Monthly Archives: July 2015

Guest Post: Long Distance Writer by Kate Evans

Thanks to Kate M Colby for hosting me on her blog. Get in touch if you have any thoughts.

Kate M. Colby

walkers2015In September I will be doing St Cuthbert’s Way with my sister (http://stcuthbertsway.info/) This 100Km walk moves from Melrose in the borders of Scotland across the Cheviots into Northumberland and finishes on the magical island of Lindisfarne. I am fifty-one years old. I am in relatively good health, though have recurrent menopause-induced migraines and over-heats (not good if they happen in the middle of the Cheviots). I do swim, walk and cycle regularly (though not long distances). St Cuthbert’s Way will be a challenge for me both physically and psychologically.

I am a writer. It’s what I do. Writing is as evident to me as breathing. So, of course, I am writing about this experience. I do not know where this writing will lead me, perhaps to something coherent which I will want to share with others. For the moment, I have disparate notions which tenuously link together…

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The Measure of Success in Indie Publishing

As I am about to send my second novel, The Art of Survival, off to the lovely Charlotte to be copy edited (http://charlottecoleeditorial.com/), and I continue to attempt to market my first novel, The Kate E BookArt of the Imperfect (http://goo.gl/z7HFgz), I pontificate (once again) on the meaning of success.

The Art of the Imperfect has had some lovely reviews and feedback from readers for which I am very grateful. Plus it was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut novel award. I am still very proud of it and my achievement in indie publishing. However, I shrivel at the kindly meant enquiry, ‘How are sales?’

When I started out, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of sales, but expectations were, nevertheless, obviously lodged in my brain. For my lovely novel, my first-born, has not sold as many copies as I thought it would.

I am lucky to live an era where I have access to the free marketing potential of social media. I realise that. Yet I have still to work out how social media sells or, indeed, whether it does at all. There is an interesting symbiotic relationship between traditional and social media which I have yet to fathom. Yes, it seems more and more, traditional media will pick up on what is #trending. But the #trending has to be massive and, in general, I believe, social media promotes mostly what is already being heavily promoted in the traditional media.

And what does traditional media endorse? What is already well-known. Is it news that JK Rowling publishes novels? Really?

Perhaps there are just too many books out there? This thought has occurred to me more than once in recent months. Maybe I should go back to writing for my own pleasure? What is this compulsion to share my words, my stories with others? Partly, at least, it is about knowing I have been touched by what I have read, and I hope others will be moved by what I have written. Partly it must be about ego.

The other perspective which came to me recently was on watching Wimbledon. One hundred and twenty-eight men start out in the singles competition. Only a small minority have a hope in hell of getting a sniff at the second week, never mind the final. Why do they do it? Because they love tennis, they want to be in the game, in the championships. And, it must be added, they are already far better at tennis than any of us watching from our couches.

I love to write. I love to talk about writing, about stories, about books. I know I wouldn’t give up even if I had zero readers. It is a part of me as much as breathing is. I don’t have a hope in hell of being a Federer, but I am in the game, and (and this is difficult to type, let alone believe) I am more skilled than many.

So what have I learned in the last eight months? Marketing as an indie is not easy. Social media is a great place for meeting people and making contacts but not necessarily for selling. And, most crucially, the meaning of success comes from within, from the joy of writing, of telling stories, of the imagination. And, please, if you care, don’t ask me about my sales.

What’s your measure of success?

Guest Interview: Crime Writer, Emily Donoho

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This week I’m excited to be featuring an interview with crime writer, Emily Donoho, whose novel, In the Canyons of Shadow and Light, was published earlier this year.

Tell me a bit about your writing journey.
I had a vivid imagination as a kid and for my own edification, wrote elaborate stories, novels even, about dragons and horses. I read a lot as well and usually above my grade, ie reading Les Miserables at age 12. At university, between writing research papers and assignments, I played about with writing Lord of the Rings fan fiction (should one admit to that?) I don’t know that any of it was very good — it probably wasn’t — but at least it was practice at fiction. I also wrote a very primitive, nascent outline for what would be Canyons, reflecting my interest in criminal justice and psychiatry (I was a psych major at uni, and I was planning on going into law school). I had seen an episode of the West Wing where it jumped back and forth between flashbacks and the character chatting with the shrink about the stuff in the flashbacks. For whatever reason, that struck me as an interesting way to write, rather than a straightforward chronology. So I gave it a go. It was about 16,000 words. Then in grad school, I stopped writing fiction, but composing stuff to a high academic standard makes you a better writer, no matter what you are doing.

