Need help with writing? Join us at Southbank, Bedminster

We’ve spent most of the last year toiling away at our writing desks, but with September and that new term feeling upon us we’ve decided it’s time to get out and about again. Our aim is to meet more writers, help more writers, and, yes, find new audiences for our work.

First of all we’re delighted to announce a new partnership with the management of Southbank Club in Bedminster who are keen to have creative arts activities alongside language and exercise classes.

And so first off (drumroll!)  we’re delighted to announce the  Monday Writing Club which will meet fortnightly from Sept 21st (1st and 3rd Monday of each month) from 12 – 1.30  at Southbank (Dean Lane, BS3 1DB) with each session led by a member of the Unchained Writers Collective .

South Bank Bar
Cosy venue for our autumn workshops and story-reading events

So who is it for?

  • Maybe you have an idea I’d like to write about but haven’t quite got round to it
  • Or you might have made a start on something but need moral support, feedback or just the company of other tortured souls
  • Or maybe you’ve got a finished piece of work (WOOP!) but would like some advice on the mad mad world of publishing (believe us, it is!)

radiogroup

If any of these apply do come along and join us. The cost is a only £4 per session with a hot drink provided (BYO lunch)

You can pay on the day, or if you’d like to reserve a place (or have any questions) please use our contact form. 

And did we mention story readings? Watch this space!

southbanklogo

Coming soon – a new shamanic mystery from Nina Milton

Nina MiltonIt seems no time since we were at the launch of Nina Milton’s In the Moors, her gripping thriller featuring shamanic sleuth Sabbie Dare. I’m delighted to say Nina is back to tell us about her follow-up, Unraveled Visions, and has news of a special offer!

 

 

Unraveled Visions coverHi Nina, is this a return for my favourite heroine of last year, Sabbie Dare?

Yes. So many people have said they have fallen in love with her! As the book opens, she’s still pining over Reynard Buckley (*sighs* – ed) and living in Bridgwater with her hens (of course!) The book opens on the evening of the Bridgwater Carnival. After the carnival floats have finished, there is always the traditional ‘squibbing’; a firework display with a difference. Sabbie is there with a girlfriend, and what she witness takes her into trouble and danger (nothing’s changed there, then!)

 

The cover and title feel ‘stronger’ (and sexier?) than In the Moors – your choice or the publisher?

Midnight Ink made these decisions, but I think they’ve done me proud. I was also happy with their treatment of In the Moors.

 Anything else you can tell us about the new book?

Here’s the back cover;

The day after shamanic counselor Sabbie Dare receives a palm reading at a street carnival, she learns that a police detective has been killed and the gypsy fortuneteller has gone missing. Sabbie’s newest client—a scared woman with an angry husband—has also disappeared. Despite warnings from Detective Inspector Rey Buckley to stay away from the investigations, Sabbie can’t ignore the messages of danger she’s received through her shamanic journeys. But as close as she comes to the answers, Sabbie discovers there are people who want to keep the truth buried forever.

And a tiny snippet from the start of the book…

The two detectives had arrived as the body was trundling on a gurney over to the white tent where the pathologist waited like an adjudicator at some macabre contest. The woman was found stripped of any clothing and the technician had thrown a green sheet over her poor mutilated and rotting body for that short journey, but the gurney jerked as its wheels stuck to the walkway, which was so burning hot it was melting the policemen’s thick soles, and the woman’s head slid to the edge, her heavy locks falling free, as if she’d just unpinned them. Despite the river weed and silt, her hair was still glorious; as black as a nighttime lake, not tampered by bleach or dye. 

Detective Sergeant Gary Abbott had stepped forward, his hand outstretched, and touched the woman’s hair, crying out like a distressed relative. “Take care with her, for God’s sake!”

UNRAVELLED VISIONS   by Nina Milton from Midnight Ink

 Intriguing! Any events coming up?

If you’d like to hear me talk about my writing in the West Country, in October I’ll be speaking at the WELLS LITERARY FESTIVAL.

