Guest Post: Alexandrina Brant

Hello everyone!

I have another treat for you today, a guest post from the excellent Alexandrina Brant, a writer with bundles of literary pots on the stove of life.

Alexandrina Brant grew up in Oxford and is still fascinated by those intimate spires. After her BA in Psychology and Philosophy at Reading and MA Linguistic at UCL, she’s now a part of the NHS while she works on editing her Steampunk novel and planning a multi-POV woman’s fiction novel (which involves a baby-stealing scene!) for NaNoWriMo this year. She currently lives just outside York with her husband and their fur-daughter, Salieri, who is so full of sass that she might as well be a tiny tiger.

Alex’s post is talking about a subject close to my heart, the balance of life, mental health, and literary aspirations. I hope you enjoy it!

Writing, Depression, and the Wandering Mind with Alexandrina Brant

I was eager to write a guest post for Craig, but when it came to a topic to write on alex(given that Craig is letting me write whatever I like, hehe), I have been stumped. I used to write a lot; however, I have been struggling more with my depression for the last couple of years, coupled with finishing my Masters (in Linguistics from University College, London) and applying for jobs as one does when one is thrown into adulthood, and it’s come to be that I’ve struggled to find the joy and motivation I had in writing and editing in the past.

As adults, we’re scrounging for whatever time we have to do those things that don’t involve the day-to-day slog of the office and the many tasks of the household, too. And I happen to need downtime after work and with dinner the tv is on thanks to my husband and we get lost in easy fiction and relaxation. Not to mention that I’m an early bird and better work in daylight – when it’s dark outside and electric lights go on, my energy is sapped along with any creativity and inspiration. Which bodes well for the upcoming winter months if I plan to attempt NaNoWriMo in November (not).

The problem is—currently I’m a writer with no focus. I think that’s why blog posts have been coming to my fingers and the screen more than editing and new writing has. They’re short, succinct, they have a point. Writing fiction for me has always been…open-ended, even when I’ve known the direction in which a novel should travel. Which means my mind is constantly rambling along, not quite fitting pieces of the puzzle together.

I suppose I should be thankful. At the moment, I don’t have enough oomph to get going on a new project, which means I should be easily working on something older. But…it doesn’t happen. Instead, my mind dreams about other stories I could be writing; to me, stories have always come the wrong way: hook and cover pitch first, often jointly or closely followed by the title, then some of the simple plot and 2-d characters.

And it’s frustrating, as you can imagine.

Not just the trying to write through the veil of depression but that’s a big part of it. What is the veil, you say (perhaps)? Well…I’ve always empathised with Ralph towards the end of William Golding’s iconic – and much oh-kill-me-it’s-the-class-set-text-said – novel Lord of the Flies where he tries to make leadership decisions and think clearly but narrates that a ‘veil’ has come down over his thoughts. I can relate to that. I know the veil, where ideas should be easy to come because I’ve put myself in the same situations where I used to write so freely, but nowadays they’re absent.

What is to be done? What can we do to move forward through these blacker episodes?

Part of it is to take a step back from the production of work, of the self-imposed pressure of goals. I know that I sometimes go into writing – anything, even emails or letters at work – with the awareness that I have to produce a quality product once I’m done. With fiction writing, this must be restricting. I think sometimes writers have to take a step back and away from all this pressure that comes from the desire to be published…

So, how? Sometimes it’s handy to write a scene that you as writer know will never end up in the novel. Why? Because it can build up the characters, their motivations, and how they interact with each other. Sometimes it’s good just to write. Be it to create something new or to edit or reread a paragraph of something you once wrote. Write a rambling poem of half-rhymes to store in the back of your computer or an emotional letter full of half-truths just because it feels good to put something on paper for once instead of keeping it cramped in the attic of the mind.

My writing style definitely came with a different feel for years before I started editing with an aim to query agents and publishers, quite likely influenced by all the Latin poetry and run-on prose, a la Ovid and Cicero, I was reading at the time for my academic studies. When I started researching and reading and writing in a more accessible style so that my fiction could appeal to a wider audience, I halted a bit of the writing process that is the throwing up of words onto paper with reckless abandon, which a readership might think of as Latinate run on sentences. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I specifically lost a bit of myself, and it was certainly preferable to those moments such as when a critic asked me if English was my second language! (One set of grandparents may be Polish but my mother was born in England and speaks perfect English, so I’m not even bilingual, sadly.) But I did change the way I went about writing.

