Monday 23 July 2012

Interview with Author Stu Ayris

I'm honoured to be able to bring you a very special guest on the blog today. Stu Ayris is the author of literary novels that make you look at the world in a completely different light. They include A Cleansing of SoulsTollesbury Time Forever, and the recently released The Bird That Nobody Sees. He's also a pal of mine and the second ever follower of my blog, which I haven't forgotten. But that's enough from me, let's hear from the man himself...

Hi, Stu. First, can you tell us a bit about who you are and your background?

Okey dokey. I was born in August 1969 and have a twin brother as well as a younger sister. I grew up in Romford, Essex, did pretty poorly at school and worked in a succession of low paid jobs (road sweeper, gardener, ceiling fitter, record shop assistant) as well as enduring a two year period of unemployment in my early twenties. I eventually got married, qualified as a psychiatric nurse (1997), had three wonderful children, got divorced, got married again (to somebody else) and find myself now living in a wonderfully bizarre village called Tollesbury on the North Essex Coastline.

You've certainly got plenty of life experience to draw on!

When did you first realise you wanted to write and can you tell us about how you got started?

English was about the only lesson that appealed to me at school so I guess I developed an affection for writing way back when I was in my early teens. Around the same time, I discovered Bob Dylan, John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac and realised that reading, listening to great music and writing were about the only things that would help me understand this strange life!

I think they are the biggest things that keep me sane too! I like how you are inspired by music just as much as by books.

What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to writing?

Everything that happens around me. How can you not be inspired by that? I guess living in my own little world for so many years has enabled the wonder I feel for the world outside to endure. It really is very beautiful.

Inspiration is everywhere if you keep your eyes open.

Tell us a bit about your new novel, The Bird That Nobody Sees.

Glad to! It’s written in the third person and has taken me the best part of a year to complete. The central theme concerns the choices we have when we are faced with a situation that is not of our making – it could be our height (the main character reaches dwarf classification by half an inch…), the loss of a wife, the loss of a parent, our childhood – all those things that can influence the way we react to circumstances. It is about the value of friendship, a belief in unconditional positive regard and an acceptance that, although life is hard, we can help each other to get through it. Four of the main characters are based on my best friends and several of the scenes in the novel are based on real events. I guess it is my way of thanking my mates. It’s also, I hope, both enlightening and very funny - just as my mates are!

Sounds excellent. I can't wait to read it!

I'm intrigued by the title. How did that come about?

The title came about when I was reading about the albatross – it is the most amazing bird that does the most amazing things yet how many of us have ever seen it? I then started to think about the feelings, the sensations people have the moment before they experience a vision or a satori. I got to thinking that the two could be linked in terms of their wonder and magnificence. I guess you’ll have to read the novel to really get it but, I must say, I wasn’t really sure myself until I had almost finished writing it. It was almost as if the bird, the vision, crept up on me also. Just as it should!

Sounds like some deep thinking behind the book, very intriguing.

When did you start blogging and what prompted you to do so? What’s the best thing about it for you?

I started my blog last November as a way of documenting my attempts to get Tollesbury Time Forever published. I suppose it was a means of both helping others and getting out my frustrations! Over time I began to review other books and discuss writing in general. The best thing about it? Meeting wonderful people like yourself and feeling a little more connected to the real world – which is always good, but in moderation!

Haha! I totally agree.

What would be your advice to people who are just starting to write or thinking about it?

Absolutely enjoy it! Don’t do it for money! Do it to change people’s lives and have fun along the way. The main thing is that it shouldn’t hurt!

Very sound advice... anyone who goes into this for money is completely barking up the wrong tree!

And just for fun, can you describe yourself as if describing an MC from one of your novels?

