Sunday Write Up – Join in…

Sunday Write Up Header

Back to help me keep creative during the COVID-19 lockdown, decided to do some little ‘writing sprints’ to pass the time – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!)

Posting here on my blog, as well as on Aside from Writing – don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

rosy       wild      other     hindsight      beat

This piece works as a snippet to a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – not sure if it will go anywhere, but a bit of a different style for me…

 

Saturday 24th March 2007

Age: Still Twenty-Seven and Nine Months

Life Lesson: Booze and friendship are great, but they do not mend a broken heart

The taxi pulled away as I stumbled, high heels in hand, towards the wobbling outline of the front door. The girls were hanging out the windows shouting goodnight and don’t puke on the gnome, but I didn’t turn around, just waved my arm vaguely in the air. I did not want to be distracted from the epic challenge of finding the door keys inside my small clutch bag.

I dropped the bag on the floor and was left holding a lip gloss. “Shit.” I glared at Rosy Glow and tried again.

Bending down, I picked up the bag and put the lip gloss back inside. Fumbling through the silky material again, I came up with something round and metal. Victory!

“Shit.” It was a rogue coin, just dumped into the bag loose after I’d bought that round of apple sour shots, because they were a wild green colour.

Then I dropped the bag again. Sigh. “Shit,” I mumbled, one last time as I bent down and resigned myself to searching at ground level for safety. This was a picture of class if any of the neighbours poked their head out of the window at this time in the morning. A few moments later I came up with the keys.

Tonight it helped that the door was white, and stood out from the rest of the house: it made finding the key hole easier. On my second attempt, I managed to get the key in the lock and opened the door.

Even through the fog of booze, I felt the quiet, emptiness of the house wash over me as I stood on the doorstep. I didn’t need to be quiet as I came in, there was no one to wake up. I didn’t need to pretend to walk straight, to prove I wasn’t drunk. No one would tell me off for leaving my shoes in the middle of hallway, when they tripped over them – there was no one to trip over them, except me.

Stepping inside, I dumped my shoes and bag, and locked the door behind me. A slight wobble from a few too many drinks: I leaned back against the closed door, shutting my eyes and realised in hindsight that mixing cocktails based on them being pretty rainbow colours had not been the best idea I’d ever had. Everything was quiet and I was alone.

Not quite alone. I heard a squeaky, snuffling noise coming from the kitchen and headed in that direction.

Opening the door, Millie greeted me, teddy in her mouth and tail wagging. “Hey Mills,” I bent down and fussed her, rubbing her soft black ears until she made her funny, happy-grunty noise. Snarf, she replied before trundling off back to bed with teddy.

“Yeah, it’s nice to see you too.” I headed towards the sink, pushed stuff around in the cupboard until I found a glass, then filled it with water. I drank the first one in big, full gulps, suddenly realising  how thirsty I was. The rainbow of vodka shots I’d drunk tonight had obviously not been thirst quenching, they’d just filled a gap for a few hours.

I filled the glass a second time and then meandered tipsily towards Millie’s bed, at the other end of the kitchen. She sat up as I approached and so I slid down the wall, landing in the warm and newly vacated space beside her. Worrying about dog hairs on my dress was the least of my problems right now – I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it.

Millie nudged my arm and dropped teddy into my lap.

“It’s not fetch time,” I told her, placing the teddy back into her mouth.

Snarf she said again, before she sighed and plopped her head down on my legs instead.

I sighed myself and began stroking Millie’s ears absent-mindedly, drifting off into a little drunken haze.

It had been good to be out of the house, away from the quiet and emptiness. The only problem now was that it felt twice as empty and quiet, as it had before. The house felt hollow, just as I did, and there was no one – and no amount of booze – that could help me with that.

I sighed again and then the tears began to fall, making cold, wet tracks on my face. It didn’t matter now, no one was here to see me and I didn’t have to be brave for anyone, so that they felt better. I cried silently, a slow and steady stream of tears trailing down my cheeks and dripping onto my dress. I didn’t wipe them away or try to stop.

Who cares?

“It’s just you and me now puppy,” I told Millie.

   

Tony’s Rambles: Double Edges

There was a man who lived alone on my street – let’s call him Paul. Paul died recently…he was a nice guy, quiet, looked after his mother when she was terminally ill and looked after another old lady who lived across the road (We live on a street where most of our neighbours are retired and elderly. It’s one of the reasons I love it – no parties until 3am where we live).

Anyway, another neighbour told me that Paul was slowly drinking himself to death; and, as I said, he recently succeeded.

Being a writer is mostly a great time. You get to make up worlds and people who don’t exist and play with them, run them through the mill and see what they’re made of. But it’s a double-edged sword, like with our quiet neighbour Paul.

