Interview with author Angeline Trevena

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My next interview is with Angeline Trevena, who is the author of ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ which is included in the Tales of the Undead: Suffer Eternal Volume II anthology.

When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?

I’ve always been a big horror fan; my brother and I watching every old horror movie we could get our hands on, but when it came to reading and writing, it was all about fantasy. It was only a few years ago that I started reading horror. It all began with Stephen King’s On Writing which I received one Christmas. I read it in just a few days, unable to put it down. I went on to read Green Mile and Misery, and found I couldn’t get enough. They made me jumpy and
nervous, just like horror movies do, but they got into my bones in a way that a 90 minute movie never could. This started me writing horror, and with the publication of my first short story, a ghost story, I decided that this was where I wanted to be. I still write fantasy, and a mash-up of both genres, but I tend to class myself, first and foremost, as a horror writer.

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What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?

The first story I had published was ‘The Vincent Orphanage’ which was picked for the Mirador Fantasmagoria anthology in January 2011. It’s a ghost story about a girl who is forced to confront her past when a journalist wants to tell her story.
To be honest, I’ve not read it since; I’m too scared that I would want to change all of it because my writing has developed so much over the last two years. That’s what I love about writing – you never stop learning, or honing your craft. And I think, left to our own devices, us writers would never consider any of our work completely finished. We could probably tweak it forever.

What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? Which sites do you prefer?

I’m a big social network addict. I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Blogger. Largely, I don’t think I’m reaching readers that much, I mostly interact with other writers. But this has been brilliant for me. I am a member of a fantastic little critique group on Google+, and they have helped me to polish and tighten up my work, just as I’ve helped them with theirs. I hear about calls for submissions, interview and guest blogging opportunities, and chances to promote myself as a writer. I love the amount of encouragement, support and advice that’s on offer. Everyone’s so willing to help each other, and I, in turn, love to pass on tips and help other writers out where I can.

What’s your favourite horror monster and why?

I’m very fond of vampires. I love the huge variety of guises and attitudes they’ve been given over the years; from the sophistication of Interview with the Vampire to the animalistic brutishness of 30 Days of Night. I think we’ll always be fascinated by a creature higher up the food-chain than ourselves, superior creatures, creatures that represent the one thing we, as a race, seem desperate to hold onto – the beauty of youth.

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What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?

One of the worst mistakes is info dumping, not just back story, but generally giving far too much unnecessary information. One of the reasons readers love to read is because they have great imaginations, and they love to use them. Don’t describe and explain everything in detail; let your readers fill in the gaps. Information should be drip-fed throughout a story, not crammed into the start of it. And it should be revealed through speech and action. Don’t narrate the story; let your characters tell it themselves.

Angeline’s website              Angeline’s Twitter:

Interview with Gary Budgen

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Gary Budgen

When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?

Well I consider myself more of a ‘speculative fiction’ writer. I write the stories I want to write and sometimes they come out as horror. That’s fine by me.

What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?

“Planes at Night” in a small press magazine called ‘Ah Pook is Here’. Very pleased to have my first story in a magazine named after a Wiliam Burroughs piece. I wouldn’t change anything really. It was of its time and place.

What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? Which sites do you prefer?

I have a wordpress site and I use my facebook page to promote it. Can’t summon much enthusiasm for Twittter! Writers want readers so any avenue is welcome.

What’s your favourite horror monster and why?

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I love marvel comics Man-Thing. The run in the 1970s written by Steve Gerber is fantastic. Stories are woven around the monster that intersect with the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary people. I love the way Man-Thing is connected to a particular place, the Florida Everglades.

What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?

Not editing your work properly. My advice would be to read as much as you can and keep writing. I think it
was David Gerrold who said the first million words are practice. It took a long time to get my first story published, a bit less time to get to 10 stories and less time than that to get to 20, so hopefully I’m getting better at it.

Interview call-out

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Interview call out.

You may, or may not already know, that my book, Bad Blood is now out in the big wide world. I can only liken it to watching your child leave home (not that I have children!) To open the door, boot it out and hope that it doesn’t embarrass you, or come crawling back asking for money.

As an author there are a number of ways you can help your book along it’s little independent path; one of those is interviews. There are literally thousands of blogs and websites out there dedicated to books of every genre and most will have a section for author interviews. People like asking questions. People like getting answers. The interview is simple in its format and can really help your online exposure and promote your book. I’ve done quite a few myself already: to view my interviews click here, or specifically for my Bad Blood tour, click through to my dedicated Face Book page.

