Friday, 30 April 2010

Guest Post: Brian Keaney - Why I Write Children's Fiction?

There are so many reasons why I write children’s fiction. Perhaps the simplest thing to say is that this is how my writing comes out. I certainly didn’t start off intending to write for a juvenile audience. In fact the first story I had published was for adults but somewhere along the line, I found that writing for children was what I was best at. 

I got my first book published when I was thirty one and working as a school teacher, dealing with young people all day. By this time I also had children of my own. These were the days before the government introduced a national curriculum into Britain, so teachers had a lot more flexibility in what they taught. I used to read a lot of fiction with my classes, inspired by the school librarian, a slightly eccentric woman who seemed very old to me (she was in her fifties - the age I am now) but surprisingly young in her outlook. Almost obsessively keen on Young Adult and Children’s Fiction, she was always prompting me to read new books and pretty soon she had me as hooked on the genre as herself. 

At the same time I was reading books for a younger audience with my own children every night. So I was utterly immersed in the world of children and in the literature written for them. One day I had a eureka moment. I was reading a book of short stories called The Goalkeeper’s Revenge by Bill Naughton. I suddenly saw how the author’s use of voice was the critical factor that made the whole narrative possible. Through voice he created character, setting and dramatic possibility all at the same time. I saw immediately that I could do the same thing. That realisation was the start of my novel. 

Becoming a children’s writer then was more a matter of accident than a deliberate choice. It sprung from my experience at the time and that is probably the best way to derive your inspiration – from the world around you. If I were asked by an aspiring author to give him or her advice on how to choose which audience to write for, what genre or what form to adopt, I would say only this: don’t waste your time pushing on a locked door, look for the door that is unlocked and simply waiting for the touch of your hand to open. It’s out there somewhere. 

Brian Keaney has written seventeen novels for young people. His latest book, The Magical Detectives, will be published by Orchard Books in July 2010

Monday, 26 April 2010

How Foreign Languages Help Writers?

As I begin to learn Spanish, it seems ideal time to make few comment on the topic which I have found to be true since the beginning of my writing journey. Words are our medium. Perhaps some of us don't understand technicalities of how a language works, or perhaps we have instinctive knowledge of the language, but not necessarily the skill to debate about it to a linguist. It doesn't matter. For a writer, technicalities of a language, where did the words come from, is not necessary. But I also find that wider our scope of understanding language(s), the richer the field to pick and use in our writing.

I am not J. R. R. Tolkien, and though I dabbled at learning Esperanto (surprisingly easy), I wouldn't dream of creating my own language. But when I have created my various fantasy worlds, knowledge of foreign languages came in handy. In the fantasies / science-fiction I read, I always hate it when made-up names or words are just full of consonants (X and Z seems to be special favourites), and we have no chance in hell of pronouncing it. Just because words are made-up, doesn't mean they can't be at least pleasant. I mean let's think about "muggle" - now that's a word. I wouldn't even mind using that in my daily life. Of course it is a very subjective topic, but vowels exist for a reason.

Anyway, so when I was creating my Fantasy worlds - having resources of other languages to pull, it was a much simpler and instinctive process of combining words or meanings from different languages to construct new names, which are pronounceable, sound like proper words, and yet are still my own creation.

I love languages, always have, and if I ever become a full-time writer, one thing I plan to do is join in regular language classes at university or language school. I speak English, Gujarati and Hindi. I have dabbled in Esperanto, German, Italian and Latin - and I love them all, though Latin and Italian are my favourite. Even with my non-speaking knowledge of these four languages, it is amazing how different aspects of words become appealing. I only put aside language learning to focus on writing. (Damn 24 hours).

Even for non-fantasy writers though, I do not doubt that foreign languages could become a rich source. Imagine being able to read books in their original languages - all the more knowledge at your disposal; understanding cultures as a native could; or even just flipping through a dictionary and discovering a richer source of names or meanings that one can then translate into English. Complicated way for people not interested in languages, but simple (ok maybe not simple - but at least fascinating) way for those who are.

