Tag Archive: authors


Hey all:

I am pleased to say that Jenn of “Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger” has asked me to do an author interview and giveaway on her site

Amongst other things, we discuss the Mother of the Shantar and her daughter Eliset, and I explain a little about the aftermath of the war between the Shantari and the Mardonese and why you hear so little about it for most of the first book, though it will feature heavily in the second.

If you’re interested (or if you want to enter for the chance of a free copy of  “On Dark Shores: The Lady” ) you can read more at

Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger

 NB: as an added bonus, if you’re quick you might have a last chance to enter her previous giveaway for a SIGNED copy of “The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa. You’ll have to be quick though – that giveaway finishes in the next day or so (the competition for “On Dark Shores” is open till 24th, so you have  a bit more time for that.

Hope you all enjoy the read:

JAC

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Morning all!

And hope you’re all having a decent weekend….

I’m quite glad the week is over – everything is really busy at the moment, I’m doing edits on Book 2 in all my spare time, and got caught up in the train uproar on Thursday night, so my (usually 1hr) journey home actually took best part of 6 hours, leaving me getting in so late I had 3h sleep before having to get up again and start my Friday commute! Yuck!

However, in better news,’ On Dark Shores: The Lady‘ is just this minute up to #7839 in the whole of the Kindle Store – get me! I’m really pleased, even though that will probably last all of ten minutes…. but to be in the top 10k is quite cool, so though I guess I’ll be back down again by tomorrow, I thought I’d record the moment! The editing of book 2 is going apace (in part thanks to said train journey) and I’ll be unveiling the new and improved blurb once all the votes are in.

But that’s quite enough from me – let’s get on to what you’ve really come here for!

This week we are lucky enough to have a guest blog from none other than Lisa Hinsley! The challenge I set Lisa was to write a fairy story as it would have happened if she herself was the heroine. With her tendencies towards the horror genre, it was never going to be light and fluffy, but I think that you’ll enjoy the following – Snow White it ain’t!!

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About the author:

Lisa C Hinsley was born in Portsmouth in 1971, and grew up in England, Scotland, and America.  Recently, her novel What Alice Sees placed as runner-up in the 2010 UKA Opening Pages Competition. Her novel Coombe’s Wood finished in the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2009 and was awarded runner up in the all-genre Book of the Year Awards 2008 on Arts Council website YouWriteOn. Now listed on Amazon Kindle, Coombe’s Wood has sold over 2000 copies. 
Check out her website at http://lisahinsley.weebly.com for her blog, links, and all the latest on her various works.

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GUEST-BLOG CHALLENGE: The Fairytale…

Lisa rolled over in her bed and wished her mother dead. She couldn’t believe she’d had the nerve to try and make her eat the kidney in the pie. Yuck! Who eats such horrible stuff? Oh yes, her mum and dad. She let out a huff and pulled her pillow over her face.

How dare she? Mum should eat horrible stuff, like roasted grasshoppers or fried grubs. She saw that on a documentary on the telly. See what she thinks of eating things that make her want to gag. Lisa rubbed at her knuckles where he mother had rapped them with a fork. Persuasion, her father called it. Lisa called it abuse.

A loud bang from downstairs sounded, and Lisa threw the pillow aside and sat up, curious. There was a second bang followed by a short sharp scream – her mother! Lisa jumped out of bed and opened her door and crept to the top of the stairs. A group of small dumpy men with long scraggly beards had her parents surrounded.

“Where’s the girl?” one of them asked, and poked her mother with a short sword.

“Oi, lay off my wife. What do you think you’re doing?” Her father shoved the blade aside.

Three of the dwarfs pressed swords into her father’s side.

“Ow, that actually hurts. Those aren’t toys, you know.” He sounded scared, and Lisa tried to see a little better what was going on. Who were the dwarfs, and where on earth had they come from?

“Where’s the girl? Your daughter?” the one she thought was the leader asked. He had a funny accent.

“What daughter?” her father answered. “We don’t have a daughter.”

“I don’t think I believe you…” the dwarf thought for a moment, then said, “Take them through. They’ll tell us where she is eventually.”

Her parents were shoved towards the coat cupboard. At the last moment, her mother glanced up to the stairs at Lisa. It was enough. Two of the dwarfs came back into the house and closed the cupboard door. There was a gleam in their eyes as they climbed the stairs. Lisa jumped up and ran for her bedroom, but they were faster. Next thing she knew, as she grabbed desperately at the handle, something hit her on the back of the head.

Everything went black.

Lisa opened her eyes to find herself in a large sunny room. All around her were other children, laughing and playing.

“Urgh…” Lisa touched the back of her head where the dwarfs had hit her.

“Oh, hello.” A blonde girl noticed her moving, and came over. “You’re new, aren’t you.” She said it as a statement. “Don’t be scared. You’ve come to… child heaven.” She grinned widely. “But you’re not dead,” she added quickly.

“Where am I, then?” Lisa sat up. She was on some sort of fancy day bed, covered in rich, red velvet.

“You’re in another world,” the girl whispered. “Oh, sorry. I’m Liz. I came here last week. I’m waiting for my family to be assigned, should be very soon now.”

“Family, what are you talking about?” Lisa was more awake now, noticing the bars on the windows, even through the thin curtains.

“None of the adults can have children. So they take children who need a family and bring them here.”

Lisa checked the room for the door. She found it – and one of those warrior dwarfs. “But I have a family,” she muttered.

Liz shrugged. “But I’m guessing they didn’t treat you very well. Are they horrible?”

Lisa didn’t answer.

“Anyway, here you’ll get parents who treat you like a living god.” She smiled. “Hungry? You can order whatever you fancy. But there’s already piles of things to choose from.”