So in the spirit of delving into the dark depths of the author psyche – don’t worry the proper protective gear will be adorned – I’m putting an open call out to all authors. Would you like to be interviewed? If you would, then send me an email to: mail(at)creativemindswriting(dot)co(dot)uk or leave me a comment below so I can find your blog and make contact. Together we can take over the world! WAHAHAHA oh, no wait that’s my secret evil master plan… together we can promote you and your work – there, that’s better, less psychotic!

Knowledge and Research in Creative Writing

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Being an author sounds easy, right? You immerse yourself in an imaginary world of your own design, then weave it onto the page for others to enjoy. And that is the crux of it, but there are many other facets involved, that most wannabe authors still don’t even realise, like social media, blogging, promotion and research.

Knowledge and research is key to most good books and stories. If you’re going to set your work in a certain time period, you need to be on the historical ball when it comes to the small details that, if not done correctly, can become massive plot holes and almost laughable strikes against your work.

The amount of research really is dependent on what you are writing. Identifying the knowledge you need to weave that story with tight efficiency is a skill all in its self – you need to really explore your manuscript and themes to know what you need know, as the writer, to make it all work. The more effort you put into to this side, the more believe-able your stories become – even if they’re horror, fantasy or sci-fi.

So where do you do research or find knowledge? I’ve learnt a couple of tricks along the way, and below you’ll find a list of options for you to explore. It’s not an all-encompassing exhaustive list, by any means, but its s start to get you on the road – getting to the end of that road, well that’s down to you.

Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is great for short bursts of information with extended reading lists. Wonderful for an overview of a time period and great for looking up genres and other authors/books.

Google Alerts:

These little beauties can be set up through this site to send you any information, on a weekly/daily basis about your subject matter. Great for industries which are constantly changing, like scientific discoveries or even the publishing industry itself. Just put in your email address and what you’re looking for and Google Alerts does the hard work for you.

Going old school at the Library:

Books are still cool! Don’t forget the wealth of information at your finger tips that exists in your local and national libraries. Use their reference books and even take some home with you (check them out first!) Also The Gutenberg Project has a large selection of free downloads online of all sorts of public domain books.

Google Maps:

I’ve mentioned Google Maps on here before, they truly are a wonderfully addition to any scene setting. If your story is set anywhere else than your own home town, then you either need to go there (expensive and time consuming) or have a go at Google Maps and virtually walk the streets. You can also search online for tourist sites and even images to give you a foundation to write from.

Twitter:

A necessity for authors in its own right – but can be used to make contact with people who are perhaps in the jobs your characters are. Making contact and throwing them a few meaning-full questions can really flesh out your characters and you’d be surprised how many people are flattered to be asked such questions from authors.

E-learning:

A great way to learn is through an online course and you can do it for free on ALISON you can take courses on everything from law (if you’re writing a legal themed story) all the way to Psychology. You can even brush up on your grammar skills on this site. Do watch out though as the free option includes adverts, and if you want the certificate at the end you need to pay for it – but as free information goes, its a goldmine.

Lectures:

I found a site recently, Great Courses which gives you access to brilliant lectures from leading universities and colleges from all over the world. You can buy audio, visual or physical course materials. The information on offer here is huge and not overly expensive either. You can listen to lectures from history courses, myths, writing and literature. A real boon for anyone seeking in depth info on a subject, but also great to gain ideas and inspiration.

Guest Blog – Something Borrowed…

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Fifty Shades of Decay is an anthology of zombie erotica, yes you read that right. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.  I share this book with 49 other authors  – and one, Armand Rosamilia has kindly let me guest blog on his site. To read how I managed to make zombies sexy and why you should buy this book, click here

To buy Fifty Shades of Decay on Amazon.

Playing well with others.

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Two years ago I participated in a bold new writing project called ‘The 48 Hour Book’. It was set up by Northamptonshire Libraries (in the UK) and was planned to coincide with World Book Day on 5th March 2011. At that time I wasn’t a published writer, so was eager to learn everything I could about the craft, and of course meet people who were currently ‘living the dream’ as full time writers.

The crux of the project was to write a whole book in 48 hours. Impossible I hear you cry, and you’d be right. We didn’t manage to write a whole book in that time, but we did manage to come up with a setting, characters, a plot, the ending along with a fair amount of prose. The book that the project birthed was called ‘Vicious Circle’ and was set in Northampton at a travelling Fair.

