Thursday, April 24

Take Your Child To Work Day- Guest Post

Yes, it's Take Your Child To Work Day, a day when your offspring gets to see first-hand just what it is that you have to put on special clothes and rush out the door for, almost every day of every week. For us writers, it's easier. The special clothes can and do include pyjamas. There's no rushing anywhere, except to a computer close by. But I thought I'd take the plunge and ask my fifteen-year-old daughter to guest post on my Blog. I waited excitedly to see if I'd get a post on Inspirational Mothers. My Mummy, The Author? Proud of You, Mama? Heck, I'd have even settled for Your Pyjamas Are Only A Bit Embarrassing. But no. I get one on Procrastination. You know, we might make a writer of her yet...

Guest Blogger, Angela Channell

There’s a time for all of us when we must, not by choice, but by sheer enforcement, face the formidable, omnipresent figure of responsibility. Of being an adult. Of pulling yourself together. For me, and millions of others that have or eventually will have to face it, it dawns in the form of the exam. For my situation, it’s the abyss of the boldly capitalized GCSE (exams currently taken in the UK, usually between the ages of 15-16) that I am currently staring into. But what this process is teaching me, now that the first exam of the season is a mere matter of less than a month away, is the human approach to the act, and similar acts, of revision.
You may here this talk of exams now and cry, “This is not for me! Why I am years past the minor challenge of exams, I have the wisdom of the world. I merely dismiss you with a ‘ho-hah’ at your adolescent angst”. But before you get ahead of yourself, you need to make sure that you are certainly, well and truly above all of this. You are telling me that there isn’t something else you should be doing right now? No looming task? No ever-approaching deadline, that sits, shouting a countdown clock into a bullhorn at the top of your subconscious mind? Okay. Just take a pause for a second, but I’m sure you won’t need it. Because, ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to introduce to you is the most spectacular, beautiful, human state of, that’s right:

1.    the action of delaying or postponing something.

I’m going to talk you very gently through the stages. You may find this traumatic to relive, reader discretion advised.

STAGE ONE: The Willing
Now this is the stage where most of you will fall – you don’t have to blame yourself, it’s your genetics. The mere thought of it usually seeps into your brain whilst doing something your logical self, let’s call him Mr Logic, a close associate of Mr Conscience, deems unproductive. It could be the shimmering oasis of television, the most deadly form being box sets, even, dare I say it – Netflix. “Just one…more…episode-“
“NO!” Mr Logic cries, shaking you from the blanket of litter and semi-clean clothes you lie beneath, “You don’t even like this TV show anymore. You’re barely even- wait, I hope that’s not-“. And once again Mr Logic has lost you into the treacherous labyrinth of apps. You run into Facebook, Twitter and – oh dear god – Tumblr. You stumble through Candy Crush, Temple Run and right into the arms of the Flappy Bird, and the endless, pointless variations you downloaded with it.
You sit in the dark, boundlessly tapping but- what’s that- a chink of glorious light breaking through the endless, gloomy stupor. Your battery has died. Mr Logic gazes at the blank screen with tears of joy brimming in his eyes. You have no excuse now. With endless sighs, and reluctant dragging of feet, you’ve made it. Well, kind of.
The Cave of Shame

STAGE TWO: The Approach
This is what I like to call conscious procrastination. You are perfectly, 100% able to do the job at hand. You are sat, probably in front of the blank screen, the cursor mocking you with its flashing. And yet, nothing. Your anti-productive instinct is finding any way of delaying this ever further. It could be in a to-do list, its name even convincing you that you are being the most industrious you have ever been. But then it’s the choice of paper, ink, colour-coding, alphabetising, sorting by date, stickers, calligraphy, oil portraits, mosaics… okay, maybe not that far, but you get the idea. But how are you meant to work in silence? You need music, but not just any music. You need to create a whole new playlist just for what you’re doing, otherwise you will be bored and un-productive, and we couldn’t have that now could we? The next small section of your life will probably spent enthusiastically miming to a song “wow, I haven’t heard in ages. When did it get so good? Wait, what album is that from again…?” and so on.
            But you’ve got there! You have Sabotage by the Beastie Boys blasting (literally or just mentally), this task is nothing, wow, motivation, nothing can stop me no- oh look at the wall. That’s a really interesting wall. When did we paint that? Is it all the same colour, is that a shadow? Wow, aren’t shadows weird. I guess we spend most of our lives in shadow, the night. Are owls afraid of the day? Wait, I saw an owl during the day, how did that work? Imagine if I was and owl, would I know I was an owl… And once again, your mind has found a way of distracting itself from the task at hand, which really isn’t even that bad. More sighing, more finger-staring… and you’re off.

