Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the tag “Speculative fiction”

Allow me a little hoot!

In my June post #Tanka 33 — Light and Shadow (plus some scintillating “shades of”), I mentioned the Highly Commended awarded to me in this year’s University of Winchester Writers’ Festival for the first three pages (+synopsis) of my unpublished 90,000-word speculative fiction work, Counting Magpies. Since then, I have gained access to a working scanner, hence the images I’ve shared below.

It’s possible that a few of my blog followers have already clicked on the new widget in my sidebar titled “Latest News” and arrived at the relevant page, but for those who usually access my blog through WordPress Reader, or are email subscribers, you may have missed a chance to see the two fabulous certificates mailed to me by the competition organisers.

Four months on, I’m still touched and humbled by the feedback I received from the judges. So thank you, judges, whoever you are, for giving this author a much-needed boost to her confidence 🙂

For those who missed my three Friday Fictioneers’ posts, with adapted standalone 100-word excerpts from Counting Magpies, here are the links.

Snow Baby

The Ancient School at D-wh-n-e

A Rare Specimen

Friday Fictioneers — The Ancient School at “D–wh–n-e”

This week’s photo prompt brought to mind the horrendous terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday night. I am so overwhelmed with emotions about this, that it has rendered me mute with regard to such atrocities. Therefore, I’m going to avoid the subject of explosions and move forward to the year 2183 and write about a ruin instead.

This is another chance for you to meet Morag in my not-yet unpublished novel Counting Magpies. On the previous occasion she was in York, having trouble with her decrepit bicycle (A Rare Specimen). This time, she’s in the Highlands of Scotland in a village that has some of the letters missing from its signpost.

Come on, you clever clogs. Let’s see who’s going to be the first to fill in those blank letters (each em dash stand for two missing letters and the hyphen for one)…

Genre: Dystopian speculative fiction
Word count: 100

~~THE ANCIENT SCHOOL AT “D–WH–N-E”~~

I pick my way through the rubble, tripping once and almost twisting my ankle on a rusted kettle.

At first I mistake the bundle for a heap of rags, until I prod it with the plank and turn it over. The thing has a face, or rather bones with empty eye sockets and a gaping jaw. I let out a reflexive scream, despite knowing a skull can’t harm me. The rest of the skeleton is clothed in rags covered in mildew. 

Who was this person with unusually long leg and foot bones and narrow hipbones? Perhaps it was a man.

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo prompt: image copyright © J Hardy Carroll

Friday Fictioneers — A Rare Specimen

For this week’s Friday Fictioneers (photo prompt copyright © Jellico’s Stationhouse) I couldn’t resist adapting another excerpt from my latest, as-yet unpublished novel Counting Magpies.

Those of you who read my earlier excerpt “Snow Baby” will already have met Morag. In today’s piece, she arrives in the unfamiliar city of York in the middle of the night after a journey of 300 kilometers on an antiquated bicycle that decides to self-destruct on a cobbled street outside the home of the centenarian cleric and one-time Dean of York Minster.

Genre: Dystopian speculative fiction
Word Count: 100

A RARE SPECIMEN

I sit there stunned with the bicycle lying beside me.

A man thrusts open a window above me and cries out. “Hell fire! What’s the good Lord delivered to my doorstep? Some up-skelled and paggered lass, by the looks of it.”

I haul myself to my feet and stand there, with my hands on my hips, forgetting about the size of my belly. “Up-skelled and paggered? Are you insulting me?”

“No, I’m observing that you’ve fallen off your bicycle and look all done-in. …Oh, I see it now. It’s so many years since I’ve encountered anyone in the family way.”

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

— April’s Guest Storyteller — Robert C. Day

In 2013, Robert began to write. He produced his first short story since he left school many years ago. In 2014, he read every single book on Creative Writing he could get his hands on. In 2015, he wrote two novels. In 2016, he started his blog (www.memymine.co.uk) and to date has over 26,000 hits and 1,100+ followers. He writes a new story, thought, article, poem or writing tip every day and he lives to chat. In Oct 2016, he started an MA in Creative Writing and he now has a 2-year writing plan and a 20-year writing plan that includes 23 published items — at least. Robert is currently undergoing treatment for narcissistic tendencies and expects to be far, far better in the very near future.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome a fellow eccentric Brit as my guest storyteller this month.  Like me, Robert C. Day (otherwise known as Levishedated), writes quirky fiction of a speculative kind.