Liz helped Lisa off the daybed, and took her to a table covered in cakes and sweets. Lisa’s tummy grumbled, she’d gone to bed without any dinner. As she munched on a cookie, she wondered about what they’d done to her parents. Would the guard know what happened to them? Maybe they were sent back.

“Um, excuse me?”

The warrior dwarf clicked his heels to attention.

“What’s happened to my mum and dad?”

The dwarf waved a hand as if her question wasn’t important. “Why would you want to know about them?”

“Because they’re my parents?” She was getting angry. Why wouldn’t anyone give her a straight answer? “I want to see them. Now!” she shouted.

The dwarf cleared his throat. “You’ll see them… tomorrow.”

She knew he was making it up. Not to worry. She’d wait. Eventually she’d find out what happened to them.

Days passed. She had a tummy ache from eating too many sweets, and a strong craving for her mother’s homemade soup. She slipped out to use the loo, and as she sat there, allowing a few tears to fall, closed up inside the toilet cubicle, she heard a noise – two of the dwarf guides.

“Oi Bert, another of the parents kicked it last night. Need you to help me drag the body up from the dungeon and toss it out in the lake. The crocodiles will make short work of that one – nothing left but skin and bones.”

Lisa poked her stomach. She’d grown noticeably rounder since she came here. Too many sweets and cakes, and not enough exercise. She missed her bike as well. A sob threatened to escape, and she clapped a hand over her mouth in case the dwarfs heard.

The other one was speaking, “…Fine, Norman, I’ll help. But then you need to help me get the next sacrifice up the mountain.” A sacrifice – what?

“Okay, that’s a deal. Do you know where I can get any more heat protection? Mine’s shot, and it’s blooming hot on top of the volcano. When the chid is squirming, you have to have the protection wrapped all the way around.”

Lisa started, her eyes wide. They were sacrificing them, the children, into a volcano – like she learned in history. She had to do something! The dwarfs left the room, and the moment she judged it to be safe, she leapt off the toilet seat and fled the room.

But back in the main chamber, where all the children lolled around on comfy sofas and beds, surrounded by toys and food, Lisa realised how close their guards stayed. There was no way she’d be able to make a grand announcement to the other kids, so she went to William and whispered in her ear, “We don’t go to new parents. They’re sacrificing us to the volcano.” She nodded her head towards the window. Beyond the bars, a plume of smoke rose from the nearby mountain.

William shook his head. “You’re wrong,” he whispered back.

“I heard two of the dwarfs talking about it, just now in the loos. They didn’t know I was there.”

“I’m not so sure…” No doubt he was thinking about his mystical future parents.

“Then stay. My parents are in the dungeon, just as yours probably are. To be honest, I don’t care what you do. Just pass the message along. Goodbye.”

Lisa didn’t wait for acknowledgement. She made her way to the edge of the room, and waited for her chance to escape. It didn’t take long. Maybe William believed her. Maybe he simply wanted to give her a chance with what she believed. Either way, he’d climbed up on top of a table laden with creamy cakes, and toppled everything over. There was an almighty crash and a yelp from William, and the guard who usually stayed by the door ran over. This was her chance. She opened the door, wished William good luck, and slipped out of the room.

She stood out so badly. No other children were wondering about, so she ducked behind a statue and the tapestry behind that was hung from the wall and tried to figure out what to do. She had to look like one of them. A dwarf would make the most sense, as she was about the same height. Her mind made up, Lisa crept out from behind the tapestry, and searched for a weapon. She didn’t have to go far. The walls were adorned with all manner of weaponry. She grabbed what looked to be an ancient club, ripped it off the frame it was attached to and hid back behind the tapestry. Making sure she had a view of the hall, she waited for a solitary dwarf.

Many came in twos and threes, and she had to stifle a yawn as she waited. But then one rounded the corner. Lisa made sure no others came around the end of the corridor and jumped out, first startling the dwarf, them popped him on the head with the club. He rubbed his head, a curious frown on his face.

“Go down,” she muttered and cracked the club over his head a second time. This was enough, and the dwarf toppled over. Quickly, before anyone else came, she stripped the dwarf and dressed in his clothing. Rubbing her hands on the floor, she wiped the dirt she’d picked up on her chin. It was the closet she’d get to a beard. Hopefully they weren’t born with beards, and she’d be dismissed as a young one. Finally, she pulled his cat on, wrinkling her nose at the stinky smell, and dropped the tapestry over him. Hopefully she’d have enough time before he woke up or was discovered.

Now disguised, Lisa walked around searching for stairs going down. She half ran, half walked, trying every door she found. Some were locked, and she fretted, what if the one she wanted was locked, and she’d already gone past it? But as she took a left into  a new passage, she spotted a rounded door, different to all the others. Her heart quickened. It had to be that one, she knew it!

Lisa ran down the hall and tried the door, it opened to reveal stone stairs descending down into darkness. Bingo! She thought and quietly closed the door behind her.

Oh no. Lisa tried not to start crying. The smell down here was overpowering – poo, pee and death, all mixed up together. The first thing she saw was the prison cells. Gaols, she supposed they’d actually be called. They were small, with iron bars on three walls, a long row of them on each side with a corridor running down the middle. Someone had thrown straw down, and the adults had gathered this up as a makeshift bed. All of the cells were full, and all of the adults were staving. A small noise escaped her, and suddenly dozens of pairs of eyes turned her way. Halfway down, she recognised her parents, but they were different. While she’d been upstairs getting fat on sweets and cakes, they’d been starving to death.

“Mum, dad, it’s me,” she whispered, and stuck her fingers between the bars.

“Lisa?” her father replied, his voice weak. “Is it really you?”

Lisa nodded as she tried to hold back the tears. They both looked so sick. In the cell next to them, where the occupant probably hadn’t moved in a fair few days, a grub crawled slowly over. Her father grabbed it as soon as it was close enough.

