When your idea takes flight…

COVER dragoniWhen a hint of a thought of an idea catches on fire in your head… and you find yourself chasing your characters through the skies over London until the story comes to satisfying close, it’s a great feeling.

When the story becomes a paper-and-ink reality, 192 pages with a fabulous cover, and you spend two days at a big book fair launching it, that’s something else. Exhausting, but exhilerating.

To be told (as I was today) that the initial print run of 3,000 copies have sold out, just 6 days after the launch – THAT’s a real buzz!

My dragons are being reprinted now, as their story seems to be rather popular. Nice…

So never give up on a story because you think it’ll never be published. Look at me and my dragons! Have faith in your story and make it happen.

Thanks to Booklet Fiction for their faith in the story, their publishing expertise and their enthusiasm…

IMG_1502 bookfest - Dina's pic

Travelling to your story

travel, airports, writers, fiction, storytelling, where do you get your ideas, where do I find ideas, ideas for writers
Bored, tired, irritable – perfect material for writers

The whole process of travel – on public transport, not in a car – is fraught with opportunity for storytellers. 

Four flights and two train journeys in three days have made me think about the possibilities for mystery, murder, suspense and romance in the confusion of airports and stations.

Alfred Hitchcock made the most of trains in several movies, and there is the glorious example of The Lady Vanishes. Arthur Haley’s Airport, milked the drama of air travel, and the spoof Airplane! and its sequels milked the comedy potential… to the very last drop. We already have a long list of travellers’ tales, but there is plenty of scope for the rest of us.

Love and death

Think of the numbers of people at any one moment in a big airport. Staff and travellers must add up to tens of thousands of people on the move; a clever murderer could kill and get away with it, even with the hundreds of cameras watching every twitch and grimace.

The romance of two people in transit, a fleeting encounter, infinite futures… the potential is limitless. An airport sees people from everywhere in the world; the poor and the rich, the celebrated and the anonymous – crossing paths in limbo, where so much is out of their control.

Ideas factory

Airports are ideas factories. Ferries, too. The best time to watch is in the early hours, where travellers wait for hours, too tired to pretend, sleepy, out of sorts, too hot or too cold, bored and frustrated. One can spend happy hours dreaming up their stories, earwigging on their monosyllabic conversations, wondering what if and what next.

Next time you fly, give yourself extra time between connections to watch, listen and dream.

“I’m not creative…”

A woman I met in Escondido – a smart, clued-in, driven business woman – told me this, with conviction. Made me want to cry, seeing her belief, and the sadness behind it.

She’s not alone – I’ve heard variations on this theme everywhere from Manchester to Malibu – and it’s absolutely not true. And, you’ll understand, a serious loss to individuals, to business, to the economy and the world in general. Creativity is a given – a gift we all have – but often the gift we never unwrap.

Are you aware that creativity is hard-wired into humans? It’s the gift of our evolved brains to compensate for the loss of physical and subtle mental capacities of other mammals. What we call talent, or flair, or special gift is just the blatant, early demonstration of one particular ability. Mozart, Byron, Mendelssohn, Boris Becker, Leonardo (da Vinci, and possibly de Caprio), Shirley Temple, Usain Bolt, Pavarotti, John Lennon…

Do you realize, though, that each of us can find the talent lurking inside us, even if it’s not of world-stunning levels. I’m no Matisse, but I discovered that I had the potential to draw well… when I was almost forty. If I’d studied and practised, maybe I’d have reached some kind of standard: a very long way short of the French master, but competent and pleasing. I had a passable singing voice when I was a child, but became too afraid of singing after a decade of being told to shut up, and that was that. More fool me for listening, of course, but perhaps you recognize the scenario? My sister had great promise as a writer (I discovered school notebooks full of stories), but her dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed till she was nearly 50 and she grew up believing she was thick.

How many people do you know have lost or abandoned an early promise because their teachers or parents or circumstances demanded a focus on “a proper job”?

Do you want to unwrap your gift now? Better late than never – and it’s never too late. Mary Wesley wasn’t published till she was 70, and she had a long string of best-selling novels through her last two decades. I was 40 when I wrote my first bit of fiction (since I was 12, anyway), and I won a best-business-journalist award with it. You will know of other examples, I have no doubt.