How it worked was that each writer took a character, then we worked out their journeys together. When characters interacted we sat with the writer they belonged to and talked it through. It was hard work, but with the guidance and patience of our leaders, Judith Allnatt and Ben Elijah, we managed to produce a great book at the end of it all.

As an idea, The 48 Book was ambitious to say the least, but writing with others can prove exhilarating and inspirational. The ‘Beautiful Creatures’ series is a product of two writers working together and having others around you reliant on your input can motivate you into working harder. It’s easy to let yourself down, much harder to let someone else down.

A lot has happened to me in the past two years. I’ve had over 40 stories published/ accepted for publication in 5 countries, and my first novel ‘Bad Blood’ is due out next month through the publishers Noble & Young. I’ve referred to writing as a hobby in the past, and to honest that’s quite misleading. To be a writer you need an overwhelming passion for the written word. You need enough free time and motivation to dedicate to your words, and getting them out there. You need to be willing to adapt and be flexible with your life enough to include writing time, submitting time, and promotion time. It’s hard work – but sooooo worth it!

If you’d like to learn more about The 48 Hour Book click here. You’ll notice that I somehow managed to worm my way into the middle of the photo!

Write what you know

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The old adage ‘Write what you know’ crops up a lot in creative writing blogs and advice, and to be fair it can be quite useful to have some background and knowledge on things like location, regional dialect, history and experiences, however when you write horror and paranormal romance, unless you’ve actually been attacked by a vampire or serenaded by a werewolf, you can’t really ‘write what you know’.

So, to counter this, I’ve took to going certain places, sitting with my trusty laptop and soaking up, at the very least, the physical ambiance, to make my stories believable. I love going to churches and graveyards, to stately homes and old forgotten sites. I sit, I take it all in, then I write notes on how I feel, what I can smell, hear, see around me. We may have to wrap up warm now, but soon the summer will be upon us and we can really start doing some exploring for the settings of our stories.

If you’re not in the mood, or position, to escape your writing lair then you can also use the wealth of pictures and information online. Using Google Maps you can see images of places all around the world and explore the streets of London, Madrid or even Transilvania.

Log on and create a Pinterest account  – I’ve already started collecting interesting and inspiring paranormal and horror images on mine. Some tourist sites even give you virtual tours, so you can experience the visual wonders without having to stray too from your computer.

Museums are also wonderful places to spend a day with a note pad – you’ll find not only works of art and materials from history, that can add texture and credence to your writing, but also inspiration itself for your stories.

I’ve also found its great to share pictures and experiences with other writers, what might be a fond memory for you can be a rich addition to your fellow writers’ prose. So let’s get talking here – leave me a comment it, you can, about the last interesting place you went to, and don’t forget to add in online links where available.

Amazon Author Page

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Amazon Author Page:

I recently tweeted to ask ‘how do you make the most of your Amazon Author Page’ and was answered with a chorus of ‘not sure, but when you find out, tell us!’

I’ve done some research on the subject and found very little information, so here’s what I know so far…

Credentials:

Having an Amazon Author Page shows potential publishers that you have other books out there and have had some success. Using a link to your page on your email signature, gives them instant access to a lot of relevant information about you. Although it could be argued that your own website can achieve this too, but Amazon check the credentials of anyone claiming they’re included in that book – they check with publishers and only add it to your page when they are sure you are who you say you are.

More fans:

If a reader really likes one of your books, they can visit this page for a full catalogue of your works and can instantly buy said work. It’s always better to engage fans when they’re excited and this then gives them the opportunity to buy more of your books, before they jump onto someone else’s band wagon.

Social Media Applications:

You can add on twitter, RSS feeds and blogs to your page, making finding you online much easier. If you Google my name, other Nicky Peacock’s pop up – you can’t change that, so having everything linked on your Amazon Author Page makes finding your online appearances much easier.

 Search Engines:

Amazon pay a large amount of money to be top of search engines – your page will be found higher on searches because of this. In fact, when I Googled myself (that sounds rude!) My Amazon Author Page was the highest ranked of all my pages, that includes my website, blog, twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Amazon itself:

Like it not, they are a mighty industry leader, and people all over the world refer to their website when looking for new books. They can browse via genres but also via authors through these pages. They have a review section, which is listened to, and a star system which instantly shows the opinions on a book. I must admit, that as a reader, I don’t dig much deeper on a book that predominately gets 1 star.

