Archive for the ‘ Inspiration – The Weird and the Unknown ’ Category

The Perfect Writing Retreat

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We all need a little down time now and again. Since I’m between finishing books, this seemed like a good time for a fun post. I’m sure many writers, including myself, have dreamed about the perfect place to write. I’m working on getting it right.

So far I have two ideas. Either a castle home with a secret doorway behind a bookcase – this then leads to a keypad which opens another door with my comfy lair orrrr something like a treehouse with electricity, no leaks, carpet, furniture, internet, and the sound of rain on the roof in bad weather. Both are appropriate for me :).

Of course, being a student in the rather ugly city of Stoke, I have neither of these. I’ve made do with a collection of what-could-bes. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

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I hope these give you some ideas for where you would most love to write (and doesn’t cause you to procrastinate too much). Of course, writing can happen almost anywhere (at least it can for those of us who don’t mind too much noise/run around with headphones and a music player).

As always, I’m on twitter: Holly Ice
And more of the pictures I like can be found here

Have a great day and feel free to share your ideas below!

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Charity Shop Treasures

This Tuesday just gone me and a few of my house mates travelled into town for ‘CharityShopShopping!’ as I love to enthuse.

Of course, I found some clothes: 2 dresses, and 3 tops, but the major find was the books.

Here’s a little pic:

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(As when I first pick them  up off the shelves, I find it hard to stop hoarding them to my chest. I just can’t let go – partly ’cause it usually means they all fall to the floor with a thunk. Currently they’re in a haphazard pile on my bed, awaiting a read). Maybe someone with a good editing programme can turn this into an inspirational wallpaper of some sorts/illustrate over the top.

I think I found a good mix of crime and fantasy, even a great book on dream symbolism. Most people may think that a little odd, but it’s going to be really useful when I try to create worlds and new cultures. They have to have symbolism come from somewhere! The avenues open to us in books on the occult and fantasy are almost limitless. Then there’s real life to boot – superstitions, looks, fashion, taboos, food…

Here’s a list of the books and their authors. I think I picked most up for around £1.

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  1. ‘The Lovely Bones’ – Alice Sebold (Have heard it’s a good book and intend to do my own research). 
  2. ‘The Mermaids Singing’ – Val McDermid (A serial killer crime book. The blurb caught me: ‘You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…’)
  3. ‘The Calling’ – Inger Ash Wolfe (First found the author’s name interesting and the grimy cover pretty cool. Then I was interested by a handicapped detective and a body with a ‘mouth moulded into a strangely meaningful shape’).
  4. ‘Three Great Novels – The lost years – Let it Bleed, Black & Blue, The Hanging Garden’ – Ian Rankin. (Three novels in one. How could I resist? Also I’ve read Rankin’s books in a holiday destination’s bookcase and rather enjoyed them so needed more).
  5. ‘Blue Moon’ – Alyson Noel. (Looked familiar. Turns out I’ve probably read this particular novel in the series in ebook format but I don’t remember the plot that well so no worries. Onward reading!)
  6. ‘Ink Exchange’ – Melissa Marr. (Not going to lie – this really was a case of a stunning cover. Then  I looked on the back and eyes and wings pulled me forward. It sounds like a dark tale full of mystery. Can’t wait to get to it!)
  7. ‘The Complete book of Dreams’ – Edwin Raphael. (A great reference book to add to my home library as I build my writer’s den. It looks good from what I’ve looked up so far although a skunk was woefully absent, as was sex. Interesting.)
  8. ‘Advent’ – James Treadwell. (Okay so I bought this book online but it WAS in the charity shop as well when I went out. This is the one I’m reading at the moment. Again, it has a great cover but, more than that, is represented by the Janklow and Nesbit agency and I met one of their agents at the London Book Fair. Also, it just sounded like my kind of read. Magic is on the loose, people see things that aren’t there and cannot conform to the modern day).

Needless to say, my backpack was rather heavy after buying all this! Very much worth it though.
Once I’ve given these a good read I’ll be sure to report back on their contents.

If you know of any great books then please message me, especially if these are great writing references. I need more of those!

Also, if you like fantasy or crime, I’m currently writing a novel which is a blend of both. I’m toying with the title ‘While I Slept’.
My next post will have snippets of the text and some character info most likely but if you want to keep on top of my progress then I’m recording it on twitter almost daily: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Hope you are all well and reading/writing to your heart’s content.

The Suits and the Birds – London Book Fair 2013

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So, this is London. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Having never been to London before, it’s amazing how side streets can actually be quiet. In my room at the hostel I could even hear birds singing! Astounding.

