Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Research - can you do too much?

My gut reaction is “no”, but maybe that’s simply because I’ve come to really enjoy the process. It never enters my head that I can begin work on any novel without doing some degree of research. I think it’s partially because I love learning anyway, but I also want to make sure that I can get each story as ‘real’ as possible.

But, saying that, I think that research can have its limits in regards to the story it’s helping to tell. You need to know when enough is enough. When dealing with a novel, you don’t want it to turn into something showing off everything you might have learned. That usually comes out in some form of over-description; too much emphasis is placed on the surroundings, or the concept of the story, than on the story itself. It distracts from the fundamental points: characters, plot, emotional response. Your readers get alienated, and they put the book down.

I think research is particularly important for the fantasy genre. It can be so easy to fall into the trope that because it’s fantasy, you can make everything up. And to an extent, yes you can. But there’s no point spinning the tallest tale if you can’t back it up with some degree of rationality. Everything needs to have rules, and you need to stick to them. The laws of gravity still need to apply, and if for some reason they don’t, that’s a thread that can’t be left untied. The same can be said about practically anything to do with any novel. If it’s set in another country, it’s best to find out everything you can about that country. If it’s set in another time period, the same idea applies. 

The point I’m trying to make is that, personally, I think the best way to use research can be to enhance the author’s confidence. It’s not necessarily a case of trying to turn yourself into some kind of self-made expert on whatever the subject is – just familiarising yourself with it. If you’re writing about something you know, it comes naturally. You don’t have to constantly think about the words that you’re putting down on the page. As a result, the writing is a lot more fluid, and in turn, more believable.

The ‘grunt work’ that I do for all my novels – plotting, researching, and figuring out the characters – always takes a lot longer than the actual writing. I do as much research as I can, about as many aspects of the story as I can. If I have the opportunity to get out and actually experience them firsthand, then I do. One thing I remember spending hours on for Blindsighted Wanderer was details about medieval musical instruments. 90% of all that stuff doesn’t even end up in the final story. But because I know about it, it helps me play off whatever information does become part of the actual narrative.

So, coming back to the research idea, I think it can be a double-edged sword. There’s a fine line between making a story believable and it turning into a lecture. I adore novels that have the power to transport you completely into their world through that kind of balance, and I really hope that mine can have the same effect. At the end of the day, they are a work of fiction, not factual books. And one of the greatest strengths of good fiction is to transport us away from reality for a little while, by relying on basic rationality - not by overwhelming us with it.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Young Adult ECarnival Book Contest

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I just wanted to share a couple of links with you!

Storyfinds is running a giveaway to beat off the February Blues! Up for grabs is a $50 Amazon gift certificate, and 10 YA e-books, including a copy of Blindsighted Wanderer!

It's definitely worth checking out! There's only a couple of days left to enter so make sure you head on over to Storyfinds to get all the info!

to go to the contest page on Storyfinds!


Anybody's Daughter by Pamela Samuels Young

After the Fear by Rosanne Rivers

Blindsighted Wanderer by E.C. Hibbs

My Demonic Ghost by Jacinta Maree

The Woodlands by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Empath by H.K. Savage

Love and Muddy Puddles by Cecily Anne Paterson

Taking Angels by C.S. Yelle

Off Limits by Renee Pace

Dragonfly by Leigh Talbert Moore


Monday, 17 February 2014

A post from Batty

I know vampires aren't exactly a new thing in books, especially in the last few years (even though my favourite literary bloodsuckers will always be the classics: Carmilla and Dracula - I can't help myself!). But I've been a fan of these creatures for a long time, and I love seeing all the different interpretations that come through books and movies. It never actually occurred to me that I might give it a shot myself, until I was diagnosed with light sensitivity.

I've always been pretty open about that, but I wanted to write about it today. When I was 16, I found out I had two separate medical conditions, which are both very mild, but I need to be considerate of them. The first is an eye condition called photophobia: my pupils don't react as fast or as efficiently to changes in light as they should. The second is a skin condition called PLE (polymorphous light eruptions), which means my skin reacts to UV light as though it's an allergy. Both of them can affect up to 2 in 10 people.

I know what I have is not 'vampirism', and in truth there are other photosensitive conditions which can be a lot nastier. I'm lucky in that only certain types of light affect me. Even my 'sun-rash' (as I call it) only strikes my hands and arms. Generally speaking, the main year-round precaution I take is to make sure I always have a pair of sunglasses within reach, in case the light changes and I need to protect my eyes. And, living with England's crazy weather, that's usually a given everyday!

When I started sixth form, I noticed I was having trouble reading in certain lights, and especially when stuff was put up on a projector at school. So I went to have my eyes tested, thinking I was going to need glasses. I was really shocked when the optician told me that my vision was fine, but my pupils were abnormally large even in the bright lights. I got two pairs of sunglasses: a darker pair for outside and really harsh light; and an orange-tinted pair for under fluorescents. I actually needed to carry a note around with me which gave me permission to wear them in class!

That same summer, the PLE manifested. I'd had it on and off for a few years beforehand, but the attacks got worse and were more easily triggered. I had to be very careful about what kind of sun levels I could expose myself to. The rash was ugly, painful, and would usually take at least two days to completely disappear. Plus the constant bombardment of light meant I always had some degree of a headache.