Post Script: With regard to my statement above, I’ve just had a most surreal experience. Never have I had guest storyteller do a disappearing act on me. I’ve just been over to his blog and discovered a post titled THE END and the words “This is the Last post on this blog”. Only yesterday we were exchanging emails and he never said anything about his intention to abandon ship. Either this is a most odd April Fool’s joke, or he’s serious and has gone back to whichever planet he came from. I thought I was eccentric, but… 😉 

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The story hook in Robert’s words…

A charming tale of manners and … no, I lie – it’s a sad story about the ending of a relationship in the most unusual of locations.

MAY BE SOME TIME

“You know, you don’t have to go. Not if you don’t want to.”

She stopped and gave me a long, searching look, as if she were trying to swim into my eyes. To gauge my mind from the inside.

Of course, I said nothing. She knew that I wouldn’t. She knew me that well.

We used to be more talkative. When we first met, we would spend weeks, hours, days together – just talking. We talked whilst we ate and drank, talked whilst we walked and worked. We even talked in the middle of movies. But the time we loved to talk the most was after making love.

Ah, the fun we had whilst in the throes of slippery romps and shivery thrills. Our talking then took the form of squealing, yelping and occasional joyful ululating. Forget about anyone hearing us, we were too far gone for that to bother us and too caught up in our own delicious minglement of love and lust to care.

Those days are long gone. Who knows where they went? A year ago, we began to talk in murmurs. A month ago, I stopped talking altogether. Last night, she asked me if I wanted to leave.

Of course, she had every right to ask. It is her place after all. Sure, we’d decked it out together and decided on colours that matched our moods, but at the end of the day – it was her home.

I don’t blame her. The time we had together was longer than most managed. I read the other day that the average partnership was now only three years, and we’d already managed over four by the time I stopped talking.

It’s funny, but I couldn’t tell you what made me end up that way.

My parents were good to me. She was good for me. Life was good. But so what? When it’s time, it’s time.

I was a long way from … well, from anywhere. When I stepped out of the door, I didn’t take anything with me. There wasn’t much point. More for me would have been less for her, and she’d need it much more than I would.

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I feel the cold immediately. It embraces me like a thousand birds of prey – ravenous and cruel. I turn and look back. She stands at the window, her face a blank. I am able to blink, once, before my tears freeze over, sealing my eyes open.

I exhale and the crystalline fragments of my breath obscure her just before the spin of my body takes her face from me. By the time my body rotates to face her again, the sub-zero of space has blackened my vision, and a bare moment later, I am gone.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

 

Friday Fictioneers — Snow Baby

This week I’m going to post my 100-word story for Friday Fictioneers on a Wednesday, which is what many of the other participants do anyway! Many thanks to our wonderful hostess, Rochelle, for using my snow picture as the photo prompt.

My story is an excerpt from my unpublished fifth novel, Counting Magpies, which is presently in the hands of my beta-reader-in-chief. There’s quite a bit of snow in this novel, but I selected this short passage, which works as a standalone, too … I hope.

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

Genre: Dystopian speculative fiction

Word count: 100

SNOW BABY

I’m her scapegoat for all that has gone wrong in our world.

When she bled a fortnight ago, after three months of believing herself with child, her wailing and lamenting crushed me. I don’t understand her desperation to make a baby. Until yesterday, I didn’t even know what babies looked like.

She drew a picture of one in the snow and told me that’s how we both started out, with tiny round faces and miniature toes and fingers. “I can’t remember being a baby,” I’d said, to which she’d replied, “Neither can I, but I crave motherhood more than anything.”

Poll: Which Book Should I Publish Next?

sign-post-seaford-beach

Okay, I need some help focusing here. The time-gobbling monster has already eaten January and is threatening to eat February, too.

First, before I go any further, it’s time to get something off my chest. I’m not sick of indie publishing but I am sick of trying to sell novels to children and young adults. On the plus side, I have some fabulous loyal adult readers, many of whom have read both Desiccation and Noah Padgett and the Dog-People and given me a heap of positive feedback. This has led me to believe that I don’t write the sort of novels that most people under the age of 18 want to read, but ones that their parents and grandparents want to read instead. Yes, my novels contain elements of fantasy and science fiction, but no, they’re not about wizards, vampires, paranormal romance, spaceships with lasers blazing (or whatever lasers do).

sarah-potters-quirky-novels

This leads me on to my next point: even if I publish a novel specifically for adults, it could still deviate from the expectations that die-hard fans of a particular genre might have.