Anyway, on to business. The London Book Fair 2013 was my first book fair. I was shocked to see so many suits! For a creative industry, it has a huge number of corporate bodies, busy grey and black bees on their way to one deal or another. It was a maze of exhibits with unfriendly faces and money people. There wasn’t too much colour, creativity or jeans until I reached the author lounge – my haven.

As other writers have tried to suggest, some authors obviously had no idea this is an “industry to industry” event. However, the other view I’ve picked up on in the media, that all/most writers attending are self published, is incorrect.

Sure, originally this event was purely business to business but in these digital times things are changing. The Author Lounge at the fair was packed for most seminars and workshops and many authors were getting a flavour for what is out there. I met a lot of people going into a new career and viewing the ley of the land as well as a few young novelists like myself looking for information and guidance.

I have to say, I think in the future this area shall have to be expanded. There was rarely enough room for everyone who wanted to watch the seminars! This must prove that authors, whether the business likes it or not, are becoming a bigger factor at the fair. Perhaps we need an entirely different area and perhaps not but a combination of self published authors and the curious is increasing attendance at the event.

I, for one, avoided the plethora of stands in Earls Court Hall 1, recognising that the people here didn’t really care about my concerns or questions as an author. Instead I attended a number of seminars over the three days and used my time to meet new people which was my original aim – publishers aren’t going to want to talk to lil ol’ me directly. They have agents for that.

Social Media – Tweet Tweet

I have learnt through the seminars that social media presence is of great significance to the business. It is free marketing and generates sales. Authors now need a brand, common themes across all their online presences, and they need to build an audience. The best way to do this, constantly repeated, was consistency. However, other tips included talking around the topic. Therefore, if you write books, then what would readers of your books like to know about? Fairytales? Mythology? Dreams? Love? Philosophy? Funny quotes? Cats?

That’s basically a ‘know your audience’ but also a caveat against the many who use social media to say: buymybook buymybook buymybook – that is, until we reach out to that beautiful ‘unfollow’ button and are released from the chant.

It also seems that reviews gain you an audience and a number of people through the industry ready to give you a pat on the back in return once you bring out your own books or poetry etc. Make the most of the contacts you’ve got! RT people to give them exposure, favourite tweets you like and share your friends’ successes.

This leads on to another key point that was made: interact! People don’t want a constant broadcast of what you’re up to and your thoughts, as interesting as you might be. This doesn’t promote you and your ideas to new audiences. Find people by the discover button in twitter that may be talking about things you like. Share interests with people, talk to them, and get discussions moving. This is a conversation, not a soapbox.

The danger in social media however, as the authors during the Authors on Social Media talk made clear, is complete immersion. Particularly for authors of longer works, we need to save some of our time for writing! We can’t market and market alone however we cannot write and write alone. Suggestions included limiting yourself to hour long windows 1-3 times a day or occasional peeks at the stream when a free minute appears.

Brand

I also attended a lecture on constructing author brand. Like it or not, we are a ‘tin of baked beans’. We have an image and we have a product to sell. To do this, we have to present ourselves as well as possible. This is the challenge. We were shown pictures of the book covers and photographs of Rick Riordan and Jilly Cooper. We worked on three words that described them and their brand. Then we had to pick three words for ourselves – nightmare!

We moved around the room, finding partners, and shared the three words we’d picked out of the air to get feedback. I chose ‘Dark/restrictions, relationships and the uknown’. One of my partners refined dark – he said that in my eyes when I talk about the unknown there is a danger or threat, a knowing older than my years. I found this interesting – the man certainly had insight! Most my stories have a lingering threat so it was in fact accurate. I then changed my three to Danger, The Unknown and Relationships. This is closer to my brand or ‘essence’ as us more creative types would prefer, but I still need to refine it.

I just have to keep in my head that this is only marketing. This is not my life, my whole worth as a human being. I am, as a granta speaker said, writing to communicate with someone not now but once they pick up the story. I am part of a magical exchange of worth and meaning. This marketing tripe is just how I get to people, how I can promote myself to affect people in as good a way as I’m able.

Self Publishing

A tricky subject. On going to the fair, I was mainly interested in the business and networking – finding more people that write and do things I like, people of ‘like mind’. I had thought, like three years ago, that self publishing was still badly looked upon by the business. I had thought self published authors stood little chance of getting a traditional deal. However, I was proved wrong.

It seems self publishing has become yet another filtering process for publishers, just like agents are. In fact, it could be said self publishing is a filtering process for agents! Stories high up in the popularity charts or those with great sell figures are often picked up on by agents/publishers and looked at more closely than they ever would have been if submitted without a ‘track record’ of sales.

