Unsympathetic characterization?

Homed_book_cover_v2
WHO IS GUILTY: THE CHILD OR ONE OF THE ADULTS?

Settling in at ‘home’ again? Is a crime imminent, or has one already happened?

In HOMED, the second in my Crime Shorts series, a boy is being ‘helped’ to settle in a civilised manner.

One of the issues I had in mind when I wrote this was the Australian disgust when they built standard homes for aborigines and then found that understanding and use of sanitation and housekeeping did not come automatically with the facilities provided.

We have to be inside the head of our characters when writing fiction. Even more so, perhaps, by ‘the helping professions.’

There are crimes motivated by negative emotions: jealousy, anger, need to control/overpower. There are also crimes perpetrated by ignorance. The crimes we may feel most are those that penetrate our individuality. Blind kindness, adherence to established process, bureaucracy – these can lead to damage also.

Read this story and decide where the crime lies.

Homed. (Crime Shorts Book 2)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/B00VAVQ1DS

REVIEWS: Oyster A boy with potential

Recent reviews

oyster_tiniest

A Brilliant Short Story
By Sheila M. Belshaw (South Africa)

An incredibly insightful look at the machinations of a boy so intellectually damaged that he cannot fit into normal society. Only a writer with a deep knowledge of the human psyche could carry off something as profoundly moving as this story is. The voice is amazingly real and I found myself following his twisted thoughts and seeing exactly where he was coming from, and at the same time feeling dreadfully sorry for him.
On top of all that, the story is beautifully written, so that nowhere does it not flow as though from the pen of a superb writer.

 

And from Austria, By C.R.Putsche

Oyster. A boy with potential By Rosalind Minett

This is an outstanding short story that I managed to devour in just one sitting. Rarely does an author so courageously expose truths, realities and day-to-day struggles of a boy who finds it difficult to fit in to society.

Jake tells us his disturbing story from a first person narrative which gives the reader a real insight in to his tangled thoughts and feelings that you can somehow sympathise with him and understand his unbalanced mind, while nervously anticipating what he will do next. Jake has quite the back story, as he comes from a dysfunctional family who put his safety, health and wellbeing at risk which results in him being moved from one adoptive family to another before he ends up in the Home and yet another Home before he commits his greatest atrocity in his short life so far.

Make no mistake this book is a real frightener, albeit a book of fiction and a major credit to Rosalind Minett who knows her stuff when it comes to the workings of an unbalanced mind besides having a literal talent to depicts things of an unnatural nature.

These are two of the 5* reviews on Amazon.

The review is also on this review site, as shown below this post.

http://walkerputsche.wordpress.com

Catherine Rose Putsche Book Blog

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OQTA1FK/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

Oyster
A boy with potential
By Rosalind Minett
This is an outstanding short story that I managed to devour in just one sitting. Rarely does an author so courageously expose truths, realities and day-to-day struggles of a boy who finds it difficult to fit in to society.
Jake tells us his disturbing story from a first person narrative which gives the reader a real insight in to his tangled thoughts and feelings that you can somehow sympathise with him and understand his unbalanced mind, while nervously anticipating what he will do next. Jake has quite the back story, as he comes from a dysfunctional family who put his safety, health and wellbeing at risk which results in him being moved from one adoptive family to another before he ends up in the Home and yet another Home before he commits his greatest atrocity in his short life so far.

View original post 59 more words

Literary competitions

jumps

Short Story competitions

COULD YOU BE A WINNER?

I think winning stories have to capture the heart as well as the attention of the judges. I’ve rarely read a winning story without feeling I know why it was chosen. Usually the setting is striking, the structure is very satisfying, the ending unexpected and the main character convincing. I’m saying nothing out of the ordinary, I know, but it’s as well to have these features of winning stories in the back of your mind as you start to write yours. Some writers give up competitions at the first or second failure to get on the shortlist.

However, some rehash their stories or even leave them as they are and keep submitting them to different competitions, on the basis that ‘liking’ a story and finding it surpasses other good entries is very subjective.  

I reviewed one winner, Anne Corlett, on a previous post (See Review: H.E.Bates winner)  Her story is well worth reading for that structure, setting, believable character (s), and unexpected ending, a thoroughly satisfying read. 

It is not always previous competition winners or successful journalists turning to fiction who win. There have been some notable first timers who have run the contestants out of the ground. The main thing is to have a go. The writing towards winning is good practice, and you can regard it as just that. Robert the Bruce would have been entering every competition until chosen, egged on by his spider. So, try, try, try again if you haven’t been successful so far.

