What words would be written on you?

If what you read appeared as words on your skin, what would be written on you? Some words might be barely visible and fleeting, others bold and permanent. Hmmm… now what would be on my skin? I won’t bore you with my preoccupation with Brexit and UK politics right now. I hope that is fleeting! There would also be the ramblings and rants of my friends on Facebook, cake recipes and words such as “stylish”, “radiant”, “chic” – which by the way is sooo not me – that I’ve absorbed from the White Company catalogue (sadly without the luxurious beach house in California).

As for literature, I’d have a patchwork of long passages from various Jane Austen and Daphne du Maurier’s books. Newer fiction would include The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I’m sure Neil Gaiman’s short stories might also find a prominent spot. My childhood favourites: The Blackberry Farm series, The Chronicles of Narnia, St Clare’s, may have faded a little, but the children’s stories my son and I read together: The Twits, Artemis Fowl and The Snail and the Whale will still be shining brightly over my heart. My workshop group’s chapters would come and go, along with Electrik Inc line edits, and whatever book or short story I happen to be working on. I can picture the same draft line scrawled across my forehead, getting darker and deeper the more I wrestle it into shape. Then there would be my research material on subjects such as Norse mythology, alchemy, 16th century witch trials, fox behaviour. Good conversation starters, perhaps. “Why exactly have you been reading about how to rob a bank, Kim?”

I could go on, but I think I’m probably running out of skin. I’d love to know what would be written on you.

Inspired by the display window of Mr B’s bookshop in Bath.
Blog post by Kim Donovan

inkling3

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Technology Can Help You

You’ve written the book. You’ve finished the rewrites, put it all aside for months and then read over it again. You decide it’s not too bad. Good, even. You’ll take a chance. So, you line-edit it, proofread it and send it off…

And it’s rejected. Again.

Yes, it’s disheartening. Yes, you could have built the Great Wall of China waiting for agents or publishers to get back to you. No, you mustn’t give up. That’s not just a saying, you know. For most of us, it’s a way of life.

Jody Sabral, author of I Never Lie, wrote an interesting piece for the BBC Entertainment and Arts recently: E-books. How digital publishers are ‘shaking up’ the industry.

This was an informative read for a few reasons. Not just because of the higher royalties writers can expect from digital publishers (and in an industry where traditional publishers so often shaft authors, this was good to see), or the technology that can tell you if readers finish your book (invaluable). The most important thing for me, and what I think would appeal to many writers, was when Jody Sabral mentioned being able to connect with readers via an app, and getting their comments and feedback live. That would be fantastic – almost like having your own group of Beta readers.

Jody Sabral’s piece made me aware of the whole new world that’s opening for writers. The creative world never stays still and, like so many things, the world of books is constantly changing.  That’s a good thing because it means we are all constantly getting the chance to try new things – to reinvent ourselves and our writing, to try another genre or dabble in new technology. Not sure about something you’ve written, or just want to try something different? Put a few chapters up online to gauge reader reaction. Need a tool that helps you sort your chapters, editing, word counts or ideas? Check out the different (mainly free) apps and tools out there.

There’s a lot to help you, no matter what genre you prefer, whether you’re aiming for traditional or independent publishing and whether you write for adults, YA or children. There are lots of blogs too, giving information on good technology for writers. Here is a useful blog about 20 of the best free online tools for writers.

There are always new opportunities opening up for your writing, so put the rejections where they belong – behind you – and use technology to improve your game. There’s a whole new world out there just waiting for you. Think of that as you meander, stride or gallop into 2019.

Happy writing.

Kay
Author of   Treasure This
co-founder of Electrik Inc

Coming up:  Keep an eye on the Electric Inc blog – my next piece will be about online forums for writers.

Leave a comment

Filed under author technology, Creative Writing, creative writing tips, Electrik Inc, Kay Leitch, Kay Leitch author, Uncategorized

Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”  Mary Anne Radmacher

That reminded me of my writing, so I thought I’d pass it on in the hope it inspires you too. We all have dispiriting days. Keep trying. Whatever it is you love, do it. If you cannot do it right now, that’s okay. Work, budget, family, life – all these things  interrupt or postpone our creativity. Just try again tomorrow. Everything you wrote today was rubbish (you think)? Try again tomorrow. Another rejection? Try again tomorrow. You get the message.