I have also found how different forms of writing come naturally to me in different languages. For fiction, in Gujarati, I used to write poems and short stories (quite good ones), where as in English, I am not that good at either poems or short stories and only love writing books - which incidentally I don't write in any other language. In Hindi, I only wrote poetry.

My life at the moment is pretty much English 24/7 - but at least for the next seven months, I plan to change that and make Spanish learning a part of regular routine. Let's see how that goes - and then I might have a few siesta loving, tapa eating people in my books ;)

How about you? Do you speak any other languages? Do you find they help you with your writing or do they hinder you?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Guest Post: Jamie DeBree - Why I Write Romance?

Throwing Back the Covers: Why I Write Romance

The first page of prose I ever wrote was a literary-style piece describing a cabin in the woods. Every detail from the grain of the wood boards and bird song to the moss on the forest floor was accounted for. Back then, I saw myself someday writing grand, sweeping literary works that would contain such beautiful descriptive passages that people would weep at the sheer genius.

Now I write stories that would make my mother blush. I fully intend to give her a copy of my first published book someday with the caveat that she’ll probably want to skim pages xx – xx. Oh, and xx – xxx as well. Hopefully she won’t be too embarrassed to pass a recommendation along to her friends…

There are a lot of stigmas that come with being a romance writer – and even though I’ve been reading romance novels all of my life, I wasn’t at all sure I was ready to handle what people might think of me if I started writing them. So I tried everything else first.

I started a sci-fi story with only an underlying romantic element. The romance took over within the first chapter.

I plotted a sweeping adventure/thriller story – and couldn’t keep my characters’ out of bed and in the game, even in the synopsis.

I wrote a bloodbath of a horror novel (strange things happen during NaNo) wherein the bodies were stacking up by the hour in a very intense, closed off, gruesomely paranormal situation – and my main characters still managed to fall in love, even though they both died at the end!

I tried to write a mystery/suspense wherein my heroine would never fall for a man, because she was far too focused on getting sensitive information away from her abusive ex. I wanted her to be the snarky “tough chick” who rides off into the sunset on her Harley at the end of the novel, content to be alone. Yeah, right. In my world, women enjoy men. A lot. Even if they don’t want to at first. It’s probably because I have always related well to men – more so than women.

At that point, it was pretty clear that I was meant to write romance novels. I quit fighting it and just let my stories come out as they needed to, complete with sizzling bedroom scenes, a dash of suspense and many happy endings (pun intended). I still feel a little funny admitting that I write romance novels when people ask what type of books I write (most people who ask are men), but I’m getting over it. Most of my stories have a suspense element in them, which seems to make the guys feel better about the whole thing.

I think the reason that romance comes so naturally to me is that I’m fascinated by emotions and the connections people form (probably should have been a sociologist). I’m interested in why people act or react the way they do to others, and how that affects relationships. I’m a total sap for a “happily ever after”, which is a guarantee in a romance novel. I want to believe that everything works out in the end, no matter how tough the journey is. In my stories things always work out, even if it’s not the expected outcome.

With any luck, I’ll join the ranks of the published in the next few years. I’ll be sending out queries this summer.

To follow my writing journey & connect with me, I blog at The Variety Pages (, I’m on Twitter as @JamieDeBree or Facebook as (you guessed it) Jamie DeBree. I’m always looking for new friends…

Thanks so much for having me, Dolly – I love this series, and can’t wait to see who’s up next. :-)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Guest Post: Adam Slade - Why I write Humour?

My name is Adam Slade, and I write humour (usually in the form of humorous fantasy). My reason for writing humour can be summed up in four words. 'To make people laugh.'

Okay, see ya later, guys and gals!

"Ow, ow, OW! Cut it out! Geeez..."

*Rubs shoulder.*

Apparently Dolly thinks elaboration is required. Lemme see...