But then Latin has a particular preposition –que that likes to stick itself on the ends of words and do more for two clauses than ‘and’ can in English.

However, as a linguist, that’s an argument for another day.

About a month back now, I attended numerous talks at the Steampunk Asylum and it got me thinking about the approach I used for my blog at the time when I was applying for my psychology and philosophy undergraduate degrees – it was with a view to delving more into the inspiration and philosophy behind my magnum opus, my first novel baby now only known as WTCB, but I found that this did not appeal to a wider audience as much as my travel stories and real life tales. Yet, there are so many topics and themes about which the writer can espouse. I know there’s potential for more in my novels. I want to explore the imagery and metaphors as battles between the characters rather than just writing a plot with characters in a blog of text that’s straightforward. I like twists and turns that are fictionally ironic and when a reader looks back to each chapter, they see how the threads will have come together. That’s the kind of fiction I want to read and write and that’s what keeps me going by creating scenes that could add to the mystery and background lore. The only problem is that we’re then surrounded by facts that we have the urge to share with our readers! Hence, WTCB will always have the moniker of my magnum opus, as it’s the world I’m most involved with out of all my fiction. Temporal physics, Victoriana classes, genetics and family histories…

To conclude, I think that’s why writing around the piece of fiction works for me. If character Joe Bloggs wants to show Miss Sally the spyglass and ponder about how the sun rises at different times across the city instead of debating whether they should go on the risky hunt for his missing comrade, and that scene kickstarts my knowledge of his motivations to be a coward who observes the world instead of wanting to change it, then I fully support the creation of extra-novel fiction.

I could go into a whole talk about my works and the levels of metaphor and images that I endeavour or perhaps have endeavoured in the past to put into my fiction, but alas the depression has struck me dumb, in a way that inspiration is fragmented across my mind. “Catching butterflies” to use Craig’s own words.

Still, I get along. In what spare time I have away from working on patient record data in the NHS, I am currently editing the second full Steampunk novel I have written – this one set between alternate-history New York and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, featuring ghost-like spirits, automata, and an illegal skyship crew. I’m still looking for a way to write whilst during office jobs, without the stacks of paper printouts that I used to cover with red-pen and then leave for months on end. It’s a case of time again. And coordination.

As a final aside, my latest piece of fiction is being published in the anthology DARK AND LIGHT by the UCL Publishing team, coming shortly. Check out the Twitter and website for details. I’m particularly pleased with my piece, as it is a study of psychology and mental illness in the form of my protagonist, the unnamed woman, as she heads towards fulfilling her plans of murdering her ex.

In conclusion, thanks, Craig, for having me. Maybe next time I’ll have a more coherent topic to discuss.

Thanks for that, Alex! If you want to take a look at what mischief Alex is getting up to, check out her social medias here:

Twitter: @caelestia_flora
Instagram: lingua_fabularum
Website: http://www.alexandrinabrant.wordpress.com
UCL Publishers Prize website: https://www.uclpublishersprize.com

 

Thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Austin Chambers

Hi everyone,

Marketing is not only expensive but eldritch in nature and beyond mortal comprehension. In an effort to spread the word about talented people without them needing to remortgage or decipher R’lyehian texts, I’m sharing writery and artisty types with you all so you don’t miss out.

Today’s guest is Austin Chambers, a gentleman (he made me say that) who has been my convention neighbour many-a-time and is always interesting and intriguing to be around. He also has an excellent beard and looks good in a hat, of which I’m insanely jealous. Without any further ado, I give you Austin Chambers…

Perhaps it’s all in my head.

A.S.Chambers.

Hello. Is this thing on? (Hits router).Austin

Yes, I think that should do it. It’s always strange writing on other people’s blogs. It’s something akin to sneaking into their house in the middle of the night and wandering around in their well-worn slippers. (Yes Craig, that’s why they’re never where you leave them when you go to bed…) [I knew it! – Craig]

So, anyway, my name is A.S. Chambers, and young Mister Hallam has kindly invited me to take the reins for 600 words or so. Some might say that this is a sign of friendliness from one author of the fantastical to another. Personally, I think he’s buttering me up because he knows that I’m going to kill him in a rather gory manner in my next Sam Spallucci novel. [You’re delivering villainous monologues again, Austin ;D – Craig]

Which rather neatly brings me onto my beleaguered, down-at-heel investigator of the paranormal.