STAGE THREE: The Distractions
Congratulations! You’ve written yourself a whole paragraph, maybe – dare I say it – a page! But a cold wave throws itself over you. You need…
The Internet
Now look, you never set out to do anything wrong. It was just a quick diagram off google images, the quick check of a synonym. But it threw itself at you. Just one click of a YouTube video and the options, oh the options. I’m not talking a casual cat video (you lightweight), I’m talking, full on, unintelligible Japanese cartoons, music videos re-enacted in Lego, ((**insert appropriate Achilles-heel genre here**)). But if you weren’t deep enough in that, social media once gain rears its ugly head. Endless, endless scrolling in some of the most awkward, uncomfortable body positions you’ve been in. The most ambitious to-do list mankind has ever seen is quickly becoming a sediment of the earth.
            You traipse back to Microsoft word like the prodigal son you know you are, greeted with the ever-blinking, ever-judging cursor (damn you). But you carry on. You suddenly that you’re actually pretty much finished. That was in no way as hard as you expressed in your posts on every media platform existing (c’mon, even Google+? Jeeeeez). 
            All energy gone, you leave the slain beast and its final resting place, turning into the sunset, to, once again, spend your time regretfully and wastefully. Bravo my friend, bravo.

So I hope you can see that (shock horror), you aren’t that different from the youth of today. We don’t try and be unproductive, we’re not lazy, it’s just haaaaaarrrd. And as for English Literature, exams for which, a month from now, I will have finished, let’s just say the ratio of time taken and time actually revising is quite drastic. We all know that To Kill A Mockingbird is a modern masterpiece, but after the umpteenth essay, I don’t know how I’ll be able to write “Lee cleverly implies…” again without throwing the book across the freaking exam hall. Don’t get me started on poetry.

If you genuinely aren’t sick of the sound of me you can follow me on Twitter @Channellio. And if by some freakish anomaly you haven’t bought my mother’s book yet, you can do it now (and I promise I won’t judge you). It's called The Fifth Knight and you can get it on here and here. She's doing a sequel called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. But it's not out yet. Because she's been (see above). But it will be out in late 2014: December 09, to be precise. Find it here.

Monday, April 21

The Writing Process Blog Hop

When historical fiction author Matthew Harffy put a call out on Twitter recently asking for authors to take part in a Blog Hop, I jumped at the chance. The title of this Hop series is called The Writing Process, where writers answer four set questions about that topic. It's a subject very dear to my heart as I love seeing how others writers wrestle with the uncooperative and slippery mass of tentacles that is our craft. Matthew has written his and you can read all about it here. He has tagged me and so now it's my turn! At the end of this post, you'll see my great tagees, Dianne Ascroft, Jo Chumas and Ginger Myrick. They'll be posting on 28 April 2014. (Note: tagees is not a word and it upsets the spell checker. But since my writing involves the twelfth century, the spell checker gets upset by my word use a lot. I have come to ignore it, which is actually quite a risky approach. You can have that hint for free.) Now to the questions...

1. What am I working on?

The sequel to The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Bestselling Historical Thriller on and In The Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer fights alongside the four knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170
The sequel is called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. Set four years later in 1174, an unknown assassin tries to take the life of Rosamund Clifford, King Henry II’s beautiful young mistress.  The king summons back Sir Benedict Palmer, the only man he can trust to root out who is

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Many (but of course, not all) books about this time period focus almost exclusively on male characters. I read one recently which was brilliantly written and had a wonderful plot and involved the characters travelling some 1,000 miles. But the only female human they encountered in the whole book was a washerwoman by a river in the distance. That doesn't work for me. I have female characters playing just as important a role as the male ones. My heroine in The Fifth Knight is an anchoress, a young nun cloistered in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral. I can guarantee she takes centre stage on a regular basis, as she does in the sequel. And my books are speculative fiction: I like to take the facts as they are known and bring in my own 'what ifs?' 
And I know this question is about difference, but I have to mention my joy (and surprise!) about who readers and reviewers have compared my writing to. The great Ken Follett has been mentioned quite a few times. On those days, I am extremely chuffed. 