“Darling, I have some food for you.”

Her mother obediently opened her mouth, and he put the grub, still wiggling, into her mouth. Lisa tried not to gag as her mother chewed and swallowed. “Thank you dear,” she said, he voice so weak it was almost mute.

“Where’s the key, I’ve got to get you out.”

“They keep it down the end. Be careful, there’s always one of those dwarfs guarding them,” he said, his eye on another grub.

Lisa didn’t want to see her mother eat a second maggot, and took off down the end of the cells. As she rounded the corner, she stopped dead. The key was hung from a hook above a sleeping dwarf. He appeared to be in a deep sleep, muttering and twitching as some dream played out. She thought of her parents, the volcano, and home. Her mind set, she tip toed forwards.

“What do you think you’re doing?” A hand lashed out and grabbed her by the wrist.

She cleared her throat in and in her best deep voice said, “I’m helping Bert get the bodies out to the lake. Need to open the cell.” Her heart beat so hard, she wondered if he’d hear it, if that’s what would give her away.

“Lazy git. Should be doing it himself.” He squinted at her. “You new, haven’t seen you about.”

“Umm…” she thought for a moment, had to come up with something reasonable. She recalled the conversation in the bathroom and said, “I’m Norman’s nephew. New to the job.”

“Ah, fair enough. Well if you’re here, I’m off of a break.”

With that, he released her wrist, stood up and stretched. Before she could say another word, he’d gone.

Lisa reached up a second time, unhooked the key and ran back into the main room. Moments later, her parents were free. The three hugged of a second, but only for a second, they were still in so much danger!

“What do we do now?” Lisa asked. “How do we get home?”

“Well first, we do this.” Her father took the key from her and handed it to the couple in the next cell. “Free yourselves, and hand it along,” he said, then grabbed Lisa and her mother by the hand. “I know where we came in. That’s our best chance of getting home.”

Her dad certainly seemed to know where he was going. He led them out of the dungeon, up a corridor and down another. Finally he stopped in front of an ornately carved wooden door. “I’ve been dreaming of escape, of this door, of going home.” He stoked Lisa’s cheek, and then her mother’s. Come on.”

He opened the door to reveal a cupboard. The three glanced at each other, this was the right place – the portal.

“This has to be right, yeah?” Lisa asked.

“Has to be. Looks right.” Her father scratched at his beard.

“Will it take us home?” her mother asked.

“Could take us anywhere.”

“Dad,” Lisa tugged on her father’s sleeve. “Anywhere is better than here.”

With that, the three of them squeezed into the small space. After a quickly mumbled prayer, her father closed the door.

“Do you think that’s long enough?” her mother asked.

“I’ve no idea.”

“What did they do when they took you over?” Lisa asked.

“Closed it and reopened it, and voila, we were somewhere else. What about you?”

“I don’t know. They knocked me out.”

Her parents exchanged a sad look.

“I got a bump on my head, you two were starved, priorities!” she said, just as her mother usually said.

“Open it,” her mother said.

“Go on, Dad.”

“Here goes nothing.” Her father squeezed his eyes shut and opened the door.

“Oh my God, we’re home!”

“Don’t swear, Lisa,” her mother said, but she had a big grin on her face.

“Go open the cupboards,” her father told Lisa.

“Which ones?” she asked.

“All of them.”

Lisa ran around the bedrooms, opening all the doors, wedging them in place, and found her mum and dad in the kitchen. Everything was open. Even the kitchen cabinets.

Suddenly, Lisa breaks down in tears. “I’m sorry mummy. I wished you dead, and that you had to eat grubs because you made me eat kidney.”

“Oh sweety, it wasn’t your fault,” her mother said and cuddled her close. But not close enough to hide the look she gave her father. An accusatory glance, a glance full of blame.

“How about I make a promise,” her mother said. “I won’t make you eat any more kidney.”

“Okay Mum.” Lisa made her own promise at the same time: that she would never, ever wish her mother dead.

Unless she made her eat something else yucky. Then Lisa might just close a door. Or two…

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So there you have it – don’t cross Lisa unless you have a penchant for crawly foodstuffs…..

Thanks to Lisa for her fairytale, and to you lovely people for dropping by! Next week’s guest blogger is still tbc but in the weeks ahead we can look forward to something from the pen of MTMaguire, author of ‘Few Are Chosen’ and assorted others from the worlds of poetry, prose and theatre. Cool, huh? – hope you’re enjoying these blogs as much as I am!

In the meantime, have a great week – and do drop by next week for our next guest spot!

Take care, peeps!

JAC

Morning all:

For this week’s blog we are lucky enough to have been in touch with the multi-talented Lexi Revellian.  Her books are both residing in my Kindle and having read and enjoyed both I can  heartily recommend them. They are not easy to categorise but appeal to most, with their mixture of humour, action, believeable characters and (in Remix) some really kick-ass rocking horses!! If you’ve read them, you’re probably already looking forward to the rest of this post; if you haven’t read them, you should – you’re in for a treat.

On which note, I shall leave you with the details of Lexi’s books, and hand you over to her for the rest of the post.

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Title: Remix

Genre &  format: Mystery/Romance e-book and paperback

One-sentence blurb: A chance encounter with an attractive stranger, and Caz Tallis is drawn into a search for the truth about a rock star’s murder from three years ago…

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Title:  Replica

cover for Replica by Lexi Revellian

Genre & format: Thriller/Romance in e-book (paperback coming soon)

One-sentence blurb:  Beth Chandler is replicated in a flawed experiment; Beth Two tries to survive on the run, while the original Beth, unaware of what has happened, becomes involved with the spec op hunting her replica.

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Lexi Revellian

One-sentence biog:  Lexi is a jeweller/silversmith in London, and has written four books, two of them available to buy.