I can see him, sitting alone in his kitchen every night, staring at a bottle and the silent, silent walls and rooms around him. I can see him reaching for that bottle to try to drown out that silence, then having to do it more often. The absolute loneliness of his life, the spaces he couldn’t fill.

I could be wrong about Paul, of course; he could – and most likely did – have his own reasons for drinking until it killed him. But still the writer in me sees him sitting there, alone, every night and sees the empty tragedy of his life.

Here’s another example: My wife and I had a good friend who died in a light aircraft crash quite a few years ago. (Those things crash all the time, have you noticed?). As a writer, it’s all too easy to imagine her gripping the hand of the person beside her as the pilot loses control and the plane starts to shudder. And to see the rushing trees coming towards her through her eyes, see those last thoughts flash through her head.

And as easy as it to imagine how beautiful a starlight beach is at midnight, the sand rubbing your toes, the infinity of stars above you, that smell of open water and the mist from the surf prickling your skin, so it’s as easy to imagine how it feels to be trapped in a plane that’s being flown towards an already burning building, the Manhattan skyline unrolling beneath you at three hundred miles per hour.

I don’t get to pick and choose what Muse throws at me, and when she does, I feel the responsibility to share that empathy to lonely people like Paul…to tell the stories the way my imagination and experience of life sees them, both the happy stories and the sad: The beautiful beach and the burning building. Both edges of the sword, and both of them cut as deeply when I write.

I’m not complaining about that responsibility at all; in fact I enjoy it. I’ll always try and do the best job I can with the stories I write, because that’s the way I was raised – if a job’s worth doing, then do it well – and I take my writing very seriously, even when it’s just fun and games.

It wouldn’t be right otherwise.

Tony’s Writing Tips: Remember every scar

 

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” – Stephen King.

 

I was e-mailing an Antipodean writing friend the other day. I’d sent her the first page of my WIP and explaining a little where it came from, when that quote from Stephen King popped into my head.

A little backstory: The first page of my WIP has a character shoot someone. It’s a kicker of an opening, but what I was telling my friend was where it came from. I’ve never shot anyone in my life (You’ll be delighted to know), never even held a gun, loaded or otherwise. Air pistol and air rifle – shot at a few empty cans – but never a gun.

The shooting isn’t the important part, and not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the person who did the shooting, which will – trust me on this – get me back to the quote at the top.

I have a not-seen-in-years cousin in the police. More years ago than I can date, he told me (or my dad while I was listening) that he’d had someone point a gun at him. At the time, he was as professional and calm as his training taught him. But he said after the incident, he was still shaking hours later.

So my character shoots someone, calmly and professionally, as they were taught. Then they realise what they’ve just done and the effects hit them.

Which brings me to my point (told ya!) and the quote above: Writers never forget anything.

We can, indeed, point to every scar and tell you its story. In detail.

Everything we’ve ever seen will probably end up in one of our stories somewhere; from the shop assistant who compulsively stretches her sweater cuff over her wrist (Eight Mile Island) from someone who loves rainstorms (Over the Mountain). Everything gets stored and sifted in a writers head and pulled out when we need it.

I’m very lucky in the regard that I have a pretty good memory. I do remember the most obscure occurrences years later – even if I can’t accurately date them. It’s not so useful for real life – I can’t remember how to fold bath towels for instance, which drives my wife mad every week.

But if you don’t recall things as well, then write it down. Or sketch it. Or scribble yourself a note when you come across something. Do whatever works so you remember it.

You never know when it’s going to be useful.

 

Tony’s Tech: A Front end for KindleGen

For those of you going, huh? at that title, you can skip this post. The Kindle authors out there can dig in and enjoy…

Last year, I had to demonstrate to a small group of people the way to create a .mobi file. I’d been using Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) for a while, but it seems like Amazon are tightening up on creating files without using KindleGen (Certainly the last time I used Calibre, the Amazon uploader kicked it back out).

The only choice was using the lousy Amazon command line KindleGen program (Seriously, what is this, 1998?). But trying to explain command lines and file paths in DOS to a group of people who had barely used a computer was really out of the question.

So I Googled and searched around for a while…and I wrote my own front end for KindleGen in .hta and VisualBasic.

Untitled

 

It’s pretty self-explanatory. Tell it where the KindleGen application is, tell it where the document is you want converting to .mobi. It takes that input, makes a compound statement and spits out the .mobi at the end in the same location as the document in the second box.

No fuss, no bother.

I really have to wonder if someone with as little coding experience as me can make something simpler than fighting your way through DOS pathways – in less than a week – why couldn’t Amazon?

Feel free to modify it as you like, but let me know if you make it all singing and dancing – I’d love to see it (Especially if someone figures out a way of adding a cover).