This is obviously a great opportunity for new writers getting little attention. They can bring their stories closer to the top of the pile with proven interest. However, getting a book out as a hard copy through self publishing is likely to cost a few bob. I would have liked to, had I gone the self publishing route but on learning it costs from £200 to £25,000 I think I’ll avoid it!

In fact, with all the talk of marketing, numbers, audience, sales and the press, I’ve made one decision: I need an agent. I need someone who will support me as a young author and show me the business as a friend rather than a smiling shark eyeing the meat of my juicy story with pound signs in its eyes.

How to get published and How to get an agent

I talked to three people who gave me expert advice during the fair. Funnily enough, it was one person a day!

The first was Leila Dewji from Acorn Publishing. I told her I want to get into editing as a job but also want to get my novels out there.
She suggested that work experience and internships are the best method of getting into publishing

However, novels have two routes and in either its best that i write in series (readers like series as the world continues and publishers like them because they sell and retain an audience).
Route One: Self publish the first book in the series as an Ebook and promote the hell out of it. Get sales and then approach agents and publishers.
Route Two: Go the traditional route. Find an agent and let them negotiate a deal with publishers. This is, of course, a harder and longer route to take.

This is information from one conville and walsh’ reader:

I have the greatest respect for each and every author who submits to us, and I do read every submission. The process at Conville and Walsh is that out of two hundred submissions each month, I recommend between 6 and 10 for the agents to follow up. Out of this shortlist, perhaps two authors will be asked to submit their full manuscripts to the agents.
Of the authors who are asked to forward us their full manuscripts, possibly three to four a year will get through to publication.

Obviously, the gatekeepers to the publishing world don’t take on much of what they get!

This brings me on to what I was told at the ‘how to get an agent’ seminar:

  • Do exactly what they tell you do when when you submit. The right number of words/pages/cover letter/info etc
  • Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is as good as you can make it and
  • Ensure your cover letter is specific to that organisation, perhaps mentioning why you feel they are a great fit for you and your book.
  • Always be polite and to the point.

I met two agents during my time at the fair. One by happy accident and one intentionally. I met Hellie Ogden from Janklow and Nesbit after hearing her talk during The Future of Literary Agents seminar. I told her about myself, the genre I write in, and how it seems, to my age group, that the industry is unapproachable, mostly closed off to new clients, particularly in fantasy and sci-fi as most in the UK won’t touch us with a barge pole.

Hellie was incredibly generous and kind towards me, offering to read my work once I’ve started on it ( I plan to write a novel this summer). I also noticed her mentioning to others in the queue to go ahead and send their stuff.

I take this to mean the industry is not closed to everyone! (Thank god). I intend, once my work is finished, to go ahead and send it out to agents. I’ve written novels before and been too put off by the closed nature of agents to send them anywhere, worrying about whether they’re perfect enough. The message at this seminar however was very clear: A good book will always get through.

So, that’s what I intend to write and send off: as good a book as I can create.

The other agent I met was on my last day. I attended the seminar How to get an agent and received a raffle ticket on entering. I was confused. Were we getting a prize? Was it chocolate? Oh, god, let it be chocolate! The seminar was very quick, covering all the main points within 15 minutes. I struggled to keep up! My hand was cramping across the page. I can only just read the scribbles I scrawled.

Then she stopped and said they’d be calling us up in groups of four to talk to agents and pitch our ideas.

What!

At that point, I understood the significance of the raffle tickets. It was better than chocolate!
I used the time till my number was called talking to the people around me and decided I was going to pitch the idea I intend to write my novel on over the summer.

I was partnered with Thomas Stofer for the pitch and he gave me some brilliant advice. It turns out my age group assessment for my audience was bang on ( I was chuffed I got something right!). He also suggested changing one of my characters from a male to a female and to definitely add the sub plot of romance I had considered before and dithered over. This was great market advice on his part (over 60% of book buyers are female and I needed to appeal to this audience).

It was a great high on which to begin the last day and, I have to say, I am inspired!

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad I went to this “industry to industry” event. I do see it changing in future years and becoming more welcoming towards authors as we gain more power in the market place. I feel London Book Fair is a brilliant place to meet other enthusiastic and impassioned people. I’ve received some great advice and now know some of the places I’ve been going wrong as well as what I’ve done right. It’s expert input on where I am and where I’m going.

I can’t wait to get there!

If you went to the London Book Fair as well let me know – we might even get on. Add me on twitter or follow me on here and direct me to your blog/twitter as well. I’m keen to meet more of you and create my own little online community of writers and lovers of writing.