Website

Blog

Twitter: @LexiRevellian

Facebook

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Writing Replica

January 2010 my bike slipped on an icy speed cushion, and I hit the kerb and broke my shoulder. That accident changed my life for a while. Unable to cycle or drive, I walked between home and work, brooding. It was bitterly cold, and I wondered what it would be like to walk those dark and icy streets with nowhere to go, particularly if people were chasing you for some reason; how someone would react to suddenly losing her place in the world, how she would survive. I’d often thought, as a single mother running a small business, it would be handy if there were two of me. These ideas merged, and I started notes for Replica; biographies for the characters, snippets of dialogue, scenes, ideas, and photographs of locations. I researched the Royal Marines – later cut from the book – and the Security Service, also known as MI5, on the internet. The internet is a godsend to writers. I’m particularly fond of Google Street View, a way of visiting places without leaving my desk. (On the subject of research, I’m lucky that my daughter is a Jitsu blue belt and can help me with fights, and one of my friends is a doctor.) It’s interesting to look over these notes now, and see how much I didn’t use.

Once I knew the start and the finish and some of the characters, I started writing. Replica’s plot is one that could go many ways. The main male character, Nick Cavanagh, wasn’t in my original plans. The man Beth falls for was to have been much nicer, a disabled Marine, one of the Fubars seconded to the government research institute where she works. But he got elbowed aside by Nick (typical of him, I may say) who began by needling his boss in a briefing, and then got more and more important in the story until he became a main POV character. I also changed the end; I realized the ending I’d been heading towards was too obvious and anticlimactic.

The toughest thing about writing Replica was caused by my decision to write alternating chapters from the point of view of replica Beth in first person, while the other chapters are in third and varying POVs. I did this so the reader would never be in any doubt which Beth he/she was reading about, and it works, but every time I got on a roll I’d have to switch POVs with a crash of gears. It wasn’t an option to write all Beth Two’s chapters in one go, either, because I didn’t know what was going to happen.

My method is to think hard about a scene or chapter (the bath, driving or walking is good for this) then write it. If I get stuck, with no idea what to put next, I find bullet points have a miraculous ability to order my thoughts. I list what could happen, what I want to happen, what frame of mind the characters are in and what they want at this point. I like bullet points.

Replica’s setting is London. I prefer to use real places, so if anyone wants to do a Beth tour of central London, it’s possible. The derelict flat she lives in is real; I trespassed there while walking to work. Slightly unnerving, as it was vandalized and inhabited by a couple of squatters. I heard a cat meowing through a locked door as Beth Two does. The flats have since been bought, finished and sold. In my mind’s eye, I have a very clear image even of places I’ve made up.

About self-publishing

I think we are incredibly lucky that, just as mainstream publishing closes its doors to almost all new writers, we have this incredible opportunity with e-publishing on Amazon for the Kindle. Anyone can offer a book for sale, and discover whether people want to read it. There are no setting up charges. I don’t think it’s a problem that some badly-written books are being published this way, as they will sink out of sight. It’s more of a problem to get readers to notice a good book…

I’ve done all the usual things to promote my books, given that I don’t have a great deal of time to spare. It’s not possible to say which work and which don’t – possibly it’s all cumulative. I have a blog and a website, I tweet and struggle to understand my Facebook page, and I go on sites like KindleBoards, Amazon forums and KUF where each of my books has been chosen as Book of the Month. Word of mouth is the best way to sell a book, no question. I use Google Alerts to try to keep track, but that doesn’t tell you everything. Publishing has so many ups and downs, it’s a mistake to take the whole thing too seriously. If in doubt, write another book.

For both my books, I’ve done everything; editing, proofreading, formatting and designing the covers for e-books and paperback (I’m working on Replica’s paperback now). Most of this I’ve enjoyed, though it’s been a steep learning curve. My covers are getting better as I get to grips with Adobe Photoshop 7.0 – its potential is vast, its instructions incomprehensible, and I love it when it’s not driving me nuts. I’m really quite hot at lettering these days.

I’m fortunate in that I have a background in design, and all jewellers are nitpicky and precise by nature and training. I love being in control of artwork, blurb and pricing, and having access to all the detailed sales information Amazon provides. I would strongly recommend going it alone rather than publishing with a small e-publisher. A small e-publisher may seem the easy option, but you lose the main advantages of self-publishing without reaping any reward in the form of publicity. There is plenty of help and advice on the internet from people who have successfully self-published, and most indies are happy to share.

Since August 2010 I’ve sold 27,000 e-books, something I’d have found unbelievable a year ago. You need luck in any form of publishing, and I’ve been lucky. It’s fantastic to think of so many people buying, reading, and enjoying stories I’ve written. That thought always brings a smile to my face.

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So there you have it, people! Thanks to Lexi for her blogpost and thoughts on publishing – and what about the rest of you. Do you agree or disagree? Are you a firm believer in small presses for epublishing or do you have other experiences to share with us? Please comment below and let us know if you do. If you want to know more about Lexi, her books, her silvercraft (is that a word?) and see the fabulous pictures of her work, do check out her website.

Lastly, if you’re about before 10th June, check the previous post on this blog for a massive multi-book giveaway on Misty’s blog Unwritten; and with that I’ll leave you. Next week’s post is still tbc but rumour has it that author Lisa Hinsley might have something interesting to put our way, so watch this space!

In the interim, have a great weekend – and see you same time next week…

JAC

Hi all:

First things first: I’m delighted to tell you that this week’s guest blogger is none other than Lexi Revellian, silversmith of no small artistry, and author of ‘Remix‘ and ‘Replica‘ which are two of my best indie finds to date.  Come back over the weekend to read what she has to say about writing and ‘Replica’….cool, huh? Watch this space!

