Monday, 13 October 2014

Exciting News – I Have an Agent!

So I’m totally thrilled to announce that I have been signed by the lovely agent Shelley Instone from the Shelley Instone Literary Agency!!!!

So just to say how pleased I am, (and being slightly spread sheet mad) here is a little look back at my journey to being signed…

I started writing in 2007, I was a closet writer until 2011 when I joined writing critique group Abingdon Writers. Then in the same year, slightly jostled by another member I joined SCBWI and entered Undiscovered Voices 2012, where I was long-listed and honorary mentioned in the anthology. Since then it’s been working and submitting, and all that goes with it, the good and the bad, and here are some numbers…

Books written – 2 Novels, I Novella, 5 Picture Book Texts

Agent Submissions – 31

Agent Requests for Full Manuscripts – 7

Agent Rejections – 30

Agent Signed - 1

Publisher Submissions – 7

Publisher Requests for Full Manuscripts – 7

Publisher Rejections – 6 
(still waiting on one)

Competitions entered -10

Competitions won – 1 

Competitions Long-listing – 2 
(The Times Chicken House 2013 & 2014)

Competitions Honorary Mentions – 2 
(Undiscovered Voices 2012 & Winchesters Writers Conference 2012)

So there it is, my writing journey to the point of getting signed with an agent in numbers. Numbers look clinical, but I find that they are a good way of monitoring my journey as they are honest and not open to embellishment by pretty words.

Needless to say, I’m very excited and thrilled, and very much looking forward to working with Shelley to beat my manuscripts into shape!

Let the editing commence. 









Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A time to CELEBRATE Fairy Tales & Hell Hounds!

A TIME TO CELEBRATE FAIRY TALES!


So last week Richard Dawkins, managed to upset almost everyone I know by doing a talk at the Cheltenham Science fair where he allegedly (and now stringently denies) said that ‘fairy tales are harmful to children’. What Mr Dawkins exactly said or implied make little difference the real thing of note to me was the masses of people jumping in to defend the centuries old tales. What more of testament and validation can fairy tales have? The sheer quantity of people who came forward to defend them proved that Fairy Tales are love adored by millions of people. Millions of sane people, who know that they are factious, yet are happy to defend them against any slander.


Maria Warner defends fairy tales, equating them to Wonder Tales, that promote thought experiments read more press here:

Of head over to the BBC News for a interesting debate with many professors who discuss the merits of all things Once upon a time, press here.

Then Philippa Francis talks about the love of fairy tales over on her blog in way of celebration and support to visit press here.

All in all whether Richard Dawkins intended to or not, he unleashed a wide spread debate about fair tales, and a mass declaration of love for them. This I think should be celebrated!



A TIME TO CELEBRATE HELL HOUNDS!




Hell Hounds, and my most favourite of the un-dead critters, there’s something rather wonderful about the Jungian primeval fear that wolves evoke in human kind, whether they are actual wolves, werewolves or dog-headed-people but Hell Hounds are the Daddy of wolf like critters.

Hell hounds, seem to be less unitised in fiction though, after racking my brain the only one I can think of is Miss Lupescu in Neil Gaiman’s, The Graveyard Book. But Hell Hound stories are plentiful and far stranger than fiction in history. One of the most fascinating is that of Thiess who in his werewolf trial in 1692 Livonian, admitted to being a werewolf, who descended into Hell to take back and release God’s Harvest that had been stolen by Saturn’s sorcerer Skeistan. Theiss’s own evidence that he was detested by the Devil, and that he was working with his fellow brotherhood of werewolves on god missions was enough to secure the old man life. to read more about Thiess, and translations of the trial read, Witches Werewolves and Fairies by Claude Lecoutex.

Large black wolves with burning fire-like eyes, pop up all over Europe in the Middle Ages, one of the most famous being The Beast of Gavaudin, who In the summer of 1764 terrorized the region in France slaughtering many people. After many attempts to kill or capture the beast, on orders from the King Louis XV a troop of his cavalry was sent to help with the mission. Eventually in June 1767 on a hunt involving 300 men the beast was shot. The body was displayed in the Versailles and was described as being; the size of a donkey and wolf-like, with ears that looked like pointed horns, long fangs it’s paws were larger than a man’s head and it eyes glowed red. Eventually the beast corpse was buried and lost. In fact all of the bodies of these immense creatures have been lost and so their existence relegated to myth. To find out more about The Beast of Gavaudin read Werewolves by Nigel Suckling.



