Category Archives: Inspiration and Us

Diary of a Writer – Graveyards.

My eyeballs felt as if someone had tried to peel them like an onion.  Actually, it might have been with an onion they were stinging so much. Does terror from staring at a computer screen cause sore eyes?  It was no use, it did not matter how long I glazed over at the manuscript of “Mulgrave Castle”, I was not feeling spooky, Victorian or psychic.  For a second, I played with the idea that somewhere on the internet there could be a sort of Viagra for writers which instead of making them feel sexy sort of erected the atmosphere they were meant to be in.  I didn’t think there would be one and one has to be so careful what one searches for these days.

In a state of desperation, I went from staring at the computer screen to staring out of the window.  I overlook a graveyard and a six hundred year church.  It all looked spooky and I thought I could stare at that to get in the mood. Not so, suddenly car after car arrived on the car park.  The next thing was that a gang of energetic, octogenarian walkers all had their car boots up whilst they took their flasks of coffee out and started drinking and socialising before their walk.   It then occurred to me that I could make some film clips of a graveyard and that might be helpful in summoning up atmosphere anytime I am working on “Mulgrave Castle”.

I grabbed my video camera but couldn’t film at the graveyard next to me as the gang had now taken sandwiches out of their car boots and seemed to be settling down for the day.  After thinking up an elaborate plan to get rid of them, I decided that dressing up in my Loony Literature gear and brandishing a large bell whilst shouting “plague” might not actually work.

I glared some more out of the window and then decided to go to a nearby market town and film there.  I didn’t want to look conspicuous hanging around a graveyard alone so I asked my mother if she fancied going out for hot chocolate.  As she is under five feet tall, just under eighty and looks charmingly innocent, I thought she was the perfect lookout for me.

All was going well, apart from my mother complaining about the lack of hot chocolate, until an elderly man with white, curly whiskers around his chin and leading a similar looking dog tried to cross examine me.

“You one of them family historians then?”  Both dog and man stared at me whilst they waited for a reply.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to lie, after all, I do do family history, I just wasn’t doing it then.  I nodded and waited for him to pass by.

“Who you looking for then?”  Both the man and the dog moved closer.  I would never make a spy, I stammered and stumbled and said “we’ve found nothing.”  He shrugged and I expected him to move on but he still watched us.  I linked my arm through my mother’s and we slowly walked away from the graveyard and then I slyly turned to see if the dog walker had moved on.  He didn’t, he watched us as we walked away but then he bent down to talk to his terrier and at that moment I grabbed my mother by the arm and we hid behind a tree and waited for him to go.   He looked up and shrugged in a disappointed manner and slowly moved away.

We hotfooted it back to the graveyard and I quickly did my filming in case the dog walker found me there again on his way back.  I was extremely pleased with myself as I thought my graveyard filming was done with, I simply had to put it on the laptop and it was ready for use – until I looked at it.  The clip is fine until it comes to second twenty seven and then there seems to be a man only from his torso (legs must be in the earth) with his head bent praying by the side of one of the graves.  I examined the clip but could not come up with what it could really be.

A week later, I decided that I would return to the spot to try to see what I had photographed and take some still shots of the spot.  Four teenagers, without coats, were sitting right by my spot, hanging out.  I had to decide whether to continue with my photography or just pretend to be walking past.    I decided to pretend that they weren’t there.  I examined the spot from all angles making sure that each headstone was where I thought it was.  I could not see what could possibly represent the image on the film.  I took my video camera from my bag and somehow it had become as dead as a parish council meeting on a Saturday night.  I quickly put it away and tried not to look at the teenagers who, I could see out of the corner of my eye, were all sitting in a line staring at me.  Luckily, I had my son’s camera with me as a backup, so I quickly took that out and tried to switch it on – dead.  I poked the on button and prodded it frantically.  The teenagers had moved closer but I could not contain my enthusiastic and violent prods onto the camera.  Nothing happened.  I lifted my head proudly and with a majestic air swept past the viewing teenagers with my mother following swiftly behind. How both batteries on both cameras came to be so dead, I will never know.  My video camera had one hundred minutes on it when I checked the night before.