First up, my obligatory pimp:

My first book, A Reaper's Tale - The Undecided, is available from May 17th at Lyrical Press. There's an excerpt on the book page, and there will be another on my blog soon (I'm spacing 'em out for effect).

Right, onto the meat. Yum.

All my life I've played the fool for the entertainment of others. Anything to get a smile, pretty much. For a time, I wanted to be a stand up comedian, but was very shy (and still am to a degree), and the thought of standing up in front of hundreds of people terrifed me. As you can imagine, that would make a stand up career tricky, to say the least. Despite my love of making people laugh, when I began to write a couple of years ago, my first work was a rather serious fantasy novel. There was the odd light scene and snippit of sarcastic dialogue, but it was mostly, doom, gloom 'n fightin'. After that, I wrote a variety of genres of short stories, but again, there was no humour.

Then came 'A Reaper's Tale.' Hooo BOY, I loved writing that. The main character, Mal, is almost as sarcastic as I am, and the secondary main character, Amy, was about as perfect a straight-woman as I could have asked for. From the first word till the last, I had a riot. Even the editing was fun... to begin with, anyway.

Since writing (and selling) Reaper, humour writing has been on my brain, and I'm not sure why it wasn't before. It entertains, it produces larfs, and it's great fun to write. I can have the most ridiculous events, coupled with dialogue that any "serious" genre couldn't get away with. Couple it with fantasy (as I often do), and I have complete free reign! (For some great examples of what fantasy allows you to do, see Julia Knight's guest blog from a couple of weeks ago. Also, buy her books.)

My current project is a sequel to Reaper, and I'm having a riot pratting about on the page. I also produce a humorous serial blog called Gumshoe Casefiles, which is about a fictional sarcastic private eye named Frank Peterson. It's basically a spoof of old fashioned noir detective stories. I'm slow to update it, as I have to put my paying writing first, but I'm thoroughly enjoying writing that, too.

I'm not sure what else to put, to be honest, so I'll say that I'm happy to answer any and all questions (keep 'em PG), and leave it at that.



PS - May 17th. My book. You buy.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On Research

For most novels, there would be some kind of research involved. If it's a historical, obviously you are looking at considerable amount of accurate information to portray the time period correctly. If it's contemporary romance, thriller or women's fiction perhaps the only research needed are some facts about the place, your character's profession, or weapons. Regardless of what or how much you need - you need research.
When do you do it? Do you start with research, and then write the book? Or do you write the book and then fill in the holes?
I have done a variety of things for various stories I have written, but now the best approach for me is to write the book, leave the final research till the end. Of course during the course of writing / revising, I might look up things, sometimes read books that might inspire me on the subject, but for anything that needs to be specific and factual, I don't worry about it until the end.
The main reason for this is that research is fascinating. With the Internet, there is endless array of resources available at no expense and in the comfort of my own home. So once I get going, it's hard to stop. One topic inevitably leads to something else that is fascinating and so the chain of research continues, collecting information that is no longer just for the book.
There is nothing wrong with learning more, gaining new knowledge, but if our goal is to write a book, to finish it, then the focus must be there. Unnecessary research cannot be counted as part of productive writing time.
Leaving it after the initial story has been written makes it easier to focus. I find out what I need, and go back to my draft, because then the emphasis is on making the draft better. The lure of new information is easier to avoid.
How about you? How do you do your research?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Which Crazy Writer Are You? -

Which Crazy Writer Are You? -

I am apparently...

J.D. Salinger

You are quite possibly one of the greatest creative minds of your generation... not that you want anyone to know, of course. Not only have you been in hiding for several decades, you refuse to publish any of your recent work. You would very likely be a perennial Pulitzer Prize candidate, but your writing sits in a de-humidified bank vault in your humble New Hampshire ranch, awaiting the day that your next-of-kin decides to make a few hundred million dollars. Why the secrecy? Afraid people will read too much into your repeated affairs with barely-of-age girls? Afraid people will begin to see you in every single one of your maladjusted, unstable characters?