Second – if you haven’t read ‘On Dark Shores: The Lady’ and would like to, it’s being featured as part of a giveaway at Misty Baker’s blog ‘Unwritten’ so if you go and comment there, you can claim a copy of this or a  variety of other books free, gratis, and generally for the having! Don’t say I never give you anything….

Lastly: I’ve had another very pleasing review, this time from Craig at CS Fantasy Reviews so do go and have a look (and if you agree or disagree, why not leave him a comment and have the discussion?)

Here’s an excerpt from it (the most flattering bit, obv!):

“Clement’s greatest strength as a writer is her characterization. It is amazing how well she can breathe life into a character, revealing their every nuance in a minimal amount of words. The frequent point of view changes were cleverly used as well to create an even pacing throughout. The world building in this novel was also done well and believable through an almost minimalist approach.”

and he scored it 8/10, which I’m pretty pleased about; so that’s started my Thursday rather nicely. Best be getting on with my editing then…. Hope you lot are all having a good week – and do drop by again over the weekend to see Lexi’s post!

Catch you later;

JAC

Hello all –

Welcome to this week’s edition of authorly Question Time; today’s victim guest is the multi-talented Julia Lee Dean, writer of plays and novels, actress, singer and occasional go-go dancer (depending on how many tequilas it’s been this time).  She’s just had poems published as part of an anthology and has performed by own monologues at London Bites and The Courtyard Theatre.

Her theatre company, Wired to the Moon Productions, is about to put on her play ‘Limbo’ as part of the Camden Fringe Festival in August, and having read that particular script through several stages of development, I can tell you that it is unusual, funny and poignant all at the same time, so if you’re likely to be in the vicinity, check out the company’s Facebook page for more info.

Also, writers needed! Julia is looking for writers for her next show – Stand Up for Shakespeare, which will involve parodies and sketches. If you would like to be involved, please check out the details at  http://penpoised.wordpress.com

On which note, I’ll leave you with her questions…

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Name: Julia Lee Dean

Author of:Limbo’

Genre/s:  Theatre

Publication Type: Play

Available from:  www.lazybeescripts.co.uk

One-sentence summary: Michael finds it hard to come to terms with his death; especially when his widow appears to be getting it on with his best friend.

One-sentence biog: Writer, actress, theatre producer & would-be Irish speaker

Links: www.facebook.com/wiredtothemoonproductions

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 Questions:  

When you write, do you have a routine or habit?

Not really.  I don’t start a new piece of work unless the first few lines or a particular scene are going over in my mind with such insistence I can’t think of anything else.  But if I’ve got an ongoing piece of work I’m a bit more studious.  Even so, I only write when I’m in the mood.  I suppose it’s one advantage of still having the day job: I can bide my time.  I don’t see the good in forcing myself, it wouldn’t be my best work and this profession is competitive enough without turning in second rate stuff.

 What kicks off the book – a character, a situation, a plot-point?

This always makes me sound like a madwoman but most of the time it’s like I hear a voice.  Characters form in my mind and start speaking to each other, I simply write down what they say.  Obviously I get to steer the conversations (most of the time!) but if you have characters with a story to tell, all you really need is a pen and a piece of paper.

 Do you plan the plot or follow it as it unfolds? How much do you know in advance?

I usually have a general idea with what I want to happen by the time I get to the end but that vagary is only really (arguably!) permissible with longer stories.  Certainly with short stories and playwriting, you have to have a good idea of how the thing’s going to end because all the action is leading to that point and you haven’t really got the space to diverge from the main plot in the way you have with novels.  That said, my latest play, ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ was based, very loosely, on a real relationship and the ending changed a few times according to how was feeling about that relationship.

 Do you write character notes or background information?

I do but only after I’ve got the characters.  Sometimes it’s like a character will randomly walk into my mind, take a seat and wait for attention (here’s the madwoman talking again).  I am quite lazy in a way, I don’t pick up a pen until I can hear the story they have to tell.  Then I might plot out characteristics and background.  Of the two I think background is more important; the characteristics of a character will come out in what they say and how they react.  Sometimes I note them down as an act of self-discipline but more often than not I’m not that disciplined.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is that a lot of what I do is instinctive: it doesn’t all trundle neatly through the processing part of my brain so it’s actually quite hard for me for describe my writing process without sounding worryingly eccentric.

 Do you do research and how?

Yes, books and internet.  Especially if it’s a period piece.  I wrote a novel a while ago which centred around an Anglican priest on the Western Front during the First World War.  I read bits and pieces from text books but what proved most helpful was a lovely book called ‘Somewhere in Flanders’ written by Rev Leighton Green which gave me a really good insight into the daily life of an army padre.  Also the German novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ which describes life in the trenches and the thoughts of the soldiers really well.  While it’s important to get your facts straight, it is equally vital to get the sense of what you’re writing about right.  I’ve read novels and seen plays where the writer has clearly done an awful lot of research but can’t let any of it go.  It kills off the humanity of the story and what you’re left with is something akin to a school essay.  You might want to give the writer a gold star for effort but he/she hasn’t told you anything.

 Do your characters do as you intend or do they tend to run away with the plot?

They have a good go at running away from me!  Sometimes I give them a free rein to see what happens but in the end I will rewrite passages I’m not happy with.  If something I intended as a serious scene ends with the characters capering about and getting silly then I’ll get the big red pen out.  Occasionally it works quite well.  I was rewriting the opening scene of ‘Is This Seat Taken?’;  all the way through the play this guy’s going on about having children and yet there’s not a word of that in the first scene.  In the rewrite the female character, an actress, talks about a film about surrogacy she’s about to audition for and the conversation opens up.  That worked.  A lot of the time it doesn’t.

 Do you have clear visuals of places or characters?

Of places yes, though they often bear an uncanny resemblance to places I’ve lived in!  With characters I get a very strong sense of what they look like in terms of build, clothes, colouring but I can never look into their faces – I can see eyes and other features separately but never the whole face at the same time.