I’ll be there to give a talk in the Bishop’s Palace on the afternoon of Sunday 12th of October, when the winners of the Wells Short Story, Novel Writing and Poetry Competition Prizes are presented with their prizes. As a past winner of the short story prize, I hope to offer hope to writers who are just setting out.

The festival is packed with amazing names, so why not come for the day and enjoy the buzzing literary atmosphere?

Sounds like a great idea, Nina, and I’m sure a number of BWW members will be hoping for a catch-up while you are back in the West Country.

Meanwhile here’s the other bit of exciting news for Sabbie Dare fans…you can pre-order your copy of Unravelled Visions ahead of the publication date for only £8.05p. (And you can have the book delivered free if the order is over £10). U.K. publication is due mid-October. This is a great opportunity to have the 2nd book in your hands on the day, ready for winter reading. Just go to;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unraveled-Visions-Shaman-Mystery-Milton/dp/0738740055/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396516117&sr=1-4&keywords=nina+milton

For those who have yet to meet the inimitable Sabbie, Here are some reader comments on In the Moors. Could be a great time to do a deal on both titles!

In the MoorsOver the last 2 years have found it so hard to get a good book. I read yours in less than two days…A compelling read, beautifully written; memorable…

Janette Davies, from Ireland

And Celtic Writer Mara Freeman (Kindling the Celtic Spirit, Grail Alchemy)  wrote to give her thoughts on the first in the series…

A real page-turner, In the Moors cost me several hours of sleep because it was so un-put-downable! An engaging heroine, a landscape at once so real and so menacing, and an intriguing mystery had me enthralled into the wee hours!

Ali B has also reviewed In the Moors on Amazon  and gives it an unqualified 5 stars.

Great to have you back, Nina!

 

 

 

So what are we working on now? Gail Swann tells (almost) all

Our group has been tagged by Nina on her Kitchen Table Writers blog (great news on the Fish Prize, Nina!) to answer questions about our writing process. So we’re going to take turns to reveal at least some of our writing secrets. First up is Gail.

Gail Swann
What am I working on now? 

My novel-in-the-writing is about a remote holiday park, outdated and struggling to stay open after its charismatic proprietor dies. Set against a dramatic landscape and featuring a motley medley of characters, almost anything can happen in this ‘micro-world’. I’m excited about writing it, but still getting to know the sceptical ‘hero’ (or perhaps he’s the anti-hero) who rides in on a motorbike, having inherited this ‘godforsaken place’ from his estranged uncle. 

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’m standing in front of a bank of pigeon holes, the kind you see in school or behind a hotel reception. There’s a sign at the top saying ‘adult fiction’. But specifically, where to put a genre-shy manuscript? “This will be your downfall,” I mutter to myself as my eyes scan the categories.  I think my work is different, in that it taps in to a cross section of genres. I like to bring the pace and tautness of a crime thriller to the whole ‘personal change and development’ thing. I go with my characters on whatever arduous journey they happen to be making in life. But isn’t that the case for every writer? My work includes mystery and misery, love and crime, the fall out of war, the complexity of family, the unreliable mind. Settings are usually urban, a little bit ‘lit noir’, the sea is always in there somewhere, there are villains and there is some social history.  Always from a male point of view, by the way. 

Why do I write what I do?

As a little tot, before I could read and write, I used to draw stories. I remember I drew a girl called Shirley who fell off a cliff.  I drew page after page of Shirley’s subsequent adventures in a wheelchair with a bunch of siblings at her side. I would recount the story in words (in glorious detail) to anyone unfortunate enough to comment on my drawing. At primary school I wrote the longest stories in the class, and so it went on. A succession of characters’ lives, lived in my head, year on year. I couldn’t understand why most other kids didn’t inhabit these imaginary worlds in their play time.  I was many years into adulthood before I realised that books (generally) weren’t written in peoples’ spare time. My career was off in another direction by then and so my writing work to date has, indeed, been written in my spare time. 

What is your writing process?

