Blog-Hop #mywritingprocess

Thanks to the lovely Sallie Tams and her Plottdog for passing me the baton for the blog-hop called My Writing Process. You can read Sallie’s post on her beautiful blog here: http://sallietams.com/2014/02/10/the-act-of-showing-up-mywritingprocess-blog-hop/
– and there is the twitter tag #mywritingprocess if you’d like to track down more links in the chain.

So, on with the job in hand. There’s a set of questions for me to answer before hopping you on to the next blog. These had me thinking – and that’s a dangerous thing to happen on a Monday!

Without further ado:

1) What am I working on?

Several things, as always. For me, the best way to combat writer’s block is to have at least two projects on the go. Then if I find myself drying up on one piece, I switch to something as different as possible. Of course, this only works if I don’t have a tight deadline on any of them, so I like to arrange my writing commitments with plenty of elbow room.

Hey – it works for me!

At the moment, there’s the latest book, Just Add Writing. Publication date of today so I’m busy promoting that all over the place. I sent off all the pre-ordered copies last week, along with stock for Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Add-Writing-Release-inside-ebook/dp/B00IG8L8MC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392649012&sr=1-1 and copies for the Legal Deposit people at the British Library. Launch party over on Facebook if anyone wants to join us for virtual drinks and nibbles. All welcome! https://www.facebook.com/events/606496329431142/617468688333906/

Once that one is laid to rest, I’ll be focusing most of my writing time on the next Chrystal book – the second in the series begun with Chrystal Heart last year. It’s been gestating in my head for a good few months and is ready to get typed up. In Chrystal Travels, our two heroines set out to make their way home from Meso-America, where we left them at the end of the first book. There will be thrills, spills, motorbikes, modern Steampunks and traditional wrestling in this instalment. And some nasty surprises for our friend Sam.

I’ve also got a magazine article in its very early stages and a possible radio play coalescing in the dark, shadowy recesses of my brain.

There’s always a sort of lull after finishing a large project like a book. I’ve had a few weeks since sending Just Add Writing to the printers and now I’m starting to ramp things back up to normal.

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

That’s a very good question. Steampunk is a bit of a niche genre anyhow, so you’re asking if my book has its own niche within a larger niche? Cosy!

Most Steampunk is set in an alternate history that differed from our familiar world during Victoria’s reign. Mine is set in the 21st Century, but with a main character who has been alive since Victorian times. Steampunk is such a varied genre, it’s really hard to generalise it at all. People can’t agree on a definition of Steampunk, so how can I say where mine falls outside the general type?

In brief, a young lady is attacked by thieves in 1851 and rescued by a group of Tibetans who replace her damaged heart with the Chrystal Vitalis, a legendary gem believed to have healing powers. It not only saves her life, it keeps her alive far beyond a normal person’s years and, now calling herself Chrystal, she’s still around in the 21st Century. She teams up with a modern woman and the two of them set out to save the world. There are many familiar Steampunk elements, such as ætheric science and pirates, but I believe it’s unique in having a Victorian main character who’s hiding in plain sight in this way. Look closely at any Steampunks you meet – one of them may be more genuinely Victorian than you think.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It’s easy to say why I write my factual books and articles. I’m asked the same questions about disability time and again – so I put my standard answers down in book form. The MonSter and the Rainbow had to be written – I wanted to tell the story of life viewed from a wheelchair, about a world that isn’t as equal as it thinks it is – but without the self-pity so common in many biographies.

Then, Just Add Writing is a pocket book of tips for writers finding their feet and wanting to take their writing to the next level. It’s the book I wish I could have read when I started as a writer. And lots of exercises and random prompts to send even an experienced writer’s brain off at a tangent to reality, into the dimensions where the stories are.

It’s harder to say why I write my fiction. It’s something to do with wanting to create something tangible. Fiction comes as light relief after living with my MonSter (MS) for so many years; they say fiction has to make sense, whereas reality doesn’t! I have all these ideas inside me and stories are a great way to set them free into the world. I enjoy the process of writing and I get a tremendous satisfaction from my work; it comes naturally, somehow – I think I was born to be a writer. Maybe I spent all those years in grown-up employment frustrated by the lack of creative outlets.

4) How does your writing process work?

The amount of time I have for writing varies from day to day, depending on other commitments and my health. So I’ve learnt to think about writing – working on plot details and character twists – when I can’t write. My works always start in my head where I can fine-tune the plot details before setting any words down and once I’m happy that I have enough of a structure and some of the details, I can start writing.

I write on a laptop, right from the first draft. (Even my doctor says my handwriting is illegible!) If I’ve done enough plotting, the first draft is usually written very quickly and enjoyably. At some point, my characters start doing things I didn’t expect and I know the story’s coming to life. I try not to stop this first draft for anything. If I need to research a detail, I’ll make a note to come back to it. Writing like this has its own momentum and a whole book can be written in a matter of weeks. Then comes the much longer process of editing it into shape.

I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress through the different stages – and to remind me that I am moving forward. So long as those numbers change every day, I know I’ve done some work!