Make 2013 the year you discover your talent for creativity. Make 2013 the year you start your novel, your screenplay, your opera, your art. Make the time to unwrap your gift, at long last, and understand how rich a gift you have.

There are workshops coming up in Brasov (Romania) and various venues in the UK in March, too. Details here.

Whre do you get your ideas, Oceanside, fiction writing course, fiction, talent, creative writing course, creativity
Usain Bolt’s talent is undeniable. But do you realise what a gift you may have locked up inside you?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The devil is very definitely in the detail

1315830136-kitchen-classics-chefs-knife-59kcz

Crime writers and gritty romance writers… have a look at this story from the BBC website today. It just shows how small an act can provoke vicious murder.

An angry man, a control freak, with a knife in his hand. A woman’s petty act of annoyance. Now she’s dead and he’s doing life.

Find the story here, and let your imagination fill in the back story, the investigation and whatever else leaps to your writer’s mind.

Got all your ideas for NaNoWriMo?

where do you get your ideas? all keyed up for NaNoWriMo
Mists and mellow fruitfulness – it’s the season for NaNoWriMo

It’s on the doorstep, howling to be let in. Forget about Hallowe’en tomorrow – it’s NaNoWriMoe’en…

Are you ready? Got your ideas lined up, got names for your characters and your setting? How about sub-plots and your supporting cast? Are your main characters rounded and complex, or do they feel like rice paper?

If you’re keyed up, your imagination might be locked up…

Some people are admitting to an excitement bordering on panic, which doesn’t help the flow of creativity we will all need in the next four weeks.

Here, on various pages, you’ll find help in conjuring up great names, settings, real life stories to plunder, images to inspire you, character quirks for your key people… All you might need is a tiny nudge to unlock a whole world.

Raid as much as you like, and feel free to share with your writing buddies. Open to all, no catches, no sign-ups – November is mutual help for authors month.

 [That’s not permission to filch, though – if you share it, do please share the credit, too!]

I’m going to be with you through the caffeine-fuelled, RSI-inducing month – my NaNoWriMo name is Abbs Pepper, so if you’d like another writing buddy, say hello.

Good luck! Happy scribbling! All power to your fingers…

 

Sex, sorcery, sewing and sleep

Fascinating post about the way people used the night hours before artificial light became the norm. Splendid material for historical fiction – what goes on between first and second sleeps? A whole secret life, perhaps…

Evan Filby, the ‘revue guru’ writes in his blog the South Fork Companion:

According to the latest research, nighttime in pre-industrial society was not just the haunt of criminals, astrologers, desperate commoners, or “things that go bump.” This essay was, in fact, inspired by a discussion in one of my Groups on the LinkedIn forum. Thoughts there arose about time keeping, sundown and sunrise, and how all that impacted people’s behavior. That brought to mind the results of one of the most thorough studies of pre-industrial nighttime behavior, which are described in the book by A. Roger Ekirch, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.

The almost-full moon in TransylvaniaOne of his key findings had to do with what he calls “segmented sleep.” People slept differently when simple flames (fireplace, candle, or smoky lamp) were their only sources of artificial light. Depending upon the season, they generally went to bed no later than nine or ten o’clock. After roughly four hours of “first sleep,” they awoke. After an hour or two of wakefulness, they dropped into another four hours of “second sleep.” Ekirch focused mostly on accounts from Western Europe, with some emphasis on the British Isles … and on the years before about 1750. Read more….

Crescent moon over the mountains in Transylvania
Around sunset comes first sleep, after a heavy day’s work. Refreshed, a few hours of night-time pleasure, work or contemplation (Photo: Arabella McIntyre-Brown)

Lots of questions to be asked

Husband of dead woman charged with delaying her burial. Very odd. No formal cause of death has been found. Rich family. What happened? Why? The mind boggles.

What do you think? Does it make you itch to know more? Could this be the spark you need for your new crime novel?

Read the BBC report here.

Topical bonus for crime writers

Spending cuts could banjax the justice system in England & Wales, and give crime writers a field day.

