The Mark of Oldra

The Mark of Oldra

The Mark of Oldra

Release date – 1 February 2016

Gerry Ryder shivers violently as the snow settles around her. Huge, black trees glisten with frost as their naked branches clatter in the wind. She isn’t sure if it’s hard to breathe because she’s scared out of her mind, or if this strange, new world is so cold that the air freezes in her lungs.

Gerry struggles to be the soldier the Penna needs her to be. Her dark dreams and visions don’t help. Although she craves a place in Essawood, she really wants to go home.

It is only when the shadows of her dreams appear solid before her and the power of the Oldra is revealed that can Gerry find her place in the snow; a place where a greater threat lies beyond the shadows. One that will devastate everything she thought she knew. One the snow whispers it is her destiny to defeat. But how does she fight a shadow?

 

Available on any platform you wish from 1 February 2016.

To find a copy at your favourite vendor, please see My Books page.

The Mark of Oldra was written as a stand-alone book but I miss them already. There may be more stories from this world or about these people but I don’t know when or what they might be.

In celebration of the release of The Mark of Oldra, I am offering my short stories for free from 1st of February for 5 days. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of these short reads, this is your chance to grab them.

I’m published!

Stuffed Frogs CoverAfter all the procrastinating I have finally pulled myself together and self-published my first short story.

It is a strange mix of excitement, fear and relief to see the book finished and available for readers.

The experience wasn’t quite what I thought it would be…

What I learnt

Beta readers are essential. This story was tested repeatedly on my writing group and is certainly much stronger for it.

It took a lot more time than I thought to format and create a cover. It is relatively easy to find information and various options to do this on line. I also spent more time than was needed downloading conversion software. When it came to uploading the book into Amazon I could upload it as a word file and Amazon did the conversion. Of course this may be different for print versions (not offered with this book) or other platforms (more learning required).

Ease aside, it was useful to see the book in the right format to ensure it worked before I got to the point of uploading it.

Setting up the account on Amazon itself also took hours but now I’m set up it will only take a few minutes to upload the next one.

I spent a lot of time trying to create a cover and the artwork/images were more expensive than I thought they could be. I still have a lot to learn in this regard. I did create the cover in word, which was relatively easy and then converted the file to an image so that I could upload it.

I wanted to offer the book for free but with Amazon’s direct publishing that wasn’t possible. So I have made it as cheap as I can. It will be available for free over the Christmas week (22-26 December) as my Christmas present to you.


What I might do differently

The cover seemed to be an area of concern as it isn’t really my area. Next time I will start work on the cover sooner. Or call in some professional help.

Allow more time for the formatting. It is something I would like to start sooner but unfortunately can’t be done until the story is finished. Yet I might work on some templates to make the process earlier.

 

Will I do it again?

Yes – no doubt. Despite the learning curve it was actually easier than I thought it would be.

I am currently working on a publishing plan for next year. There are more books to come…including my first novel.

It was a little more involved than I first imagined. But now that I know how it works it should be easier next time, although I am more aware of the time taken to get it ready.

 

I started this with Stuffed Frogs and Spinning Teacups because it is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

 

Creativity Time

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been very focused on my editing over the last few weeks and it is taking up most of my creative energy.

Recently when drafting a new story I enjoyed the creative freedom that creating something new brings with it. The new story itself is still pretty rough, with holes in the plot and a lot of work to get it to something good. But the drafting process has been a lot of fun.

It can be draining editing full time and so I have decided that I need some more creative play time.

A few ideas have bloomed lately and I’m playing with options for more stories, characters and some general unfocused scribbling. I love it and it’s not too much to draw me away from my serious editing but enough to give me a little breather.

Part of this distraction time has included reading how authors find ideas. Neil Gaiman would have to be my favourite:

‘I make them up …. Out of my head.’
People don’t like this answer. I don’t know why not. They look unhappy, as if I’m trying to slip a fast one past them. As if there’s a huge secret, and, for reasons of my own, I’m not telling them how it’s done.

Neil Gaiman

I fully believe this way of thinking, we all take a little something we see and twist it or add to it, to create something new, something us…

My daughter is a great starting point, she often comes up with weird pronunciations or cutesy names for her pets and these new words have sparked all sorts of ideas. The most recent of these names along with an image I saw on someone’s blog has inspired an idea for a short story.

The point behind this creative time is to relax and let the ideas come. Some ideas won’t go anywhere, some may start and falter and others may grow into something special. I’m willing to enjoy the process to find the ideas and see what happens.

Where do you find ideas?

Short Stories

1688897198_59a4054886

I mentioned last time that I was playing with the idea of pulling a collection of short stories together.

Usually I would describe myself as a writer of longer stories – novel length. I struggled with the short story feeling it wasn’t enough words to tell the whole story. I couldn’t really see the story as finished after several thousand words. The characters lived on, their stories continued and evolved. How could I stop writing?

For my recent Masters course most of my assessment was by short story. This was a huge learning curve for me. No matter what I thought was best for the characters or the story, I needed to work out how to confine the narrative within the confines of the short story. The university setting offered great support for this learning with the feedback from tutorial groups and tutors.

At the end of the course I have a small pile of reasonable stories that I would like to do something with – but what?

I submitted one (yes, only one) to a fantasy magazine but the readers found it too ambiguous. From my recent reading about self-publishing I now have more confidence in appealing to an audience. I quite enjoy a little ambiguity in my reading, I’m sure there are other such readers out there too.

Each story is quite different ranging across various forms of fantasy and science fiction. I am in the process of editing each one and writing another – that is part treat because it seems like forever since I got to draft some fresh fiction.