Here’s another one I love: “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” Dr Louis Pasteur

I know he was a scientist but I think he’d have made a good writer; writing is all about sharpening your mind and being prepared for anything. So, in brief: keep trying, and be prepared. That means sit down and finish your book, short story or poem. Have it ready to send off if suddenly a reputable magazine runs a writing competition, or an agent you thought had emigrated to a parallel universe because you haven’t heard from them in, like, aeons… finally gets in touch with the magic words: can we see the full manuscript… or you  get the chance to draw up your own marketing and publishing plan and decide to do it yourself.

Whatever you want to do, here’s a link to a blog that does some of the hard work for you and lists Calls for Submissions  for all kinds of writing. So, no excuses… write on! 🙂

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
Founder member of Electrikinc
Also posted on kaywritesheretoo

picture: Courtesy of Pixabay

Leave a comment

Filed under Believe in books, children's books, Children's Publishing, Creative Writing, creative writing tips, Electrik Inc, How to earn a living from writing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Kay Leitch author, kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com, Tips for Authors and Illustrators, Uncategorized

John Yorke Into the Woods Podcast

Had to share this fantastic podcast of an interview with John Yorke, covering effective use of structure in story, creating compelling characters, tips for subtle exposition and cliffhangers. It’s not often I listen all the way through an hour-long podcast but this was excellent – really informative. Well worth a listen. His book Into the Woods, about the craft of storytelling, is excellent too. The world is full of How-to-Write books – and you can count those worth reading on the fingers of one hand. Well, this is for your index finger.

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Publishing, Creative Writing, creative writing tips, Fairy Tales, Independent Publishing information, Interview with John Yorke, Kay Leitch, Kay Leitch author, kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

The Scream Collector

A quirky short story.

Mr Oddmore looked out of the kitchen window, frowning at the rhinoceros with two horns rolling in his vegetable patch and squashing a neat row of carrots.

‘What would you like for your birthday?’ Mr Peculiar adjusted the burgundy cravat he wore inside his open-necked shirt. ‘I’m afraid you can’t have my Sumatran Rhino; he’s new to my collection. I discovered him in a forest in Malaysia. But what about Shakespeare’s signature? A red diamond or the DNA of a dinosaur?’

‘I’m not a collector of rarities, like you,’ said Mr Oddmore. ‘No, what I want is a certain type of scream.’ He turned away from the window, his long gangly limbs seeming out of proportion to the rest of his body. ‘Come, I’ll show you what I’m missing.’

He led the way to the room he used as a gallery for his collection. It had floor-to-ceiling shelves full of glass bottles with cork stoppers that contained screams. A cloud of colour swirled inside each one. The screams had been ordered by colour and sound, starting with a luminous white scream in the top left-hand corner and ending many rows later with what looked like a thunderstorm.

Mr Oddmore picked up a random bottle, released the cork with a soft pop and they both leaned forward and listened. A high-pitched scream whooshed out. Mr Oddmore shivered and smiled a contented smile.

‘It’s the scream a five-year-old French boy made after seeing a headless ghost in a haunted hotel,’ he said. ‘I had to hide under the bed for two weeks to get it.’

He re-plugged the bottle, put it back in its place on the shelf and then allowed Mr Peculiar to choose a different one. The scream he picked was bright pink. He opened the bottle and a thousand excited female screams filled the air.

‘They were made during a boy band concert at Wembley Stadium.’ Mr Oddmore didn’t smile as much this time. ‘Pop concerts are guaranteed places to get screams, although they are always candyfloss pink and sound very similar.’

‘Only the rare is of value,’ said Mr Peculiar, pushing the stopper into the neck of the bottle and shutting off the noise. He placed the scream back on the shelf.

Mr Oddmore pointed further along the row. ‘You’ll notice I have a gap between lavender purple and deep plum. I’m missing an aubergine-coloured scream; one that is full-bodied, intense and emotional.’ He sighed deeply and added, ‘I haven’t been able to find it. That is what I want for my birthday.’

Mr Peculiar put his arm around Mr Oddmore’s shoulder and squeezed it. ‘Then, we will set about getting it for you. Rarities are my speciality, Old Chap!’