In broad terms, I try to write the first draft and then focus on different aspects with each redraft. In reality, it’s hard to stick to a disciplined editing scheme and I admit to breaking my own rules occasionally. Well, more than occasionally, to be honest. I have beta readers for each book and I like to let them loose on a draft so that I can make any changes that arise from their reading before I polish my final version. (It’s a similar process for magazine articles, but I skip the beta reader phase and sometimes end up with minor changes to be made after I’ve sent it to the magazine’s editor.)

Eventually a book is finished and emailed on to be printed and bound. I get a few weeks to recover from that and the whole cycle starts again. If I haven’t done any writing for a few days, I start to get twitchy. And you won’t like me when I’m twitchy.

Well, thank you for reading this far. Next week, #mywritingprocess passes on to Marit Meredith, an ex-pat Viking from Norway who’s now rooted half way up a Welsh hillside (surrounded by her large family), where Shakespeare is said to have found his inspiration for Midsummer Night’s Dream – she even wrote an article on the subject once. She can be found at: http://wherefactsandfictionfuse.wordpress.com/

I’ll leave you in Marit’s capable hands as she talks about her own Writing Process.

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The Laboratory under Lincoln

How the Story Happened
The Laboratory under Lincoln is the first adventure of A.W.E.S.O.M.E. – Asylum Workshop Experimental Scribes Of Mechanical Escapades.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E. was founded at the Asylum in Lincoln in September, 2013. A number of Steampunks gathered to take part in a writing exercise like no other. Aided, abetted and led by Chrystal (also known as the author Meg Kingston), they formed the storyline that became this tale. From selecting the characters involved to designing the locations and the action of the story, this group truly devised their own tale.

After the event, Meg undertook the translation of the story notes into the action adventure above, with collaboration of the other participants.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E. will continue to meet at both the Lincoln Asylum and Steampunk at the Seaside, with the intention of writing further chapters in the story of the adventurers they represent.

The next scheduled meeting of A.W.E.S.O.M.E. will be at Camber Sands Holiday Park, as part of Steampunk at the Seaside on the last weekend of March, 2014.

Meg Kingston is the author of Chrystal Heart and is currently working on a sequel. Further information at: http://www.facebook.com/MegKingstonAuthor

With many thanks to all the wonderful participants at our writing workshop in Lincoln. I look forward to seeing some of you again next year.

Meg / Chrystal

The Laboratory Under Lincoln <—– Click here for story

The Joy of Text

Hello. My name is Meg and I’m a bookaholic.

Yes – it’s true. And I’ve said it before. But I make no apology for saying it again. I just love books. I love reading ‘em, I love to have ‘em piled up in every room. And now I’m writing ‘em too and there’s no hope for me.

Thankfully!

It’s been a seriously good week for me on the bookaholic front. It was World Book Night last week and I was chosen as a “giver” for the third time. So if you were in Chepstow Town centre and a be-hatted woman on a purple buggy drove up and gave you a book – that was me. It was a good morning to smile at a stranger. And I hope you’re enjoying the book, too.

Last night (Tuesday) was a Local Authors’ Event at Chepstow Library. There were meant to be three of us, but Sue had to cancel rather than risk infecting the rest of us with her bug. So – much scrambling around to get ready and try to fill the gap, although I did my best by reading an extract from her book. I had to suggest the audience pretend I was about half my weight and five months pregnant – they didn’t seem to mind. Hopefully Sue’ll be better soon!

The event went really well, with Paul and I reading excerpts from our books and answering questions about writing, agents and other outlandish subjects. We had a mini-writing competition during the break (just in case anyone thought we were doing all the work) and awarded a prize after we’d all been tempted with the refreshments laid on by the Library. (Yummy cake bites.) All in all, a very successful evening.

So what’s next on the book front? Well, I’m running writing workshops, chatting and signing at a couple of Steampunk events in the next few weeks. And we’ve got a drop-in event at Chepstow Library as part of Adult Learners’ Week. Links below.

Meanwhile I’m working on a short story about Chrystal, involving an Ambassador and a séance. 😉

Steampunk at The Labyrinth, Looe: Saturday 11/05/13, 12noon onwards. I’ll be on twice.

Steamcheese Event at Frome: Saturday 18/05/13, from 10am. I’ll be in the Authors’ Area.

Chepstow Library: (Drop-in on Saturday 25/05/13, any time between 09:30 ~ 12:30)

My Next Big Thing

I’ve been passed the baton in a chain of authors answering the same set of questions on their blogs and author pages. Last week was the lovely Steve Cotterill whose blog can be seen here: http://shoresofnight.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/my-next-big-thing.html

Steve is a fellow writer of Steampunk and lover of cats whose work is appearing in an increasing number of anthologies and various places online. He’s one of those people who always make me smile and I look forward to the next time I bump into him with his lovely wife Eve. xx

So now it’s my turn to become part of the chain…

What is the working title of your book?
Chrystal Heart.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Hmm, which idea?
I’d been working on several ideas that I thought might come together in some way. I was determined that it would be kind of sci-fi but set in the 21st Century, incorporating the various apocalyptic prophecies relating to our current times. Also, I have a strong eco-streak and a love of 19th Century fantasies. I’m not sure where Chrystal came from – she just strode into my head one day and introduced herself. Most people are a little scared of the dark corners in my mind (I am!), but she’s completely undaunted. Since then, she’s been telling me about her recent adventures and introducing me to her friends.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s Steampunk. For anyone who doesn’t know, Steampunk is a rapidly-growing genre which combines science fiction with nostalgia for a past that never was. Set in worlds where history diverged from our own during the Victorian era (the Steam Age), it is often heavy on original gadgets and inclusive of semi-feasible engineering or scientific principles.
Steampunk culture is beginning to invade the mainstream media. As well as many books, clockwork robots spar with Dr Who; steam engines, airships and Victorian characters appear in films from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen via The Golden Compass to the recent Aardman Pirates! extravaganza.
Certain classic novels are now regarded as beginning the Steampunk oeuvre, such as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which features an imagined technology based in a 19th Century framework and many of Jules Verne’s tales.
A growing Steampunk community exists, both online and in the real world where people dress as their various personae for social events including weekend-long gatherings all around the world, especially the UK and the US.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It’s hard to say. I don’t write a complete draft and then go back to edit – my writing is kind of more organic. Or less organised.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I know everybody says this, but I don’t think there’s anything similar out there. Chrystal is a Victorian lady who is still alive in the 21st Century. Her survival is due to aspects of certain sciences which were understood 150 years ago but have been lost in the intervening decades. She teams up with a young modern woman and they get involved in, well, things that are far older even than Chrystal. If anyone else knows of a similar plot, please let me know. (I’m aware of occasional characters who’ve lived that long in one or two TV series, but they’re very different to Chrystal.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been writing since I had to retire from full-time work back in 2004. Since then, I’ve self-published three collections of short stories and a memoir (The MonSter and the Rainbow). And sold sufficient copies to make a profit. I regard this as kind of apprenticeship and felt ready to tackle a novel-length piece. What I didn’t anticipate was that Chrystal’s story would take more than one book to tell. I’m really enjoying working with her and it’ll be fun to start work in earnest on the sequel in 2013.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Chrystal is a 188-year-old, bisexual cyborg vampire. Apart from that, she’s just your average Steampunk.
In 1851, a young Victorian lady is stabbed and left for dead, but rescued by a group of Tibetans who came to London for the Great Exhibition. They replace her damaged heart with the Chrystal Vitalis, a gem believed to have life-giving properties. This not only saves her life, but prolongs it to the point that she is still alive in the 21st Century where she passes as a Steampunk to explain her idiosyncratic taste in clothing and old-fashioned speech. Educated in steam power, clockwork and what modern science would dismiss as “ætheric mysticism”, she addresses the challenges of our world in a very different way to the oil-based culture that has evolved over the last 160 years.
The book is set in modern-day London, Wales and Central America. The narrator is Samantha (Sam), Chrystal’s 21st Century companion and lover, a victim of the economic downturn who turned to petty crime to pay the bills.
Chrystal Heart (ISBN: 978-0-9552602-4-7 ) will be launched at Waterstones in Cardiff on 13/3/13 and can be pre-ordered from http://jaywalkerwriting.co.uk/chrystal.html

(Come back for a Sneak Preview of the book over the next few days.)

And we’re done, time to pass the baton on to the next authors to delight your senses.
May I present for your entertainment and edification:

Susan Hooper ( http://www.facebook.com/#!/SusanCHooper )”>is a busy Mum and member of CRAG writers’ circle in Chepstow, South Wales. Her first novel An Hour Year will be published in March 2013. Her novel began as a NaNoWriMo project and is an interesting psychological drama. I’ll leave her to tell you the rest.

Robert Darke ( http://robdarke.wordpress.com/ ) is another member of CRAG and also Cardiff Writers’ Circle. A few of his stories have appeared in magazines and he presents a regular show on Hospital Radio Glamorgan. His first novel, provisionally titled White Van Man, is currently being edited to within 2.54 cm of its life.

Watch for their blog chain posts next Tuesday

P.S. For some reason links aren’t posting properly today. Please copy and paste them into your browser instead. 🙂

Steampunk Novel: Interview and Crowdfunding

My main writing project at the moment is a Steampunk novel about a Victorian lady who’s still alive in the 21st Century by virtue of having a Chrystal Heart. I will be self-publishing in March, 2013.

I’ve written a short story featuring the same character. The Collector has already been published in an anthology http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Souls-Asylum-Steampunk-Compilation/dp/0956674429/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1350134066&sr=8-4 and will be featured in the inaugural issue of eSteampunk magazine – due out imminently. The magazine have also posted an interview with me, which can be read here: http://www.efictionmag.com/steampunk/

Secondly I’m crowdfunding to raise money for printing this book – and also for a launch party which will be in Cardiff, Wales next March. If you’re interested and would like to know more (including a sneak preview of the novel), see here:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/investment/chrystal-heart-1255

You don’t have to purchase, the sneak preview is free to read. 🙂