The following Saturday I made sure that both cameras were fully charged when I set out.  I managed to take photographs without an audience but I cannot find out what the shape is in the video.  After all that, I’ve decided that maybe I should try something else to conjure up atmosphere.  Haunted castle anyone?

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Writing – Using Real People in Fiction Can Spell Trouble!

Victorian Lady Portrait

Victorian Lady Portrait (Photo credit: Aminimanda)

The other day, I was telling my son about a dead relative whose personality I have partly used when creating Jane Snow, my heroine’s paid companion and fellow detective in Mulgrave Castle.  My relative had a strange notion that when a man smiled at her, he had certain ideas because the chaps were too frisky for their own good.  One of the theme’s I want to explore in this series of Victorian psychic novels is female desire in the Victorian era as I became very interested in how it was used in Literature whilst a student.  Although, I have used Jane Snow’s attitude to males in a comic way because it was something which was both amusing and endearing in my relative, I think she might react badly if she knew that this aspect of Jane’s character is based on her.  I think she might see it as being laughed at instead of understanding that it is celebrating the fact that she was such a character.  Although, to be honest, I wonder if she would identify herself with the character, she might not.

 

 

The reason I say that my relative might not recognise herself is because of a story I was told when I was doing a course on scriptwriting.  The writer who took the course was a playwright and a television scriptwriter.  He was adamant about only using one aspect of a person’s personality when creating your own characters.  The reason for this was personal experience.  He had written a television drama and used a few aspects of the personality of a woman who was in his circle of friends as one of the characters; at the time of writing, he thought that he had disguised her well enough for no-one to know whom he had based the character on.

 

 

After the drama was screened, he was shocked that most of the circle of friends identified the woman whom he had used as a character.  Fortunately, the woman did not recognise herself and none of the others pointed it out to her.  The experience was enough to convince him though that we should never use more than one aspect of a person’s personality traits when creating a character.

 

 

On the other hand, I created the character, Will Blyton based on my son, Will and am writing a second book about him.  Often, I will read a part out to him and he will call me a cheeky so and so because I am depicting a real live occurrence.  He knows I am writing about a character based on him and likes the fact that he is my muse.  However, if he did not, I would not do it.

 

 

So what about you?  Have you ever written about someone and they have recognised themselves?  Do you use aspects of real life people at all when creating characters?  Do tell!

 

 

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Writing – Are you a butterfly or a mole?

Writing - Are you a butterfly or a mole?

Is it better to flutter from project to project?

 

At the moment, I am questioning whether I am using the best strategy for my writing career.  I am adopting the butterfly method whereby I flit from children’s fiction to children’s plays to adult fiction.  (By adult fiction, I don’t mean X rated stuff, I simply mean books for adults.  The reason I am explaining this is that I had an embarrassing incident years ago when donating videos to my child’s school fair.  All the ones I had seen donated were videos for children, so I asked if they accepted adult ones – the teaching assistant thought I meant porn and coloured highly when I thrust my “Pride and Prejudice into her hand.)

I am a writing butterfly, I flicker back and forth working on both adult and children’s fiction and I wonder whether I would be more effective if I was a mole, digging and focusing on one tunnel or book until I had reach my goal.

Being a butterfly has its positive aspects in that it keeps the writing schedule fresh and lively.  It also means that if children think my kids’ stuff reeks, their mothers’ might like my physic detective.  In other words, I’m not putting all my eggs into one basket as the old saying goes.

I do feel that being a butterfly has its negative side especially when it comes to marketing.  It means trying to interest two sets of audience, which as any writer knows attracting a single one can be tough going, initially.  It also means that I constantly have more than one plot, setting and set of characters going around in my head which can be like living inside a bee hive at times.

When I talk about being a mole, I must clarify that I mean someone who works on a particular novel but also has a blog and writes articles etc…   I don’t mean that they only work on the novel they are writing at the time and nothing else whatsoever.  The positive side to being a mole is that we can concentrate wholly on the piece we are working on, we might have ideas for future books in our heads but if it is a series with the same main character, it all helps to know this person better.  I think it is the same with marketing, if we are sticking mainly to say writing vampire stories for adults, we can aim all our marketing energy into the one market; the output is far better targeted than that of the butterfly writer.