So far, Sam has survived four major outings under my cruel penmanship. The first, Casebook of Sam Spallucci, was released back in 2012 and the most recent, Sam Spallucci: Dark Justice, saw the light of day (ironic that, considering that it’s about vampires) just a couple of months ago. They are a blend of urban fantasy, film noir and quirky humour. I normally tell people that if Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett had teamed up and rewritten the works of Stephen King, then you’d be about half way there.

Sam’s world is set in my beloved Lancaster; albeit a Lancaster where things go bump in the night and lurk in the shadows. There are satanic sit-com actors, vampires dressed as Vulcans, bondage-loving banshees and all-manner of weird and wonderful characters that my hero has to encounter or endure.

When I venture out into the land of the living to try and sell my wares at comic cons and book signings, one of the most common questions that I get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I normally answer with the rather flippant reply, “You’ve obviously never been to Skerton on a Saturday night.” (For those of you not accustomed to Lancastrian geography, just imagine Ankh Morpork’s Shades but without the loveable dwarves or goblins.) However, I suppose it is a very valid question. I mean, just where do these curious creatures come from and how do they find their way into the heads of writers of fantasy and horror?

In my case, I have this issue of overthinking absolutely everything. As I type this, I’m waiting for an engineer to come and fit one of these new-fangled smart meters. This means that I currently have going through my head, in no particular order:

  1. They’re already late. How much more of my day will be spent finding tasks to do around the living room where I can hear the front door?
  2. Did I adequately tidy the stairs down to the cellar or will they slip and break their neck?
  3. What if I desperately need a cup of tea when they’re here? I mean, the fate of the world might depend on it. The phone might ring and Donald Trump could be on the other end demanding, “Mr Chambers, if you do not make a strong Earl Grey in the next ten minutes, then I will press this shiny red button.”
  4. Someone told me last night that these meters give off radiation. What if I acquire a really stupid super power? I would much rather be a master of time and space than have the ability to kill baddies with hyper-flatulence.

So, yes, if these are the things that go through my head with the perfectly mundane, then I suppose that having vampires owning local comic book shops, restaurateurs dressed as mummies nicking the Eric Morecambe statue, and a werewolf running the local park’s petting zoo are not that great a leap of the imagination.

Perhaps you’d like to try a taste of the weird and wonderful that lurks in the Lancaster of my mind?

 

Somewhat useful links (ideal for stalking…)

Website: www.aschambers.co.uk

Facebook Group:The World of A.S.Chambers

Facebook Page: @A.S.Chambers

Twitter: @ASChambersUK

Instagram: @aschambersuk

Amazon.co.uk: A.S.Chambers

Amazon.com: A.S.Chambers

There you have it, Gentlefolk! Hop over and take a look at Austin’s work if it tickles your  urban fantasy fancy.

 

Thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Emily Scialom

Hi everyone!

We’re back with a brief guest post from Emily Scialom, who has one book out already and another on the way from Austin Macauley very soon! Check it out:

emily_scialom_ps‘The Religion of Self-Enlightenment’ was begun in the summer of 2008. It was just before I went to America and travelled the States during the Obama election campaign; the air was sticky with hope for a better world. It was published by Olympia publishers, who are based in London, in the summer of 2016.

Immediately, things got weird. I was out walking with my sister in a nature reserve named Paradise when a figure of light appeared beside me in a photograph of the spot where I previously had Bible study class with my very Christian friend, Christine. I posted it online and a musician who I was friends with on Facebook from a famous band named the Brian Jonestown Massacre wrote a song about me called ‘Ghost Ghost’. The lyrics? “She’s a ghost/And she holds me so close/She is Jesus Christ/And all the Holy Hosts.”

People always told me never to write about religion. When I first started out I knew there was a problem with organised belief, even though everyone told me I was wrong; by the time the book was published I had been well and truly vindicated.

So I began writing about other topics which interest me: sex and hating the Tories. ‘The Rivers’ emerged over the course of about four years while working for the music app Spotify. This novel will be published soon by Austin Macauley. I very much look forward to sharing it with everyone.

jesus and me

‘The Rivers’ centres around a married couple who are hopelessly in love, named John and Elizabeth. Throughout the development of their story, however, there are a plethora of situations where true love cannot be easily found. Amidst the heartache there are discussions on serious global and cultural issues, as well as the nature of love and God.

roseAs for ‘The ROSE‘ (a beautiful acronym, I’m sure you will agree?), it’s been declared a “cult classic” by television and “a classic of near-death experience literature” in reviews. It’s now selling out on-loop in Cambridge book shops and has only five star reviews on Amazon. I am hoping it will be a tremendous success amidst all the craziness.