 When you have writer’s block, what do you do?

Anything other than writing.  I’m not into the “you must write everyday” thing.  I’ll write when I feel like it.  If it’s not happening with one piece of work I’ll work on something else until the first piece is ready for me (or I’m ready for it).  If the writing’s not happening at all I’ll sit and watch television or read a book.

 Your current work: Limbo, playing at Etcetera Theatre, Camden 19-21st August 6pm.

What made you decide to write this story?  

I wrote ‘Limbo’ about ten years ago.  I’d seen the tail-end of ‘Waiting for Godot’ and wanted to try something with two ghosts, of different backgrounds, comparing notes on life.

What element did you start with and how did it develop? 

I started with the duologue format and then added other characters.

Did anything change substantially along the way?

Nothing in particular.  I sent the play to Soho Theatre for their readers’ report.  Based on that feedback I was able to tighten the narrative and it then went onto win first prize in a local playwriting competition.

 Are any of your characters / places / situations based on real life? 

Yes, the character Agatha is based on my nan who died of cancer just as I finished my ‘A’ Levels.  Agatha knits throughout the play which was a deliberate reference to my nan.  There’s also a point in which she describes a woman serving sausage rolls at a party even though they’ve been nibbled by a cat.  That was true.  I remember standing in my nan’s kitchen looking into the kitchen of the downstairs flat in the next door house.  We thought it was hilarious.

= = = =

So there you have it; never partake of soss rolls in the Dean household – you heard it here first!

Julia and her company can be found  at the Camden Fringe with her play ‘Limbo’  and are looking for writers for her new show, hopefully to be taken to the Belfast Fringe. Further details are likely to be on her Facebook page, so do keep an eye on that – and if you’re going to see ‘Limbo’, give me a shout and I’ll see you there!

Thanks to Julia for her interview, and to you for coming back again.  Next week’s guest is the multi-talented Lexi Revellian who will be telling us a little about her new book, ‘Replica‘, and how she came to write that particular story –  so watch this space, and in the interim, have a great week!

Take care;

JAC

Hi all:

This week I’ve been lucky enough to be able to show you an extract of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters

by Barbara Silkstone.

I’ve read this book myself, and was much entertained by the updating of the Alice-in-Wonderland premise into modern gangster-ridden Miami – can recommend, especially to John Cleese fans who will empathise with Alice’s quest for her very own personal Cleese-alike….

Secret Diary is available from Amazon for the princely sum of 69 of your English pence – and if you enjoy it, don’t forget to leave a review – helps other readers know you liked it, and tells Barbara what you thought worked!

Have a good weekend, all, and watch this space for hints on who will be guesting here next week…

JAC

= = = = = =

The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three quarters

The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters


            ~ Thursday May 13

 

Alice had never been in a court of justice before, but she had read about them in books,  and she was quite pleased to find that she knew the name of nearly everything there. That’s the judge,” she said to herself…

 

 

7:00 a.m.  “The condemned ate a big breakfast,” I told myself while I prepared a mushroom omelet. It tasted of England and made me think of Nigel and the fun times. A tear found its way into my left eye.

I washed down the last of the egg with strong coffee. “Here I come, Leslie.” I was wearing my black suit with pencil straight skirt, the collar of my gold satin blouse just showing at the neckline. My hair was pulled back in a serious black barrette and I kept my makeup to a minimum. I looked very lawyerly. I kissed a sleeping Lily and whispered “later” to Dana. I left to face Leslie and his goons knowing what had happened to Sunglasses could be my fate as well.

8:30 a.m.  A power surge went through me when I entered the courtroom. Maybe it was the Xanax kicking in or was it the mushrooms in the omelet? I looked over my right shoulder at Leslie’s lawyers; they were edgy waiting for their boss to arrive.

The courtroom was larger than I expected. It was all polished wood and money-green carpet – a theater of theatrics. My table was on the left side of the room. Leslie’s gang had the table on the right.

Ron looked hunky as he carried my set of exhibit books and laid them down on our table. There were four evidence books from opposing counsel. Each book weighed at least fifteen pounds and was full of stuff and nonsense designed to overwhelm me with useless paper work. I was thankful for his moral support and grateful for his physical strength. I could never have carried the books from my car into the courtroom in one trip.

I smiled at Ron using the eye contact for an excuse to sneak another look at Leslie’s team. Opposing counsel’s table was every bit as large as ours and crowded with disheveled lawyers. Yuck. Surely Leslie could have done better. His lead gun, Dallas Little, was the only one of the pack who dressed with any style.

George Glick was hired by Leslie to represent Algy Green. Glick weighed in at over three hundred pounds. His coat failed to button by at least a foot, and it was too short to cover his rump. Whenever he bent over, which was frequently, his trousers wedged into his butt cheeks.

“Glick is clueless. They call him Bubba,” Ron whispered to me.

Bubba? Marisol-of-the-gold-teeth dated a married lawyer called Bubba.

8:55 a.m.  Leslie arrived, wearing a suit that must have cost ten-thousand dollars. He still looked awful. The jacket hung on his bony frame. Crime or Metamucil, something was draining him. He walked over to me. “I hear you’re without a lawyer,” he smirked.

I forced a confident smile. “I know what you did.”

Leslie blanched and turned away.

“What are they writing?” said Alice.

“Why they’re putting down their own names,

in case they forget them before the trial is over.”

 

 

9:00 a.m.  A bell rang and Leslie moved to his seat. The bailiff called the Court to order and the judge entered. We all stood.

The judge was female, about fifty-five, with a stubby body. She wore a long white wig like the judge in Alice in Wonderland. Bum luck pulling a lady-judge. I’ve learned that women are usually less compassionate with other women. She wasn’t going to be sympathetic to my flights of fancy. The worst part was she was probably in Leslie’s pocket.