These competitions have April deadlines.

APRIL

11 April — Litro magazine Theme: Augmented Reality Max. length: 3,000 words
26 April — Felixstowe Book Festival Short Story Competition Theme of Conflict 
30 April — 13th International Short Story Conference Story Contest fee: €10 (theme: The Braids of Identity) 
30 April — The Bristol prize   any subject. Max. length 4,000 words
30 April — E.M. Koeppel Short Fiction Contest 
30 April – Fiction Uncovered 2014 
30 April — Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 
The more entrants, the more money to finance the next competition. Let me know if you are one of the short-listed or even better.

Affordable writers’ services

Kulikov_Writer_E.N.Chirikov_1904

I take reviewing seriously. A few months ago, a writer seeking my independent review will have been disappointed. I read it and commented, but didn’t publish any review.

My policy: if my rating would be 3 stars or less (Goodreads, Amazon) I don’t publish. I send the review privately to the author. I’ve never seen the value of a highly negative review. It’s not as if the general public are rushing out impulsively to buy a novel from which they must be protected. The prize for the best hatchet job leaves me cold, in the same way that putting an obese person naked in a crowd of jeerers would.

The point here is that the fore-mentioned author had not used an editor.  The novel was full of factual inaccuracies about the main dilemma, which made the plot unworkable. The first chapter alone would have caused any editor worth his/her salt to advise the author not to go further until the necessary research had been carried out. Furthermore, the minor character in Chapter 2 had a different personality when he sneaked in again in Chapter 11. Finally, there were two chapters in the middle that were not relevant, let alone essential, to the plot. They needed cutting. The writing itself was fine, so was the original story concept. Shame. I hope that writer took the advice.

edited

RULE: Never submit any novel until it has been edited.      

I always read and re-read and constantly correct my own work, yet a proof-reader will find several things per chapter that I need to tweak. It might be a lettr missed out, or a, comma misplaced or even word missed out.  Once spotted I can’t imagine how these errors escaped me.

RULE:   Always use a proof reader, even for a short story.

Book_Worms_by_Wallwatcher_opt.png

When you decide to publish, you’ll need to convert your book into e-pub and e-mobi formats. This is not an impossible task, thanks to Calibre but it is time-consuming and fraught with potential error-making. You can land up with ?eft? #blb instead of the word you wrote. The headaches this formatting task may cause you, even if you overcome your fear and time problems, can be eradicated by using a conversion service.

RULE:  Even if your printed book is absolutely perfect, every page needs checking again in its e-versions.

Such services can stretch the writer’s budget unbearably but they are vital services. Without access to a known editor or proof-reader, it is safest to go to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Directory of Editorial Services who will charge about £21-28 per hour according to the extent of textual work required (e.g. proof-reading alone would be at the lower end of this).

Of course, there are many tempting offers online but it’s a risk to take one up without knowledge of their quality. The dangers  have been outlined on other blogs I’m sure, so I won’t use space detailing these. What I can do is point readers to affordable and reputable writer/reviewers/editors. The following  people are all authors themselves and who offer proof-reading and editing. They charge about £4 per 1000 words for proof-reading, £5 per 1000 words for editing. A full structural edit is a long job so a 100,00 word novel will run you into the hundreds.

All the following people have different styles and strengths.

Firstly, there is multi-tasker Morgen Bailey, whose richly informative blog I have already mentioned in my post Towards a Superblog.  I can vouch for her outstanding speed and attentiveness and for the reasonable prices she charges for her editing and proof-reading.  She can rapidly spot where a story is going wrong as well as punctuation or continuity mistakes. Her work is worth every penny.  She will also offer a critique – a very helpful service for a writer wondering whether their piece is worth pursuing.morgenbailey

Morgen also constructs websites – a nightmare for many writers. See the one she did for the journalist and novelist Jane Wenham Jones whose articles you’ve probably read in Writing Magazine and elsewhere.

Secondly, there is novelist Karen Perkins (Thores Cross; The Valkyrie Series, etc). Go to her for inexpensive help for converting files to the required format for publishing as paper-back or e-book. Not only does she offer editing, conversion and other services but she has just published two really useful books: one on editing, one on formatting. If you want to be self-sufficient, these books certainly fill a very important gap in the market. I will be reviewing these books in the near future.