The negative side to being a mole writer is that the writing atmosphere could become a little staid for the writer after a period of time.  Fundamentally, I think that the main problem is that if the mole concentrates for instance, completely on a series with an alien detective and it flops, the mole needs to start again; obviously, this is not a problem if the series is a hit.

I have to say that as a butterfly writer, I do question whether I would be better off being a mole.  So what are you and is this because you have a strategy or is it because it is the only way for you to write?

Writing - Are you a butterfly or mole?

Being focused hits the spot.

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Writing – Great Aunt Bertha at The Asylum.

Frankenstein's Revenge

It’s all go in The Laboratory.

Things are frantic at The Laboratory at  the moment.  We have a children’s play “Frankenstein’s  Revenge” being thrust on the public  at Hallowe’en and I am researching and editing Mulgrave Castle which is about the psychic Victorian detective, Harriet Twine.  Therefore, I thought I would share with you how I am getting myself in the mood for both writing and marketing.

The other week I went to Lincoln prison,  a Victorian gaol in Lincoln Castle, to help me envisage what it must be like to feel like a Victorian lady. Lincoln is a wonderful place for creating writing atmosphere and this weekend, the old asylum at Lincoln will host the biggest Steampunk Festival in Europe.  The simplest way to explain Steampunk is that it is a mixture of Victoriana and Sci Fi – that is a very loose term but it gets you in the picture if you are not au fait with Steampunk.

I find that I have a Steampunk heart as the motto is “Be Splendid!”  This basically means that we should show wonderful manners and try to dress with elegance.  This really appeals to me because I hate bad manners and I love costumes.  So I decided that if anywhere was going to get me in the mood for embracing my fictional Victorian world, it has to be The Asylum.

The costume is ready – almost – but then I thought of all the folks turning up with their gadgets and inventions in the true Victorian spirit.  This was when I decided that as I had been inspired by Frankenstein, I would take my invention from The Laboratory to the Asylum.

Here is a short film about the invention I’m taking to the Asylum.  If after watching it you can’t decide whether I should actually be in the Asylum or I have just got a whacky sense of humour –can you come down on the side of the latter please?

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Writing – Embracing Characterisation in a haunted, Victorian Prison.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

Handcuffs on display at Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

 

I am working on a novel called Mulgrave Castle in which my main character Harriet Twine is a psychic, Victorian detective.  In order to really embrace my character as I re-write, I wanted to visit a place I had been to before which I knew had both a mixture of atmosphere and spiritual energy.  It is the Victorian prison in Lincoln castle.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle

A faithful dog on display at the prison. His master was a poacher who shot a head keeper in the knee. Unfortunately, the man died and William Clark alias Slenderman was hanged for it at Lincoln Prison in 1877.

I decided to do most of my journey by train as this was a popular Victorian mode of transport.  I would have liked to do the whole day in Victorian costume but after doing other experiments in costume, I decided it really was not practical and I would have to use my imagination as far as clothing went.

I have written about the prison elsewhere on the site under Exciting Excursions.  The place which impressed me most on my last visit is the prison chapel.  In 1849 the Separate System came into force.  It was believed that if prisoners were kept in isolation they would become rehabilitated.  They were only let out of their cells to go to the Chapel and for exercise.  It is said to be the only one of its kind left in the world.  The Separate System meant that the inmates would sit in closed in seats, in The Chapel, so that they could not see or speak to anyone else.  The seats are tilted, therefore if any prisoners dared to fall asleep during a sermon they would fall forward and be punished.  There was an open bench at the back which was especially for condemned criminals; obviously it was thought that they were beyond redemption.  Debtors also were not included in the separate system and they would be seated in the gallery with the men above and the female debtors below.  There were sloping seats at the front for the women.  Each criminal in the Separate System was locked into his seat before another could be let in.  In addition to not being allowed to see others, the prisoners also had to wear masks to cover their faces.  In 1851, it was realized that this system did not work and it was abandoned.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

This is the only chapel of this kind left in the world.

The remarkable aspect of all this is that visitors to the chapel today can stand in the pulpit and have the view which the prison chaplain would have.  Some seats are fitted with a dummy criminal wearing a mask.  The vision is intimidating and the atmosphere is awful and on my first visit it gave me shivers down my back.