I had considered writing a genre-bending novel, as it fits into the bracket of quirky and yet has an identifiable market. With that in mind, I decided to read Jane Austen’s  Pride and Prejudice and then carry out a textual comparison between it and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies. The trouble was that I loved the original so much that I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of the zombie version, which I hated. Maybe if I hadn’t read the original, then I might have seen it differently. Certainly it made the New York Times best seller list. I don’t have a problem with zombie books per se, having read some excellent ones. I just don’t like ones that would make Jane Austen turn in her grave (no apologies for the pun), although I do acknowledge that some of her writing is quite witty. Maybe one day I might bring myself to write a novel based on a classic novel but not so that it follows the original text word-for-word in places; otherwise, what’s the point in having worked hard to develop a voice of my own?

I’ve written five novels in all, leaving three unpublished as yet. The fifth one, my speculative fiction novel Counting Magpies, I intend to submit to publishers after a further edit, as I’ve identified some new small press publishers that didn’t exist a couple of years ago but are looking for quirky novels. There are plenty of successful hybrid authors, who have both indie and traditionally published novels, so why not me?

Now to ask you, my wonderful blog followers and visitors, readers or potential readers, which book I should indie publish next. In other words, which would you be most likely to buy, if any at all? To help answer this, I would really appreciate it if you could take part in the poll and/or comment with some constructive feedback. I’m at a bit of a crossroads and am not sure which direction to take just now.

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Sentences with April’s Guest Storyteller, Leigh Ward-Smith

Hiking&Etc. 012

This is a return visit for Leigh Ward-Smith as guest storyteller. In September of last year she shared the intriguing prologue to The Enhanced, her science fiction novel-in-progress.

Handing over to Leigh now, she’s going to tell you about what she has in store for you this month re the “best of the worst” microfiction (hence the title to this post) …

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As a writer, it’s not often that you strive for an ugly sentence. Good, yes. Bad, no. But the yearly Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/index.html seeks just that: your best worst opening line to a novel. Named for Victorian-era novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton—perhaps best-known as the bloke who came up with “It was a dark and stormy night,” and way before Snoopy the beagle, no less—the BLFC has evolved over the years to add more genres and permutations of awarded categories, including romance, Western, science fiction, children’s literature, and purple prose. The official deadline for your worst 50- to 60-word write-mare is April 15, although June 30 is the actual deadline. Consider constructing your gnarliest one-liner; Professor Scott Rice, the progenitor of the BLFC, proclaims that WWW stands for wretched writers (or, indeed, writing) welcome, so you’ve nothing to fear. Here’s mine:

In the Kingdom of the Kelpies, there was a particularly curious young seafoam-frothing foal who couldn’t figure out why the “bobbling legs things” were so taken aback when he surfaced; after all, he was a run-of-the-mill bioluminescent horse composed of saltwater and strings of green gloop that only wanted to plant wet equine kisses on their screaming, stretched surfaces then drag them down to the trenched graveyard of the sea with his oyster-shell teeth.

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Thank you, so much Leigh, for your contribution for this month, after receiving my invitation at extremely short notice.

Leigh Ward-Smith lives and writes vicariously–and humourously (she hopes, anyway)–through her two children, one husband, and six ducks. She also thinks it’s a very good thing those numbers aren’t reversed! Follow more of her work at Leigh’s Wordsmithery.

You can also find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at https://sarahpotterwrites.com/guest-storytellers-2/

Yay, It’s Publication Day for Dave Farmer’s Novel, “The Range” :-)

the range book cover FINALNews breaks of a deadly virus in Asia but, despite fatalities, few people take it seriously.

Sheltered within the university bubble, Samantha and Louise are convinced the UK is invulnerable to this virus, until gruesome events unfold around the world and the death toll rises from hundreds to millions.

By the time the virus reaches England and students on campus start falling sick, Samantha has to weigh up the risks of travelling home to London. She decides to sit tight with Louise and wait for everything to blow over.