For now, it’s time to get this book in progress!

London Book Fair 2013

I just got back from the London Book Fair this evening. I’m knackered but still awake thinking of all the things I shall be putting into practice. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do with social media but also what I’m doing wrong. As an author, I need a brand that represents what I’m about as a writer. Some of the seminars have made this clear and helped me understand where to start.

Also, I’ve been lucky enough to receive input from an agent on my novel idea which I’m starting over the summer as well as great support from another generous agent. I met some great authors and small publishers, too – many friendly faces!

All in all, London was a great adventure and I shall post a more detailed list of my experiences and action plan once I’ve had some well-deserved sleep in the peace of privacy. (Hostels and exhibits don’t allow for private hermit introverted author time).

My twitter if you fancy grabbing a few more personal details: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Frustration – We Create Our Own Enemies

It’s when you sit and stare at the stupid blinking cursor that you know something is wrong. I had this the other day and the screen just didn’t help. Games helped my mood but, of course, not my writing. I’m looking at you, TERA.

In the end I got some inspiration late at night/early morning and wrote what I came up with down on paper. It helped a lot. Sometimes I find changing medium is the most useful thing you can do to force your mind to work.

I mean, this is my room before a night out:

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It’s pretty much what my head looks like when I try to get ideas together in my head. Like the clothes into an outfit, sometimes things just don’t work. The tights are the wrong colour, the top too baggy, the trousers too hot, too tight.

It’s the same when I write. In the end, I give up and think of a first sentence, something that will (hopefully) draw people in. The story I’m writing at the moment begins ‘Planes are just like buses, after a while’.

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For me, this gave me the character, the voice, needed to blindly stumble through the next plot points. It works for me because I’ve found I just can’t make more than two/three decisions in my mind. It’s like playing chess more than three moves ahead. My mind blanks – there’s far too many things that can happen in that time. Characters are not obedient little puppets; they are your opponent, sat across from you and planning your downfall.

Little diabolical, but that’s how I see it. Each start to a story and each completed story is a victory for me against the character that doesn’t want to be written and that cursor.

Who ever said writers are pacifists? We hurt characters and give them problems. We are Gods of our worlds and hardly very kind ones. I suppose it’s no wonder they fight back.

The Writing Update

So, after all that, I’m glad to say I have one story freshly sent off to an anthology – Alchemy Press’ Urban Mythic

and another which I’ve started for their Astrologica collection. (There’s still two weeks to enter this – closes 14th April at midnight PST). It comprises stories based/inspired by the star signs with added fantasy elements. Check it out.

Definitely not all bad. Wish me luck!

And my twitter 🙂

Signing out,

Holly Ice

The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur

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The last few months I’ve been reading up on myth and legend. They’ve given me some great ideas for stories but not just as-is. In an altered format, they can create something original and (hopefully) brilliant.

I’ve learnt writers cannot be afraid to change things: this is our job. The world as it comes to us is not always suitable for a retelling – bits may need rearranging, adding, subtracting…but let’s not get into the realm of maths here: we’re creatives after all.

Also, do not be afraid to take a tale like Cinderella or Thumbelina and make it contemporary, change the sex of characters, or setting, or emphasis. If you make this decision in order to create a new story, don’t be afraid to leave it unique!

Put in new names, clothes, etc! Let it be new, let the inspiration, the myth or tale that spawned your story, disappear. It will still be an influence or a starting point but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know it was for you to have a great story.

As a last little tip to those who want to go further and learn more while they’re at it: unpick the myth. Find the meaning of the names, the places and their significance. Find where or how the myth started, whether it is based on fact or legend or religion.

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I’ve found in my exploration of the King Arthur legends that Arthur was not historical at all but a myth which is first mentioned in welsh poetry. The discovery of these early mentions created a whole new vision of Arthur – a man of the Otherworld, fae, faerie, enchantresses, giants and the supernatural. He is still a hero fighting off bad forces for Britain but these are supernatural rather than historical forces.

Based on this research, I actually have a novel idea in the brewing stages. A novel where Arthur is a crime fighter of the supernatural world, once he is awaken. I’ve bought books on the Celts and Arthur in order for other titbits of Celtic religion and myth to inspire me in this project.

So, I know it sounds kind of boring…but research can be fun! The Arthur research was a mix of documentary-like reading  and old, bard-like tales of the unbeatable warrior.

Some of these old texts are very accessible and actually very enjoyable! I laughed aloud at a few and *may* have found the original inspiration for The Hulk!

Hope this helps those stuck with writer’s block. Anything on the page in a first draft is the first step!