You can also type in a name on the search bar, and your page will come up – just in case they know your name, but not your book titles.

Have you anything you can add to this? Have you found another use for Amazon Author Page?

Also don’t forget the other sites out there you need to get listed on:

GoodReads

Shelfari

Published.com

LibraryThing

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Dialogue

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Let’s talk about dialogue…

One of things I hate most as a reader, is long winded discussions between random characters that add nothing to the overall plot, yet seem to drag on for eternity. You’ll find this a lot in TV series too – I like to call it ‘The Soap Opera Effect’. This is basically when something happens, let’s say John kisses his best friend’s wife, Sharon – ooooh scandalous action – but then this kiss is discussed for the next 50 pages or so by every character in the book! OK, some discussion is needed to make the most out of this dramatic event, but drawing a line under it sooner rather than later will help to move your story along. Pace is something that comes up a lot when you learn the craft of creative writing, and it really is more important than you think. A well-paced book will be hard for your readers to put down, one that dwindles with un-necessary scenes and dialogue will be thrown violently into the middle distance!

Good Dialogue:

So what makes good dialogue? I can only answer that from my joint reader/ writer point of view. To me, good dialogue should either be giving away necessary plot points/ character information to the reader, or creating tension. In fact, this is something that you should check in your drafting process. Each word uttered by your characters should be scrutinised to ensure that it either adds to the character (or another character they’re talking about) or is pushing the plot forward. If you have a scene where two characters are discussing the weather, you need to delete it, unless of course one of those characters is an evil genius who has harnessed the weather for his own maniacal means. Woo ha ha!

Grammar:

Careful on your grammar in dialogue too. A missing comma or capital can make all the difference.

“I helped my uncle Jack off a horse today.”  – What a lovely, helpful nephew.

“I helped my uncle jack off a horse today.” – Oh my God! What book am I reading?

See the difference a capital makes!

Eaves dropping:

One of the best tricks for writing good dialogue is people watching/ eaves dropping. Get yourself in a nice busy place – a coffee shop, a café, a department store – and start listening in on what people are saying. I know it sounds awful, but the best dialogue comes from real life. I try to do this once in a while to keep my own character’s dialogue fresh and realistic; I don’t do it too often as, with my luck, I’d probably overhear a murder plot!

There is also good practice for someone writing YA who isn’t a young adult anymore.  Keeping up-to-date with slang and how teenagers speak can make a real difference to your dialogue – it’s just common sense – innit?

Also don’t be afraid to write down things that you come out with. Quite often I’ll reply to a question or be deep in discussion with a friend and come up with a real gem of a sentence that I note down for later use. Just don’t pull out a pad at the time – people will think you’re crazy! Or incredibly forgetful! Or a secret reporter!

 Read some scripts:

Scripts are heavy on important dialogue and reading a few can help to improve your overall efforts. Some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read has come from script writers. The BBC Writers’ Room has lots of interesting information, scripts to download, and even some script writing opportunities.

 He said, she said:

Another important part of dialogue are the dialogue tags. Don’t just end each speech with ‘said’ try for something more descriptive and mix it up a bit. Here are a few tags to think about:

Acknowledged,  admitted,  agreed,  answered,  argued,  asked,  barked,  begged,  bellowed,  blustered,  bragged, complained,  confessed,  cried,  demanded,  denied, explained, giggled,  hinted,  hissed, hollered,  howled, inquired,  interrupted,  laughed,  lied,  moaned, mumbled,  muttered,  nagged,  pleaded,  promised,  questioned,  remembered,  replied,  requested,  roared,  sang,  screamed,  screeched, shouted,  sighed,  spat, snarled,  sobbed,  threatened,  wailed, warned, whimpered, whined, whispered, wondered,  yelled

Try to avoid too many ‘ly’ words at the end of dialogue such as, ‘he said wistfully’ It falls into the show don’t tell category, so try to catch these in drafts and show the character as ‘wistful’ rather than going for the lazy option of the ‘ly’ word.

Who said what?

Good dialogue should flow, so using tags can be redundant. If you have two characters speaking, then you only need the odd tag, especially if they are using each other’s names e.g.

“Susan, what happened?”

“I’m not sure, it came out of nowhere.”

“What did?”

“The knife, Adam.”

“There’s no knife here…Susan, what’s behind your back?”

If there are more than two characters, that’s when tags become important. There’s nothing more annoying as a reader than being confused as to who is saying what.