Friday, 9 April 2010

Guest Post: L. M. Turner - Why do I Write Erotic Romance?

Why I Write M/M Erotic Romance

I write erotic romance, and currently I'm focusing on M/M (gay) relationships. Why? To be honest, it wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I realised I'd never given it much thought.

The first book I sold -- The Subtle Build of Perfection -- didn't start out as an erotic romance. I had a picture in my head of a hopeless guy who's bored with his life, working in a video store with his insane/genius best friend. I knew, as with all stories, that something had to happen to tip this poor man's world upside down, and into the video store walked -- a guy. And so, an M/M erotic romance/comedy novella was born. It came naturally to me, and I realised as I was writing it that gay romance -- gay sex -- has always been my comfort zone. Going back some ten years, way before I ever took writing seriously, I would write many a gay romance -- usually fanfiction (and whatever you feel about fanfiction, it certainly helped me learn how to write). But when I first started considering the idea of writing as a career, I went down the YA fantasy path. It's one of my favourite genres to read, and I certainly still intend to sell my own efforts (fingers crossed!), but I can't deny that the day I started writing The Subtle Build of Perfection, a gay erotic romance, I'd never felt so comfortable as a writer.

Let me see if I can explain why I find the genre so appealing.

My Culture

I'm an out-and-proud bisexual woman, and while I'm in a very long-term and stable heterosexual relationship, the gay culture has been my life for as long as I can remember. The majority of the people I know are gay, and I've surrounded myself in a world where people are not only honest about who they are, but are proud of it. It's not like Queer as Folk -- gay people have the same lives and relationships and trials as straight people, but all too often the gay "lifestyle" is portrayed just as that -- a lifestyle. Gay people are people who happen to be gay. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone but me, and I know it's a redundant sentence, but in my mind it sums up everything I feel about my culture. There's nothing odd or glamorous about being gay, just like there isn't anything strange or fabulous about being straight. It's just sexuality. And that, I suppose, is the first thing that appeals to me about M/M erotic romance -- writing about normal guys in regular situations. Normal guys who happen to be gay.


Who doesn't love a good romance? Well, lots of people, probably. But I still get tingly feelings in my gut when two characters I care about finally manage to work through their differences and get together. I'm an old, bitter soul, but I have a soft spot for happy endings. For love. It can't be easy for them, of course -- I doubt anybody truly enjoys a simple "meet, date, fall in love" story. Where's the excitement in that? I took it easy for my first book, The Subtle Build of Perfection (which I will stop going on about soon, I promise). It has conflict, and I make sure they don't truly get together until the end, but it's a light comedy where the angst isn't too angsty. I was easing myself in.

The second book I sold, however (Resistance, sold to Loose-ID), is an angst-fest. I knew I couldn't keep writing these fluffy comedy books. I wasn't challenging myself and, as a result, I wasn't challenging the reader. I want my readers to feel the emotional rollercoaster I shove my characters on, and that's what truly appeals to me about romance. The will they/won't they, the pain and uncertainty, the unresolved sexual tension that jumps off the page and prickles your skin. The passion and need and desperation. If my characters want each other, they have to work for it, because the world isn't going to hand them happiness on a plate.


Yes, the sex. I enjoy writing gay sex. What can I say? It turns me on. I write graphic sex scenes -- some readers may even feel uncomfortable reading my second book, simply because the sex is so detailed and, well... dirty. Sometimes sex is dirty and rough and a bit gross. And I'm realistic. I like to think I write sex in a manner that's more arousing than disgusting, but I knew as I was creating these scenes that some people might be put off. That's not to say I write the most graphic scenes out there. I tip my hat to some BDSM authors -- that's some pretty intense stuff -- and I'm certain there are plenty of authors who can write a hotter vanilla sex scene than me. But I don't shy away from telling it how it is.

