Tell 5 Secrets Blog Hop — Snapshots from Early Childhood

Many thanks to my dear friend, Sherri, who has tagged me for Tell 5 Secrets Blog Hop. Those of you who haven’t yet stumbled upon Sherri’s blog, do check out A View From My Summerhouse after your visit here, as it is a veritable treasure trove.

For the challenge, I decided to take five snippets from my early childhood and compose a 31-syllable Tanka poem for each of them.

Clipped copper beech hedge
divides half-acre garden.
~neat lawn, wild woods~
Small girl stands before curtain
watching midnight fairies flit.

Boy likes to show off,
“Insectivorous mammal”
his latest two words.
High-pitched squeaks ~ferocious beast?~
Shrew breaks out of cardboard box.

Never mind Dad’s lungs.
Cigarette cards stored in tins
*star collectibles*
bound to impress boy next door.
Bee stings boy’s bum. Bad timing.

Parental oddness
Off to hairdresser with Mum
~latest auburn tint~
Girl swivels around in chair,
awaiting the rising sun.

Girl climbs up high tree,
determined to outdo boy.
On ground, far below,
cracked cases of horse chestnuts
remind her of broken skulls.

 

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And now who’s the lucky person I’m going to tag for the Tell 5 Secrets Blog Hop? No less than the indomitable Blondeusk at Blondewritemore, who blogs every day and manages to make me smile often, with her wonderful turns of phrase and her ability to laugh at herself.

777 Challenge: An Excerpt About Naughty Schoolgirls

Leigh W. Smith of Leigh’s Wordsmithery very kindly tagged me for the 777 challenge back in mid-October (shame-faced at my slowness to respond). Leigh is such a cool writer of most original voice and style. She writes speculative fiction and science fiction, mostly short stories, although she is working on her first novel. Do visit her blog and read some of her awesome creations.

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress. This is all a bit of fun: nobody must feel beholden to take part and they are free to bend the rules if they wish.

SarahWritingI’ve already done a similar challenge (Lucky Sevens) twice before, for my Speculative fiction novel that I’m busy submitting to literary agents and publishers just now. What I found interesting about this earlier exercise was that my 7 lines changed from the first draft to the last. For anyone who’s interested, you will find the two different versions in these posts —  Lucky Seven Time! and The Magnum Opus: Where Did that Year Go?  Also, the title has changed several times, with it ending up as Counting Magpies, partly thanks to my fellow bloggers’ input in a recent poll.

At the moment, my work-in-progress involves editing and formatting one of my older novels, possibly with self-publication in mind. It’s not a path I ever envisaged going down but no harm in exploring all avenues. This particular novel, Desiccation, is set in a posh girls boarding school in the 60s and is a darkly comic science fantasy, which I envisage as being suitable for older teenagers upwards. So here’s my extract, although I can’t guarantee that it will appear exactly on Page 7 by the time I’ve finished my edit.

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The head girl despaired at both the skag and the hog, but she could just about tolerate them as long as they didn’t start quibbling about her extortionate commission; not that she was optimistic about making a fortune with such shoddy specimens in her employ.

The sport-mad Skag Rag looked more like a boy than a girl with her flat chest, muscly limbs, and short-cropped hair, while Sweat Hog resembled a large pink blancmange. She could have made something of her white-blonde hair, but instead chose to wear it in a limp ponytail, adding to her general air of neglect. The plus side of both girls’ unattractiveness was their desperation for male attention of any kind.

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And while I’m on the subject of girls boarding school, I’d like to share a picture of me, aged 8, dressed as a St Trinian’s Girl for a fancy dress competition! St Trinians Girl

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Following that brief interlude, here are the 6 (not 7) people I’m tagging for the 777 Challenge (I hear their feet running off into the distance already!):

Blondeusk of Blondewritemore , who is writing her first novel and was my guest storyteller in August (Note: this tagging is strictly under the proviso that Blondeusk doesn’t take up the challenge until December, after she has surfaced from NaNoWriMo as I’m encouraging her not to read back over any of her novel-in-progress until she has typed THE END).

Sherri of A View From My Summerhouse, who’s writing her memoirs. (And shush, this is secret as Sherri doesn’t know it yet, but I’m shortly going to invite her along as a guest storyteller to my blog).

Dave of Dave Farmer’s Blog, whose fantastic zombie novel The Range is due for publication at the end of this month (watch out for the Publication Day special on my blog). Dave was my guest storyteller in June.

Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate, who is at the submission stage of her poignant novel The skin of a selkie and was my guest storyteller in October.

Ese Klava of Ese’s Voice, who has travelled the world and has written a book titled Butterfly Thy Name.

David Milligan-Croft of There Is No Cavalry, who, like me, doesn’t enjoy the restrictions of genre. I’m not sure where he is with his second novel, Peripheral Vision, re editing, but I’m hopeful he’ll take up the 777 challenge.  The story is about a boy growing up in the 1970s northern England, who descends into crime and whose only chance at redemption is in finding his long-lost childhood sweetheart.

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

Lucky Seven Time!

I’ve been tagged by Naomi Baltuck of Writing Between the Lines. For those who don’t know Naomi, she’s a most talented storyteller and photographer, and I just love her blog. Do check out her lucky seven post, as well as some of her other awesome words and pictures.  http://naomibaltuck.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/lucky-seven-time/ 

So what’ s lucky seven you ask?  A chance to show off your writing, with a twist. You have to post it as is at the time of the tagging, warts and all.  Well, I’m posting three weeks after the tagging, but without cheating, as I’ve not edited a word of my work in progress.

Here’s how it works.

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same

I’ve only written 52 pages of my novel begun on January 1st for Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013, so will post from page 7.

futureworld

Eulogy To The Last Man, set in the 31st century, is speculative fiction. The extract (primarily dialogue) is written from the second-person viewpoint of Morag, who’s one of the three main characters. It’s a flashforward (rather than flashback), but voiced in the present tense. She is talking to Anna, the central character, who, despite the misleading name, is a teenage boy.

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“You’ve gone insane.”

“No, it’s you who’s insane for bringing me fish?”

You scowl up at the sky, as if there’s a cruel memory pinned to the stars. I look up. There are no stars. Only the face of a mother—the last mother on earth to have given birth. Your mother.

“She’s dead,” I remind you.

“She lied to me.”

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These are the seven lucky bloggers I’ve tagged (all of them participants in NWW!)

Rescuing Little L

Crowing Crone Joss

Graphite Bunny

Tea with a Pirate

jaycee68

Peaceful Partings

This is Me..For All Its Worth..Journal Blog

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To read more about Novel Writing Winter, go to https://sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com/novel-writing-winter-nww-2013/