Thursday, 30 April 2015

Introducing author Stephanie Cage

I first met Stephanie in 2011 at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference in Caerleon, Wales.  Stephanie's route to becoming a published author was slightly different to mine in that she studied for an MA in Creative Writing.  Stephanie has very kindly agreed to share her thoughts on benefits of studying creative writing.

I was lucky enough to study for my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.  Bath is a beautiful place, and the Newton Park campus, where the Creative Writing course is taught, is the perfect inspirational setting.  The library was in an old stately home, and we even had some of our seminars in a castle.  

The three most valuable aspects of the course for me were:

1) Learning to read as a writer helped me to deconstruct stories to understand the authors’ choices and then apply those skills to my own works in progress. 

2) Learning to give and receive detailed feedback prepared me for working with editors.

3) Information and advice from industry professionals (authors, publishers, editors and agents) gave me confidence when approaching publishers. 

So, would I recommend an MA in Creative Writing?  If you have the time and money, absolutely.  However, it’s not practical for everyone, and there are many other ways to gain similar benefits. 

The Open University has some excellent distance learning courses if you’re not in a position to travel or to study full-time.  The Arvon Foundation’s week-long residentials are perfect if you prefer to dedicate a short time to working intensively on your writing. If you can, it’s worth seeking out a good writers’ group in your area or a well-established critique group online. 

Industry associations are also hugely helpful to genre writers (such as romance, sci-fi or crime) in keeping up to date with changes in the market.  I’ve gained at least as much from my membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association over the years as I did from the one year of my MA. 

If you can do nothing else, you can always read a good how-to book, but make sure you spend some time consciously putting what you’ve learned into practice.  Whether you’re learning as part of an MA or through independent study, the most important things are to keep writing, and to reflect on what you’ve written and look for ways to make it even stronger. 

Stephanie currently has three books in print, all of which are available from Amazon.  


Monday, 20 April 2015

Please welcome voiceover artist, Ruth Urquhart...

The audiobook version of The House on the Shore is now available.  Narrated and produced by the very talented Ruth Urquhart.

Ruth very kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Did you make the conscious decision to become a voiceover artist or did you have another career path in mind as a teenager?

I have been an actor for over 20 years, mainly in theatre, and that was always my vocation. Voice acting is, I suppose a natural extension of that and it was something that I just kept meant 'to get round to' but it took me until about 2013 to start assembling a studio and preparing showreels. Now I think all actors should do it as there is so much audio work out there!

Audiobook production is time consuming and I believe it requires a great deal of patience and skill. Did you undertake any specific training?
No. I went to East 15 Acting School many moons ago to train as an actor but l haven't had any specific training for audiobooks. My first audiobook was in January 2014 and a very steep learning curve. I think as I have gone on (I have just completed my eleventh audiobook), the process has become very much easier.

Do you have your own studio?

Yes. It started out as some duvets on microphone stands with borrowed stuff and I gradually built it up into a proper sound booth with high spec equipment.

Do you schedule a specific time each day to record?

This usually works around the little people in my household. (That's my children, not the fairies!). I usually try and get one chapter done in the afternoon and one or two (dependent on length) done in the evening after they've gone to bed.

Can you give my readers and listeners a brief idea of what is entailed in making the perfect audiobook recording?

First reading the book all the way through before any recording is imperative. Then researching any accents and pronunciations and making character notes is also very important. Characters are what I enjoy doing most and so I must also be careful to make sure that the narrative stays alive and doesn't play second fiddle to the dialogue. Pacing is also important: too fast and the listener can't make it out and too slow just doesn't do the book or the storytelling justice. In fact, as audiobooks are usually paid per finished hour I have occasionally heard of some unscrupulous narrators going deathly slow in order to increase their pay packet! Fortunately most narrators care more about co-creating something good.

The other part of creating a perfect audiobook is making sure the quality of the recording is high. No crackly distortion or dogs barking! And they must be mixed and EQued well in post-production. Patience throughout the whole procedure is key as one hour of recorded audio can take 3-5 hours to process.

When reading for an audiobook how do you achieve the author and character’s voice?
As a keen reader I think you can always get a sense of the author's voice if a book is written well. I am always happy when I have to do many varied characters in an audiobook. It is much more challenging when the characters are not so well drawn on the page or if you have several men of a similar age all hailing from the same place! Then you have to decide what personal characteristics will differentiate the way their voices sound. I take notes and do little recordings of each character voice separately so I can refer to them if I forget how I originally did it. (Easy to forget if a character shows up only in Chapter One and Chapter Twenty!)

