limitations of our own potential.

Yes; we are all limited.

Charles Dickens could never write War and Peace and have it come out the way it has. It would have come out as if Charles Dickens had written it, not Leo Tolstoy.

George R. R. Martin could never write The Chronicles of Narnia and have them come out word for word the same.

J. K. Rowling could not have written The Name of the Rose, and Umberto Eco could not have written Harry Potter.

Would those books be better or worse for their change in author? Would The Canterbury Tales have been improved if Shakespeare had written it instead, and would Romeo and Juliet still be an enduring classic if it had been written by Chaucer?

Whatever you think about this - and that might be a really fun experiment for some literary enthusiast who can mimic the styles of other authors, or develop some programme that can identify vocabulary and syntax and switch the plots over - the fact is the end results would never be the same.


So - - - on this journey to discover my voice and style, and how I can make it better, I hope blogging about my random thoughts and discoveries and all sorts will be of some interest or help to someone else!

I also hope that in and through the future posts, you'll discover new authors or rediscover ones you already like.

Stay tuned!

C. M. Rosens





Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Getting Arty for Christmas

Seasonal Inspiration


It's December, and in case you hadn't noticed, it's nearly Christmas time! 

That means the Christmas movies are on 24/7, the Christmas specials of all the soaps and long-running series are being aired, and Sky Arts is bringing us yet more cultured goodness. 

I am currently enthralled by Sky Arts' drama, A YOUNG DOCTOR'S NOTEBOOK AND OTHER STORIES. I got into the first series last year, and was really impressed by the development of actor Daniel Radcliffe. His character grabbed me with the perfect blend of naivety and black humour, and I was hooked. 

If you have not seen it, and don't want to be spoiled, look away now. 



The first series charts the experiences of the Young Doctor (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and his first job at a Siberian hospital in 1917. Fresh out of medical school and still very proud of his scores, the Young Doctor quickly realizes that life in the Siberian wilderness is as far removed from his old life in Moscow as the moon is from the sun. Meanwhile, his older self, played by Jon Hamm, is paying for the choices that the Young Doctor made. While undergoing treatment and morphine withdrawals, he revisits his memories of being the Young Doctor through the discovery of his old journal. 

Based on the autobiographical and semi-autobiographical short stories of Mikhail Bulgakov, author of THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, the tone of the series is darkly humourous and filled with a twisted poignancy that stops the physical comedy of some scenes from devolving into jarring slapstick.

Mikhail Bulgakov, c.1930

The idea of being able to physically interact with your own memories, unseen by any of the other characters but physically present and able to communicate and physically fight with your younger self is an intriguing idea. 

I think what fascinated me most about this series was not just the concept but the construction. Stories within stories have always fascinated me as a writer. I like to experiment with narrative techniques and story construction, but my novels and novellas are really not ready for anything other than free viewing. When I do have something publishable, I will let you know..
.
I've been watching Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year, too. The composition of the portraits and the vastly different styles of the artists have really inspired me to think about my own work - with words - in the same way as the artists use their medium to capture moments and create art from life and life from art. 

Watching the artists work, some sketching first, others applying paint straight onto canvas. The strokes and techniques and colour palette differed dramatically, and the end results were so varied, but I loved the images and portraiture they created. 

 

I think writing is a lot like that. Everyone composes their piece differently, everyone has their own ways of putting things down, whether you plot or pants, or do a bit of both. And sometimes you get a brilliant idea, and sometimes your layers drown out the central themes. Sometimes it all works out, and sometimes it doesn't. 

But inspiration is everywhere, and when you find something that really excites you, channel it and figure out why you like it so much and what makes it so good. That's how growth happens! 


Christmas is a pretty great time for inspiration, and this is what I want for Christmas: 


I'd love to write something like a portrait. Something with the depth and psychology and composition of one crystallized moment, layers of carefully chosen strokes of the pen building up to make a complete picture which surprizes me when I take a step back. 

I want to write something conceptually interesting, that engages the reader with few characters and a well-crafted situations that read like they all 'just happened'. 

I want to learn how to write. And I never want to stop learning. 


So here's to Christmas telly, and all the inspiration of the season!

Merry Christmas,
Happy Hannukah,
and
Season's Greetings!