Needless to say, I became quite wary of light. I soon learned that the worst conditions for me were direct summer sunlight; sun after it's rained and it's bouncing off every single wet surface; and any kind of light that is more blue than orange. Around that time, I got the nickname "Batty". I remember going into school the morning after my photophobia diagnosis, dressed in my usual black t-shirt/jeans combo, and one of my friends jokingly declaring, "I knew it! You are a freaking vampire!"

I took it in my stride and made a joke out of it. Little bats started appearing in my birthday cards; I'd doodle them in my diary. I even embroidered one on the strap of my guitar! And I didn't mind because I liked bats anyway. But when it came down to the actual photosensitivity, there was always a deep undercurrent of frustration. I'd always loved the sun: playing outside during the summer, all day, every day. So to suddenly feel these restrictions really annoyed me, and I (stupidly) tried to stand up to them in some way. I used to deliberately go out on a bright day without my glasses; I'd use a lower factor sun cream than I needed. It never worked - I always ended up blacking out my room and then having to lie there for hours with cold cloths on my face and hands. I suppose if I ever had a rebellious stage as a teenager, that was it!

So it was shortly after my diagnosis that I started designing my own vampires. I did it partially as an outlet for my frustration, and also to help me come to terms with the conditions. I wanted to approach the subject of vampirism as though it was photosensitivity similar to mine gone wild. I know you can't really have a vampire story that doesn't address the light issue in some way, so it goes without saying that I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. But the difference for me, on a personal level, was that I knew about dealing with it first-hand - albeit on a very basic level! So even though I threw in blood-drinking and bat wings, a huge amount of my take on vampires comes directly from my own day-to-day experiences.

A few years later, I was re-doing a story that I first wrote when I was 11, and decided to put in a darker twist than I originally had. I dug out my old vampire notes, and the result was Tragic Silence.

I do believe that basically everything that a writer goes through is regurgitated in some way in their works. But when I was younger, I never would have thought I could use something so literal in my stories. Like my characters, I can hold my hand up and say that I do know what it is like to be 'allergic to the sun', or to be completely snowblinded by light.

It's been six years now since it all started, and I've learned how to keep everything under control (for the most part!). I do still find it frustrating sometimes, especially in summer, or when we go on holiday to somewhere with stronger sun. But I don't let it get in the way anymore, and I try to embrace it for what it is. And I have to admit, Tragic Silence sometimes turned into a bit of deja vu: the parts of learning to live with photosensitivity really made me chuckle to be writing about!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cover reveal: Partners in Crime by Downey Greene

Gun, badge... and a swear jar?
Detective Faye Kane is a good cop. So when she smells a rat in her city she follows the facts no matter where they lead even if it’s right to Philadelphia’s own philanthropist and hopeful new mayor, Martino “Millie” Maliano. But after a rough day, sometimes even a cop needs to feel like a woman.
Enter Ian “Griff” McManus, rumored lead problem solver in Millie’s organization. After one hot night with a sexy stranger, he’s given a new target his boss needs quieted: Detective Faye Kane.
Dirty cops, loyalty, betrayal, even love. Detective Kane needs to sift through the ashes of her beloved city after it all comes down to find the one thing that matters, if she’s still standing.
"Debut authors Downey Greene deliver heart-stopping and edgy romantic suspense. Raw, gripping, and fiercely sexy, you won't be able to put PARTNERS IN CRIME down."~Laura Moore, author of Once Tempted.

Downey Greene Author Pic
WE…yes you read right. We are two separate individuals who met in a writing group on FB. In this group we dabbled in writing and hit it off, each liking the other’s strengths and complimenting the other’s weaknesses. When the opportunity presented to Downey to submit to a publisher she approached Greene to join her in the journey. Both with hectic lives they took turns writing, swapping ideas and chapters, thus creating their first book, Partners in Crime. Here is a little something about the Dynamic Duo. Downey: Otherwise known as Maureen lives in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is your typical suburban soccer mom; well ok there is nothing typical about her AND her kids play EVERYTHING but soccer. Downey as she is known in this duo has 5 kids ranging from 12 ½ to 19. And to answer the question swirling in your minds…YES, she is crazy. She has been married for over 21 years to her best friend and love of her life. She LOVES to read, her appetite is voracious for all things books. Her job at a local bookstore was by far one of the best experiences and fed her addiction to the written word. Going to book signings and having them at the store were her rock star moments; she is a total fan girl for authors. When that job disappeared she felt bereft, with much floundering she stumbled upon the underbelly of FB and fell in love with writing. Creating stories and weaving tall tales helped ease the indecision that plagued her. The feedback and support for her writing blew her away and prompted her to open Word and create. Loving how Greene weaved a story Downey decided they should become the Dynamic Duo. With the support of her family she has embarked on a totally unexpected new path. When she is not carting kids all over she is managing her kingdom…..in between all that she reads, blogs(BCWAB) and submerges herself in her make believe world and writes. Some days she feels invincible, other days…well they should hide. Never in a million years did she ever think THIS was a possibility, as they say when one door closes another opens. In her case, truer words were never spoken. Greene: Otherwise known as Alison to family and friends, Honey Bunny to her husband since the dawn of time – or so it seems, mom to her 2 children, and momma to her one and only grandson, lives in a small area of Western New York known primarily as the birthplace of Gabby Hayes. Alison has always loved reading and writing was always a hobby while she harbored a secret dream to one day be published. How to do that when she’s as twitchy as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs? Find herself a writing partner. Enter Maureen Downey.
Partners In Crime Jacket
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