How do you feel when you hear your own voice on a recording?

I think initially it takes some getting used to but I don't mind it. I have listened back to some of my audiobooks but mainly so I can learn from it: whilst I am listening I am always analysing it to see what I could have done better.

You’ve recorded books for a variety of publishers, is there any one book or genre that stands out? Do you have a favourite?

Of course I enjoyed 'The House on the Shore'! The characters were really well drawn and it was a relief to do a book where the author really did know and understand the Highlands of Scotland as opposed to some vague idea of what they are like. I have done mainly romantic fiction but also a science fiction title and a book about a Somalian refugee that comes to Glasgow called 'This is Where I Am' by Karen Campbell which I loved...although it was my first audiobook so it was a little stressful!

Do you have a regular fan base?

Erm…Not that I know of. Unless you count my children and my dog? :-)

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

Everything that is well written and draws me in. From thrillers to love stories. I absolutely love that feeling of being lost in a story and also the excitement of getting back to it when you can't read it all in one go...and that mixed feeling of satisfaction and sadness you get when you finish it!

Thank you, Ruth for taking time out of your busy recording schedule. I must also give a shout out to your talented husband Bruce Reid, who wrote the introductory music for the recording of The House on the Shore.

You can learn more about Ruth by clicking on the links below:



Friday, 10 April 2015

Introducing Maggie Reid...

I'm delighted to welcome Scottish author Maggie Reid onto my blog.  Maggie writes for both children and adults and is both traditionally and self-published.  Her latest novel, Serpent Girl Skye has just been released.   Over to you, Maggie.


It is unbelievable to think that I now have my fourth novel Serpent girl Skye, published by Createspace. It is probably the most emotional novel I have written, and follows the journey of a woman who has an affair with a man only to discover he is seeing an older woman... who appears to have the ability to control his thoughts and actions . The reality is quite different, and the story reveals intense emotional abuse.

The character of Skye is a complex and at the beginning of the story she appears to want to drown herself with despair. She is saved by her own resilience and will to survive against adversity.

Writing an emotional story can be challenging, but I trained as an actor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, so my style at times can be described as filmic. I like strong female characters as I believe passionately that we need that in literature. I would like to have one of my novels adapted to screen or indeed for theatre.

I write for children also and my novel The Quiet Life of Marta G Ziegler, was nominated for The Peoples Book Prize 2014. This was a great honour for me, as Marta Ziegler is a profoundly deaf character who has big ambitions to travel the world. I loved writing a character that created an exciting visual world with her imagination.

Fearless frangipan Circus Pie follows a sixteen year old, Emile De Bosco who meets a romany gypsy boy and runs away with a circus family to escape her mundane life in the small irish village of Claudie's Bay.

All Maggie's novels can be found on Amazon: The Quiet Life of Marta G Ziegler,
Fearless Frangipan Circus Pie, Michaelmas Angel, and her latest novel Serpent Girl Skye, can be found on Createspace.

You can contact Maggie via her Facebook page or Twitter

Friday, 3 April 2015

Author Spotlight: Uvi Poznansky

Today, I am pleased to welcome multi-published author Uvi Poznansky to my blog.  Uvi is the author of Apart from Love, The David Chronicles and other books.  Uvi very kindly agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to share with us some thoughts on creating characters for a novel.

Over to you Uvi...

Characters that Linger 

During the year of writing my novel, Apart From Love, I discovered several ways of advancing the story. It originated from a short story about a twelve years old boy coming face to face, for the first time in his life, with the sad spectacle of death in the family. 

I set it aside, thinking I was done with it. But this character, Ben, came back to me and started chatting, chatting, chatting incessantly in my head. So I asked myself, what if I ‘aged’ him by fifteen years? Where would he be then? Would he still admire his father as a heroor will he be disillusioned at that point? What secrets would come to light in the life of this family? How would it feel for Ben to come back to his childhood home, and have his memories play tricks on him? What if I introduce a girl, Anita, a redhead who looks as beautiful as his mother used to bebut is extremely different from her in all other respects? And what if this girl were married to his father? What if the father were an author, attempting to capture the thoughts, the voices of Ben and Anita, in order to write his book? 