How did you come to write In the Canyons of Shadow and Light?
As I said, it existed in one form or another since I was a student. The characters had different names, different backgrounds, but it had some of the fundamental ideas which underpin it now. And like I said, it was about 16,000 words. After I finished my PhD, I was slogging through unsuccessful job application after unsuccessful job application, and I figured I ought to be doing something worthwhile and less aggravating alongside that. I had time on my hands. Why not get serious about writing fiction, that being something I’d always played around with? So I started the project of turning that little 16,000 word story into something bigger and better. It took me about three years and a lot of drafts and rewriting to get it to a publishable standard.

The descriptions of New York and the police procedures are strong, what kind of research did you do?
I had done an internship in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and spent a lot of time in New York while I was an undergrad in Massachusetts. My uni was only three hours away from the city. I knew the city well and had a pretty good idea of how its criminal justice system functioned.

Then I read every account of policing and homicide investigation I could get my hands on. Fictional works, like Ed Dee’s books, him being a former NYPD cop, were helpful. I’ve read a lot of these. Especially Richard Price. I love his stuff. Everyone should read Lush Life and Clockers. But non-fiction texts like David Simon’s Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets; Ed Conon’s Blue Blood; Miles Corwin’s The Killing Season; Robert Leuci’s ‘ All the Centurions; Steve Osborne’s The Job; and Tom McKenna’s Manhattan North Homicide, to name a few, proved invaluable resources. Also, I got a hold of some academic texts on the ‘crack wars’, policing in the 80s and 90s, and online archives from the New York Times, New Yorker, and similar sources. I read a lot of news. It’s an endlessly vast repository of weird and crazy criminal justice stuff.

What’s your typical writing day like?
I get up way too late. Spend time procrastinating, looking at the internet. Then start working until around 2 or 3pm, when I go ride my horse. I then work in the evening, after more aimless web surfing. It’s not very efficient.

How would you typify your writing process? What’s your next writing project?
I write a first draft as quickly as I can. I don’t care if it’s good; it just has to be there. I find writing the first draft the most tedious part of the process. I have an outline in my head; then it has to go onto the computer screen, which can feel like a slog. Once I have an entire draft, I get into redrafting, rewriting, editing, and making it good. I like this part of it; this is where really crafting the story comes into play.

My next project is a ‘pre-sequel’ for Canyons, jumping between the late 80s/early 90s and 2009. It follows the investigation of a few cases, the most screwed up of which is a woman EmilyDcoverwho kills her kid and claims insanity. But where the architecture holding the plot of Canyons together was Alex’s failing mental health, the architecture holding this one together is an investigation into 20 year old cases where: sloppiness; the insane homicide rate; and some dodgy police work by one of Alex’s buddies, has led to people being wrongfully imprisoned. It will have everything: riots; grand jury investigations; an insanity defence.

After all, the only way to follow up one big, sprawling novel is to write a bigger, sprawlier one.

In the Canyons of Shadow Light is published by Upatree Press, read my review on Amazon: http://goo.gl/xyPV0P

 

Mindful Walking – steps towards creativity

In my book ‘Pathways through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment’ (https://goo.gl/k360PX), I explore how movement can help us avoid becoming stymied. Writing is a very static activity, especially when working on a computer, often it feels like only the fingers and mind are agile. Of course, it is important to make sure we sit well and take frequent breaks, so our bodies do not become achy and stiff. However, I believe there is more to it than this. From my own experience and that of other writers, I would like to suggest that exercise frees up our creativity and imagination. Movement shakes free words from our brain.

I normally work for about two to three hours and then either go for a swim or take a walk. I always have to have a notebook near, as inevitably a new idea for something I have been struggling with in my writing will appear as I stretch my limbs out.

I am also a great fan of mindful walking. Walking with all my senses open to what is happening around me, to the creaks and strains of my body as it releases into its stride and to the present moment. It’s often difficult to quieten the commentary in my mind: things I’m worried about from the past or the future; and things I think I ought to be doing or achieving. By returning to the physical senses – what I am seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching – I find a way of pushing the needle out of the same old groove in the same old record. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

And here is the contradiction: by attempting to stay in the present moment I find my imagination fired. All sorts of thoughts, most of which will prove useful in my writing, materialise. These will inevitably take me away from the present moment, which is where the notebook comes in. I pause, I make notes and then I can move on, once again connecting with the world around me.

For me, this type of walking has to be done alone. It’s wonderful to walk with a friend, to chat, to compare experiences. But for me to be really with myself and what’s going on for me, lone walking is the best. I am preparing to do a long distance walk, St Cuthbert’s Way, with my sister in September, so have been going further than my usual perambulations. It astonishes me how many lone walkers/runners I meet up on the cliffs who have their headphones firmly clamped on. Why listen to music when there’s the bird song, the waves and the wind to charm our way?

Do you have any thoughts on creativity and movement you’d like to share?