Karen Perkinsformatting guideEDITING guide UK - small

Thirdly, there is Lucy Middlemass, YA author, with two books winners on the writers’ site Authonomy. Watch out for her lively character,  Jinger Barley, when her books are published.  She is a very good reviewer across genres. Her reviews are extremely thorough, helpful and fair, even when it’s clear she has not had a high opinion of a book. She manages a review thread for YA fiction where she encourages the same positive approach. Lucy similarly offers a thorough editing and critique of novels. It is clear that she has not only read thoroughly and made her line-by-line edit, but has thought out the writer’s intentions and can advise his best route forwards.  LucyMiddlemass

Finally,  Tony Foster offers full structural edits. Tony has a B.A. (1st class honours) in Creative Writing. He begins his Ph.D focusing on Writing Theory and Cognitive Poetics later this year. He writes across disciplines, including radio plays, screenplays and prose fiction. Tony’s edit includes a detailed critique and chapter-by-chapter analysis. He charges £10 per 1000 words, negotiable above 50,000 words, which also includes proof read, line edit and manuscript layout to publishing standard. He can be contacted here: blightersrock@gmail.com

DON’T FORGET:  You will need reviews for your book once it is fledged.

RULE: Never pay for one.

Not every reviewer writes to a high standard but you can look at their other reviews to estimate their quality. You can look at Amazon’s top 100 reviewers and hope to get a review. You can ask friends and family BUT have reviews that sing out what you have done.  The best reviews are those from readers who’ve read your book and constructed their own, independent opinion of it.

I may write a subsequent post detailing online reviews that have impressed me.

Writers’ and Readers’ Last Minute Xmas Sav(i)ours

Yes it’s that time again. Mary couldn’t get a cloth to match the curtains and Reginald’s special chair ruins the symmetry of the display. Now, Harold’s coming, totally unplanned-for, there’ll have to be a rattan chair from the conservatory squeezed onto a corner between – ? – whoever looks thinnest on arrival. PRESENTS!!! Thank goodness for the last minute saviours discussed hereSONY DSC

There are characters sorry, personable individuals whom you know, and what’s more have to suddenly buy for. (Yes, we’re all busy, can’t remember everyone) OR (ouch, didn’t know he’d be there for lunch so didn’t buy him anything. He’s bound to embarrass me by bringing something lovely)  It all adds up to: “Must get something for Betty or Betram, but what???”

Let me help. Books can come in different sizes, shapes and surprises.

Ignore that set of highly reviewed and popularised paperbacks on the front tables of your local large bookstore.  Other people will have had the same thought – “Ah, the latest X or Y” (I daren’t specify or my life won’t be worth living).  Be original.  You can’t? You have gone blank with Christmasistis? Here are some books that will please more than one of the following people. If so, their pleasure may warm your attitude towards them. Christmas is the time of Goodwill to All Men. I’m sure this was meant to include women. The books do.

Working out which book for which person is a small problem; all the rest is done for you.

CHRISTMAS GUESTS INCLUDE:
Lorraine: She has frequent periods of depression following failed relationships. In her downs she retires to bed and reads avidly. Take those romances away, they only make her cry. She needs mental stimulation and a new way of thinking. If she can’t cope, there’s flash fiction. That means she can be diverted between pages.

Cyril:     Once he represented HM as consul in a distant island. Life was slow, uncultured and extremely comfortable. Now returned, he is at a loose end, swings between part-time and futile consultancies and no longer feels sufficiently important. He needs a book that will give him instant gravitas.

Avril:     Sharper than we would like her to be, she appears to have read EVERYTHING, mostly with a cynical eye. She needs to be charmed, to be softened up, to learn that books exist outside her realm.

Dominic:   He is a dandy, valuing appearance far too much. Apart from a mirror, he needs to think big, and particularly to think. Go carefully, too taxing a book will prevent him from opening the cover. 

StJohn:          Actually he is a late middle-aged reviewer on DareISayIt newspaper. He thinks he has his eye on everything literary. Most people buy him rare brandy or titbits from Fortnum and Mason’s. Surprise him and he will admire you for ever. But it better be good.

Tom:            He gains enormous pleasure from reading books that have faults. It will fill the room with his tenor bleats if you can find a badly edited book with an erudite author. Unfortunately, I dare not nominate one or every word I write in the future will have spit on it. The other alternative is a book that deliberately compiles mistakes but this is a poor substitute.

Adrienne:    She reads romances hidden between the pages of Margaret Atwell novels and now she has run out of this fodder.  I have just the book for her. An unequal relationship, breached ethics. Let her brood on the outcomes of forbidden lust. OR accept the unlocking of certain females.

Siobhan:      She’s everyone’s cousin, newly arrived from time overseas and totally, but totally out of touch, darlings.  Give her a break. Let her eat cake. There’s plenty in one book here.