The UK also had its share of Hell Hounds, including one that in a storm on 4th August, 1577 at the Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, broke in to the church and killed a man and boy before fleeing into the night. Now this is why I’m celebrating the Hell Hound, because every other Hell Hound corpse has been lost, all evidence of the huge creatures gone EXCEPT that archaeologist working in Suffolk have found the skeleton of a huge dog that on its hind legs would have been 7 foot long, and would have weighed over 200 pounds! The dog’s remains were found in a shallow grave close to The Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh and date from about the same time. To find out more visit and see photo’s of the skeleton visit the Ancient Origins site press here.

So, although I never want to meet a living Hell Hound in the flesh, the fact that there existence is proven and they can be restored for myth, is in my view a cause for celebration.


Friday, 6 June 2014

My Two Months in a World Without the Web.

The world is getting smaller, people say, you can talk to someone the other side of the globe, even see them via Facetime. The world is getting faster, people say, no waiting for the post to deliver important letter or documents, no having to pace up and down next to the fax machine as it painfully prints the message. Unlike a hundred years ago when phones weren’t commonplace, and you had to send a post card to invite someone over for afternoon tea, or order bread from the bakers (they had up to four postal deliveries back then), now you simply pick up the phone, wherever you are. Unless that is you live where I live.



The past ten months have been rather hectic in the Poyton household, we’ve relocated from Oxfordshire to Buckinghamshire, which has meant new everything; school, clubs, doctors, dentist, opticians, everything. My husband has changed jobs. We’ve moved three times, in addition to moving out of our original house. Which has all been A-MAD, B- Creatively Stifling, C-Exhausting. But ultimately the right thing for the family. But one thing I hadn't been until April, was stressed.

In April we moved to a lovely house where we will stay for the foreseeable future (thankfully), but it seems to be in part of Buckinghamshire which is the equivalent to the DARK AGES when it comes to communication infrastructure. With No Mobile Phone Signal. No Internet, and most of the time NO PHONE LINE.

The lack of communication infrastructure was stressful. Despite people helpfully suggesting that I view it as a retreat and I should get loads of writing done. The problem is our lovely house is in the middle of nowhere, it’s a half an hour walk to any other village with amenities. 



But stressful it is: What if there was an emergency? How would I contact the emergency services?

One day my son was ill at school, but because I was at home and un-contactable, they had to call his granny. What if my mum had been out?

I applied for a job (first one in near on 15 years) and got an interview (yeah!!!), but how was I going to get the feedback or message with no e-mail? (I didn't get the job, but better luck next time).

I volunteer for a number of societies, which are voluntary run with volunteers from all across the uk and is entirely run over the web and via social networking groups. I could NOT be an active member, and I was stressed that people would think I was shirking. Let alone about getting behind on my responsibilities.

I’m on submission – really, I’m sure I don’t need to say any more about that.

Then there’s the simple house keeping things, how to change address? Check bank balance? Pay bills when all our accounts are online.

But you may say easy fix, go to a café, drink coffee, eat cake, use the wi-fi. AH, not as easy as you think. My e-mail isn’t web-based. So my lovely husband managed to rig a kind of patchwork e-mail system up so my e-mails were visible on line and off I trotted. This was especially imperative I got the e-mails as I had a very important time sensitive one to send.



Try one: Sunday: Coffee shop – Wi-fi Down.

Try Two: Wednesday: John Lewis: Everyone gets internet access but me! The lovely internal support man came and tried to help only to discover that my (relatively new high-spec laptop) has a fault driver that stopped me connecting to the Wi-Fi, and needed re-installing. Guess what to re-install it, it needs to connect to the internet!

Try Three: With my hubby gone away on a business trip taking my laptop with him to try and re-install the drivers, I was left with an i-pad. So off I trot to town with the, i-pad to try and send the e-mail. This isn’t great as the i-pad’s autocorrect is not very dyslexia friendly, and tends to make my writing less coherent, but needs must. So in town, and EVERY café or establishment with Wi-Fi, was either closed or the Wi-Fi was not working. Eventually we find the Library has functioning wi-fi, and after being set up, I log on to find, my husband has changed the password to the e-mail and not told me! He is also contactable. 


This was just one of the many stressful and eventful experiences I had in my two months being dis-connected. Far from making my life simpler and more relaxed, having no internet in a world that evolved to it presence is stressful, and makes it difficult to function. We are now connected, and I’m working to catch up, and unwind. And so you may see some more posts from me now I have the means to post them!



Monday, 17 March 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour; Work in Progress, Springbatts and Spreadsheets!

Last week the lovely Chitra Soundar tagged me in on her blog post, to be part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. She equated herself to a mosquito and gave a charming and funny insight into her current WIP’s and writing processes, so please check out her post by pressing here.

Firstly thanks to Chitra for tagging me in, and second, just to answer a question posed to me by Chitra last week; A Springbatt is what you get if you bread a Basset Hound with a Springer Spaniel, it’s a very short, hyperactive manically depressive bi-polar dog, that look rather like this…



What am I working on?

This is ALWAYS a difficult question, as it’s never just one project! I'm currently editing my YA science Fiction Novel Journey to the Bone Factory (which was longlisted for this years The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition), trying to get it ready for submission.

I'm also researching for a new novel which is in the midst of forming into a plot in my mind, which (hopefully) will be a YA Urban Fantasy Romance, about Eros/Cupid’s lesser known brother Anteros the god of mutual and unrequited love.

But the main project is a yet to be named YA Near Future Tale, that I'm penning about a group of kids and teens strive to care for the surviving animals in a city zoo, after an epidemic which has wiped out all adults. They have to face problems on how to feed the large carnivores, how to keep reptiles warm, and the perilous task of protecting the animals and themselves from the hungry marauding savages that see them as easy meat.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I believe this will be different as although it could be described as dystopian as it’s set in a world where infrastructure and government has broken down, but it’s not about a struggle against oppressors, but a group of children who work together to overcome obstacles for a united cause of looking after the incarcerated creatures that would otherwise perish. It’s study of nature and survival, which also brings animals in to YA.

It always amazes me that whenever you go into a bookshop or library the shelves are stuffed full of book featuring animals for children but stop abruptly when it gets to YA. Do teens suddenly stop caring about animals? I don’t think so, not if you think of how many teenagers want to be Vets, or veterinary nurses, or work with animals in some other capacity. So I’m writing this book for all the teen (who like I was as a teen) who still like to read about animals.


Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that come to me. They gradually seep into my mind and take form refusing to leave until I write them down. Most the concepts evolve in my brain for months before I put pen to paper, but the ones I do write are the ones that scream the loudest, the one that want to be told. I believe that if the stories are so passionate and ignite my imagination, that other people will enjoy them too.

With the Zoo book, I believe that I've had the upbringing to write this book, as when I was a child, we as a family, bread and hand-reared parrots, kept lizards, fish, pigeons, goats and even a stickleback. This gives me a wealth of knowledge about animal husbandry which is a great platform to start research from. 




How does your writing process work?

Well writing is a craft and my writing process is constantly evolving and I like to think improving. Each project that has had a different process of getting it down on paper, but the world building, character development and plotting process is pretty much the same. Every project starts with a an idea that lodges itself in my brain and won’t stop nagging until I do something with it. First, I write the first scene that I've imagined, capturing the voice and I note down any plot points, and character notes that have come to be, at which point I file it until I have time to devote to writing the story properly. 



When I do have the time to devote to the story, I’ll dig out the files, and think, walk, and research anything that I think will help, whist brain storming the plot and profiling characters. When I’m ready I do a brief plot plan, separating the plot into acts, and chapters and planning what I think should happen when, before writing. 


The writing is fuelled by caffeine, and the ideas by walking (so much so I brought the aforementioned Springbatt's, so when I talk the dialogue to myself that people will think I'm talking to the dogs!) or driving and I write on both my PC, and pen and paper. This happens pretty quickly and the story and character evolve and strengthen along the way, bring surprises which is always a reassuring sign that the story is alive.


I tend to use spreadsheets for plotting and editing, to make sure that i don't drop any threads. I find that to make a real convincing world, that I need to be able to visualize and even taste and feel the world. So I will spend time and draw, and collect objects to help build up the images in my mind. In Journey to the Bone Factory one character can turn gold to lead, so I ALWAYS had a piece of gold and lead on my desk.




When the first draft is done I start editing, and when it’s ready my lovely critique group read it and give me honest constructive feedback, which after I've processes I use to improve the manuscript in further edits.


Finally my long suffering husband translates my manuscript into my bespoke dyslexic form of English into actual English!


So now I hand over the baton to my two tagged authors…

Gabby Aquilina who I met at my first ever critique group, Abingdon Writers. I now hand over to Gabby to introduce herself…

I've lived in four different countries in my life and finally decided England is the place for me (although never say never. I'll probably get itchy feet again one day!). I have a degree in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University. co-founded the very successful writer's group, Abingdon Writers, and am in the fingernail-biting stage of waiting for responses from agent submissions! I'm doing a lot of baking (and running to offset the cake-eating) whilst trying my hardest not to constantly refresh my emails... 

Check out Gabby’s blog next Monday the 24th March on http://gabrielleaquilina.blogspot.co.uk/


Dawn Finch a fellow SCBWI folk who I met in the wonderful web world…

Dawn Finch spent over a quarter of a century working in libraries, with over a decade of that specialising in children's libraries and children's literature. She was thrilled to discover that children's books come with children attached, and has carved out a career working with children and their development as readers and writers.

After many years of trying she managed to get her own book for young people published and in 2013 her first novel - Brotherhood of Shades - was published to great reviews. She is currently working on the sequel as well as a YA novel about a fifteen year old serial killer.

You can find out more about Dawn at her website; www.dawnfinch.com or follow her on Twitter @dawnafinch

To read Dawn’s post next Monday check out her blog at www.deefinch.wordpress.com



Thursday, 27 February 2014

An Slightly Late Celebration of Tell A Fairy Tale Day (which was yesterday)…

Usually I’d be shouting from the roof tops on Tell A Fairy Tale Day, last year I posted a video blog of me telling a self-penned fairy tale [press here to view] but yesterday I was somewhat pre-occupied. However today is a bright sunny new day, and I shall mark the great Tell A Fairy Tale Day, a tad late with this small post of  how, on the Tell a Fairy Tale day, 26th of February 2014, Fairy tales are featuring in my family.



My small people got Kindle’s for Christmas and were reading Grimm’s Fairy tales, the original darker less edited versions and when I spotted them stumbling into some of the grimmest tales, I thought I should possibly encourage them toward more age suited tales. Enter Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, the middle grade adventures of Daphne and Sabrina, the fairy tale detectives who discover their descendants of the famous Wilhelm and Jacob, and must save their parents from a fairy-tale villain in the town of Ferryport Landing, which is populated entirely by fairy tale characters called Everafters. I ordered the first book for my daughter (aged nine), who read it in hours, and then continued on to book two, and is now nagging for me to purchase book three. Then my son (aged seven) a more reluctant reader liked the sound of the books so much he’s how reading the first book too.



I’m currently reading Jasper Fforde's fantastic first Nursery Rhymes Division book, The Big Over Easy, which is a hilarious detective yarn, following DI Jack Spratt (who has a nasty reputation for killing giants) as he and DS Mary Mary, try to crack the murder of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty’. I’m immensely enjoying watching the detectives as they try and work out who done it, with an escalating pile of corpses, and growing list of suspects, from Humpty’s lover Rapunzel, small time crook Thom Thumb, to crime king-pin Giorgio Porgia. It’s a cleaver, witty and  quirky read, that takes fairy-tales to a genre which is unique to Jasper Fforde.



My husband, and me and well everyone who comes around to visit are dipping into the remarkable and humorous, ‘Tigger on The Couch’ by Laura James. This coffee table book was published back in 2007, and is incredibly hard to come by, but is worth the search. Tigger on The Couch, diagnoses the ‘Neuroses, psychoses, disorders and maladies of favourite childhood characters’. Of course Fairy Tale characters feature heavily, for example; Snow White’s Stepmother who has ‘ Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which manifests with her experiencing severe problems with personal relationships and in controlling her obsessive impulse. It’s an entertaining read from Cinderella’s trouble with Approval Addiction, to the more serious Bluebeards Psychopathy which results in callous disregard for others and serial murder.




Finally, my son is practicing every waking moment for his upcoming concert, which is a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk. So as you can see on Tell A Fairy Tale day 2014, my family is indeed focused on fairy tales!

If that wasn't enough, I'm off to the fantastic book launch this evening of fellow SCBWI member and Undiscovered Voice 2012 Honorary Mention Liz De Jager's fairytale YA Novel Banished! 




Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Always the Bridesmaid?!

Today, The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction shortlist is announced both in the paper and on the Chicken House site [Press Here], and I'm not on it.

So here is a little blog about NOT making the shortlist.

Back in 2011 I submitted my first ever piece of writing to my first ever –ANYTHING – the SCBWI Undiscovered Voice Anthology. To my absolute shock and joy, my entry (an extract from my first novel a YA fantasy Fairy Tale yarn ‘Through Mortal Eyes), was longlisted. Then after an agonising wait I found, not unsurprisingly, that I didn't make the anthology, however I did receive an Honorary Mention, which was great. The Honorary Mention really helped my confidence giving me the assurance I needed to persevere, but also gave me something to put in covering letters having a positive impact in various slush piles.

In 2012 after several re-writes with the input of both my great writer buddies and professionals (you know who you are and a BIG thank you to you if you’re reading this) I submitted the same story to The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, and to my amazement and jubilation it was long-listed for the 2013 competition. Sadly, Through Mortal Eyes, didn't make the shortlist. This got me worrying that maybe I was a 'not quite' one book wonder. A One Horned Unicorn!

However, having fabulous friends and a supportive family, I started writing again, and produced in ten months another YA manuscript, this time a SCI-FI adventure called 'Journey to the Bone Factory', which I sent it off for the 2014 The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition.  As the book was written so much quicker than my first book, I wasn't expecting it to do well. Then I received the an unexpected and gleeful news that Journey to the Bone Factory, had made it on to the longlist. Overjoyed, and much relieved, I saw this as a sign that I can stop worrying about being a one horned unicorn, and promptly gave myself that second horn.




So this brings us around to today, and The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction 2014 shortlist announcement, which I’m not in. What does this mean? Well this obviously is disappointing, (anyone who has had a rejection will know just how much of an understatement that is) but it's more than that! Three long-listings; UV 2012, Chicken House 2013 and Chicken House 2014. No improvement?! No escalation?! Stagnation?!

So, what does that make me? A Two horned unicorn, that’s destined to always be the bridesmaid, never the bride? How do I take my craft from the bridesmaid level, to being the bride?




So after sometime licking my wounds, it’ll be back to writing, planning and plotting with a new goal; how I make the jump from bridesmaid to bride? Fortunately I've been accepted into the much praised Golden Egg Academy, so here’s hoping that out of a golden egg, a phoenix-multi-horned-unicorn-bride will be born.

Oh, and one last thing, to everyone who made it on to the shortlist; 

Congratulations and Good Luck!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Writing is a SMALL WORLD - Interview with Bea Longworth Author of 'In Too Deep' Hot Key Unlocked Valentines YA Novella

Writing is a SMALL WORLD. Writing for children (and teens) is even smaller. When I came out of the writing closet in 2011 I entered this micro world by starting this blog and reluctantly embracing social media, only to find two of my closest university friends were writing and a school friend was a jobbing illustrator with the Bright Agency. 

A few years later and I'm still surprised how many of my non-writer friends and associates are secretly pursing the same goals, and one of those revelations came earlier this week when Hot Key Unlocked announced their Valentines special novellas. There was a name I recognised, Bea Longworth author of ‘In Too Deep.’




Now after being scooting the periphery of the writing micro world for a few years now, I feel very strongly that collectively we should and shout from the roof top to celebrate every success, so as it’s too wet and windy to stand on the roof top, I’ve got an interview with Bea instead!

A bit about Bea…

After studying English at Oxford University, Bea intended to pursue a career in publishing but got sidetracked into technology PR instead (as you do). That gave her a chance to indulge her love of gaming and all things gadget-related, as well as develop an appreciation for travel. In early 2013 she and her fiancé Bill packed in the day jobs to start their own company called Freed Fiction making interactive digital novels for young adults. Bea lives in Oxfordshire and spends as much time as possible rowing on the River Thames because it’s a good excuse for tea and cake afterwards.

The Interview….


Did you always want to be writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but I find it a bit surreal to think of myself as ‘a writer.’ When you’re growing up there’s lots of pressure to know what you want to do with your life, which I never have (although apparently when I was five I was determined to be a waitress!) As well as reading I love gaming, particularly games that have a strong narrative element, and for a long time my dream was to work in the games industry. People tend to see books and computer games as complete opposites but in fact they’re very complimentary.

What’s you favourite three books?

Aaargh, the unanswerable question! It changes depending what mood I’m in. In terms of seminal books, I remember clearly the first time I read Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I must have been about twelve and it blew my tiny mind! I’ve stayed a Pratchett and Gaiman fan ever since. I also love William Gibson’s writing – he’s most famous for his cyberpunk novels like Neuromancer, but for me Pattern Recognition is his best by a whisker. I tend to gravitate towards sci-fi and fantasy novels but I also find myself coming back to My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell again and again. His descriptions of Corfu are absolutely spellbinding. Honourable mention for the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, which is sort of about the colonisation of Mars but really about EVERYTHING!

What’s your favourite Novella?

I’m not sure if it’s technically a short novel or a novella, but I just really enjoyed After Dark by a Japanese author called Haruki Murakami. It takes place in real time over the course of one night in a town in present-day Japan. Murakami’s writing is really interesting because he mixes up descriptions of very realistic, everyday situations with totally surreal, off-the-wall stuff. I’m not always sure what it means but I love going along for the ride.

Do you prefer traditional books or e-books?

Cop out alert – I like both! With my favourite books, I’ll tend to own both a physical and an electronic copy. I’m into re-reading, although really you can never read the same book twice. It’s true! With a great book, every time I read it again I get some new meaning out of it that wasn’t there before, maybe because I’m reading it at a different time or place. I love books as objects but, particularly when I was travelling a lot for my previous job, e-books were super convenient and they mean you never have to worry about running out of something to read. One thing traditional books will aways win on though – their battery life is amazing J


What’s your day job?

About a year ago I started a digital publishing company called Freed Fiction with my partner making interactive digital novels for children and young adults. The business is still in its early stages so things are very nerve wracking sometimes! I’m lucky that writing is part of my job too. Before that I worked as a PR manager for a big American technology company.

Can you please tell us a bit about your writing Journey?

My mum is BRILLIANT at reading aloud so when I was very little bedtime stories used to absolutely captivate me. That’s probably what got me into books and reading but it took a long time for me to actually start writing my own fiction. ‘In Too Deep’ is the first thing I’ve ever had published and the first story I’ve actually finished! What you might call functional writing has been a big part of all the day jobs I’ve had – press releases, text for web sites, brochures and that kind of thing. Even though that sort of writing is very different from writing a book, I think doing any kind of writing regularly really helps give you confidence to just sit down and do it. My family have been relentless in their encouragement and support. Without them I wouldn’t have got up the nerve to have a go at getting published by Hotkey Unlocked. What’s your favourite and least favourite aspect of writing?
It’s possibly the same thing – I both love and am absolutely tortured by watching someone else read what I’ve written! It’s brilliant when they react as you hoped they would, whether that’s laughing at a funny part or their knuckled tightening with excitement at a cliff-hanger. Of course it’s disappointing when you don’t get the reaction you wanted but you have to take it constructively. My fiancé Bill has the dubious pleasure of being the first person to read my writing and he’s really good at telling me when something’s working and when I need to go back to the drawing board.

How did you get to be published by Hot Key Unlocked?

Unexpectedly! Hotkey Unlocked ran a competition in late 2013 to win the chance to have a Christmas romance novella published. Bill and I are friends with the lovely ladies who run our local bookshop and we came up with the idea that, for a giggle, we should all enter the competition. The plan was to have a Christmas party where we’d read out our entries and then vote for our favourite but I was incredibly surprised to get a message from Hotkey saying they liked my story enough to publish it! The twist was that the competition had produced a couple of outstanding Christmas stories so they asked if I could reset mine around Valentine’s Day, which is exactly what I did.

What was the experience of writing In Too Deep like?

It involved a bit of soul searching, a certain amount of hair-tearing and a lot of cups of tea! The story was originally conceived as a competition entry, for which Hotkey Unlocked had provided a very specific brief. Initially I found it challenging to come up with a story that felt satisfying and fitted the plot outline they wanted. In the end I used rowing, a sport I’m very familiar with, to customise the setting. Rowing isn’t a very sexy sport (all those blisters and freezing early mornings don’t really put you in the mood!) so I knew it would be a challenge to combine realism with romance elements. I also wanted to sneak a pinch of realism into the romance itself – the heroine is suffering from performance anxiety in her sex life as well as her sport!

Finally can you please tell us a little about In Too Deep?

It’s about a student called Daisy who’s struggling through her first single Valentine’s Day since she was old enough to care about boys. If seeing her (sort of) ex-boyfriend all over Facebook snogging anything with boobs and a pulse wasn’t bad enough, she’s so broke she can’t pay her uni fees for next term. Her only hope is to win a rowing scholarship but she isn’t feeling confident.

Getting knocked into the river by an arrogant Blue Boat wannabe feels like the last thing she needs, but things aren’t always what they seem. It just so happens that, as well as being the most annoying man alive, the guy who ran her over is drop dead gorgeous… It’s time for Daisy to take control of her life for a Valentine’s Day she’ll never forget.

When I wrote In Too Deep I was thinking about how people tend to fall into habits of perception – not just how they see other people, but how they see themselves, and how damaging that can be. The events of the story help Daisy to rethink her self-image and realise her own potential. I really hope everyone who reads it will let me know what they think by leaving a review on the Kindle or iBooks store, or by tweeting me @bealongworth.





 So on this cold and wet Valentines Day, why not treat yourself,
 wrap up warm with a cuppa and In Too Deep!


Friday, 24 January 2014

Never Judge a Book by it's Movie? But Trust the Movie to Help Kid's Stretch their Reading Abilities to Read the Book!

I'm really pleased to see the news article this week about the impact of movie adaptations of books on children reading. Using my best finely honed craft, revered usually for one line pitches, I’ll give you the summery; that watching movie adaptations of books, inspires children to read books above their reading age thereby challenging, improving and expanding their reading abilities. To read the full article press here.

I personally welcome the research, as there is always an argument that movies and television are some way in conflict with reading which I stringently disagree with. You see as any of you who have read my blog before will know I’m dyslexic.

My dyslexia was horrendous as a child, and reading was a hard heart breaking and potentially volatile endeavour, and reading despite me LOVING it (and hating it in equal measure) took a great deal of commitment and investment. I read slowly, one word at a time, and usually ended up in an emotional mess because I couldn't read the words, and couldn't look them up in a dictionary either (dictionaries are quite frankly hell for dyslexics!). So reading was a gamble, when I was sacrificing so much time, and investing so much, I was reluctant to read a book if I was unsure that it would pay off. The pay-off, that the story was good enough to make the endurance worthwhile.

Movies, however I watched lots of (still do), and if I really liked a movie then I’d read the book, and even if they were way beyond my reading capabilities, as I knew that there'd be a pay-off. I knew I’d like the story, so the risk factor was removed.

Here’s a few…

When The Whales Came, was an amazing English production starring Dame Helen Mirren, released in 1989, adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s novel. Again, I fell hook line and sinker for the film, and watched it until the VHS tape started getting lines and going all crinkly, and then I watched it more. This inspired me so much I actually spent my heard earned pocket money (a blog for another time) on a copy of the book with the movie tie-in cover; I read this book many times as a consequence of watching the film.



The NeverEnding Story I saw the film which was made in 1984 probably two years later when I was eight, (and was still reading the equivalent of Biff and Chip starter readers) I LOVED the film, and watch it again, again, and again. When I found a copy of Michael Ende’s, original book a few years later (1990 ish), I read it despite the fact that half the print is in green and other in red, and it’s the size of a brick, and that it’s adapted from German so it is a tad trickier to read than something that has not been translated, I struggled through and LOVED it even more than the movie.



My first ever adult book, was as a result of watching the epic ground breaking CGI masterpiece movie adaptation. Cast your mind back twenty years ago, guest it yet? Back before the invention of contemporary YA novels, all my friends were reading Virginia Andrews's Flowers in the Attic or Stephen King, or The Interview with a Vampire series, and I had nothing the right reading age or anything that inspired me enough to consider tackling adult novels. Then at aged fourteen, I went to the tiny cinema and watched Jurassic Park. The effects, the story, everything about it blew me away, so I brought the book and struggled through it, loving every hurdle, and the pay-off was major. This was the book where I realised just HOW MUCH BETTER, book were than there adaptations. I then went through a brief phases of reading every Michael Crichton novel I could. 




The same thing happened with my children most notably with Percy Jackson, which has not only inspired my daughter to read the Rick Riordan’s novels, but also anything and everything that feature Greek mythology, thereby stretching her reading capabilities and improving them. I sometime help out at a fantastic Indy Book shop Mostly Book’s Abingdon, and whenever a movie adaptation is realised there is always a notable increasing in people coming in to buy the books.

So this little blog is essentially just to say that movies and books aren't in direct competition, but in a misunderstood partnership, helping one another to boost kids reading abilities and love of story, or at least that’s my take on it!