Over dinner ─ Mr Peculiar had brought with him a very expensive gelatinous soup made from the saliva nests of cave swifts for them to try ─ they analysed Mr Oddmore’s collection to identify the likely owner of the missing scream. He had screams from babies through to the very old; from people of every single country; and the screams of animals. He even had Mr Peculiar’s.

‘I’ve got it!’ Mr Peculiar banged his spoon on the table, making Mr Oddmore jump. ‘You’re missing your own scream!’

Mr Oddmore frowned. Why hadn’t he thought of it himself? He ran back to the gallery to collect a bottle and returned a few seconds later sounding breathless.

‘Here we go,’ he said and screamed into the open top.

‘Well, that was easy.’ Mr Peculiar returned to his soup.

‘It sounded forced ─ false.’ Mr Oddmore shook his head and peered at the colour. ‘It’s only tinged with purple, as though it’s been watered down.’

‘If at first you don’t succeed,’ said Mr Peculiar.

‘Try and try again,’ said Mr Oddmore.

Over the next week, Mr Oddmore tried various methods he used on other people to extract a good scream from himself while Mr Peculiar headed off on an expedition to Eastern Russia in search of an animal close to extinction: the Amur Leopard.

Mr Oddmore walked along a dark alleyway at midnight and tapped his own shoulder; he didn’t scream. He dropped a spider inside his shirt collar; it tickled on its way down and made him giggle and wriggle, but not scream. At bedtime, he turned off all the lights and played a recording of ghostly moans; every dog in the neighbourhood began howling, giving him a thumping headache. He sobbed rather than screamed.

As soon as Mr Peculiar returned home from his trip, Mr Oddmore went to see him at his manor house. He rang the bell and various animals answered with shrieks, barks and chattering.

Mr Peculiar opened the door a fraction and peered out. ‘Give me a second, Old Chap’ he said. ‘I just need to shut the cat in.’

He disappeared inside.

Mr Oddmore heard a low growl and a hiss and, somewhere deep inside the house, another door being banged shut. He wondered if he should come back another time, but a moment later his friend welcomed him inside. Mr Peculiar’s ginger hair looked ruffled and he had a jagged rip in the sleeve of his tweed jacket.

‘So, what have I missed?’ asked Mr Peculiar, showing Mr Oddmore into his study and opening a rare bottle of wine thought to have belonged to King Henry VIII. ‘Have you managed to perfect your scream?’

‘No.’ Mr Oddmore slumped on a tan leather chair. ‘I can’t make it sound convincing. I think it needs to be spontaneous, and I so very rarely scream.’

Mr Peculiar’s eyes sparkled and a smile started at the corners of his mouth. ‘Leave it to me. Collecting rarities is my specialty!’

‘What are you planning?’ asked Mr Oddmore.

Mr Peculiar poured the wine and said, ‘None of your business.’ He chinked his glass against his friend’s. ‘Here’s to a magnificent scream.’

‘I second that,’ said Mr Oddmore, smiling back at him.

***

Several days passed. Mr Oddmore expected to see Mr Peculiar’s face pressed against the window when he opened the curtains, or for Mr Peculiar to dangle him from an upstairs window. He wondered if his friend would tie him to a train track… He had constant butterflies.

But nothing happened, and the thrill of anticipation turned to sadness. He thought Mr Peculiar had forgotten all about making him scream, especially after the thought-to-be extinct dodo bird was found alive in Madagascar.

On the day of his birthday, Mr Oddmore felt thoroughly depressed. He went for a walk and got caught out in the rain. His shoes squelched from where he’d plodded through puddles, rather than edging around them.

When he arrived back home, his front door hung open.

Must have forgotten to close it, he thought. But part of him was worried he’d been burgled and he strode straight to his gallery to check on the screams.

He breathed a sigh of relief at finding nothing out of place. It wasn’t until he reached the middle of the room that he saw a leopard with rusty-orange and spotted fur crouched under a table, watching him. It padded out from its hiding place with its head extended forward and eyes fixed on its target.

Mr Oddmore ran for the door, screaming. The leopard catapulted towards him.

Mr Peculiar appeared in the doorway with an open bottle in his hand, blocking the way out. ‘It’s a good scream, but I think you can do even better!’

The leopard caught the back of Mr Oddmore’s shirt. Mr Oddmore screamed a terrified scream and pulled away. The material ripped, leaving his skin exposed.