This is a real push for me to get some writing out there. It is challenging my self-confidence. I’m also looking at self-publishing the collection which is another challenge. This push into self-publishing is partly to see if I am right about my audience and to see if I can self-publish or whether I want to.

It is worth challenging yourself and pushing your boundaries because you never know what you may learn from the experience or what you may be able to achieve. I have discovered that short stories are worth the time and hopefully that I can tell a story in fewer words. What could you do to push your boundaries?

What have you done to really challenge yourself? What did you learn from that?

 

Image – Reading a book from Flikr – by ckaroli

Reading on Productivity

 

By El coleccionista de instantes [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by El coleccionista de instantes  via Wikimedia Commons
In my slower (blocked) period recently, I spent some time reading about productivity in the hope of improving my writing and writing speed, amongst other things. This may seem like a strange thing to be reading about when my productivity was at zero. But it was interesting and a great form of procrastination because I could justify it as writing related.

My curiosity about productivity and increasing it has stemmed from a renewed dedication to working toward living from my writing. Yet to do this I really need to get some writing out there for people to read. My first novel (which was not so good) took me five years to write. And my current novel is into its third year of production. To me this seems too slow even given the fact that I’m writing around a day job and family.

 

So I asked: How do I speed this up? And how can I write faster? Will writing faster affect the quality of my writing?

 

In my search for the answers I came across a couple of great books. So great I had to share.

 

The first was Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.

I fell across this book by accident and am so pleased that I did. It contains confident information from writers who are out there publishing lots of very good books, in a clear, no nonsense style.

What I learnt:

  • Money can be made from fiction writing,
  • You don’t have to follow what everyone else is doing – it is ok to write what you want to, and
  • Outlining is required

What I’m trying

  • Writing what I want rather than what I think a publisher would want
  • Attempting my version of outlining for the next novel.

 

The second was 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron.

This was full of very clear advice and steps as to how the author increased her own word count. I haven’t read any of her other work yet, but her blog is quite good and worth a look.

What I learnt:

  • We need to know what we are doing now and how well that works before we can determine what we need to change.
  • Planning/outlining is required

What I’m trying:

  • Mad record keeping of every minute spent doing something vaguely writing related.
  • Attempting my version of outlining for the next novel.

 

These books were in part responsible for getting me back on track with my writing, even though they were great procrastination tools at the time. That fact may give a little acknowledgement to the idea that procrastination can be good for your writing too, but I may just be trying to justify my inactivity.

I also learnt a lot more than the few points I made above and I’m sure they will come into future posts.

I believe it is important to look at what other writers are doing and what works for them and then take from it what will work for you. This gives us more options as writers to improve our own practice and who better to learn from than writers out there making a living? It is all experimental. There will be times when what worked at one point doesn’t work for the next novel, or short story.

I do not believe that you should take what works for someone else and wholly follow their processes and practice. It will only lead to disappointment.

I am trying to learn more about my current practices with my obsessive time keeping. I am also trialling some different versions of outlining. I will admit I have struggled a little with that, but I can also see the benefit. How well this works when I start writing will be further research into my writing practice. And will then determine how the following novel may start its life.

What have you done to increase your productivity that you didn’t think you would try? Hit reply and share your thoughts.

The Ripples Caused by Editing

By Georgina Makalani

Chapter 8 editing

As I have discussed multiple projects already, it will come as no surprise that I do have several things on the go at once. One of those projects is this website and blog and I’m learning a lot as I go. I am also starting to draft my next novel, very rough and all over the place.

But my first writing priority is my current fantasy novel which is in the editing stage, mostly. Some chapters need more work than I previously thought, and so it is not just editing, but rewriting and reworking some sections.

 

I’m editing for:

Story/Narrative

I am attempting to ensure the story is working (and from some readers some parts need tweaking) making sure that narrative moves the plot along at a reasonable pace and doesn’t get lost along the way. That it is believable and credible and pulls readers in. No strange jumps between events or sudden shifts in character behaviour.

Characters

Characters, as mentioned above, are an important part of the overall narrative. I believe that the best stories are character driven rather than plot driven, yet both aspects interlock and overlap. It is important that characters remain consistent and relatable yet grow emotionally and realistically over the course of the story.

Description

Description is an area I struggle with, always worried that I’m not using enough. There needs to be enough to fully immerse the reader in the setting and story, but not too much to distract from it.

 

Over the last couple of weeks I have:

  • Reworked and rewritten parts of chapters 7 and 8, bringing some events forward in the narrative
  • Introduced earlier foreshadowing of the main event/climax
  • Incorporated better description of the setting and characters to enrich the story
  • Further developed a set of characters to become more engaged in the narrative
  • Read several non-fiction books (or parts of) on description and deep point of view.

 

My aim is to provide a fully engaging reading experience. I love to get lost in books, disappearing into a new world, finding myself somewhere else, with different people, living different lives.

Pure escapism.

I want to provide that experience to my readers. In an attempt to do this I am researching the various techniques for producing engaging writing so that I can develop my own writing.

Funnily enough I do get lost in my own writing. When trying to edit I find myself five pages on and just reading. This may be because I have a connection to the characters and the story; I have lived with them for some time, after all. Whether the words make it to the page or not I can see the story unfolding in my mind. The aim of this edit is to ensure those images running through my head reach the page so that you, the reader, see and feel it too.

The changes I’m making to improve the story are having a ripple effect on the rest of the story. The reworking could kill the current ending, or bring it on too fast. I am hoping that the changes smooth out a wrinkle in the current draft causing a smoother, tighter narrative in the end. Either way, there is still a lot of work to do to bring the story to the level it needs to be. And I’m enjoying the process far more than I thought I would.

What part of the writing process is your favourite?