And, as always, feel free to follow me on twitter.

My publications to date: About Holly Ice

My new Amazon profile: Holly Ice

Inspiration to Writing

I mentioned many days ago in my Pen’s Catalyst post that I have many folders of pictures on my computer. These are separated into “funny”, “animals”, “landscapes” and “people”. The two that are most useful for writing are, of course, people and landscapes. Before writing this I counted how many pictures I had in each of these folders. The landscape folder has 446 and the people folder has 116.

This discrepancy perhaps says it’s hard to find characters you like or interesting portrait shots. However, my landscape shots tend to have a lot of pictures within them that aren’t strictly landscapes, too. This ups the total.

Below is a sampling of my people folder.

As you can see, I seem to trend toward black and white photographs. I’ve always had a love for them so I’m not sure if this is just preference of the timeless and placeless quality of them.

The main point of having all these pictures in a folder is to inspire me. Sometimes I look through the pictures and don’t do anything. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by the colours and compositions. This may be the old artist in me or it may be the subconscious mind gearing up to a new idea. Who knows, who cares; the main thing is the pictures improve my mood and, sometimes, get me thinking, too.

  1. There are many ideas in these pictures. The first one for example: is it a girl or a boy? Are they running over rooftops or jumping over a wooden wall on the beach? Is it a war zone or an industrial area? Are they a thief of in costume? Playing a game or poor?
  2. The second picture shows my love for eccentric individuals. There’s so much you can ask about this guy and what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s one big enigma caught in a photograph that I can play with in my mind like a riddle.
  3. The third picture is similar in this way. Only, here, it also gets me thinking about how I can use objects in different ways and create a new world with new values and preoccupations.
  4. The fourth picture is in colour, showing I do like colour after all! But, it also makes me think better of mankind. There is a contrast of one man saving food and material belongings and the other being, in my eyes, a winner, as he saves some beautiful little tabbies from the horrid water. News stories can often be great for these sorts of shots.
  5. The fifth picture is a bit weird. It did what a lot of pictures do in my folders: it caught my eye and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I always save these pictures. They somehow prevent me from scrolling on by. That’s good. You should save them to. What makes a wandering net surfer stop, will almost definitely make a reader pause in wonder, too.
  6. In the next picture I love the colour and bleakness of the landscape. It’s one of the shots that has blurred boundaries. It could easily have gone in either the people or the landscape folder. Sometimes I put pictures in both when they’re really blurred so I can always find them when it may be what I’m looking for. This picture tells a story in the still. Is she suicidal? Why? Is she playing with balance? Is she copying someone she’s seen before? Is she a ghost? What does her face look like? The questions just keep rolling.
  7. Now, this man in the city is also very interesting. His shoulders are hunched in. Is it cold? His expression is very ambiguous. Is he happy, crafty, miserable? The blackness of him in the landscape amplifies his character, too. He’s important in some way. It makes me yearn to create a world for him, a day and a story.
  8. The last guy is just like a song turned to a photo. He’s peddling an instrument home on a bike. It screams France to me. It’s also pretty surreal. There’s no discernible building anywhere near him. So many stories could be made from him or using him as a metaphor. Perhaps someone is taking something else ridiculously big home or riding into nothing?

Now here’s a sample of the pictures in my landscapes folder…

There are all sorts of pictures here from the surrealist art to the natural shot of a landscape. They are all useful to writing. Perhaps the bedroom tells you what a character is like, the sort of house they live in. Perhaps a beach starts a love story or a castle a failed siege? Landscapes can be used as much as objects and outfits to create a character, too. Perhaps your Charlotte has the temper of an ocean or is as flexible in ideas as sand. These pictures span a swath of ages and genres to me. They have many different associations and yet are all in the same folder.

My advice is to create a similar folder. You have been told, I’m sure, to have a notebook. This is your digital image inspiration book. Keep it fresh and keep adding to it.

For somewhere to get you started, this forum thread is where I get a lot of my pictures. (You don’t always have to do all the work! Sometimes people with similar taste have done some compiling for you!) INFP Forum Post  .

Now for the writing exercise!

  1. Grab a pen and notepad or a computer and blank document.
  2. Pick any pair of person and landscape and think about a short story or a poem including them both. The landscape doesn’t have to be the setting. It can inform their character. Similarly, the person doesn’t actually have to appear in the setting. Their qualities can be like a ghost in the landscape or the voice of the person describing the landscape. Give it a go!
  3. If you feel adventurous, feel free to add an extra person or landscape to the story. Maybe there’s a whole novel in there somewhere if someone can connect the dots!

Good luck and tell me what you get up to here or here!

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