Lincoln Victorian Prison, Lincoln Castle

This is the view from the pulpit.

For this visit, I had strongly psyched myself up not to be so intimidated by the chapel, after all, Harriet is Victorian and has never witnessed the liberal world which I am used to.  As I stood in the pulpit looking down on the chapel to take the photographs, I felt a very strong sensation which made me lean backwards so that I could not be pushed.  I put that down to my own imagination and went down into the seats and sat on the front row.

I had not planned to do this but I found that I was sitting observing the other visitors.  People seemed reluctant to stay in the chapel, I found that most were scuttling straight through and not visiting the pulpit.  They seemed as if they should not be in there and were frightened of getting caught.  I decided to stop the next visitors and explain about the pulpit and directed them up to it.  They didn’t look happy and didn’t actually climb into the box.  So as the next people I directed up there were sneaking off, I pointed the pulpit out.  They declined going in.  I eventually witnessed one couple going in and their faces suggested they had eaten something which had gone off.

I felt at this point that my experiment had worked in that I had become like my intrepid Victorian heroine compared to the other visitors, I had lost my modern day queasiness for harder times than ours.

Lincoln Victorian Prison, Lincoln Castle.

A display portraying the gallows just in case we forget what took place in Lincoln Prison.

However, all of that fell by the wayside when I entered Cobb Hall which was built in the 13th century and has been used as a prison and for executions.  The stench of urine as I entered was overwhelming which puzzled me, later it actually made sense as when people are extremely frightened it is not unknown for them to wet themselves.  There is a ladder which leads down to the dungeon and there was very strong negative energy emanating from that area so I declined to go down.  I felt rather ashamed at that point as Harriet would definitely have gone down to try to find out what had happened down there.  For me however, the feeling of evil was too strong.  I did climb up to the top where the hangings took place.  In the mode of Victorian psychic detective, I did not sense anything there.

Cobb Hall, Lincoln Castle.

For many, when they went through those doors – they never came out again alive.

Whilst I was up at the top, unbeknown to me, my son had entered Cobb Hall seen the ladder area leading down to the dungeon and had left immediately, he too got a really negative feeling from that area and rushed to tell me about it as I left Cobb Hall.

Cobb Hall, Lincoln Prison

Down into the dungeon. There is a malevolent energy around this spot.

Did my experiment work?  I feel it did as I think that I have discovered that Harriet is rather more adventurous than I am.  I have discovered that leading a life as a sheltered Victorian lady has made her more likely to throw herself into situations because her life is dull and it is not enough for her.

Do you ever do experiments like this?  If so, please tell so that I know that I am not the only one hanging around Victorian prisons.

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Writing – Point of View Problems – What a Palaver!

English: Mulgrave Castle Well worth a visit

English: Mulgrave Castle Well worth a visit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

At the moment, I am working on a supernatural Victorian novel called Mulgrave Castle.  My main character, Harriet Twine is a young woman who gets dragged mentally and physically into a suspicious murder because she has physic powers which she will not acknowledge.  She is also desperate to find love with the suspicious Dante DeGuise but we will leave bedroom matters for another day.

 

I am on a major re-write as I initially tried to write it entirely from Harriet’s point of view and then decided that I wanted much more insight into the mysterious DeGuise family of Mulgrave Castle and also wanted more of Jane, Harriet’s paid companion, personal thoughts to come through.  I spent goodness knows how long changing the point of view and then I posted the first few chapters on the loonyliterature website.  The posts have been removed since re-writing started again.

 

The extracts were extremely well received, the main criticism being that the point of view moved about too much.  As I had already  changed the point of view about once, I decided to completely put the work aside and leave it for a few months and then go back to it.  I find this really helps when I am not sure whether I agree with criticism or not.  It means that the manuscript I am working on has gone cold in my mind and I can look at it with the eyes of others, more than if it is deeply entrenched in my brain through constant working on it.

 

A strange thing happened before I went back to rereading my last draft of Mulgrave Castle, I was reading Phil Rickman’s book “The Man in The Moss” and found the constant change of point of view really annoying.  I found that I had to stop and think every few pages about whom we were dealing with.  I was further irritated that my two favourite characters, who the back of the book suggested were the main characters, did not feature nearly enough as the point of view seemed so stretched out.  I normally love Phil Rickman’s work, his Merrily Watkin’s books totally transport me but although, I still enjoyed “The Man in The Moss”, I know that if that was the first novel of his that I read, I might not have looked for his other books and been the big fan that I am today.