Ah he walks into The King’s head in a shambling fashion more befitting a man in manacles than a man in cowboy boots. Neither storm nor rain has he been battered with, yet for all the world you’d think he had been subjected to both during the short walk from his house to the pub. He’s forgotten how to shave and he’ll only look you in the eye if he thinks he’s done you wrong. Yet he’s got a book with him and the chances are he’ll spend the rest of his life sitting at the bar – reading to begin with, then just seeing shapes and patterns and forgetting even where he is. He’ll do it again tomorrow, no doubt. For tomorrow is always a good day. And he'll always say 'good morning' to you whether he knows you or not - because that's how you change the world.

I'd like to meet that man... thanks for being here today, Stu!

If you want to find out more about Stu you can do so over at his blog, Tollesbury Time Forever. I wish him all the best on his continuing journey of publication and discovery!

Friday 20 July 2012

Follow My Lead Flash Fiction Contest

Happy Friday, all. A little bit of flash fiction today in the form of my entry in Candilynn Fite's Follow My Lead contest for July 2012. Here's the image prompt:

Hope you enjoy! Head here to check out all the other wonderful entries.

Remember, Remember (300 words)

Molly shifted on the windowsill and looked down at the ground, then back at the fireworks which continued to boom and flaunt their colours above her. Remember, remember, the 5th of November. She wasn’t going to forget last year’s. That’s when she’d gone to the big display on the common, like she had every year since she was little – except, instead of her parents, she’d gone with Neil. Of course she’d replayed that night an infinitesimal number of times, but tonight, it was showing in 3D.

“Come on,” he’d said. “They’ve got millions, they’re not going to miss one or two.” She didn’t mind helping him steal. She always used to be up for a laugh and a thrill. Used to be.

No one could explain what had made the box blow up in her hands. Just a freak accident. Neil had disappeared, rather than get into trouble or – God forbid – try to help. The skin on her face had been melted so that she hardly resembled the girl she used to be, and a year later she still had hospital appointments each week and still felt the agonising tightness.

She knew some people were disgusted at the sight of her. They thought she’d brought it on herself by helping a loser like him in the first place. She used to love a bad boy. That had changed too.

He was there tonight, trying to impress a new girl who didn’t know his reputation. But they were just there to watch.

Molly looked at the ground again. She pictured it rushing up to meet her as those exploding fireworks had rushed to singe her skin and ruin her life. But that wouldn’t change Neil’s. How could it when he had no conscience? Sighing, she lowered herself down into her bedroom.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

You Just Keep Me Hanging On...

Day Two of the Hookers and Hangers Blogfest hosted by Falling For Fiction. Monday was all about hookers or opening lines, today it's hangers, those pesky chapter endings that are supposed to have you clinging on by your fingernails and plunging into the next chapter. I'm a bit rushed right now, so let's just get straight to it.

Like Monday, these come from my WIP, The Memory Cell and I'm doing all the same chapters.

Chapter 1: She would need to be at the hospital first thing.

Chapter 2: And it was almost effortless; she just had to tap into an alternate life that up to now she hadn’t realised she even wanted.

Chapter 3: He felt sure that once Mr Crossdale was discharged, his wife would ask for some help.

Chapter 4: By the time she was heading back up in the lift, she had put her plan together.

Chapter 5: Helen went to sleep in a cloud of sparkling excitement for her future life.

Chapter 6: “Yes!” he said, with the gasping enthusiasm of a child.

Chapter 7: She understood it more now, but it was also imperative that she remained in control.

Chapter 8: She didn’t remember falling asleep.

Chapter 9: No more getting wasted – he would find Robert himself and bring Mum back to the person she used to be.

What do you think?

Make sure you check out the linky list to hop around and visit the other awesome authors taking part!

Monday 16 July 2012

Hookers & Hangers Blogfest: Hookers

It's time for the Hookers & Hangers bloghop, hosted by the ladies at Falling For Fiction. The deal is to post as many first lines and last lines from chapters of your WIP as you can: Hookers today, Hangers on Wednesday.