The story tells of a man named Carrick Ares, who has a near-death experience and writes a new religion in its aftermath, which is basically a philosophic work centred on the idea of oneness. If you have ever wondered for far too long about who you are and why you are here you will empathise with Carrick’s struggles, and he is very much an everyman who has captured the attentions of many readers thus far.

To purchase a copy for only 6.99 please go to Amazon, Waterstones or Olympia publishers.

There you have it, readers. Another book to watch out for in the near future!

Thanks for reading.

Guest Post: Dorothy Winsor

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another guest post. This time we have Dorothy A. Winsor, another fellow Inspired Quill author who is sharing the ideas around her previous novel, Finders Keepers as we eagerly await her next novel, The Wind Reader (due for release autumn 2018).

The Calendar Is Ending! We Are All Doomed!

dorothyMy middle-grade fantasy, Finders Keepers, turns partly on the struggle to avert a disaster that will occur when the calendar changes to the year 4000. As the story approaches New Year’s Eve, 3999, a plague kills more and more people, earthquakes swallow buildings, and floods threaten to drown the city. All will be lost unless the book’s 12-year-old hero, Cade, is willing to risk his own well-being to save everyone else.

I got the idea for that plot point while I was drafting this book in 2012. The internet was abuzz with speculation over what might happen on 12/21/12, the last date on an ancient Mayan calendar. Speculation that the world would end was so common that NASA put up an information page that explained why it wouldn’t. (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/jpl-asteroid20120307.html)

The furor reminded me of similar fears when the calendar rolled over to the year 2000, and we endured the so-called Y2K panic. Even some rational people feared civilization would collapse because of computer problems caused by the date change. Given how dependent we are on computers, it was hard to say people had no reason to worry, but a portion of the population entered into the panic with gusto, buying guns and stocking up on food and fuel. They generalized from a computer glitch to a gigantic social meltdown, and in a few cases, the end of the world.

Why do people put so much weight on the change from one page of the calendar to the next? After all, dates are a humanly created and somewhat arbitrary system. Why do we lend them such significance?

I think it’s because we human beings want to understand the unknown. We want cause and effect.  We want meaning. Psychologists say our brains are wired to find patterns, to connect one thing with another even though there’s no necessary connection. So in a primal way, the link between the end of a calendar and the end of the world makes sense.

Given this need, fiction is satisfying partly because a plot shapes events into a pattern. If something happens, experienced readers expect it to matter. If an event has no consequences, we’re likely to be annoyed. Or at least wonder why the editor didn’t insist the scene should be cut.

Events that matter and form a pattern create the difference between plot (one thing causes another) and chronology (one thing simply comes after another). My life has chronology, but not much of a plot. What I’m doing now probably has little connection to what I’ll do this afternoon. On the other hand, my character Cade’s life has a plot. Everything matters. That’s one reason fiction often feels richer and more satisfying than daily life.

On the other hand, Cade’s plot causes him a lot of problems and pain. I was happy to still be around to give an open house on January 1, 2000. Maybe I’m contented to enjoy plots mostly in fiction.

 

Winsor spent years as a technical communications professor, studying the writing of engineers, before discovering that writing YA and MG fantasy was much more fun. Finders Keepers is Winsor’s first novel, though if you look closely, you can probably find a literal million words of Winsor’s Tolkien fan fiction posted somewhere. Winsor lives in Iowa.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/dorothy.winsor

http://dawinsor.com/

Finders Keepers: https://smile.amazon.com/Finders-Keepers-Dorothy-Winsor-ebook/dp/B01LBEU6RK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519914733&sr=8-2&keywords=dorothy+winsor

Deep as a Tomb: https://smile.amazon.com/Deep-as-Tomb-Dorothy-Winsor/dp/1624320244/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Guest Post: Mark Cantrell

Good morning, everyone!

As promised in a recent post, we’re being visited today by the excellent, fellow Inspired Quill author, Mark Cantrell. Journalist, author, and all-round stand-up human being, Mark is someone who I’ve never met in person, but who has been a constant support throughout my own author journey. Among his many novels, Citizen Zero and Silas Morlock are not-so-distant reflections of our own society, as all good sci-fi should be.