As I slipped into position at our table my straight skirt rose up my legs. I tugged at the hem catching my bracelet on my pantyhose at mid-thigh. I struggled to free the gold links from the tougher than steel fibers of my run-resistant hose. My every movement succeeded in tangling me with myself. My right wrist felt permanently attached to my right thigh eight inches short of being obscene.

As the true horror of my situation sank into my brain, I watched the lawyers take turns going up to the podium to announce their names and whom they represented. Dallas Little was attorney for Leslie Archer. Glick waddled up to the stand, “George Blackstone Glick for the plaintiff, Algernon Green” he said in a big, booming voice.

“And for the Defense?” the judge asked.

I was sweating. I couldn’t stay in my seat. You had to walk up and announce yourself. I edged out of the chair bent over, hobbling, wrist on thigh, and skirt way up where it shouldn’t have been. I tried to act as professional as I could under the circumstances. I flashed the judge a self-deprecating smile.

“Alice Harte. I am here today in my own defense, Your Honor. I am pro se.” I couldn’t reach the microphone on the podium, so I spoke as loudly as I could considering my face was on my stomach.

The courtroom was silent; you could have heard a lawyer drop.

The judge looked flabbergasted. “Are you mocking me?” she snapped.

“Your Honor I have a problem. May I go behind the bench?”

“The correct terminology is ‘May I approach the bench?’”

I hunched forward, pigeon stepping toward her. There were twitters of laughter in the courtroom. The judge banged her gavel. “Silence.  Ms. Harte if you are attempting to make a mockery of this court, I will not take it lightly. Now straighten up.”

The judge’s bench was a good three feet taller than my head. I waddled as close as I could and mouthed the words ‘Panty hose are stuck.’ She didn’t get it.

I figured if I could get behind the judicial platform I could take off my panty hose and roll them up with the bracelet and be done with it. The bailiff was one step behind me as I slipped around the bench and under the judge’s chair. I guessed he’d never seen anyone act that way in court before because he stood there dumbstruck and then broke into gales of laughter. The spectators joined him. The noise was so loud the judge’s gavel-banging couldn’t be heard. It was twenty minutes before they all got quiet and I felt secure enough to walk out from under the judge’s chair. I did so with all the dignity I could muster. I pretended I was Joan of Arc going to the stake.

“We will recess while the court regains its composure. Ms. Harte, I trust this is not a sign of things to come. I will not tolerate tomfoolery.”

I sat down next to Ron. “Ricky…”

“Welcome back, Lucy.”

The judge trounced back into her chambers with Dallas Little at her heels.

I turned to face a courtroom of laughing faces. The joke was on me. So far things were not going as smoothly as I had hoped.

10:00 a.m.  Thirty minutes later the judge popped back in the courtroom with no further mention of my pantyhose debacle.

The roll call of witnesses was announced. My witness list was small. Ron would be my character witness. Salli would testify to Leslie’s style of doing business. My heart froze when I heard Nigel’s name pronounced. I held no hope for his appearance. The last name on the list was my own. I would have a chance to speak my mind and clear my name.

Glick placed a revised copy of their witness list in front of me.

“Elizabeth Channing? What does she have to do with this?” Her name was two lines down from the top of the page.

“Object,” Ron whispered.

“She could actually work in my favor. ‘The Mad Woman of the Mail Slot’ might ruin their case.”

Algy Green’s name was called out. I scanned the room to see if he was there. I was looking for super-glued ears and talcum powdered hair.

Glick jumped up. “Your Honor, Mr. Green is obviously the witness coming from the furthest distance since he is coming from London. If I may ask, Your Honor, if it is possible to work around his limited schedule?”

“Within reason, Mr. Glick, can you give me a time frame to work with?”

“Yes, Your Honor, he will be here at two this afternoon. He has to fly back to England on a four o’clock flight, Your Honor.”

“He’ll be on the stand for less than an hour? That’s perfect. Ms. Harte, do you have any objection to allowing Mr. Green’s testimony this afternoon?”

I composed myself and walked to the podium. “Your Honor, I do object. I haven’t been allowed to depose Mr. Green. I have no idea what his testimony will be. That’s not fair.”

“It’s much too late for fairness, Ms. Harte.” The judge smiled. “Discovery is over.”

“But I never had a chance. Dallas Little and Mr. Glick ignored my requests. I’ve filed a Motion to Dismiss because they – opposing counsel – won’t cooperate with me.”

“I haven’t seen your Motion to Dismiss.”

“Well, I filed it with the court, Your Honor,” I extended my arms palms up in the air and shrugged.

“Well, I can’t find it… dear,” the judge said sarcastically then turned to Bubba. “Mr. Glick, are you confident you can complete your questioning in that time?”

“I see no problem, Your Honor.”

“And what about Elizabeth Channing?  At what time do you expect her?”

“I believe she will be arriving at the same time, Your Honor, but she is more flexible. She’ll be available all week.”

“Oh, great,” I whispered to Ron. “The stalking starts again.”

The judge smiled malevolently, overruled my objection and called for the first witness.

Little stood and cleared his throat. “We call Leslie Archer.”

Leslie walked to the witness stand looking like a salamander, his large pale eyes rotating in his skull. He was sworn in and we were underway.

“Explain your business with Alice Harte,” Little prompted.

“Alice Harte entered into a contract with Archer Resorts to sell golf course villas. She tried to walk away from our agreement.”

“And she is guilty of?”

“Alice Harte conspired with Nigel Channing, her boyfriend, to commit a fraud. She passed herself off as the owner of my property, Lizard Links, and sold it to Algernon Green. She kept the deposit money in the amount of five hundred thousand dollars.”

Dallas Little grasped his throat theatrically. “Five hundred thousand dollars.”

