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James Collins authorWriting Thoughts is about just that: my thoughts on writing.
Feel free to follow me on Facebook and bookmark ‘Writing Thoughts’ to follow this blog. Scroll down for my Author posts, or visit www.symidream.com for my day-to-day blog.

News: 04/08/2017 ‘The 13th’, the film that I co-wrote, has now won 17 awards in international film festivals. 04/08/2017 ‘Honestly’ a Miss P novella is now available on Kindle.

Author Interview: Jackie Keswick

I am thrilled to be able to present to you today, Jackie Kewsick in an interview. It’s a fascinating read and, towards the bottom of the page, you can find links to her books, more info, and a sample of her writing.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (short bio)

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Who, or what, first inspired you to write?

If I had to guess, I’d say something historical. I wrote my first “novel” when I was twelve. It was set in England during the time of the Norman Conquest and had a very dashing hero. After that I got bitten by the sci-fi bug. My love affair with thrillers and suspense is much more recent.

Where does your inspiration for a story come from?

Usually a line of something – a song lyric, a snippet of dialogue, or a sentence in something I’m reading. The inspiration for one of my current WiPs, Sound Judgement, was the song Me and Mrs. Jones, playing while we drove home after a holiday. The plot bunny for another story, Undercover Star, turned up while I was reading the news about a court case involving undercover work. Most times, the plot bunny fairy lands me with the first line and I go from there.

What is your writing process?

I’m fairly happy-go-lucky in the early stages. I let the plot bunny loose and follow where it goes. That tends to take me over the first 5k or so and by then I’ll know whether the story has legs or not. Then I write myself a stack of signposts… that’s usually either the emotional story arc, or the mystery plot, if it’s suspense. If I get to the last line, I keep going. Otherwise I set the story aside until I come up with the end. Once I have first line, last line, and my stack of signposts, I can get going. And no, I don’t write in a straight line.

Can you list your favourite books (by other authors) and say what attracts you to them?

I have three “forever” books, which I can read without the need to take them off the shelf. The one that’s been with me the longest is Johannes Tralow’s The Eunuch, a historical novel set in the 1760s. I first read this when I was fourteen or so, and I still find new bits to admire every time I go back to it.

The second of my forever books is The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, which has been with me since my early twenties. Amazingly detailed world building, lots of gorgeous imagery and… Estraven. One of my favourite characters, ever, and I still choke up in places when I read it – never mind I can quote whole pages!

I only found the third book a couple of years ago and Late Summer, Early Spring by Patricia Correll knocked me flat. I hadn’t expected to find another forever book, but the language is gorgeous, so quiet and sensual, and the love story between Iwata and Hiroshi just blew me away. It’s so understated it’s barely there, but it packs a punch.

What have been your experiences with publication, indie, self, traditional or otherwise?

I write for a living, which doesn’t mean I’m at all confident submitting fiction anywhere. Dreamspinner Press took a chance on my suspense novel Job Hunt (they’ve also published the sequels Ghosts and House Hunt, as well as Leap of Faith) and they’ve been an exceptionally good place to learn the ropes.

I treated the production of Job Hunt very much like an apprenticeship and their support for new authors is awesome. [Me: Click Here for more info about Job Hunt, in Pdf format.]

I’ve just started to branch out into self-publishing with The Power of Zero, the prequel to Job Hunt and a story I’m using to fundraise for the Albert Kennedy Trust and the Banbury Young Homelessness Project.  It’s trickier, since I’m my own project manager as well as the author, but using what I’ve learned from DSP it worked out well and hasn’t put me off doing it again.

What are you working on now and what’s coming out next?

I’ve just completed Swings & Roundabouts, which is the fourth book in the Power of Zero series. That’s with the betas and editor right now, and I’m very much hoping to have Jack & Gareth out on amazon before Christmas.

Meanwhile, I’m playing with Undercover Star, a light-hearted romantic suspense novella, and Sound Judgement, where I’m building a dystopian England, six years after a military coup. Of course, there’s always more Jack and Gareth in the works.

Where can we find out more about you and follow you? (Blogs, Facebook links etc.)

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places:

Website: http://www.jackiekeswick.com
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ctY9RD
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JackieKeswick
FB: https://www.facebook.com/JackieKeswick
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackiekeswick/
Pronoun: https://books.pronoun.com/JackieKeswick/

A sample of Jackie’s excellent writing,Dinner (Click for Pdf)

Author interview: Kay MacLeod

This week I have another author interview, and it’s with Kay MacLeod. Kay, like me, plans before she writes, but she plans more than me, by the looks of it. The Pinterest page is a good idea. I’ve also looked around for images of my characters and found random pictures online where the person looks like the character I am creating; it’s’ a good way of keeping consistency. I won’t chat on, I’ll let you read Kay’s interview and please click on her links and take a look at Heirs Of Power, her first novel.