Come and meet him…

Critical Overlord

By Mark Cantrell

markONE of these days I’ll figure out how to switch off.

No, I’m not talking about relaxing. Well not exactly, more like stepping out of this world and into the ‘zone’ – at least until the over-eager critical faculties crash me down to Earth.

That’s the trouble with internal critics; they can be unsympathetic swine, with little or no regard for the literary process. Going off half-cocked instead of chilling out in the back brain until you’re ready for them, they can seriously cramp a wordsmith’s sanity.

If the creature doesn’t hit mid-flow and crash me out of the ‘zone’, then it undermines my regard for the latest draft I’ve sweated to finish. Snarling that my work is rubbish, it harasses me into a screaming fit, to send me wailing back to the keyboard to start afresh. Stretched thin, and wound-up, brittle me becomes lost in an endless round of sweat, tears and turmoil, while my critic cracks the whip.

Times like that, writing loses its joy, but bloody-minded obsession – maybe that slave-driving critic – won’t let me walk away. I have to keep going until, somehow, I come through the other side with words the critic can’t dismiss. I must admit, there’s a certain smug satisfaction to be had in leaving this mental gremlin speechless, but I know it’ll be back for another headbanging session sooner or later.

We all have our crosses to bear; this is mine. The problem is, as a journalist, I am expected to get my copy right first time. In a busy editorial office there’s no luxury of reworking and polishing an article until it’s ‘just right’. The deadline doesn’t give a damn about precious sentiments of literary art; that’s not what a news or feature article is all about, so get a grip and get that copy filed.

That’s journalism, but what works in the newsroom can play havoc with the author, at least in my case, because it doesn’t necessarily remain there: that damned internal critic demands the same right-first-time standards for my creative writing.

Now, it is possible to get that scene of a novel right first time. I know because I’ve done it, but right first time doesn’t mean to say finished first time. A draft is a draft – and it remains so until the novel is completed ready for publication. Until then, it’s subject to change.

Novels grow organically, I find. For all the planning and thought that goes into their conception and development, they still begin to exert themselves as the characters find their feet – and their voice – and the plot begins to blossom. Sooner or later, the novel starts kicking back and asserting itself.

That’s no bad thing. A novel that remains limp to the author’s touch throughout is nothing but a stillbirth in the making, but when it begins to come alive the newborn beastie needs a little tender discipline to ensure it reaches a healthy maturity. Cue that internal critic; it ought to be a crucial ally but that journalistic ‘right first time’ malady transforms a stern ally into a monster smashing up the lab.

To some extent, I probably owe the critic a begrudged vote of thanks, but let’s not go overboard. Here’s the thing: while at times those over-worked passages have resulted in the goods, more often than not any benefit has been outweighed by the headache involved in the endless re-working. The better re-writes have come at their proper time – in those second or third draft phases.

All the internal critic has really achieved is to hold up the novel’s progress by forcing me to waste time and effort (not to mention sanity) on a part best left to lie fallow in the backbrain for a while.

A novel is rarely – if ever – a continuous stream of structured thought. The whole is assembled from the sum of its parts. The parts, of course, are the disparate scenes and passages that are slotted together to create the seamless whole. It’s all too easy to be caught in the ‘right first time’ trap of endlessly trying to perfect each scene before moving on to the next.

Sure, sometimes, there’s a case to be made for taking another attempt, but for the most part you want to be getting your raw ideas down and moving on. Otherwise you’re going to fall foul of creative exhaustion.

Take it from me, it’s painful and the internal critic’s sergeant-major-style barking only makes it worse. When I find myself caught in this trap, all I can do is work through it, find the draft that pleases the critic or else – by luck or sheer will – force myself to unwind and relax back into the project. Then I can move on and take the novel forward. That’s the essential thing; plenty of time to rework later, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of the work it requires too.

When the time comes, you can let that internal critic go to town. Until then, if yours is as bellicose and exacting as mine, you might want to keep the thing bound and gagged until you’re ready to set it loose.

ENDS

 

Mark Cantrell,

Stoke-on-Trent,

13 April 2018

You can find his books here:

https://amazon.co.uk/Mark-Cantrell/e/B004WSWX6K

citizen

You can find Mark here:

Twitter: @Man0Words

Blog: tykewriter.wordpress.com