Having said that, I must refer to the age-old argument of erotic romance vs porn. The clue's in the title: erotic romance. Yes, the sex scenes are supposed to be hot, but they're not the most important part of an erotic romance. It's all in the emotion, what the characters are feeling -- and how they react to it. Erotic romance isn't porn. I don't write porn. I write romance, with the saucy bits left in.

In Conclusion

Homosexuality is a big part of my life, writing is a huge part of my life, and romance is still the genre that gets me the most excited, the most involved. So it only makes sense that combining these three elements puts me firmly in my Happy Place.

- L.M. Turner

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Challenge 44: Charging Ahead

After declaring my 44 days challenge few weeks ago, time to post a little update.

It's definitely going well. As I said previously, this is just one pass of revision so I am not aiming for perfect. Main thing is to make sure all the plot changes are made, the new plot layer added and weaved throughout the story lines, and scenes that need changing as a result of it are changed. So far I have done the easy bit, as the new plot layer doesn't need adding until middle of the book, so there weren't too many major changes in the beginning and just one new scene to add - which did take a while, because it's always difficult adding things in already finished story.

However, currently I am ahead of schedule. I am trying to pull ahead now, because I know that once I get to the middle - in about a scene or two - and have to start writing new material, it will take much longer, and might even make it harder to meet daily goals, so the better I do now, the more time I have.

Also, instead of 44 days, now I want to complete this challenge in 39 days, which would be 30th of April. Since it's end of the month, makes a neater ending. That's my ideal plan, and one I am aiming for, but it all depends on how things go.

This challenge has certainly proven, yet again, that short term fixed goals do work for me. NaNo was a success, and this challenge so far has proven more productive than last two months put together. So this is the kind of format I plan to use in the future for all writing/editing goals. It also, to a certain extent, enables me to work on one thing at a time, which is good for me, because flitting about all over the place is not as productive as focusing on one thing at a time (and I am the queen of multi-tasking so when I say it, I mean it).

For me, it is also more important because majority of all books I have planned include my own created worlds. It's not easy to keep two worlds unique when you work on them at the same time, ideas inevitably move from one to the other. I think this could work when the worlds are set concretely in my mind, but not at this stage when I am still exploring them. So this world deserves all my attention. And like the real world, it takes time to get to know every facade of imaginary worlds too.

So that's all the news on editing.

In other news, tomorrow we will have another guest post for "Why I Write..." series, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Emerging from a Time Vortex

Okay, I have no frame of reference, but that is precisely what it feels like coming out of the Easter break. Four days went by in a blink, one day merged with another - literally since I stayed up all nights and went to sleep at stupid hours.

Glad to say that I managed to stick to my editing, though all the rest of the goals went out of the window from Saturday night till Monday night. The break started out productively enough, with Thursday night, and Friday and Saturday quite well covered with editing, reading, writing craft related goals. But then on Saturday night, hubby gave me his monitor because he bought a new one.

This one has some problems, which for him - as a proper gamer - are not acceptable. But it's still better than my old monitor, and since I only use my desktop to play Sims 3, and occassional writing/editing when I want a change of scene, it works fabulous. Sims looked so amazing on this one that I had to play a little. Of course once I played a little, I was done for.

This got me thinking about time and how it works. During normal working week, I am so conscious of lack of writing time that my evenings are usually productive, and if they are not, I feel immensely guilty. I have improved a little because I do try to remember that I am allowed to have fun and relax. But as a rule, I have huge to-do lists waiting (writing related or learning related). I think it's because I feel that because I have to "waste" my time all day doing stuff I don't want to do, in the evenings I try to make the best use of it by pursuing my dream.

Yet, when I have a week or so off, productivity is rarely as much as I expect it should be. If I were to base my schedule on how I get things done in the evening, in one full week off from work, I should be super productive. But that's not the case. Routine breaks, sleeping habits change, lathargy steps in, and the desire to just chill and have fun, and do stuff later kicks in. I usually do get the important stuff that I know I must and have deadlines for - like editing for example, or writing during NaNo, but other stuff that I need to do but don't have deadlines sort of falls behind.