 

I reread Mulgrave Castle and decided that the lovely ladies who had given me this critique, Maria Thermann and Ross Mountney were spot on.  It means that I have a huge job of rewriting as over half the novel takes place when Harriet isn’t there.  There are times, at the moment, when I could smack myself around the face with a cold fish for changing the point of view in the first place.  However, maybe if I hadn’t tried it another way, I would never have been truly happy not knowing that I had found the best possible solution to Mulgrave Castle’s point of view.

 

Has this ever happened to you?  I would really like to know about your experiences of point of view so that when I am banging my head against the laptop at 6a.m. I know that I am not alone.

 

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What sort of writer are you – explorer or planner?

English: Mulgrave Castle. Castle ruins situate...

English: Mulgrave Castle. Castle ruins situated in Mulgrave Woods, near Sandsend on the east coast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the moment, I am on a major re-write of my supernatural, Victorian novel, “Mulgrave Castle”.  I am having days where I am conjuring up the atmosphere I need to re-create the book in my head and I feel truly satisfied.  However, I am also having days when I will do anything before getting started and then find that I have wasted my writing time.  I am beginning to wonder if this is to do with the type of writer I am.

As I see it, there are basically two types of writers. (Of course, many will be a mixture of the two.)  There is the explorer who has maybe a very basic plot and outline ideas for characters and then lets the whole work evolve as she/he writes.  There is also the planner who has virtually everything worked out either on paper or in their head before they start to write.

I would love to be a planner but my writing muse hates it and I have to accept that I am an explorer.  Being an explorer can be tremendous fun as I sit and type and imagine and all sorts of scenes taking place which help me get to know my characters.  However, it means that I have to do about seven drafts of a book and by drafts I don’t mean spellcheck.  I mean doing a draft purely to re-write the plot, exploring the best point of view, then the same with character development and another one to put signposts in etc…

As I work, I have another file open which is called “Mulgrave Castle Leftovers”, this is basically the cutting room floor.  Being an explorer means that I have scene after scene which is cut because there might only be one relevant sentence in it – however writing these scenes are not a waste of time as they give me an intimate insight into characters and setting.  When we first begin to write, we find it difficult to cut, it is almost as if someone is threatening to cut parts of our person off.  The longer we work at our craft, the more we can see what doesn’t work or what simply is clogging the arteries of the story up.  I call it “boning the text” – basically, I am cutting it down to the bone.  To demonstrate the severity of it, I am on page 63 of my most recent re-write and the “Mulgrave Castle Leftovers” file has 10,000 words in it already.  Goodness knows how many words will be in it by the time I get to the end.

So, I’ve shared with you – now do tell, how do you write?

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Conjuring and Capturing Feelings – Inspiration in Ruins.

English: The Gatehouse at Thornton Abbey

English: The Gatehouse at Thornton Abbey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have great writing days and I have writing days when I simply do not understand why I am writing at all.  On the great ones, I experience life at its best, I know I am not simply alive but actually LIVING, really living as the excitement generates around my body and my fingers flash along the keyboards.  On the bad writing days, I stare at the text and I hate it, every word seems wrong; the characters are cardboard and the plot is boring.  I have trouble concentrating as my mind is more concerned with Bowie songs which will play themselves on a loop in my brain and my study looks like a dusty dump.  At this point, it might seem that on the great days, I get lots of quality writing done and on the bad days, I get nothing done at all.  On the contrary, I still get some done on the bad days, maybe not as much as the good days but the main difference is that it is unpleasant.  To be honest, it puzzled me so much that I started to analyse it to see if I could do anything about it.

I thought about the great days and how they start off and after a while it occurred to me that it is all about feeling certain ways for certain pieces of writing.  For instance, when I work on Mulgrave Castle a supernatural, Victorian novel, I often get a certain feeling coming over me which is my supernatural, Victorian feeling –all it is, is how I felt when I read books and visited places which inspired Mulgrave Castle.  In other words, I had captured the feelings when being inspired to write the book and sometimes they appear when I am actually writing it.  On the bad days, when I would rip it up, if it was on paper, I have not conjured up these feelings and it is jolly hard work.