Hi, Kay! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background

Hi everyone, I’m a self-published author with an unhealthy obsession for epic fantasy, and tea. I come from Nottinghamshire in England where I live with my husband and adorable tuxedo cat. I’ve been creating stories and characters for most of my life. So, now it’s time to share them.

If I’m not attached to my keyboard doing author-related activities, I’ll be devouring books, playing RPGs, or listening to much heavier music than most people would expect.

Who, or what, first inspired you to write?

I think I could read before I could walk, so I’ve always had a love for books. Even at primary school part of me wished I could write my own, but a lack of confidence, and a lack of determination, held me back from doing more than a few short stories for fun. I have piles of drawings, plans, family trees, and character bios from years of work, but it took a big push to finally start my first novel.

Sat in church one day, our message was about passion. ‘What are you passionate about?’ All I could think of was my stories, my characters, my worlds. Of course, I was mortified that I should have been contemplating something much more noble, but the speaker said that we shouldn’t discount the passions we do have, we should do something with them. So, a year later Heirs of Power was completed. Now I don’t think I could stop.

Where does your inspiration for a story come from?

The tiniest places. A fragment remembered from a dream, a wistful thought of ‘I wish it had happened like that instead.’ One day I heard a dad shouting his daughter and I loved her name, and it made me think- what kind of character would have that name? What would she do? What powers would she have? What kind of world would she live in? I’ve created an entire series from that one spark. I guess names must be a powerful catalyst for me because I drafted a novel in my mind one afternoon after randomly coming up with interesting name.

What is your writing process?

Plan. A lot. I know some authors can rock up to a blank page and see where it takes them, but I am not one of those authors. I do work on each character, making sure they have unique traits, even finding pictures of people that look like them (you can see them on my Pinterest page). My plot is all laid out, even by chapter so I know I have a decent hook at the end of each one. I’m not saying it all stays this neat and tidy during the process though, things get shifted and characters grow out of the little boxes I’ve put them in. It just helps me so much to have a point to start from, otherwise I find myself staring at that blank page and struggling to know where to start. Oh, and there must be tea. Lots of tea.

Can you list your favourite books (by other authors) and say what attracts you to them?

That’s always a hard question, and there are so many, so I’ll just pick out a few.

I love the Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, mainly because it isn’t predictable. The characters are all different shades of grey and have realistic motivations and flaws in their personalities, and no-one is safe. There are plenty of hard-hitting moments, to the point that it gets scary when someone you like turns up! And the world is one of the most original I’ve ever come across.

I really enjoyed the Matthew Swift books by Kate Griffin, again this is a pretty unique take on the fantasy genre and the story will keep you hooked. The urban magic system in this series is truly fascinating, and funny in some places, and the setting in London is so imaginatively described.

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series too, it’s absolutely hilarious and the characters are brilliant. It’s surprising how many little morals there are buried within it, and great lines that get you thinking. He had such a distinct voice, and talent for intelligent humour.

What have been your experiences with publication, indie, self, traditional or otherwise?

Heirs of Power Kay MacLeod
Kay MacLeod

I’ve only had the experience of self-publishing my first book. I have to say that there are positives and negatives with all types of publishing, I decided to go this route because I wanted the freedom to not have to conform to current trends. I wanted to write the book that I wanted to write and I understood that would mean a huge amount of work, but it was worth it. The hardest thing is having to learn all the skills that are involved with taking a story and transforming it into a book, it made it a lot easier to get a team of amazing people to help me out. I would have been stuck without them!

What are you working on now and what’s coming out next?

Right now, I’m working on the last few chapters of the second book of The Constellation Saga, that will be my next release. I’m so excited, there’s some big moments that I hope people won’t see coming, and we get to dig a bit more into the characters. Maybe meet some new ones too…

Where can we find out more about you and follow you?

You can visit any of these links. I have a lot of great stuff on my website, including news, reviews, and interviews. The Constellation pictures I mentioned are on Pinterest, and I do daily getting to know you questions on Facebook if you want to find out more about me and answer them yourself.

Websitehttp://kaymacleodbooks.com/

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15975307.Kay_MacLeod
Amazon UShttps://www.amazon.com/Kay-MacLeod/e/B01MDSNQ0A/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Kay-MacLeod/e/B01MDSNQ0A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1486248511&sr=8-1
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/KayMacLeodFantasy/
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/KayMacLeodBooks
Pinterest- https://uk.pinterest.com/KayMacLeodBooks/
YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx_CW8jslVSowv2FpZjx9Kw

Thanks so much for reading and I hope to hear from you all soon.