Day 38 - West Midlands Police - New Forensic S...(Photo credit: West Midlands Police)

The government, desperate to find ways to save money, is mothballing the forensic archives and putting the responsibility on individual police forces to file their own evidence for the future. Experts reckon this could put a spanner in the works for innocent prisoners, cold cases and current investigations.

How could you use this, as a crime writer, to spark off a plot, or make a crisis in the story, or furnish the book with a juicy sub-plot?

Read more…

Sporting crime

Athletics Heats 2008, Beijing National Stadium.
Olympic athletics 2008, Beijing National Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning there is news of an Australian test cricketer announcing his retirement from international cricket after a serious injury. He said something to the effect that he couldn’t find such commitment any more. Translate into strine: ‘Can’t be arsed, mate.’

Now – of course he’s on the level and there’s nothing else behind his decision.

But what if…. what if a high-profile sportsman or woman has something to hide? What if someone unpleasant has put pressure on them? Maybe they surrendered to greed under heavy persuasion? Maybe family life gave them cause to break a lifetime’s integrity and sportsmanship… Competition + money + pressure = conflict = drama.

London has just had Wimbledon; it’s about to be overwhelmed by Olympic fever. The cricket is going on; football has just been European.

Rangers – one of the stars of the Scottish Football League – is going to know today whether or not it will be allowed to continue in the league  – nothing to do with talent, goalscoring or silverware – it’s the bean-counting and paper-shuffling that has been its downfall. No football fan will have missed the rows, scandals and battles over Manchester United and its ownership.

Dick Francis has earned a very good whack for decades with his crime novels all connected to horse-racing. Now John Francome and Jenny Pitman have joined him on the crime fiction shelves and the best-seller lists. All three writers were at the top of the steeplechase world – Francombe and Francis as National Hunt jockeys, Pitman as the first women trainer of a Grand National winner.

Ball-tampering and match-fixing scandals walloped test cricket for some years, with high profile, highly respected players caught taking bribes for cheating.

Now we have the Olympics. Drugs scandals are always in the offing, with athletes or their trainers finding ever more obscure ways of boosting performance, searching for substances that are still legal, and sometimes tipping over into law-breaking.

There is a lot of money at stake in sport. Take a massive amount of adrenalin and aggression in intensely competitive athletes, add in ambition and greed in those around them, taking part or spectating.

People are infinitely ingenious in finding ways to beat the system, cheat, steal, defraud and manipulate. All this gives the crime writer licence to do the same, on the page, anyway.

Not forgetting romantic fiction – love stories happening in sport add romance and sex into the heady mix of hormones in the sports arena. Bend it like Beckham, Gregory’s Girl and Wimbledon spring to mind immediately.

The Olympics is the pinnacle for most sports: it’s full of drama as they are. Add in money, ambition, pressures from all sorts of directions, the media spotlight, personal problems, family conflicts… you have the makings of the best and worst of human behaviour. That is the stuff of fiction.

Get writing.

Which sport do you think could take fiction by storm in the way that horse-racing has done?

Blockbuster love story to be written

A lifelong romance between a Yemeni shepherd boy and a Danish girl, this would make an extraordinary love story in print or on screen.

It was in Barry that Ahmed met his future wife, Christina: the blue-eyed, 15 year old daughter of a Danish seafarer. George Jorgenson was second-in-command on his ship, and was also the padre. Says Zane: ‘The Jorgenson family were very upset about this romance, and ordered Christina to give up this illiterate, penniless Arab. Knowing they would not be allowed to stay together in Wales, Christina and Ahmed eloped, with her family chasing after them.

‘My parents went first to South Shields – another deep sea port – and then to Liverpool, where they were married in 1934; my mother was 16, my father 26. By this time my mother had converted to Islam.’

It was soon afterwards that Christina’s family caught up with them, but seeing that the pair were married and they would not be split up, Christina’s family had to make a choice. Says Zane: ‘Instead of losing his daughter, my grandfather decided to make friends with this Arab gentleman she had chosen, and my mother and her family were reconciled.’

Read more…

%d bloggers like this: