And we have a winner!

Important announcement, folks. I won the Summer Writing Project 2017! That means Last One to the Bridge is going to be published!

I could not believe it when I received the email letting me know I had won. I’ll be honest – I expected at any moment to get another saying they had made a mistake, or that they had changed their minds. How could I have possibly won? I had been up against some stiff competition and some outstanding stories.

And yet a contract was signed, and Last One to the Bridge is with my editor. I still can’t get over the fact that I have an editor!

I will keep you updated as thing progress. Hopefully I will be able to announce a release date soon.

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who supported me. I would never have  made it as a finalist, let alone a winner without the help of those who read, voted and kept me focused, offering feedback and advice.

When I announced the results on Facebook within 10 minutes I had more than 20 people congratulate me and wish me well. I was moved to tears. So thank you. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

I’d also like to thank my friends and family, in partcular my husband (who must be sick of me talking about LOttB by now), my parents, and my sister.

You guys are the best.

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My Experience of the SWP 2017

I’ve been entering the Summer Writing Program (SWP) for about three years now. I usually make several blog posts in the run up, but this year I didn’t get a chance until now.

This summer has been hectic (although that would be putting it mildly). It’s tough enough keeping a pre-school age child occupied for two months, it’s harder still when that child is autistic. So yeah… busy, busy.

So while I did somehow find the time to enter the competition this year, every spare second counted so I didn’t get a chance to make an announcement like I usually do before I enter or any posts during, so I’ve done one now on my experience.

My project this year was a sci-fi horror titled Last One to the Bridge.

How did I do?

LOttB actually did really well in the SWP. I was in first place right up until the last few days when I was finally overtaken. In fact I was overtaken literally overnight.

This was at 9:42PM on the 28th – just 3 days before the end of the contest.

JP1

This is 9:30am the next morning:

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As you can see, it got CRAZY at the last second.

I woke up this morning to this:

JP9

In terms of raw votes, I came third place. That doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t win, nor does it mean those ahead of me will. In order to win the contest you need to have the most readers who follow your story from start to finish, so votes aren’t everything. For all we know, one of the authors behind us might be crowned. Results are announced on the 5th September, so we’ll have to see.

It is a little disappointing to slip so far in the last few seconds but I am amazed at how well LOttB did. Almost 800 votes is incredible, especially for a story with only 18 chapters. That works out to potentially 42 readers which in just two months is fantastic. It’s probably the best I have ever done in the SWP.

The SWP has been a big learning experience this year and I’ve definitely become a better writer for it.

More details about Last One to the Bridge

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Blurb:

My name is Reva Mallick. I was in a pod. I just woke up. Something is on the ship – it killed the crew. I need help.

My only hope is Adam, a fellow survivor trapped on the bridge. With only his voice as my guide, I must travel through the ship to reach him. It won’t be easy. I don’t know anything about space travel – I’m a horticulturist, not an astronaut.  The thing that killed the crew is at my heels, hunting me down. I don’t know if I’ll survive, but I won’t go down without a fight.

The story is inspired in part by an old short story I found while digging through my old writing files. It was an unfinished story where I had only written an intro paragraph and the end. I jotted some notes down about it but didn’t do much with it after, unsure of where to go with it but knowing I’d like to give it a whirl at a later date.

A few weeks go by, my husband and I are chatting and he tells me he’s never seen Ridley Scott’s Alien. Crazy, right? So we pop it in the DVD player and watch it. As we’re munching on popcorn, watching Ripley creep around the Nostromo, desperately trying to outwit the deadly Xenomorph, an idea strikes me. What if Ripley hadn’t known how to work the escape pod? She was the warrant officer, not a pilot – what if her skills had been limited? I imagined her bumbling at the controls trying to figure out how to launch the damn thing while the self destruct sequence ticked down and the Xenomorph slowly uncurled from its hiding place…

Later that evening as I finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian I wondered what would happen if Mark Watney hadn’t been a botanist? What if he’d been a geologist? Would either of them have survived? How different would the story have been? It was that moment that ‘Last One to the Bridge’ was officially born.

As you can probably gather from the blurb, the story follows Reva, a member of the terraforming crew. She has a variety of degrees including horticulture, botany and agononomy. As you can imagine, none of that helps much when you wake up on a ship in deep space. Reva doesn’t even know how to work the doors.

Ultimately LOttB is an exploration into human survival – how far can you get on the will to survive alone?

 

All-in-all I had a great time in the SWP. I feel like I’ve grown as a writer and learned to keep working towards a deadline even when life seems to conspire against you. I’m glad I was able to take part this year. Not only that but there have been some stunning stories on offer – my two favourites being Andre Clemons’ Enheduanna and Tonya Moore’s What the Bones Say.

So that was my experience this year. Did anyone else enter? What was you experience? What did you learn? Leave me a comment!

Karma

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Since the end of last years Summer Writing Project I have been thinking about what kind of story to enter this year.  I spent weeks, sometimes even months drafting up an idea only to drop it because it wasn’t quite right before finally settling on this one:

 Karma

Karma is a simple story about redemption.  It’s not a very original premise; it has been used in countless books, movies and plays.  There are many reasons I have chosen such an overused concept, but more on that later.  For now let us talk about the story itself.

It focuses primarily on two characters: Jack and Gwen.

Jack has spent his entire life looking out for number one (himself).  When he is killed in an accident, he finds himself in the afterlife, or more precisely, in limbo.  Unfortunately for him, if he wants to get into paradise, he must do a little ‘community service’ to make up for his heinous ways.  He is therefore assigned to help Gwen, a young woman who stands on the verge of a dark and difficult time in her life.

So, why did I choose this particular story?  Well, tales of redemption are so common because we can all relate to them.  We’ve all done things we wish we could undo.  That’s why Charles Dicken’s  A Christmas Carol has stayed relevant more than a century and a half after it was first published.  It has been retold and re-imagined countless times.

The theme of redemption is also a common core aspect in many tales too.  It spans all genres and has featured in pretty much every medium through which a story can be conveyed – you’ll find it in works ranging from The Bible right up to the video game God of War and beyond.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though.  While this story is far simpler than others I have written, it is by no means an easier road.  Such a powerful and universally felt subject matter will need to be done with finesse if I am to do it any justice.  It MUST be combined with characters who have real emotions and drives and dreams and fears and hopes.  A straight forward story like this has no room for error.  If something is even a little off, it has nothing to hide behind – no winding sub plots or expansive, epic worlds or even edgy/quirky concepts.  There is a reason why some tales of redemption echo through the ages while others are quickly forgotten; The simpler an idea, the more it tests a writers mettle.  That is the challenge I have set myself.

There’s not much more I can say except keep an eye out for further updates.  Oh – and good luck to all prospective entrants to this years contest.  We had some fantastic stories last year – those who won really deserved to do so.

New Years Resolutions

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I don’t usually make New Years Resolutions.  Well, I do, but they’re usually jokey ones like ‘give up smoking’ (the joke being that I have never smoked and therefore will keep the resolution without even trying – you know like when people say ‘give up sky diving’ etc) .

Many of you may remember I made a difficult decision after suffering my first bout of writers block.  So this year I have set myself some goals.

In no particular order, here is what I have decided on:

Join a writing group

This one has been on my mind for a while.  I have been unable to attend a physical writing group for some time due to many factors such as money an familial responsibilities.  This year, I’m going to make an effort to attend one.

Write at least one short story/flash fiction a month:

This is a resolution carried over from my Creative Summer.  It was important because I had never written a short story before.  At the advice of an old friend, I wrote the kind of stuff I enjoyed reading – epic, sprawling stories with ever expanding worlds and a plethora of characters and winding sub plots.  Forcing myself out of my comfort zone and focusing on the basic elements of story telling really helped so I intend to carry this forward.

Enter more competitions:

When I was ten, the schools in my local area hosted a writing competition for students aged 10-18.  The prize was £50.  I entered and I won.  Prior to my Creative Summer I had not entered one since.  I’m not sure why.  I guess I have been so focused on my writing projects, fearing distraction, that I have shied from them.  Over the summer I entered three.  I didn’t win but I learned a lot, so I intend to keep this going throughout the year.  It will tie in nicely with my aim to produce one short story a month too!

 Publish Lexus:

I had already been working my way to self publishing Lexus (most likely on Amazon). In the months leading up to Christmas I had a good look at the story.  I had been limited by the novella word count limit of the SWP2016 and so there were scenes and characters that could have done with a little more pizazz. Now I have that chance to make Lexus something better.

Keep a writing journal

This one is a little odd for me because in a way I do keep a writing journal.  Every project I work on gets a notebook:

Notepads
These are the notepads for projects I’m currently working on.  I have 36 notepads in total.  I may have a problem …

When I need to figure things out, I sit and think and plot ideas as I think them.  However, this isn’t something I do every day.  To help with the creative flow I will aim to keep a writers journal to chart my creative journey.  Writing down insights that have nothing to do with projects I am working on could lead to new projects and it’s also a way for me to document my personal struggles so that I may draw on them for future or current projects.  My aim is write whatever comes into my head.  I even got given a gorgeous notebook to write  in for Christmas:

notebook
Ain’t she a beaut …?

I was itching to write in it the moment I unwrapped in it so this is a good start!

Read More:

A very obvious and common one I know but I have noticed that over the years I have really cut back on my reading.  The reason?  I’ve been trying to keep myself focused on writing.  This is a tremendous shame because reading is a great way to recharge my creativity and improve my writing skills, so on top of attending to the Jukepop reading party every month I have set myself the target of reading at least one book a month – starting with Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.  I have more or less all of his books on my reading list (which gets bigger and bigger each day – currently there are 300+ books of all genres (including graphic novels). Yeah that’s going to take some getting through.  I’m not sure I’ll manage it in a year but I’ll have a damn good stab at it.  My list includes titles from the likes of Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dean Kootz,  Bill Bryson, Stephen Baxter, and Ursula LeGuin.  I’m hoping to read work from lesser known authors too.  I’m even hoping to start reading some super hero comics.  As you can see my taste is somewhat broad and I intend to expand it further.

Get out of my writing comfort zone

When I started writing short stories during my Creative Summer I was not so much pushed out of my writing comfort zone as drop kicked out of it.  I had never written a short story before.  Was it possible to tell a story in 3000 words or less?  Or how about 1000?  Or 300?  Some of the word count limits in the competitions were really daunting.  Nonetheless I sat down and I worked on my idea.  The first short story I wrote was about 5000 words.  The competition it was intended for only allowed 3500.  So I looked at it, cut parts out, read some short stories to see how they managed to get vital details across and went at it again and again until finally I had shaved it down to 3150.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment.  Better still, I applied what I had learned to Lexus and experimented with exposition and wound up in the SWP2015 top ten!

With that in mind, I am determined to keep trying things that make me uncomfortable and unsure.  At the time of writing this, I reached another milestone.  I wrote my first 100 word flash fiction and I am working on a new project where I experiment with a different narrative style (more on that later).


 

So there you have it!  My New Years Resolutions!

Has anyone else made any resolutions?  Feel free to write a comment either on what you think of mine or what yours are.  Also can anyone recommend any good books or comics?