Leslie glared at me. “When this trial is over, I’m going to seek criminal charges against Ms. Harte.”

“Your witness, Ms. Harte,” Dallas Little said.

I rose and walked to the witness stand. Leslie tried to break me with his eyes. I stared back at him for all I was worth. I was a flower in the center of a hurricane. I felt strangely calm as if I’d taken one too many Xanax. I just didn’t give a fig anymore.

So – Marketing.

Given that a lot of my blog-traffic seems to be Twitter-driven, I thought it might be interesting to talk a little about Twitter, how it seems to a newbie and ask if anyone has anything to add on the subject. There are cool links at the bottom which I’ll update as I find more, but if you get to the end and there are any tips you want to contribute, please do!

It seems to me that for many indie writers the big issue is publicity. You can write the best book in the world but if no-one but your Mum knows it’s out there, you’re not going to sell a million! So how do we do this?

From what I’ve read it seems that the jargon they use for creating interest is to talk about “setting up a platform”. By platform they are referring to readers who are interested in the author as a brand – because, ladies and gents, that’s what we are. To sell our books we now have to engage with the digital age and sell the BrandYou – or in my case, JAClement. How do we do this? By means of digital media.

We’ll start with Twitter. I’m still very much a beginner at this, so you may all be laughing like drains at my ingenuity by now – for instance, I’m not sure that “meme” means what I think it means – any thoughts? On the other hand, this blog may be useful to people who are considering setting up an account but who are a bit put off by the Twitspeke and general jargon, so if you’re already a member of the Twitterati and know it inside out, please give us any tips you think of via the comments box!

So, what I have discovered by my own trial and error is as follows:

There are all sorts of ways of finding new people to follow you on Twitter. Many add you if you add them; some want verification you’re not a Spambot, and some won’t add you at all. You can search by keyword in author and Tweets and there is a tool to suggest people you might be interested in following. For me the thing I have to remember is that I’m not just looking at any people, but specifically people who are interested in books and ebooks; I don’t want to spam people with information about books and writers if it’s not something they’re interested in as that’s a sure-fire way to vex them.

I’ve started with the authors I know from the forums and expanded from there. So far I appear to have hit 300+ followers, some of whom are spam, some reviewers, some interesting people but a large majority of whom are authors. On the one hand this would appear to be preaching to the converted, but most authors are voracious readers as well – and people interested in what one author has to say seem to be up for finding out what another author is on about as well. Add this to the fact that if the author likes your book, they may retweet it to their own following, and that’s a useful tool.

There are also Twitter traditions that are useful.  Some “Tweeps” do #MentionMondays, some do #WritersWednesdays, there is a widespread tendency towards #FollowFridays, and the correct use of hashtags can be quite powerful. Possibly the most useful of these for you as a writer is #SampleSunday, whereby you post a sample of your book on your blog or website or wherever, and then Tweet the link. Accepted practice seems to be to reTweet (RT) other people’s samples to your own audience, and quite a few Tweeps have subsequently posted on the Monday to say that they’ve just found a book they like from one of the previous day’s samples, so kudos to all involved!

ReTweeting anything, whether sample or random quote, can bring you to the notice of the original poster (and will often get a thank you) and people don’t seem to cavil if you reply to something they said despite having never spoken to them before in your life! When they reply it shows on their feed so their followers will see your name – a few may be interested enough to investigate your page but remember that if you are inept enough to cause offence, any irate replies will also be there for the viewing by however many followers that person has and like many areas of the internet, things can get tribal VERY fast.

Twitter is useful in conjunction with other media, though, because snappy banter and links are all very well but if you want to sell your style as a writer (another major part of BrandYou) you need to show your fans something longer than 140 characters.  At the moment I’m in a Facebook Group that facilitates mutual help between authors but mostly you’re looking at forums for conversation and help, blogs for samples and general musings, and Facebook is good for status updates, photos, and video-sharing.

However, in the short-term, Twitter’s a pretty good place to start and though you have to be careful not to get bogged down in it, it veers from the facile to the fascinating sometimes in the space of subsequent Tweets. The Holy Grail of Twitter marketing is to “go viral” – but there is no way of predicting just what will achieve that heady status.

So – that’s what I’ve found out so far. What have I missed?If you have useful techie knowledge or hints and tips for using Twitter, please tell!

Have you had a successful marketing ploy or noticed a trend in what works and what doesn’t? If you’re a reader, have you ever bought a book after reading a #SampleSunday quote, or followed an author because of a comment they made elsewhere? What are your opinions? I’d be really interested to know.

Right, I’m off to bed now because it’s getting on for time to get up.  If there are any typos or I’m talking nonsense, that’ll be why… Will come back tomorrow (er, later today) and see what you guys can tell me (which I’m actually really looking forward to finding out).

And in the meantime, have a great weekend!

…zzzZZZzzz…

Catch you later, guys;

JAC

Update:

http://johannaharness.com/blog/the-amwriting-faq/ is a useful blog re #amwriting hashtag

http://www.socialmoms.com/profiles/blogs/what-the-heck-is-a-hashtag explains a bit about  what hashtags are and how you can search by them

http://www.bitrebels.com/geek/how-to-be-active-on-twitter-without-getting-burned-out/ explains how to manage Twitter a bit better when it’s getting mad (and has a great video at the end)

http://soshable.com/15-most-annoying-types-of-twitter-users/ – how to irritate on Twitter

http://indiebookcollective.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/twitter-lists-%e2%80%93-revisited/ – Twitter lists

COOL Twitter tools:

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-free-tools-visualise-information-twitter/ (Check out the Tori’s Eye one on that – pretty rather than useful but hey!)

Other people’s thoughts on the subject:

http://alboudreau.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/two-cents-on-twitter/ Al Boudreau’s two cents’worth.

More as I find them!