But the situation further deteriorates in ways the two friends couldn’t have envisaged. Their student flat is no fortress and there’s only one place they’ll be safe: The Range.

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Hearty congratulations to Dave! Today, the Kindle edition of The Range (Bloodwalker Legacy Book 1) becomes available for purchase from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The print on demand version is available via CreateSpace and will be linked to the Kindle listing in 3-5 business days.

Some of you will remember Dave from his previous appearance on my blog as June’s guest storyteller, where he whetted our appetites with an extract from The Range. In that post, I described him as writing speculative type “what-if” fiction that concentrates on things such as courage, loyalty and friendship, but with an apocalyptic slant. Of course, this makes him very much a writer after my own heart.

Dave blogs at www.davefarmer.co.uk

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Barbara Monier has kindly tagged me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Barbara describes herself as an “author, novelist, cynical hopeless romantic”. She has two novels finished and published and a third on the way.NWWbegins

Thank you, Barbara, for thinking of me for this event.

Last week, I answered some set questions in my post for the Meet My Character Blog Tour, so you may notice a small amount of overlap in the answers below, but hopefully not too much.

1. What am I working on?

I’m taking the Summer off from writing, apart from haiku and tanka poetry, having recently completed my 90,000-word speculative fiction novel. This is my fifth novel and the outcome of a journey experimenting with various types of fiction. His Seed (or alternatively, Counting Magpies) is set in the 22nd century and its themes are male infertility, sexual exploitation, incest, love and romance, as measured against the yardstick of humankind’s threatened extinction. That all sounds very serious, but it’s not science-or remotely preachy.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ve always had a tendency to cross-genre. When I first started out, literary agents and publishers made comments such as, “This is really original and well-written, but unmarketable for a novice author” or “I really like this, but where would it go on shelves in bookshops?” or “I applaud your imagination, but comedy, fantasy, horror is just too much of a mix”. I heeded their comments and had a go at writing a straight genre medieval-style sword and sorcery fantasy novel, which had so many full reads and near-misses, I finally flung my hands in the air in despair and declared (I’ll quote Monty Python’s Flying Circus here ) “And now for something completely different!”

To me, speculative fiction is the new respectable name for cross-genre science fiction or fantasy; although some purists will scold me for saying this. Having consciously applied the speculative label to my work, I’ve felt compelled to write in a more literary style than before. I acknowledge that there’s some exceedingly literary published science fiction and fantasy out there, but such works can be sadly overlooked by readers who look down their noses at genre novels.

As far as the finished product goes, it is definitely more literary and lyrical than my other novels, although quite minimalist in style compared to other works that are considered literary. It also breaks away from the urban nightmare often portrayed in Dystopian fiction, instead depicting a future in which nature has started to regenerate without so many people around to rape its resources.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Normal is boring and I just don’t feel driven to write about everyday things. Of course, it’s impossible not to include them in a novel, or readers would have no frame of reference to draw upon, but I’ve always loved “what-if” novels set in the future or in a fantasy kingdom. You see, I’m not very adventurous myself in real life; on the other hand, my imagination is huge and extremely adventurous. Up to the age of thirty-six, I daydreamed during every spare moment. Then I decided to write my first novel and pour all those daydreams into something more constructive, rather than releasing them into the ether. The first draft of my first novel — a time travel romance — received a publisher rejection containing the word “promising”, which was sufficient praise to spur me on; although sometimes I still blush at the memory of sending out an unedited first draft to a publisher.

4. How does my writing process work?

Writing straight on to the computer, I start with one or two characters in my head and perhaps write a piece of flash fiction or prologue about them, just to fill the blank screen with something. It’s all about calling my brain to order and dialing up my literary muse. This starter stuff usually ends up being dumped in the second draft. Having got underway, I soon come up with some kind of emotive and perilous situation into which I throw my characters. From thereon in, the world blossoms around them, new characters unfold and, before I know it, my fictional characters have taken over telling the story, throwing up the most wonderful surprises along the way. Usually the end of the novel comes to me, somewhere past the halfway mark.

I used to write in a linear fashion and then go back to weave subplots in with subsequent drafts. With my latest novel, I wrote from six different character viewpoints, weaving in flashbacks as I went, which required an awful lot of concentration. Normally, I don’t plan a plot or make any notes, but hold everything in my head. This time I admit to having had to stop a third of the way through the novel to construct a family tree/timeline.