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I love everything medieval. And I love thrillers. And this writing game is hard work, with hour after hour put in to make sure my story is the best it can be. I can't imagine doing that if it was a genre I had little interest in. And if I'm boring myself, what would that do to a reader?

4. How does my writing process work?

Like with any historical writer, it starts with research. I'm fortunate to live in the UK, where I've been able to visit some of the sites where the action in my books takes place. 
Knaresborough Castle in North Yorkshire. History relates the knights fled here after Becket's murder.
It's a gift to be able to walk in the footsteps of your characters but it's only one small aspect of the research that I do. I use non-fiction books, scholarly articles, history magazines, blogs, internet searches, expert opinion, the literature, poetry and songs of the time- in short, the standard list that any writer serious about historical fiction uses. I can get carried away. It usually looks like this:
Research Avalanche!
This was a day when I was trying to figure out if a monk could be a monk or whether he should be a parish priest. That fact check only took about six hours. I'm happy I have the issue of parochial benefices and advowsons nailed. But no doubt someone will take a Dim View and let me know it. (Note: this is part and parcel of writing Historical Fiction. If you own any replica armour, you should probably wear it before you read some reviews). 

Suitably researched, it's then time for me to start plotting. Confession time: I am a die-hard control freak who has to know what's happening at every moment of every day. And I like to plot as well (heh). But I could never inhabit the world of the pantser. I admire them to the tips of my toes but I could never cut loose like they do. I did it with my first novel. It is an experiment that will never, ever be repeated. And the loft is already full of failed versions of the MS and rejection letters. So here's the E.M. Powell synopsis plotting tool:
Scene By Scene Synopsis

Yep, every scene in The Blood of The Fifth Knight. All written up in advance, with POV, location, action and some dialogue. This comes in at about 10,000 words. And then I start writing. You will note from the pen marks on this a certain level of fury with it. So it still doesn't flipping work. But it's a start.

Then it's written. Don't know how it happens but after several months of caffeine, weeping, more fury, and an exhausted delete button, it's there. All 100,000 words. A few trusted souls are allowed to see it: Spouse, Agent plus three trusted Beta-readers.  They give their wise opinions about the Big Picture stuff. And they are always right. Then it's time to start editing. Every single scene has to be polished to be the best it can be. This involves highlighters, more caffeine and a pen. Reading on screen is fine. But I have to see it on the page. The result? Take a look:
Editing Blitz
Each highlighter represents a different sense so I can see if I have the balance right, and to check am I bringing the reader right into my world. Usually it isn't and I'm not. Repeat this process until the MS is prised from my cold, deadened hands by the submission date. 

So there's my Writing Process, warts and all. Mostly warts. Did I mention I love it? 

I'm now tagging three other wonderful writers who'll be telling you all about their Writing Process next week. They are (drum roll):

Dianne Ascroft
Dianne writes contemporary and historical fiction with an Irish connection. Her books include a short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars. Her articles and stories have been printed in Irish and Canadian magazines and newspapers as well as various anthologies. An urban Canadian, she has settled in rural Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. Online she lurks and blogs  at 

Jo Chumas:

Jo won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (Thriller/Suspense category) in 2013 for her historical novel The Hidden, picking up a publishing contract from Thomas & Mercer (Amazon Publishing) and a very nice advance. Jo’s been writing novels for 17 years (she’s written five novels), and has been a journalist and commercial writer for 20. Her next novel The Unforgiven – a sequel to The Hidden – is another mystery thriller. When Jo’s not busy writing she loves climbing hills, watching stand-up comedy, going to the theatre and collecting antiquarian books, generally on different days of the week.

Ginger Myrick:

Winner of the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012, Ginger is the self-published author of five novels: But for the Grace of God, Work of Art, The Welsh Healer, El Rey, and the upcoming Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ Marie Antoinette. A Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core, she hopes to show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion.

Make sure you check out their blogs- and their books!

The Fifth Knight is published by Thomas & Mercer and is a #1 Bestseller on Amazon charts. You can check it out on Amazon. com here or here on here.  The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight will be released by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. Find it here
- See more at: