Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Alpine Adventure

Last week, I visited the idyllic Alpine town of Obsertsdorf in Germany. On a previous visit, I came home with lots of scribblings for story ideas. This time, not so many written notes but mental notes of the experiences: the food, the local street markets, the friendliness of the people, the spectacular views, plus the unfortunate experience of being rescued from a mountain due to physical exhaustion! Oops - should have read the map more thoroughly. 

A View Outside my Window
The view from my hotel window was lovely and directly opposite was the town's church with a working bell tower! Dreamy - but not during the night when the bells toll every quarter of an hour!

The weather was glorious for a couple of days. I took the cable car up the mountain and then walked along mountain paths, enjoying the scenery. 

Söllereckbahn Obertsdorf

It was hot! Hot! Hot!
I ventured higher on the second day and watched the weather rolling in through the mountain peaks.

Fellhorn, Obertsdorf

Alpine water
The final hiking day ended with me in the back of an ambulance, but the views before that were amazing.

Over the border into Austria

Fast flowing due to the steep gradient

Alpine cows, happily grazing on the mountainside

Enough adventures for me for a while. Now it's back to getting words down and completing projects - before Christmas! 

Have you ever visited the Alps? Does nature inspire you?

Happy writing!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Time and Uncertainty - IWSG September

Today is the first Wednesday of the month:  Insecure Writer's Support Group blog! The IWSG is a safe place for writers to express their fears and insecurities in a supportive environment. Join us at And don't forget to sign up for the IWSG Newsletter - it's filled with great advice written by writers for writers.  

 This month's reflective question: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

Writing is always part of my day, in some form or another. I have notepads and pens placed around the house and in my handbags, and my mobile phone is close at hand, so any ideas that pop into my head are quickly written down or recorded. For actual sitting down at my computer and writing, I plan!! Normally on a Sunday evening or a Saturday when my husband is watching Bayern München play football, I plan my writing week. My best time for actually writing is first thing in the morning before the day starts to interfere with my routine. I retreat to my office space (the spare bedroom), close the door and don't allow anything to disturb me until I've accomplished what I set out to do. Naturally, as with us all, if I hit a stumbling block on a particular day, I either leave that piece and come back to it, go onto something different, or take a break - without beating myself up.

My main insecurity this month has been 'uncertainty'. 

I used to have a top job that gave me financial independence, confidence because I was extremely good at it, self-worth and daily doses of motivation and adrenaline. It did come hand in hand with truck loads of stress and I was working 14 hour days - sometimes including weekends. Three years ago, I decided to leave that job in order to concentrate on my writing, as well as finally having time for my family. But I do miss the financial independance - I thought I would have at least earned some money from my writing by now. My confidence has dipped due to the lack of results - hard work is supposed to pay off but I'm not seeing that just yet and my motivation to continue down this lonely track is dwindling. Do you have these feelings of uncertainty at times? How do you manage them?

Wishing you all a super September! Thanks to our IWSG co-hosts this month: C. Lee McKenzie, Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

10 Things to Consider

As I stepped out into the garden this morning, I immediately noticed an autumnal scent in the air – a clear reminder that summer has been and gone for another year. But I am not sad. There is so much autumn fun coming up: novel edits, new short stories to be written and subbed, NaNoWriMo, meeting old friends and making new ones, and the IWSG fantasy anthology details are due out next week! All good stuff! Life is peachy.

In light of the forthcoming IWSG short story competition, I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for writing a successful short story. Hope you find them useful.
  1. A catchy, no nonsense first couple of sentences, introducing the problem and the main character.  eg. Max hit the ground hard. The bullet whizzed past his ear, scorching his skin. This immediately plunges the reader to the ground with Max and the intrigue begins. What’s happening? Who’s shooting at him? Why?
  2. Ensure your protagonist is likeable – the reader should be rooting for him/her throughout the story.
  3. Don’t fall into the trap of too much telling. Lift the story and keep its dynamic by showing the reader what’s going on, how people are feeling. Too much telling slows the pace and can lose the readers’ interest.
  4. Use effective dialogue. Let the reader hear your characters, after all it’s their story. And try to show how things are said rather than tell the reader. ie. “Get out,” yelled Max angrily could become Max’s jaw tightened and his nostrils flared. “Get out!”
  5. Maintain suspense – throw in an obstacle, complication and/or a crisis that the protagonist needs to overcome in order to resolve the initial problem.
  6. Don’t be predictable. The reader may feel cheated if something is too obvious or if they guess the outcome too early in the story. Naturally the outcome is generally in favour of the protagonist but he/she must work for it and not be handed the solution on a golden platter or an intervention from a genie or magical being (unless you are writing for Walt Disney, then go for it! That would be a cool job…'When I wish upon a Star…’). Now, where was I…?
  7. Choose a catchy title that will give the reader no choice but to delve right in and read the story. I usually leave my title to the end but I do know writers who can’t write without a title. Whatever works best for you.
  8. Use a variety of sentence lengths. This is a great way to control the pace of a story if done effectively. A one word sentence can have a tremendous impact as can a lengthy sentence with two or more commas to ensure the reader doesn’t pass out whilst engrossed.
  9. Edit the story well. Find and eliminate all unnecessary words. Tighten up the sentences. Check for spelling errors and typos. Read it out loud. Record it and listen to it. Get someone else to read it. Chrys Fey has an excellent ‘Ultimate Editing’ list – check it out. Thanks Chrys!
  10. Most importantly, the writer should enjoy writing the story. Feel excited during the writing process. The words (at least in the first draft) should flow easily. If you are searching for words or struggling over a sentence then leave it and come back to it when you are more relaxed. I learned this the hard way and continue to learn. Readers pick up on a writer’s stress. If the writer isn’t feeling it, then the reader won’t either. For example, I wrote a story that I worked really hard on. The story needed to be told but I focused too heavily on vocabulary and perfectionism rather than telling the story through my characters eyes. This is what my trusted Beta reader commented: I would love you to rewrite this, really from your heart. I need to feel the anger, the uncertainty, the smell and the fear. I don't. It comes across in a removed, over descriptive mode which can feel forced and artificial due to the number of adjectives used. I think what I am saying is it is not raw enough. You are trying too hard which can at times make it too contrived. Naturally I was disappointed but she was so right -  an invaluable learning curve.
Are you entering the IWSG anthology competition? Do you have any tips to share about writing short stories? Are you looking forward to the Autumn season?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

5 Star Guest Post - Mark Noce

Release Date: August 23, 2016
I am thrilled to welcome author of Between Two Fires, Mark Noce, to my blog.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Mark on writing a superb novel that takes the reader into the world of Branwen, daughter of King Vortigen, ruler of the Kingdom of Dyfed, Wales.

The story grabbed my attention from the first page to the very last word. Mark intricately weaves in historical fact, placing the reader directly in the midst of medieval Wales, without detracting from the exquisite story, filled with emotion: war, personal vendettas, love, jealousy, hope, belief,  and the journey of Branwen – from childhood to womanhood.

The characterization is excellent, the plot is sound and due to twists and turns in the story, all of which were unpredictable, I could not stop reading. The story is captivating and powerful  and Mark’s writing style is one of an expert story-teller. I can't tell you how much I wanted to love this book. I don't usually read historical fiction due to the overabundance of historical fact that a reader usually has to plough through. But Mark Noce has created the perfect balance which has renewed my faith in this genre and I can't wait to read more of his work.

I cannot praise this novel enough and highly recommend it. Thank you, Mark! 

Synopsis of Between Two Fires

Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.

But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.


Mark Noce writes historical fiction with a passion, and eagerly reads everything from fantasy to literature. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. In addition to writing novels, he also writes short fiction online. When not reading or writing, he’s probably listening to U2, sailing his dad’s boat, or gardening with his family.

His debut novel, Between Two Fires, is being published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan). It is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales.

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Others also loved Between Two Fires

“A spirited ride through a turbulent slice of Welsh history!” – Paula Brackston, NYT Bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter

“A fast-paced read that has a wonderfully visual style and some memorable characters. Mark Noce combines Welsh history with a touch of folkloric magic in this promising debut novel. Lady Branwen is a strong and engaging narrator and the turbulent setting of early medieval Wales makes a fine backdrop for an action-packed story.” – Juliet Marillier, Bestselling author of Daughter of the Forest and Wolfskin