Sunday, 27 November 2011

Guest Article for A Dead Good Blog

Those Dead Good Poets from Blackpool (who regularly grace the Lancashire Writing Hub's Word Soup live literature nights at The Continental in Preston) invited me to contribute an article to their discussion about writing exercises this week on A Dead Good Blog.

All of the articles produced by the Dead Good Poets are as useful to prose writers as they are to poets, and you can read more of them here, and I'd like to thank them Dead Good Poets for inviting me.

And here it is:

'The musings about writing exercises on the Dead Good Blog this week have been thought-provoking, and in thinking about the point of writing exercises, I agree with everyone: sometimes they are really useful, sometimes what they produce seems forced and useless, and sometimes they are essential.

All writers have different techniques, and at certain times taking different approaches to our writing can be invaluable. For me, writing exercises are just the different things writers do when they write, and at times we need to try different things:

1. At writing workshops - getting the creative juices flowing even though you’re not sitting in your usual corner, cat on knee and pen/keyboard in hand, but with a group of strangers… or getting started by yourself when you’ve made some writing time (fed the cat, tidied your desk, disconnected yourself from Facebook and Twitter), only to sit with the cursor blinking accusingly on that oh-so-blank screen while it waits for you to get cracking: Exercises here force us to respond to stimuli and write something.

2. Stuck in the middle of something and not sure where it is going.

3. Final redrafting stages.

Stages of writing requiring different approaches, so you try things out and find what works for you. Some of my favourites which do it for me (and anyone caught in writing workshops with me at UCLan or at the Lancashire Writing Hub will know these, so apologies if it’s you):

1. Getting started. My muse often manifests itself through the visual, so if stuck for an idea, or how to progress the ideas I do have:
I type a random word into Google images (seaweed; bramble; tree), or key words of an idea in progress, find a picture that grabs me then use my responses to it (mermaid’s hair; trapped; twigs like bony fingers) to write a key scene. Even if you end up discarding things, the poetry of language is all in the mind so stimulating your mind visually or verbally is the key.

2. Stuck in the middle of things:
Leave your work-in-progress for a few days but let it move into your mind while you are walking, digging the garden, washing up, lying in bed. As Ste says, “live in the story”. Ideas sit in your mind and almost create themselves if you give them the time and space to do it.
Read through what you’ve got so far – this can trigger the next stage.
Write a summary/synopsis of the overall piece – what it’s about, and what the themes are. This can help to see where to go next.

3. Redrafting exercise:
- Identify underlying themes beneath what your piece is about, and the images and words you are using to create these. So, for instance, your poem is about the narrator’s relationship with his father, but what images and words are you using to show this? If using words associated with “cold” to show the father’s expression, for instance, try extending associations into his movements, the narrator’s physical and emotional responses, the landscape, etc, using cold colours, hard images, negative associations: “pale eyes”, “chill skin”, “stone”, “breath ghosting”, “empty sky”...
Is the father a threat? Does his grin suggest a certain predatory wolfishness you can extend into his movements (“slinking”), and into the landscape (the smell of animal fur or blood; a forest path), almost subconsciously suggesting the sinister landscape of fairy tale and a sense of ourselves as vulnerable, for instance. In redrafting, we can use techniques to intensify underlying themes and deepen the overall meaning.

Despite being a prose writer rather than a poet, for me all good writing is poetry as it’s all about how we use language, and the more poetic the better for me. Writing exercises are no more than the techniques we use to stimulate our minds and progress our writing in all of its stages, and as such, are as valuable as everything else we do. Writing is hard work, and the trick of it is to use everything that works for us to end up with something which reads so naturally that all that hard work is invisible.'


See A Dead Good Blog here! 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thank you thank you thank you... everyone who has been giving such rave reviews of Witherstone!  

It's been an amazing few weeks, and all of your lovely feedback has made me believe the decision to publish was definitely the right one!

I've received emails and Facebook messages and Tweets and personal comments with such marvelous words as:

"absolutely LOVING Witherstone Jane!"
"91% into the book and loving it- but know it's going to end soon and not liking that- get the next one out J WE WANT IT!"  
"5 STARS. 13 yo heroine summons spirits and desecrates graves: Wilkie Collins meets Dennis Wheatley..." (!)
"just finished the book, may regret staying awake quite so late to finish it though, loved it, and how far into next year will I have to wait for the next one?"
"Jane, ok you need to get writing on the next one please. I couldn't stop reading and now I've finished it. Will probably have to read it again at a slower pace but if I like a book I just have to go for it. Read it while I was cooking tea and everything."
"My God, woman, I couldn't put it down".

Antonia Charlesworth has reviewed Witherstone for The Big Issue in the North  - and the book is getting 5* Reviews on Amazon!!!!!

The Big Issue in the North review said:

"...The story follows 14-year-old Hephzibah Creswell, or Eppie, as she protects her family from an unknown enemy. Following the English Civil Wars, the plague consumes the small English village where Eppie and her working class family live. But when she acts to save her younger sister’s life, her actions unleash devastating consequences. This was a period when society was obsessed with the idea of witchcraft and Brunning weaves in a sense of the paranormal themes... the family are portrayed as likeable and believable characters, keeping the tale anchored in a sense of reality. Subtle political themes counteract the extraordinary and add historical context. Despite a slightly slow start, the book develops a tense and complicated plot with an exciting climax. The second book in this series is out late next year and readers will undoubtedly be itching to find out what happens next. However, it also stands on its own and those who enjoy historical tales won’t be disappointed."

and reviewers on Amazon said:

"Brilliant!! I absolutely loved Witherstone; very well written, with good depth of characters. The heroine is very likeable and realistic, and the plot is really mysterious and believable - resulting in a huge amount of anticipation. It's genuinely 'unputdownable', and was still circling through my mind long after I'd finished..."
"A Gripping Read: ... drew me in and kept me hooked from start to finish. The story is told through the eyes of Eppie as she struggles to save her family from an unknown enemy... full of convincing historical detail and I found myself transported back to a seventeenth century England immersed in superstition, magic and dark political forces. I don't usually read books which include superstition and witchcraft but this is a story about real life struggle. The plot is gripping and the narrative carries the story with pace, creating a feeling of deep unease as Eppie uncovers the truth.....I can't wait for the next instalment."
"heart racing: I could not put it down, there were moments in the book where my heart was racing with both nerves and excitement. An absolutely brilliant book...".

Thank you, you lovely people. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Good News and Bad News...

The BAD news is Amazon direct sales have sold out of paperback copies of Witherstone AGAIN over the weekend...
although the GOOD NEWS is that the Marketplace sellers on Amazon still have copies in stock, and of course it's still available for Kindle and iPad .

But the GREAT NEWS to those of you a-waiting for your copy of Witherstone directly from me - the third consignment of books was delivered this morning!


Please form an orderly email queue - and don't panic, those of you who have already requested a copy will receive it by this Wednesday (23rd) and there'll still be several left for new orders, plus consignment #4 for yet another 50 copies is already on order and should arrive within the next 2 weeks!

And Amazon will undoubtedly be restocking paperbacks within the next few days too.  Phew!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Woo hoo!

Great News!

Witherstone is now directly available from so you don't need to wait for 2 weeks while it wends its way slowly across the water from the U.S. of A. anymore!