I just completed my WIP first draft, The Memory Cell, last week and tried to get all my hookers ready for action (!) over the weekend, as I don't write in chapters, but with one thing and another... didn't happen. I've got nine for you, which is about a third of the book. But hey, that gives you more time to check out all the other great entries!

So, here we go...

Chapter 1: She had been feeling pretty good about herself that day, until it happened.

Chapter 2: The first thing she saw when she woke up was Michael lying twisted on the road.

Chapter 3: On the Saturday, Helen got up, dressed in her casual gear as she had since Tuesday, and arrived at the bedside at the normal time.

Chapter 4: Helen stayed with Michael on the Saturday night.

Chapter 5: On Monday morning, Julie Hanbury sat up in bed and, as she had done every day for the past week, opened up her laptop to trawl for any more news.

Chapter 6: He slept for a long time in the morning.

Chapter 7: When Michael was dressed in his new clothes, Helen helped him to walk out of the ward with the holdall over her shoulder.

Chapter 8: She awoke two hours later to find Michael staring at her owlishly.

Chapter 9: Julie was stuck.

Don't forget to check out the linky list to visit all the other participants!

Friday 13 July 2012

Meet My CP and Her Book!

Happy Friday 13th! It's about to get luckier as I have something cool to bring to your attention. My fab CP, Siscia Miles, recently released her debut novel Lady Fate's Game and this weekend she's offering it for FREE! Yes, for Friday 13th - Sunday 15th it's nada on Amazon USAmazon UK, and other countries too. Here's the blurb and an extract:

Selena Renli is a rather insecure teenager, trying to weave her way in and out of daily life. She finds herself confronted with an unfortunate, not so uncommon occurrence, and decides to deal with it herself. The law takes an interest in the incident, though she has no intentions of stepping forward. Yet.
Instead, she uses the incident as an opportunity to get back at a couple of people by means of framing. How long can she keep it up, and will there be anyone left to protect her if or when she gets caught?

Chapter 1:

Lust's Reward

Darkness shrouded a young feminine figure as she moved elegantly from one street light to the next. Under each scan of light against flesh, glimpses of smooth, pale skin clothed with a mid-length silk white dress drew the most attention, often blending with her long, cotton white hair. Her crystalized blue eyes focused on the book she held open with one hand.
That attention was soon drawn from the book to the sound of an echoed male voice, "Hey, Selena. Where you been?"
The eyes focused on a half-destroyed stone structure against which a young male leaned. A single hazel iris was her next focus point, her ice blue lips parting to provide a calm, melodic response, "Hello, Samuel."
Samuel clicked his tongue. "Talkative as always, I see."

"Do you have something intelligent to say?" Selena cocked her head with curiosity. "Or are you simply going to say the same thing you have said for the last four months?"
Pushing himself from the debris-covered wall, Samuel smiled, brushing his sleeves. He walked toward her. "Actually, I wanted to know what you're reading there."
"I was not reading anything." As she stepped forward to walk away, her sights moved to the golden spiked hair on his head. "If you will excuse me, Samuel."
Gripping her arm firmly, Samuel pulled her toward him. "Now, now, you don't really want to leave already, do you?"
Peering into his eyes, she responded calmly, "If you have something to say, I will stay. If, as I suspect, you do not, I must be going."
Samuel grinned, exploring her figure with a tightened hand on her arm. "And if I won't let you leave?"
Maintaining her calm demeanor, Selena closed the book and held it against herself. "I do not recall requesting your permission."
With a sharp tug, he pulled her toward the half-destroyed building, slamming her against the wall in a long corridor, forcing her to drop the book. Her irises began to glow for an instant, providing illumination of the otherwise unlit hall. The glow faded as quickly as it arrived.
Samuel pinned one of her wrists to the wall, whispering with amusement, "Nowhere to run this time, little girl."
Reaching toward his face slowly with her free hand, she placed long nails which matched her lips in color against his cheek, brushing against his skin. Leaning forward, a whisper provided an almost hypnotic tone, "Who ever said I would try to run?"
Paused by partial shock from the unexpected, calm words, Samuel leaned into her nails, examining her expression, which soon displayed a softened smile. The nails traced repeatedly along his jaw and neck in a petting motion.
Swiftly moving her nails from his cheek, down the neck, to his chest, a sigh escaped him as his eyes grew heavy. He leaned against her reliantly, fading to sleep.
Wrapping an arm around him, she turned around, placing him against the wall she'd been pinned to, easing him to the ground.
Picking the book up from the floor of the debris-covered building, Selena planted a soft kiss on his forehead. Walking away, she opened the book, flipping through the pages once more.