The more I thought about this, the more it occurred to me that if I could retain the feelings I get when I am inspired and conjure them up at will, my writing and writing experience will greatly benefit from it.  I suppose that really it is merely what Stanislavski suggested  actors should do all those years ago, capture the emotion, store it and learn to bring it back at will.  As I reflected on this, I thought it would be useful if when visiting places to be inspired, I also went with the purpose of capturing the feelings to use again later.  To do this as an experiment, we decided to visit Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire as we have used it before for inspiration; I expect though that all ruins will do perfectly well, wherever you are.

Thornton Abbey

Thornton Abbey

There are some places which one should arrive at preferably by train, Venice being the most obvious example, however, Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire is another one.  If you want to feel as if you have gone back to the world of Enid Blyton or “Swallows and Amazons” dump the car at one of the rural villages along the Barton Upon Humber to Cleethorpes railway line and catch the train to Thornton Abbey.

As I chug along through the flat Lincolnshire countryside, I prepare myself for the jump down from the train.  The platform at the Thornton Abbey stop is so old, I literally have to jump off as the platform is way lower than the train.  It is at this point that I start to feel as if I’ve gone back in time.  The beautiful Thornton Abbey Gatehouse beckons in the distance as we make our way along a path which has glorious countryside on either side and big faced, lazy sheep greet us with a glimmer of interest.  The reason I suggest dumping the car and catching the train somewhere along the line is that walking up the path to Thornton Abbey transports me into another world and is a strong source of inspiration when writing children’s adventure stories.  I strongly remember being eleven and long summer holidays; I close my eyes and monitor the feeling, truly noting it and recognising it instead of simply basking in it.  I picture an eleven year old me running down the path towards Thornton Abbey and hold it.  I do a mental click as if I have taken a photograph and hope that I will be able to conjure up this wonderful feeling when the time is right.

We get to the entrance of The Gatehouse and I am really excited as I have been here before and I have to say that it is one of my favourite places to visit.  I am not going to write the history of Thornton Abbey as that is not the point of the piece and there is lots of information on that elsewhere on the internet.

One of the reasons I love visiting Thornton Abbey so much is that it has a wonderful effect on me.  Whenever I visit it, it changes my mood into a very happy, carefree one; the peaceful, happy feelings on the land are so powerful it is like taking a tonic. I intend to capture that strong feeling today, hopefully for use in the future. I have to say at this point that I am well aware that there are stories of Thornton Abbey being haunted by Thomas De Gretham, the 14th abbot of Thornton Abbey,  who was supposed to have been a practitioner of the dark arts and rather partial to the pleasures of the flesh.  He suffered for his crimes in that he was bricked up alive in an underground dungeon and was found still sitting at his desk in the 1830s, hundreds of years later.  There are supposed to have been sightings of him but the only feelings I get from there are happy, beneficial ones which I can use to energise me when I am writing.

Even though Thornton Abbey has a very strong happy aura, it can be used to create feelings for writing spooky stories.  Will and I took picnic rugs and a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” to Thornton Abbey to read the story amongst the ruins.  We had just finished the story when the sky turned black and we were assaulted with that hard, harsh rain which hurts and soaks within minutes.  We had to shelter in the ruins, which, being ruins, did not really shelter us at all.  It was too far to run to the gatehouse or the small exhibition room so we had to wait and watch the turbulent weather and the swallows flew in and out of our shelter telling us to go – the scene was spooky but made me feel excited.  I closed my eyes and focussed on the image I experienced.  Hopefully, when I remember the scene, the emotions I experienced would return when I want to create that feeling for writing.

Thornton Abbey

A spooky place to take shelter when there is a storm.

Once the rain stopped, we went to do our final experiment.  We were going to use the main hall on the second floor of the gatehouse for Will to perform a Richard III monologue.  The room was darkly lit with a wooden floor which bends slightly when walked along and shafts of light escape through the gaps up into the room.  It was perfect for Will to perform the villain’s piece and as I watched I shivered and did feel as if I was in another time.  Will took the emotion of how he felt in that room away with him; he really did feel that it was a powerful exercise.