Download it here.

Writing Tips: Tony Talbot: The Brand

When I started self-publishing back in 2008, I came across an interesting concept: The writer as a brand item and marketed as such.

It seemed a little odd to me at the time, but I see the logic of it now: Your readers see very few images of you, or even better, just one. Think of McDonalds and you think of Golden Arches and wheat field yellow and red, for instance.

Quite a few years ago, Stephen King decided he wanted to sell books under a different name, for a variety of reasons. So he quietly sold books under the name Richard Bachman with minimal publicity. One book sold about ten thousand copies or so…but when he re-published the book as Stephen King, it sold an order of magnitude more. That’s the power of a writer as a brand, as a consumer item.

So all writers do it, even the big six. They all have a Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag, a YouTube channel and countless other ways of getting their name out there. We’re all waving our arms and shouting as loud as we can, after all. And it helps that everywhere you go, it’s always the same thing you’re looking for.

I’ve seen this again and again from writers…they’re asked to be A Brand. To promote their books themselves as part of that brand, go on lecture tours, do readings from bits of their books, and so on. To give people a face to attach to the name.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, a few weeks ago I changed my author picture from this 2012 pic (A very hot day in Washington State):

61EZUOfoH1L._UY200_

 

…to this 2015 one (Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire)…

 

TT-2015

 

Doesn’t seem like much of a deal, does it?

But think about it again…this author picture is the virtual image I send out to the world and the one that sits on my little business cards I give out to people. What do I want it to say about me? What brand image do I want to have?

It’s a serious business when this picture is how most of my readers see me most of the time. After all, ninety-nine percent of what I am as a writer is virtual; I’m mostly just binary.

So I asked for comments on Facebook before I went with it, and someone suggested I lighten the pic, so I did that. I cropped it a little as well and I cut off my feet (Hurt like hell). The same person also commented the stones and the countryside make me look like a writer of fantasy…see what I mean about branding? I decided I could live with that though.

There are also technical considerations. How does this picture look when it’s shrunk to a thumbnail or on one of my little business cards, for instance? How does it look on a mobile device?

And there are also the number of places this picture has to be updated: Goodreads, Booklikes, Twitter, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Facebook, Amazon US, Amazon UK. My Gravatar avatar. Two places on my website. Physically, I’m going to have to change my business cards as well.

It might look like a small matter – changing one picture to another – but even for a small writer like me, that’s a dozen or so places. If I get it wrong or change my mind, I’ll have to do all those pictures again. There are places I can’t change – reviewers who have my old picture on their site, for instance – but you do what you can with what you’ve got.

Why does it matter? Being Tony Talbot, The Brand means everywhere you find me, I look the same.

Just like McDonalds: You’ll always know what to look for.

 

(Reblogged from Musings – The Blog of Tony Talbot)

Take Part! Our New Monthly Write-In Feature…

Sunday Write Up HeaderAre you up for a bit of a challenge? A little fun and sharing some creativity? Great! Then come and join us in our new monthly ‘write-in’ feature that will launch this coming Sunday and happen on the last Sunday of the month after that.

The idea is simple. Each Sunday morning, we’ll post some word prompts and maybe a couple of pictures to get you started. All you have to do is write a piece – a couple of paragraphs, a poem, short story (less than 2,500 words), whatever takes your fancy really – using all of the words given. Pop your piece on your own blog (head it up with the banner above and link back to the post on here) and then come back here and share a link to your post in the comments of the ‘Sunday Write-Up’ post for that month. Then people can visit other blogs to check out the writing and let you know what they think 🙂 Think of it as a ‘virtual writing group’ that get’s together once a month. Challenge yourself to do something a little different – step outside your normal style or genre – and join us this weekend for our first feature.

Mel x

Cover Reveal – Cirque de la Nuit

My latest work update posted yesterday on my author blog, with cover reveal and blurb – take a look and let me know what you think of my latest WiP 🙂

Mel Cusick-Jones

Latest update from my current project Cirque de la Nuit – here’s the book cover and blurb. Let me know what you think – everything is a work in progress at this stage! 🙂

Cirque de la Nuit cover

When Beth Woodall wins a night at the circus, she’s looking forward to an evening of entertainment and excitement – she never expected she would become the main attraction…

Nothing is as it seems at the Cirque de la Nuit, a mystifying extravaganza staged by vampires, werewolves and a whole host of other worldly creatures. Backstage are secrets no one could guess, especially not Beth, the sceptic. But, once she sees behind the costumes and bright lights, even she has to wonder if there is something more dangerous lurking behind the scenes. Perhaps, even that the colourful characters are more fact than fiction…

“Ladies and gentlemen, beasts and night creatures – please take your seats, for…

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