Having read it, I found it to be a gripping read with an ethereal, otherworldly quality. The author's portrayal of the unsmiling Selena is intriguing and subtly disturbing, and I found myself moving through the book at speed to discover what motivates her. Miles' voice seems to me unique, and quite striking. If you're looking for something different, I urge you to give this a go! You won't regret it.
And don't forget to visit Siscia's website to find out more about her and what she's up to. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

First Draft Finished! And Tentative Title Reveal.

So... after nine months and a few stops and starts, I finished my WIP thriller first draft this morning, coming in at 77,270 words. Slightly under what I was expecting, but I think I did everything I needed to do. My CPs might have other ideas!

I guess the honeymoon is over. Now I have to spend time getting to know my manuscript upside down, inside out, warts and all. Hopefully, I will be able to deploy some laser edit surgery to smooth over at least a few of those warts.

I also came up with a title. Just the one so far. I previously wrote about how I can't come up with titles, so I was pleasantly surprised when this occurred to me. It's kind of a play on words although I'm not sure if it really works. Anyway, drum roll:

The Memory Cell

The Blurb:

Helen Crossdale is a career-driven woman who doesn't think she has any room in her life for love. But when she accidentally runs a man over, she feels a strange attachment to him. The man has no identification, and when Helen is let off charges with a warning, she goes to the hospital to see him on a whim. She claims to be his wife in order to be admitted to the ward; when he wakes up with no memory, she continues the facade.

He is discharged and she takes him to a secret flat in order to avoid detection, but others are on her trail. And as her "husband"'s real memory starts to come back, can she keep her own sanity?

I'm happy to hear any further suggestions on titles! If I choose yours, I'll be sure to give you due recompense in the course of time.

I'm now planning on taking a few days off to catch up on as much as sleep as I can, and then I'll start on other stories and projects on Monday while I gather feedback from my CPs.

Where are you at with your writing?

Friday 6 July 2012

Friday Flash Fiction and a Bit of News

Well, Friday again... How's everyone's week been? For a bit of a treat today (or maybe not... I haven't had any feedback on this yet!) I thought I'd post my entry for the first ever Follow My Lead Flash Fiction Contest hosted by Candilynn Fite, and remind everyone that the next round starts tonight.

I've since gathered that you probably don't even get icicles in New Orleans as the winters are so mild, but that's what that stuff on the cables looked like to me! Anyhoo, here's the picture and the prompt. I'd love to know what you think of the story.

The streets of this restless city never slept...

Fire and Ice (300 words)

The streets of this restless city never slept, even in winter when icicles clung to overhead cables. Many people gravitated towards the flaming nightclub, a few to offer assistance, but most for the spectacle and the warmth provided. They felt in little danger as the building was atop a platform and reached by an elevator, but a safe distance was kept due to the odd piece of falling masonry.

The proprietor, Gary Hunter, had managed to escape before the fire spread too far. He was glad the club had been closed, but the ferocity of the blaze mirrored the burning anger in his soul as he waited for the fire brigade. It was the second time his establishment had fallen victim to such a fate. The first inferno had claimed one victim – his business partner, Ulysses. It had started in the office when a still-smouldering cigarette had dropped from the lip of an ashtray on the edge of his desk and hit the carpet. Gary had gone home after a long night shift and Ulysses had come in to go over some paperwork. He was trapped in the kitchen and never got out.