Author Interview: Isobel Starling

Author Interview: Isobel Starling

I am currently reading the MM romance, ‘As You Wish’, by Isobel Starling. This is number one in her series of ‘Shatterproof Bond’ novels. Thoroughly enjoying the read, I was delighted when Isobel offered to be the subject of an author interview. I shall be publishing more of these over time, but here are the questions I asked, and her replies.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background
I was born in Germany while my father was stationed there, and spent most of my childhood abroad moving around Germany every two years. During my teens, my family returned to the UK, but it felt completely alien to me. In my early twenties, my parents moved to Dublin, and I accompanied them. I studied for a degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture, and had a twenty-year career working as a freelance artist for public art commissions, festivals, and for theatre and film.

I moved to the UK during a long period of artist’s block, and I started writing in 2013. I love writing more than I did making art and so now I write M/M Romance, thrillers and comedies full-time.

Who, or what, first inspired you to write?
Author Robin Hobb first inspired me to write. I read her epic fantasy series “The Tawny Man” Trilogy and the ending just felt ‘wrong’ to me. I knew nothing of FanFiction, but when I left my review for the final book in the series, I saw one reviewer say that he wished he could find FanFic with an alternate ending. I thought it was an interesting idea. I had written poetry before, but I hadn’t written a story since doing my GCSE’s in 1988. So I sat at my laptop and, initially to please myself I wrote a fantasy story of what I’d wanted to happen with these characters I’d loved so much. The story became 30,000 words in the style of Robin Hobb. It came so easily, and I wanted to see what other fans thought. I uploaded the story to the fan fiction website ‘Archive of Our Own,’ where fans can share their stories, and was inundated with messages saying how much readers enjoyed it, and the writing. They thanked me for giving them the ending they’d dreamed of, which was very touching. I decided then to write a novel, and I haven’t looked back. I am just about to publish my thirteenth and fourteenth books over the next few months.

Where does your inspiration for a story come from?
I have a Gay Romance thriller series “Shatterproof Bond” which, once started, evolved on its own. The start of the story hinged on the catalyst effect of my characters Sam Aiken and Declan Ramsay meeting at a Scots wedding, and once these men found each other, their lives changed forever, and the real story began. Their world is contemporary, so many strands of things- political, societal that are going on at the moment are woven into the stories.

I also have an as yet unfinished fantasy series which is written in a completely different voice to that of my usual M/M work. The mainstream fantasy genre lacks diversity, and so the story has a whole host of diverse characters. There’s a lot of world building involved, layers of magic, past and present event story arcs, and individual character stories that weave into a bigger picture. Fantasy is a hard nut to crack, so I am reluctant to let the books out until I am completely happy with them.

What is your writing process?
I am part ‘pantser’ and part ‘planner.’ Initially, my stories come to me as scenes in dreams. I write them down and keep writing until the flow exhausts itself. Then I start planning and work out the jigsaw puzzle of the story. I like to research a lot and absorb as much information about the subject matter I am writing about. Then I write and also edit as I go, and it’s a back and forth process until the story is complete. It sounds messy, but it works for me!

Can you list your favourite books (by other authors) and say what attracts you to them?
My major book loves are fantasy:

I love nearly everything written by Terry Pratchett, his imagination, his humor, and the colorful casts of characters have given me so much joy over the years.

‘The Farseer Trilogy’ and ‘Tawny Man Trilogy’ by Robin Hobb, these books were quite an obsession. I adored the dynamic between bastard Prince Fitzchivalry Farseer and his best friend, known as ‘The Fool.’ Their love for one another really pulled on my heartstrings.

Other favorites are ‘The Name of the Wind’ By Patrick Rothfuss, and ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ by Scott Lynch, which are both exceptionally written, sharp, witty and mysterious.

What have been your experiences with publication, indie, self, traditional or otherwise?
I decided that the best strategy for me to gain a living wage from writing was to self-publish my English language work and then seek foreign translations with publishers. This strategy is currently working well for me. I am with Deadsoft Verlag in Germany, Juno Publications, and Reines- Beaux in France, and Quixote Edizioni in Italy for my translations. I have also moved into audiobooks, and this year I will have seven of my books in audio.

I would probably be termed as a hybrid author, as I self-publish and am with publishing houses. I enjoy Self-publishing. It’s a steep learning curve, but I don’t see it as any less worthy that being published by a traditional publisher. I can write what I love, get it to market quickly and then let the audience find it. There is no ‘wait a year for publication,’ which readers love because they know that when I have finished a book they only have to wait a month for it to be on sale. It keeps them engaged and is great for sales. I also like having control of all of my rights and being able to experiment with pricing and book covers.