I usually start with a visual of a place. It might be a landscape, a room, or even a shop doorway. I need that anchor. Prologues may or may not be in writing-vogue, but for me, the place is the prologue. The characters enter the scene already formed. I take them as they come, and work with them. I don’t construct them. As for the story… well, wouldn’t you like to know? (because at this point, I don’t)

Writing is such a magical process. Only as I write, does it all come through. I’m sure many writers experience the same but I do admire those who can plot and plan effectively. I get blocked if I try to plan too much. I use a notebook to get all these impressions down, and to play with strands of story. But most often I end up writing loads of back story. Perhaps I need to do that to understand these people that have popped up in my random environment!

As soon as I’ve got enough ‘oomph’ I take it on to the computer. I’m quite a precise writer. Not sure I could cope with NaNoWriMo. I do enjoy crafting the scene or the description or dialogue, there and then. It doesn’t mean I won’t change it later though. I am quite brutal and I never keep previous versions. I like to think each change is for the better.

Once I’ve got quite far in, I can see the plot (or not) and the issues it throws up, and start to get a bit more strategic.

 I love writing. It defines me. I really will have to find a way to stop only doing it in my spare time!

Thanks Gail – I for one am finding your WIP intriguing and very engaging. I can’t wait to know what’s going to happen next. I think we should also tell readers this is your third bash at a novel – not bad for a spare-time occupation! 

 

 

 

 

Persistence and Passion: from Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

book coverThis week we’re delighted to welcome our first ever guest blogger, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt. We invited her because three of us, Gail, Shirley and Ali, all read her debut novel While No One Was Watching and all absolutely loved it. The book (Ali’s review is here) tells the story of what else might have happened in Houston on the grassy knoll at the moment when Kennedy was assassinated – of course while no one was watching. A brilliant premise and as we thought brilliantly executed. Here’s Debz to tell us more about herself and her book.

 Would you like to give us a bit of background about yourself and your writing career?

Debz Hobbs Wyatt I always wanted to be a writer and I wrote my first novel at the tender age of nine! (A Famous Five rip-off complete with tom boy and dog!) I have always been an avid reader and while I eventually studied science and worked for a pharmaceutical company, I always wrote in one form or another, either for work or for fun. I had the idea for my first novel at the age of sixteen, although I didn’t feel I had lived enough then to have something to say!
Then about nine and a half years ago I started to write seriously, working on that first novel (for me it was always about the novel!) and it became an obsession. And when my lovely partner Lee died suddenly in 2005, writing became my escape and my saviour. I have always been an optimist and a great believer in living the dream but none more so than when I lost Lee. I was determined to just do something that made me happy and I am. Truly.
The journey to this point has involved a lot of hard, but enjoyable work, honing the craft. Part of that was realising the power of the short story for experimenting with style, voice, tense etc. It speeds up the process and one that I think is so necessary. It was five years ago, I had my first short story accepted for publication and since then I’ve had twenty shorts stories published, won competitions, got my MA in Creative Writing and given up my day job!
I now work from home – in the mornings I write and in the afternoons I have built a small business editing and proof reading for private clients and some small publishers, and I also offer in-depth critiques for clients. I also have my own small press, Paws n Claws encouraging children to write and I publish the stories for the Born Free Charity. I realise now how important and wonderful it is to work with other writers. In order to teach you have to know it – and I am certain the critiquing has made me a better writer.

Shirley has commented that for her one of the most striking things about While No One Was Watching is the language, the way you capture characters through their American voices. I’m thinking of Lydia especially, of course. She comes alive through the way she speaks. Assuming you’re not American yourself, how did you capture such an authentic black, Southern voice, with its vocabulary, syntax, cadences, lilt?