Gary had gone cold turkey after that.

He sighed and looked around at the rubbernecked onlookers, unsure if the insurance payout would be sufficient this time.

As he turned back, an icy breeze blew across the back of his neck. That wasn’t unusual at this time of year. What was unusual was the voice: hissing and sibilant, he felt it with his entire soul.

“You might have got away this time, but don’t think you’ll be so lucky again.”

Gary spun around, but no one was there.

In New Orleans, spirits who have died in violent circumstances hang around. They don’t care about excuses. They want vengeance.

Next up, it's the amazing giveaway over at the Lucky 13s blog. You've all heard of them, right? They're all children's and YA authors who are launching their debuts in 2013. Well, 20 of them are giving away their favourite books to ONE lucky winner! That's insanely great. However, there are only a few hours left to enter if you haven't already! (Closing time 12pm Eastern Daylight Time). Head here to enter.

Finally, E.J. Wesley is starting up a new weekly Twitter chat devoted to discussing the burgeoning New Adult genre. The first chat will be on Thursday 26 July followed by every Thursday thereafter. All readers and/or writers of the genre are invited to join in. Go here for the details, and there's also an NA Lit Chat Blog!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Critiquing: Does Genre Matter?

So, I'm currently 6000 words away from completing my first draft, and this week began the process of swapping chapters with some wonderful CPs. I've already received some great feedback on my WIP, best described as a psychological thriller, which I'm very thankful for. However, all these writers have something in common. I'm going to list them here along with their genres (hope they don't mind!) and see if you can spot it. By the way, thanks to the girls at Falling For Fiction and to Rach Harrie, without whose brilliant CP matching posts this wouldn't have been possible!

So, the line up:

T.Z. Wallace: Dystopian
* Kyra Lennon: She described her genre in an email as chick lit, but I think it deserves a better title!
Siscia Miles: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Chris Eboch: Published children's author, now writing romantic suspense for adults
Jenny Herrera: Literary fiction

So, what's the link? That's right, a distinct lack of psychological thriller writers. Truth be told, I didn't see any writers within my genre on the critique posts. I guess Chris Eboch would be the closest (my book does feature a very twisted romance). But is this a bad thing? Not necessarily!

Stories are stories. Writers are writers. We all have advice to offer and looking to another genre for inspiration can be refreshing. Although both my novels have been thrillers (at least that's the nearest box I could put them in), it's not even my genre of choice. Of course I appreciate and enjoy a great, taut thriller. But I don't seek them out voraciously. I would rather take each story on its own merits, and I read books based on what I think of the premise, rather than selecting by genre. I certainly hope my book is an exciting page-turner, but just as important to me is character development.

I believe this ties into a wider debate on the nature of publishing as it stands. Most major publishing houses specialise in certain genres and they expect submissions to adhere to certain conventions within those genres. This also extends to things such as word count. But with the rise of self-publishing and smaller presses, these criteria are being worn away, which has given rise to lots of interesting creations that don't go by the rule book. I'd rather read a book that was unique, kept me guessing and crucially, had a great story than something formulaic, predictable and box-ticking. And I fear a lot of thrillers fall into the latter category these days especially with some of the bigger names. (Feel free to prove me wrong.)

Now I'm not saying I'm going to stick my book straight on Amazon as soon as I'm finished with it. That's certainly an option, but I'd love to be traditionally published. I know editors are always receptive to the next big thing, but I don't know if they will now take more risks in order to prevent rejected authors from finding success in self-publishing, or batten down the hatches and stick with what they know, catering to consumers unwilling to take a punt on the deluge of unknown authors.

What do you think? How important is genre in your choice of reading? Am I being hopelessly naive, and barking up the wrong tree in my choice of CPs? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Oh, and happy 4th of July to all of my American friends!