Thornton Abbey

I could really imagine Shakespeare’s Richard III in here plotting.

It might all seem like a great deal of fuss for a bit of writing and acting but it works, not every time because we all have times in our life when it is distraught and we cannot escape reality.  However, because the great moments in life are so precious, we have to create them when and where we can – give it a go when you get the chance or have you been doing it for years? Let me know.

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My Frankenstein Diary 10 – How Do I Promote My Book?

Frankenstein‘s Revenge cover for Kindle.

 

Okay, so you’ve written a book but that’s not the end – it is actually the beginning of a new part of the book’s journey.  How the heck do you promote your little baby?  I have just published “Frankenstein’s Revenge – a play full of shifty manoeuvres and time travel.”  It is a ghoulish comedy written to promote awareness of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.  It is also written to encourage children to write, act, make sets and film.  If I had approached literary agents or publishers to represent or publish this manuscript, I would have received a distinct “no” simply because it is a play.  In fact, I think quite a few literary agents and publishers have “no plays” written in their information.  This has not stopped me because with all my projects, I look at the long term payback.  I think over the years Frankenstein’s Revenge will have slow but steady sales.  I also feel that it is the Loony Literature product which offers brand awareness the most.  We have The Laboratory and all the costumes so with “Frankenstein’s Revenge” we can really demonstrate what Loony Literature really stands for.

So how can we promote our books?  For a long time, I worked in sales, public relations and promotions.  My experiences took me from the pubs in Toxteth, Liverpool just after the riots to the yacht racing at Cowes Week.  Sometimes I would be with Royalty or sporting heroes, other times I have been in public houses in notorious areas like Moss Side in Manchester where many feared to go.  It was a deep and intense tapestry of life.  What did it teach me?

On reflection, the main thing it taught me is that you have to care.  At this point, you might be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?  Of course, I care about my book.”  I’m not talking about your book; I’m talking about your readers, your customers.  If we think of them simply as buyers, eventually they will, quite rightly, see right through us.  When I think back over the years at different projects I have worked on, the most successful ones have always been when my customer’s best interests have been at heart.  In pubs and nightclubs, giving the customers the best night out possible has meant the product has walked out the door.  We hardly needed to promote it, the entertaining experience we offered did that on its own.  When promoting cosmetics and skin care, simply sincerely caring that the customer gains bags of confidence from using the products, means great sales.  I could harp on forever – don’t worry, I won’t.  So now, taking my point into consideration – how do I promote my play?

Initially, I had intended to write a teaching guide to go with it.  It was going to be something which would be used by teachers, home educators and parents/guardians.  However, after receiving letters and messages from teenagers and children who have been inspired by the Loony Literature website, I have decided not to write the guide for sale.  Parts of the play will be acted out by us and put on the website with ideas for writing, acting, making sets and filming.  I am putting it directly into the hands of the young people.  Why?  It all comes back to that caring – every time a child gets the nerve to act, write or do something creative because of Loony Literature, I think my chest is going to burst, it makes me feel so happy and proud.  I cannot think of a better way of promoting Loony Literature or Frankenstein’s Revenge.

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein's ...

Drawing of actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein’s monster in an 1823 theatrical production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So that’s me sorted out for the time being but what about you? Who is your book aimed at?  It is essential that you distinguish who your target is and then focus directly on them.  If you have written a cookery book called “Pork Recipes For Greedy Pigs”, you have to target your audience.  There are millions of vegetarians out there and folks who won’t touch pork for religious reasons.   You have to find the people who love cooking and pork and then truly want to show them new ways to cook pork.  Everybody wants to improve their lives – that is for definite.  You simply have to want to improve the lives of your intended audience.  Once you start thinking along those lines with your book, more ideas will emerge on how to promote it.  It is all to do with setting your mind on the right track.

At Loony Literature we will be working on getting our marketing ready for view this summer.  Read about the ups and downs in My Frankenstein Diary.  Good luck with your marketing ideas – do let me know how you go on.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, For Teens, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Revenge, Inspiration and Us

Giving Fanny Fear the Finger – Part One!