I am from Essex, I spent ten years in Liverpool and I now live in Wales. But I have travelled a lot in the US and it does seem to come through in my writing – less so with the shorts as they tend to be set in the UK but for some reason my novels want to be set in the US.
I am obsessed with voice as this is what really connects the reader to the story – I want the reader to hear the character and not me. The main concern was being authentic and not making the characters stereotypes. I had to study the nuances of the African American Vernacular (AAV) – with a Dallas twang! I needed to look at the kind of expressions used and in Lydia’s case, how her parents would have spoken, one generation back. I also looked at books like The Color Purple and The Help. I listened to people speak; there are online libraries of dialects. I hope I did it justice; I studied it hard and along the way was looked at by my editors for accuracy.
What I did love was how my publisher was convinced an American had written it. But then he is Welsh! It will be interesting to see how it’s received when the book’s released in the US in March.

Do you like treading the line between fact and fiction (as you’ve
done here) or can the weight of historical research sometimes get in the way
of imagination?

While No One Was Watching started life as an image. I saw the psychic sitting in a chair looking at a reporter. She wrapped a child’s silver locket around her thick black fingers and said, “It belonged to a little girl. She disappeared the day Kennedy was shot and was never found.”  It seemed like a big premise, a new way of looking at an old story? And while the novel is about Eleanor Boone, that little girl who disappeared from the grassy knoll, it’s about a whole lot more than that. I added many layers.
Never the less, it seemed I could not write a story like this without there being a strong Kennedy tie in and hence I lot of research! But I loved it! In itself the Kennedy story is like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle. I also loved the way fact and fiction rub up against one another. . I had the characters looking at real evidence from that day but this time looking for a little girl and not a man with a gun. It seemed to me that people are already fascinated by the story of what happened to Kennedy, but add to that the idea of missing child (bad enough, right?) but still missing after fifty years – I knew it would also tap into something universal. And it seems to have worked.
So while I don’t, in general, write historical fiction, there is something about taking an iconic moment in history and using it in a contemporary way. I find research is just another part of process and it’s essential for authenticity. And credibility. It doesn’t get in the way.

You’ve already had lots of success with short stories. Have you always wanted to write a novel, or did While No One was Watching take you by surprise?

I will always wave a banner for the short  (While No One Was Watching actually came from a short story) and this year I won the Bath Short Story Award and was shortlisted in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize  – but in my heart I will always see myself as a novelist. While No One Was Watching is actually my fourth novel but the first one to be published. The first novel was the practice one. The second did get some good interest from agents but I knew even before they confirmed it, that I wasn’t a good enough writer and that’s when I stepped up another gear and was part of why I did my MA. But I still plan to redevelop that second one and I have another thriller waiting to be reworked and the current work in progress. Not to mention lots of other burning ideas.

Ali has said that for her While No One was Watching is somehow much more than a thriller. I have to ask what’s in the pipeline now? Another thriller? Or something completely different? Or could there more adventures ahead for the amazing Lydia?

I am drawn to thrillers, I love page-turnability. The new work in progress is an adaptation of one of my published short stories I Am Wolf, it’s about identity, a feral child, set part in Russia and part in Alaska and while again it is really about a reporter, she is a flawed and complex character and there is a mystery but it’s very different in lots of ways to the first novel.  I also have a pacey psychological thriller called Isle of Pelicans related to Alcatraz and a reluctant clairvoyant – very different to Lydia! That will be developed next. But I will also develop Colourblind that second novel and it has important tie-ins to the American Civil Rights Movement and have a feeling  that it could be developed for the fiftieth anniversary of the Martin Luther King’s assassination in five years’ time. I really want to rework it, and I think there might be room in there for a cameo appearance by Lydia Collins!

Any particular career ambitions?

I feel like I am finally living the dream – I always said you must never give up and now I can say, see? I was right. I am so proud. It’s not about being rich, or being famous, it’s about being successful to yourself. It was pretty scary. I love sending my characters out into the world. I am just so relieved people seem to be looking after them! HUGE PHEW!
Next stop? While No One Was Watching – the Movie? And an agent, I hope! To get the next novel published. I am so grateful. But we must continue to learn and there are no guarantees the next ones will be published, just an unwavering belief that if you do what you love, every day, and you are receptive to advice and criticism, and will write no matter what – no reason why it doesn’t make a career.