Just asking these questions had an immediate affect on Ben: as if a page has turned, he grew up into his new age—but then, somehow, he forgot to mature... So the process of writing became, for me, simply listening to him, and to Anita, and trying, as fast as I could, to capture their thoughts. They chatted with such intensity! I wish I could record everything they said. After a full day of writing nonstop, just before my eyes closed, I would hear Ben whisper something in my ear, and promise myself I would put it on paper next morningonly to find the phrase gone by the time I woke up.

So, to slow down the chatter I would throw some obstacle in my characters’ way, and let them ponder how to find their way around it. This, I found, was such a fun method of developing the story, and it allowed the plot to twist and turn in unexpected ways. One of these obstacles was the unravelling of a family secret. 

Upon coming back to his childhood home he discovers that his mother, Natasha, the renowned pianist, is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. He undergoes a complete transition from denial to utter shock as her condition deteriorates. 

There is no way to tell if she has heard me. Her gaze is fixed, as steadily as before, on the same small pane of glass, through which the sun is blazing; which makes it hard to figure out what she sees out there. 
I push forward, aiming to view it, somehow, from her angle, which at first, is too hard to imagine: 
In my mind I try, I see a map, the entire map of her travels around the world. A whole history. It has been folded over and again, collapsed like a thin tissue, into a square; which is suspended there—right in front of her—a tiny, obscure dot on that window. 
And inside that dot, the path of her journey crisscrosses itself in intricate patterns, stacked in so many papery layers. And the names of the places, in which she performed back then, in the past—London, Paris, Jerusalem, San Petersburg, New York, Tokyo—have become scrambled, illegible even, because by now, she can no longer look past that thing, that dot. She cannot see out of herself. 

Her character was not an easy one to develop. The primary problem is that she has no voice. She is utterly silent, which makes her son hopeat firstthat she can be reached, that he can 'save' her. 

And now, just as the novel has sprung out of a short story, a series is about to spring out of the novel. In my mind, a series comes to life only what the characters linger, when they have a voice that demands listening. Such was the case when I wrote The David Chronicles. I found it amazing to be in the skin of the character from youth to old age.

So now, intrigued by family secrets that must be explored before the path to healing can be found, and by the mystery of the mind at the point of losing control over it, I will go on interposing these ideas, this time giving voice to the mother, Natasha. Known for passing memorization techniques to her students, how does a former pianist cope with the devastation of Alzheimer’s?

Once I find my way back, my confusion will dissipate, somehow. I  will sit down in front of my instrument, raise my hand, and let it hover, touching-not-touching the black and white keys. In turn they will start their dance, rising and sinking under my fingers. Music will come back, as it always does, flowing through my flesh, making my skin tingle. It will reverberate not only through my body but also through the air, glancing off every surface, making walls vanish, allowing my mind to soar.
Then I will stop asking myself, “Where am I,” because the answer will present itself at once. This is home. This, my bench. The dent in its leather cushion has my shape. Here I am, at times turbulent, at times serene. I am ready to play. I am music.
But until then I am frightened, frightened to the point of panic. Even in my daze I sense the eyes of strangers. Their glances follow me down the street. Stumbling aimlessly from one place to another in the darkening city, turning around this street corner and that, I am amazed to realize that every building looks like an exact replica of the previous one. It baffles me, but I tell myself, with an increasingly shaky tone, that I am not lost. I cannot allow myself to think that I am. I will find my way, right after taking a deep breath to regain my calm. Then I will try to separate familiar lines out of this urban chaos. 

Uvi Poznansky is a California-based author, poet and artist. “I paint with my pen,” she says, “and write with my paintbrush.” She received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan. Uvi writes across a variety of genres: Apart From Love (literary fiction), The David Chronicles (historical fiction), Rise to Power (historical fiction), A Peek at Bathsheba (historical romance), The Edge of Revolt ((historical fiction), A Favorite Son (biblical fiction), Home (poetry), Twisted (dark fantasy) Now I Am Paper (children’s book) and Jess and Wiggle (children’s book.)

Author Links:

Buy links for Apart From Love:
EbookKindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Smashwords
PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes  Amazon  Audible

Buy links for Home:
FREE Ebook: Kindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Smashwords 
Audiobook: Amazon  Audible 
Paperback: Amazon  Barnes&Noble

Buy links for The David Chronicles:
EbookKindle  Apple  Nook  Kobo  Smashwords

Buy links for Rise to Power:
$0.99 EbookKindle  Nook  Apple ★ Kobo ★ Smashwords
PaperbackAmazon ★ Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes ★ Amazon  Audible