Conjuring up an image of Fanny Fear is important.

Gosh, that sounds downright rude but unfortunately, that is how we have to behave towards Fanny Fear.  Fanny is short for Frances or Francis, it all depends whether your shoulder blade troll is male or female.  My Fanny Fear is female, she has an extended chin which ends at a point and hunched over shoulders as she is always bent over whispering in my ear with a harsh, hissing voice.  Therefore, I will be referring to Fanny Fear as “she” throughout this post.  However, if you have a male Fanny Fear, please feel free to change the pronoun to “he”.  Fanny Fear infiltrates all aspects of our lives.  However, in this post I want to concentrate on how this shapeshifter stops us from writing, acting, filming or painting.

 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Fanny Fear will appear in all disguises to actually prevent you from being creative.  Fanny Fear will appear in your mind dressed as your spouse, your school friends, your mother or your work colleagues.  Fanny Fear is an accomplished mistress of disguise.  You’ve been to see a wonderful film or read a book which gave you shivers down your spine.  It has created a spark in your mind, you have an idea for a poem, short story, novel, film or painting.  Hey, this feels good – you feel uplifted, a shadow starts to cover the feeling.  You listen, can you hear something?  You realise it’s the most popular girl/ boy in the school grinning at you in your head.  All the followers appear and they are laughing.  A feeling of darkness blots out your happy, uplifted feeling as you realise they are all mocking your creative work.  Your shoulders hunch and you slump – better not risk it.

The Nine Muses from Greek mythology. The Sarcophagus at The Louvre.

You get to 45 and are still getting ideas for stories and other creative things – not as many as you used to do because you bat them away like pesky flies.  One day, that creative feeling comes over you again with a renewed strength, it makes you feel good, you want to write your idea down.  You’re a grown up now, you don’t need to worry about your school mates making you look stupid.  You imagine telling your wife/ husband that you’re going to write.  You see them in your head bursting out laughing and saying “what are you wasting your time for, you’ll never get a publisher.”  The dark shadow returns and you give it one last go – you imagine telling your mother.  In your mind, she smiles and says “that’s nice dear – did you get my tablets?”

Okay, that is a worst case scenario with Fanny Fear.  However, I had to do this to point out how Fanny Fear operates.  Fanny Fear is not other people; Fanny Fear is how we imagine other people are going to react concerning our creativity.

A woman searches for inspiration – William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Fanny Fear feeds on the fear of being mocked.  She sits like a piece of fungus in the back of your mind.  Each time she whispers in your ear and conjures up images in your head and you allow it, she grows and flourishes.  She is the plague of creative people.  The good news is that Fanny Fear can be controlled.

In the first instance, I want you to give Fanny Fear, who might simply be a hissing voice, a pain in your stomach or a dark shadow who looms down on you, a face and body.  It is important that you make Fanny Fear as exaggerated as possible, because that is what she is queen of, exaggeration. Okay, we have this troll fixed in your mind, can you see her?  Take her in, look her over slowly –make sure that you recognise her.  It is important that you attach the look to the dark shadowy feeling, pain in your stomach, or whatever she gives you.  Give her a new name if you like.  That is step one, recognising Fanny Fear, once you have given her a look and a name – if you think of her every time you start imagining people mocking the fact that you are being creative – the horrible feeling which is associated with this instantly lessens.

The next bit becomes easier with awareness.  Be alert because Fanny Fear sneaks up on you at all times.  If you are reading a book and stop to think of the wonderful way with language the writer has; Fanny Fear might quietly whisper “Of course, you will never be able to write like that.”  Stop!  Mentally grab the troll by the ear and face up to it.  Tell the piece of fungus, in your mind, that you are working on your writing and one day will be an accomplished writer.  It then helps to mentally give the creature a swift boot up the backside and imagine it flying through the air.  The more you do this on a regular basis, the less Fanny Fear will visit you.

Once you get Fanny Fear under control – give yourself permission to write, act, film, paint etc…  Tell yourself out loud, write it down.  You have permission to write, act, film or paint.

Okay, so what are you wasting time here for?  Get out there and give Fanny Fear some wellie and then get creating!

Have a wonderful time.

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Filed under Creative Writing, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Self Esteem and Literature