Can I just say a huge thank you for letting me be a guest on this blog and for the very positive reaction I received from Ali and BWW for my debut. Thank you so much. It means a lot. Thanks everyone, never give up your dreams.

It’s been a pleasure, Debz,and thanks for telling us about your writing journey. I’m sure we could all learn from your persistence and passion. 

book coverIf you’re intrigued you can download the novel for Kindle here: and in paperback (Amazon are currently awaiting the second edition with the slightly new cover but do order it.)

Or The Book Depository  offer free shipment globally and they still have the first edition (we like the sense of a book about Kennedy being from The Book Depository!) My editor bought her copy from them for that reason!)

Debz with RosieWebsite: www.debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

Blog: http://wordznerd.wordpress.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DebzHobbsWyattAuthor

Twitter: @DebzHobbsWyatt

Children and writing don’t mix – or do they?

Jenni O'ConnorJenni O’Connor, novelist, haiku poet, journalist and copywriter,  is also mother to Zoe, aged four. Here she muses on the unlikely fusion between writing and parenting.

“Children and writing don’t mix.” So said one famous male writer, whose name escapes me, presumably as he hastened to the haven of his oak-panelled study, slamming the door to shut out the sound of a wailing baby.

I was musing on this truism today, as I juggled a lorry load of commercial writing commitments with a two-hour long school day – my daughter has just started school and is in the midst of an extended settling in period. Having picked her up, fed her and admired a motley collection of leaf paintings and drawings, and reassured her that it really is OK not to have been able to recognise all the numbers from one to twenty in her second week at school, I then fired up the laptop and CBeebies simultaneously, so I could finish a press release while she enjoyed a bit of time out.

Oh, the guilt! Looking at it that way, children and writing really don’t mix. There’s never the head space, even if there are – on occasion – periods of twenty minutes or more when it might, just might, be possible to pen anything more profound than a shopping list. If only I weren’t so tired.

“How did you write a novel with a baby?” I’m often asked. The truth is, I didn’t. I wrote it before she came along, having very sensibly negotiated a four-day week with my very understanding employer. (I’ve never been a pre-dawn writer, nor a midnight-to-two-am one).

But, around naps and short periods at nursery, and Thursday mornings with gran-gran, I did manage to edit it, and eventually (in 2012), Reach for a Different Sun was nominated a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. When it came to the Unchained anthology, I’m embarrassed to admit that my story was the only one to show up at the first editorial workshop as a first draft stream of consciousness, and it was only with the many thoughtful, insightful and diligent insights from my ‘writing buddy’ that I managed to knock it into any kind of shape.

And yet, and yet. When Zoe was one, and I was just about able to step back and reflect on the wonder and madness of becoming a parent, I wrote a collection of haikus, exploring the journey into motherhood, the marvels and miracles of a baby’s first milestones, and the evolving relationship between parent and child. Perhaps this shortest of short forms, along with flash fiction, is best suited to new (and new-ish) parenthood, given as it is  to capturing and distilling the essence of a given moment in time.

But the greatest gift which parenthood can bring a writer, to my view, is the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eye once more. The chance to regain the awe and wonder in simple things, to stop running just to stay still (in theory, if the laundry, washing up and ironing are ever done), and smile. Children smile, on average, 400 times a day – but by the time they reach adulthood, this is generally reduced to just 20.

So even if it seems impossible; even if there isn’t, in this moment, the time to connect the creative neurons and put fingers to keyboard, I’d urge all writers who are also parents of young children to do this: stop, breathe and observe. Your child or children will bring you untold insights, truths and delights – just by existing. If you’re so inclined, you can jot them down and save them for the day when you finally have more time. And even if they don’t refresh your writing mojo, these moments have the capacity to enrich your life, as long as you’re prepared to stop and listen.

Reach for a Different SunJenni’s first novel, Reach for a Different Sun, is available on Amazon. Her company, Kaiku Communications, specialises in copywriting for print and web. She is currently planning her second novel – though she realises this may take some time!