I carry out research on the trot, as and when it’s required, and rarely suffer from writers’ block. If my brain won’t work, it means I need to take a break and do something completely different. I tend not to write at the weekend or in the evenings.

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I’m now pleased to pass the baton on to two of my writing buddies …

Benjamin Jones, otherwise known as Graphite Bunny, whose blog is full of wonderful photography and prose poetry, and who was my guest storyteller on this blog back in March.

Henry Gee, who blogs at cromercrox.blogspot.co.uk about all manner of things that catch his attention: some of them quirky and some halfway normal. He’s appeared twice on my blog: first, in November for an interview about his then self-published novel “By The Sea” and then a week ago in a post about his success in finding a traditional publisher for the same novel.

Blondeusk, who calls her blog Blondewritemore and describes herself as “a novice writer starting her journey”.

Dave Farmer, who blogs at davefarmersblog about life, writing, and zombies(!), and who was my guest storyteller on this blog in June.

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And here’s the link to Henry Gee’s “Writing Process Blog Tour” post.

Meet My Character Blog Tour

Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate has kindly tagged me to take part in the Meet My Character Blog Tour.

Andrea, a pagan by inclination, blogs about nature, the coastline and the turn of the seasons, all of which she sees as a source of great inspiration to her creativity as a writer and painter. Whenever I visit her blog, I come away feeling both soothed and uplifted.

Thank you, Andrea, for thinking of me for this event.

Now it’s my turn to tell you about the main character in my completed 90,000-word speculative fiction novel.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

His name is Anna and he’s fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?

Anna is born in AD 2166 and the story is set in what we know as the British Isles. It begins in Dorset, England, and then Glen Affric in the Highlands of Scotland, but the main block of action takes place in the independent state of Wightland (previously the Isle of Wight). There is also back story revolving around Warsaw, Poland, and its criminal underworld.

3. What should we know about him/her?

He’s a rare specimen in a world populated by women and, for the unscrupulous, a prize worth capturing and exploiting. At the start of the novel he’s a sweet, honest, nature loving boy who believes he’s a girl. As the story progresses and he learns what being male means in a world run by women, he turns into an archetypal moody and manipulative teenager who discovers music and finds some solace in this. The few people who care about him, are also partly responsible for his disillusionment and must work hard to prove they’re worthy of his trust.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The main conflict is related to his uniqueness and his exploitation by a deluded criminal/quack geneticist. His life is messed up in the first place by his discovery that he’s a boy.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Freedom to choose his own mate, rather than have multiple mates chosen for him, and ultimately to escape back to the wilderness from whence he came, taking with him the people he’s learned to love and trust.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

This novel, which is now finished, has had many titles. In the first draft it was called Eulogy to the Last Man which, for reasons I won’t disclose, was rendered redundant. In the second draft it was Wightland, and the third Counting Magpies. In the final draft it’s His Seed, although I still quite like Counting Magpies and have called it this in one of my submissions, just to confuse issues. And no, you can’t read more about it, as I don’t want to give the whole plot away.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

As I’m going down the traditional route and throwing myself upon the mercy of agents and publishers, I can’t answer that. All I can say is that I hope it happens in my lifetime.

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I’m now pleased to pass the baton on to three of my writing buddies …

Benjamin Jones otherwise known as Graphite Bunny, whose blog is full of wonderful photography and prose poetry, and who was my guest storyteller on this blog back in March.

J.S.Watts, whose website you might like to check out, and who blogs via Goodreads , approximately monthly, but sometimes less frequently and mainly about things writerly (both fiction and poetry).

Henry Gee, who blogs at cromercrox.blogspot.co.uk about all manner of things that catch his attention: some of them quirky and some halfway normal. He’s appeared twice on my blog: first, in November for an interview about his then self-published novel “By The Sea” and then a week ago in a post about his success in finding a traditional publisher for the same novel.

Blondeusk, who calls her blog Blondewritemore and describes herself as “a novice writer starting her journey”.

Dave Farmer, who blogs at davefarmersblog about life, writing, and zombies(!), and who was my guest storyteller on this blog in June.

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And here are the links so far to the posts of those I’ve tagged:

Dave Farmer

J.S. Watts

Blondeusk

Henry Gee

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