Mary:            Always the hostess, never the guest. Give her something so gripping she won’t bother ever making a hot toddy for anyone again, let alone a cooked meal, particularly gourmet. 

Derek:          Was he invited???? I can’t bear him. Can you? No, no-one can, the pontificating has-been. Anywhere, here he is bearing orchids reduced price from B and Q masquerading as high class florist’s choice for “lovely ladies”.  Uck.  Give him something that will make him see women differently. OR a huge book that will cause him to retire to the study almost permanently.

It was a ‘no-kids’ invite, thank goodness. Kids books might emerge on another post. But only if amazingly different.

Have fun with the party games, everyone. Here is one of them is ‘fit the book to the beast.’

PREZZIE CHOICE: SEE DESCRIPTIONS IN THE FOLLOWING POST. Author names include: Kerr, Schott, Merceron, Minett, Deng, Hollis, but there are more . . .

Stories: from germ to germination.

ME-TIME TALES:

TEA BREAKS FOR MATURE WOMEN AND CURIOUS MEN

Me-Time Cover_LR

became available as a paperback today. It is listed on Amazon but can be ordered direct here .  ——-> BUY BOOK  http://bit.ly/1hAomdS

I’m going to be interviewed on a publisher’s blog soon. For the advance information I was asked how I researched for this book.

Me-Time Tales is a collection of ironic short stories with a dark edge. Each one has a character self-absorbed in some way. I didn’t research them, I met them, listened and later someone like them popped into my head as I wrote.  The book isn’t one of my novels where I had to check facts as, for instance, for ‘A Relative Invasion’, which is set in the forties. For that, I had to spend a long time reading old newspapers, looking at WW2 archives, government and military information, domestic and blitz accounts and visit The Imperial War Museum.  The actual war references are minimal, but it’s still important to get them right.

In Me-Time Tales, each story had a very different starting point. The only research I did was to observe and record. There’s nowt so funny as fowk. I believe that’s a Yorkshire saying? (I should rush and research that). Observations: a woman moaning about her boyfriend’s lackadaisical responses; another fussing about her health; a further complaining about the eating habits of her (now nervous and inhibited) child. At some point, I sat down and wrote, not necessarily with those people in mind but perhaps a sentence they’d uttered, or a sentence I was writing made me summon up a character similar to them. I don’t know why I wrote any of the stories on any of the occasions, except that I had fun.

Of course, it’s not enough to create a character. They must have a voice and something in their life must have meaning or impact upon the reader. As Robert McKee says in ‘Story’ “…the life story of each and every character offers encyclopaedic opportunities.”

I wanted one younger woman to struggle with a moral dilemma and I didn’t want her to be any kind of weak pushover. I invented her from scratch.  An author’s characters live and breathe as result of his/her interactions with the world over the past – however many years lived. I really don’t know where all my characters, their sayings, peculiarites and weaknesses come from except that they are present in everyday life somewhere, and I’ve come across them some time even if I don’t remember that now. It all goes into the unconscious into a morass of mini experiences and observations.

I wrote the Me-Time Tales at different times in different places. It was only four years ago that, scanning through my documents I saw that I had several short stories I could group together. I had one hundred copies of the collection printed to trial them. If there had been no interest, that would have been that. But they were well received.

Last summer, I tweaked, rewrote, proof-read the stories before they hit the print rollers. A few (I won’t say which) I wrote especially to make the collection up to a reasonable size. Then I used an editor, tweaked and proof-read again. That doesn’t sound like a fun time. It wasn’t. However, I found fun. I was advised to start a blog. I decided to let Me-Time be the owner and to let the characters do the talking. They took over and were often quite hard on me.  The blog is truly a dialectic, a characters’ dialectic. If you haven’t visited it, it represents the second face of my ‘characterfulwriter’ logo. You will find the fun blog at http://fictionalcharacerswriting.blogspot.com. I found an image for each character to summon up either their personality or their story.  Here are two of them:

Tattoo
JESS: you rate my tattoo?  What I rate is trending on Twitter.
fishlot_opt
DARYL: Who will change old lamps for new?

Doing the Me-time blog has made me smile. My characters have been bitchy, challenging and feisty. Strangely, they have attracted visitors from everywhere except Latin America and Japan.

I should run a poll, perhaps, to see if my 3,500 visitors want the blog to continue now that the book is published. On this more serious site, I will write more about the progress of publishing this set of short stories if you comment by scrolling right down to the bottom.