That made me wonder about being a full time writer, and whether I could be productive writing full-time. I tell myself that it would be different because writing will be my full-time job, and I will have free time for hobbies - whereas right now I have a full time job and my free time is spent towards writing goals. Yet, I can't help but occasionally wonder if i would need to keep at least part time job to keep me in some sort of routine. I know this isn't today's problem or even tomorrow's but we are writing - building castles in the air is our trade ;)

Okay that's enough of my ramble - how about you? Do you manage to stick to your schedules with disciplined? Do you make use of holidays from your regular jobs? Are you super disciplined people that I am going to be intensely jealous of and wish that my parents had sent me to nunnery to learn discipline? Or do you fall of the productivity wagon to do frivolous things some times - like play computer games or watch tv or just sleep? (I never do the latter - that would drive me crazy if I wasted free days sleeping)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Guest Post: Julia Knight - Why do I Write Fantasy (with dollops of romance)?

 I write mostly fantasy with big dollops of romance. Why? Good question.

The fantasy part is easy I suppose. I’ve always loved reading it, loved the different worlds and cultures that authors present me, the sense of myth and Romance ( as in the old type of Romance, Arthur and his Knights etc). The fact that anything could happen.

Why do I write it? Firstly, the real reason for fantasy – the fantastic. If I want a god to turn up, *poof* there he is. If I want someone to burst into flames spontaneously, he will burn. People seeing into the future, no problemo. Flying elephants? Got it, and here’s a handy umbrella just in case. Provided I keep my world’s internal logic sound and think through all the ramifications and limitations of my fantastical elements, I can do pretty much anything. And those ramifications can make a really great plot or add to the conflict. It’s very liberating, and at the same time confining and I love the conundrum of it.

Then there are the cultures. I’m not limited to this world; I can play about with events and reactions and weird localised foibles without worrying if it really happened. The question of why do they do it this way here? In that country, all marriages are arranged between people of equal class but they have affairs of the heart and no one turns a hair. So far so normal. But in this culture over here, events in their past – a nasty war which almost wiped them out – mean there are no constraints on who marries who, because they needed to get their numbers back up quickly. However monogamy is rigidly enforced. What happens when these two cultures – or two people from these cultures – come together? Fireworks! Another culture might have a mortal fear of pigs because of the Incident We Don’t Like to Talk About. It’s like the back-story for the characters, only on a much larger scale. This happened in the past, so things are done this way now. Bingo! A culture is born. 99% never makes it into the book, mostly just the end results. It’s endlessly fascinating to figure how human nature would adapt to whatever I feel like putting in this culture’s past and see how it works out in the now. And, of course, how that screws things up for my poor beleaguered characters.

As for the romance, well, what can I say? I’m a soft and gooey girl at heart. Now straight romance doesn’t really interest me, there has to be more to a book than that for me to enjoy it. But a big old soppy subplot? One that supports and is supported by the main plot?  That only makes it all harder for the characters? I am your girl. Besides, I do such nasty things to my characters; it’s nice to see them have some fun sometimes. Until the next time I decide they need to spontaneously combust, at least.

Thanks for the oppurtunity!



Check out Julia's Website -

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Exciting New Announcement

Starting tomorrow, for next several weeks on every Friday, I am going to have some wonderful Guest Bloggers on here, who are going to tell us why they write the genre they write in. 

It is going to be quite an interesting mix, with a combination of published, unpublished and in-between writers offering us an insight into their thoughts. 

On that note - if you are a crime/thriller/horror/hard science fiction/ military fiction writer, and would like to contribute to this series then please email me privately at dollygarland [at] gmail [dot] com. 

So hope you will enjoy meeting these wonderful writers, and stay tuned for our first post from an EPIC award winning author, Julia Knight.