The most difficult part of being an author is marketing. It doesn’t matter if you are with a publisher or self-publishing, we all have to jump into marketing these days. I wish I had a marketing team who would do it for me, as its time consuming, but its part of the business.

What are you working on now and what’s coming out next?
I am currently finishing a contemporary M/M Romance called “Sweet Thing,” which will be released in September. It has already been signed for translation into French by the publisher Reines-Beaux, and will be published by them in 2018. Then I am back to working on book #5 in the ‘Shatterproof Bond’ series, titled “Powder Burns.” I also have a Christmas short story that will be published in November. American readers of Gay Romance are very keen on their holiday stories and love a happy seasonal ending!
And back to me: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I am totally absorbed in ‘As You Wish’ and am looking forward to the others in the series. If you want to follow Isobel and find out more about her books, here are the links you need.

And back to me: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I am totally absorbed in ‘As You Wish’ and am looking forward to the others in the series. If you want to follow Isobel and find out more about her books, here are the links you need.

Isobel Starling:  Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

Honestly

Honestly

My latest novella, ‘Honestly is out there and doing well. Actually, it’s my first novella and it’s a pre- ‘Remotely, Miss P comedy story. Here’s the cover and the link. It’s only £0.99 on Kindle only.

I also have good news about ‘The 13th‘ the script that I wrote that was filmed on the Greek island of Symi in 2013. It has now won 17 awards in the film festival circuit and has been entered for many more.

 

On top of that, a British book club is to read ‘The Saddling’ for its monthly book and I am looking forward to hearing what the readers say about it.

It’s been a busy month as I am also putting the finishing touches to a new book of travel tales, to be called ‘Symi, Stuff & Nonsense’ which I hope to have out in November. And on top of that, I am now working on draft two of ‘the Witchling’ which is the follow-up to ‘The Saddling.’

More awards for ‘The 13th’

Meanwhile, over in Denmark, a couple of my Symi books are being translated into Danish for the book reading market there.

A writer’s life for me!

Honestly

It’s been a while since I have put up a post on this blog. If you want to follow my day to day life, bookmark my island blog, www.symidream.com

Here’s the catch-up on my news.

Honestly
One of the reasons I’ve not had much time to blog here is that I have been writing. I have just finished the first draft of a follow up to The Saddling, and I am in the process of preparing Honestly for Kindle publication. Honestly is a Miss P novella. If you have read Remotely, then you will have met Miss P, the slightly magical, timeless protagonist who does a couple of unusual things. She is sent by unseen higher powers to places where there is a problem. She identifies the issue and places a cigar-smoke-based spell on those who need to sort this problem out. In Remotely it was the feud between two ex-best friends, and she swapped their bodies, so they learned what it was like to be each other and that leads to… Well, you should read it. In Honestly there is an issue of writer’s block. Having sorted out William Shakespeare’s writer’s block, she finds herself in a small fishing village where an incoming family have not been made welcome. This is set in the present day. So, she places a spell that makes the villagers speak honestly to each other until the situation is resolved.

RemotelyI am hoping the book will be ready within a couple of weeks. It’s a 24,000-word novella and, like Remotely, is fun and a bit bawdy.

By the way, my fabulous cover artist at Red Raven Book Design has redone the Remotely cover and is working on the Honestly cover. The new Remotely cover will be there when Honestly goes on sale.

The Witchling
Meanwhile, my first draft of The Witchling is complete. This is the follow up to The Saddling, and you’re advised to read Saddling before Witchling. This title won’t be out for several months yet, probably next year. The first draft took me four weeks, it was a bit of an outpouring of story and needs lots of work, but at least it’s out of my system now that I have told myself the story. I now need to improve it by 100%, and I will do that when I have the next book published, and that is…

Symi, Stuff & Nonsense
This is going to be my fourth book about living on Symi, in Greece. It will contain some writing about Symi and life here, plus some other travel stuff (stories from previous travel adventures of mine) and some nonsense (mainly observations of daily life, meaning of words and other… well, nonsense.) I am aiming to have that ready for November 2017 in time for Christmas gift buying.

The 13th
Meanwhile… The film I wrote, ‘The 13th‘, is going through the rounds of film festivals and has picked up 14 or 15 laurels now. These are awards for best actors, editors, music, etc. I attended part of the Cyprus International Film Festival where ‘The 13th‘ was being shown, and had a great time there. The Greek premiere of the film will be here on Symi this coming Monday (24th July) in front of the mayor and islanders.

That’s the news for now, but just a reminder: please remember to leave reviews of my books on Amazon if you can, and if that’s where you bought it from. They are very helpful to me as they are to all authors.

Thank you and there will be more posts here when I have more news.