‘That’s more like it!’ said Mr Peculiar.

Mr Oddmore began climbing the shelves, trying to keep his feet away from the bottles. The shelving rocked and creaked.

He glanced over his shoulder at the leopard looking up at him. His heart was thumping in his chest.

‘I don’t want you to make me scream any more,’ Mr Oddmore shouted to Mr Peculiar.

‘No need.’ Mr Peculiar held up the bottle. It was the shade of purple Mr Oddmore had been missing. ‘Happy birthday, Old Chap!’ He took a bag of cooked chicken out of his pocket and turned to the leopard. But before he had a chance to say, ‘dinner time,’ the big cat leapt onto the shelving, its paws knocking off bottles as it scrabbled upwards.

Glass cracked, screams escaped and flashes of colour criss-crossed the room.

Mr Oddmore screamed and cried, ‘Make it stop!’ as he climbed higher.

‘Come down this instant,’ Mr Peculiar said to the leopard in a commanding voice.

It took no notice of him and lunged for the shelf above. The shelving tilted in the direction of the floor. The leopard fell off, but twisted in mid-air and landed gracefully on its paws. The remaining bottles flew off the shelves and shattered, producing an orchestra of screams.

But no scream was more intense or vibrant than the one Mr Oddmore now made as he watched his entire collection being destroyed.

The shelving followed the bottles and crashed to the floor with Mr Oddmore still gripping onto it.

‘My collection ─ it’s all gone,’ he said, his eyes filling with tears. ‘The only scream I have left is my scream.’

‘There is no point in you keeping it,’ said Mr Peculiar, sealing the bottle with a stopper and popping it into his blazer pocket. ‘I’m the one who collects rarities.’

Mr Oddmore thought about starting his scream collection again from scratch. But he remembered his own scream and decided against it.

Instead, he accumulated the world’s largest collection of rubber ducks.

 

Story by Kim Donovan. Illustration by Julia Draper. Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Shoemaker’s Secret

heels-1236641__4801

The Shoemaker’s glass slippers and soft leather boots were coveted by royalty and the very rich. Other shoemakers wanted to know the secret techniques and materials he used to craft them, but his big secret was he didn’t make the shoes; they were the work of elves.

He had found the elves working in his shop late one night, stitching fabric. They were no bigger than dolls and wore tatty, green tunics over woollen tights. He thought he should pay them in some way and presented them with new clothing; they were like excited children on Christmas morning.

Over the next few months the elves produced more and more new designs while The Shoemaker took the credit for their craftsmanship, gaining considerable wealth and status. He continued to pay his workers in tiny shirts, trousers, underwear and socks, but then one night the elves turned the tables. They took something belonging to him before they made the shoes: the book he was reading. He bought another copy and thought no more of it.

But the following evening, the same thing happened. This time they chose a framed picture of his baby daughter and paid him five pairs of sandals. The day after, they took a curl of her blonde hair.

The Shoemaker held his child tight to his chest and said to his wife, ‘I’ll put a stop to it.’

The next night he waited up for the elves. They appeared on the stroke of midnight.

‘I don’t need your services any more,’ he said firmly. ‘Please go.’

They smiled smugly, bowed and left the shop. He hoped this was the end of it all, but in the morning he discovered a pair of sparkly silver shoes taking pride of place in the shop’s display window. His daughter’s beloved teddy bear had disappeared.

He tried moving his family to a nearby coaching inn, but that night they took the child’s little toe. The Shoemaker wept, not knowing what to do. The elves would take her bit by bit; he was sure of it.

The bell tinkled as the shop door swung open and a young man walked in.

‘I’m enquiring to see if you have any jobs?’ he said. ‘I want to be as good a shoemaker as you.’

‘Do you have a wife, children?’ asked The Shoemaker.

‘No, it’s just me,’ he replied.

The Shoemaker sighed with relief and smiled. ‘You can have my business for free,’ he said.

He handed the bewildered man the keys to the shop and left immediately with his wife and child. They were never seen again.

The new shoemaker was the talk of town. His glass slippers were exquisite.

Story by Kim Donovan. Image Pixabay. All rights reserved.

First published on my author blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Electrik Inc, Fairy Tales, Kim Donovan, Uncategorized

Johnny in the trees

The Chocolate Brownie

julia-trees-2

Johnny has a tree house.

His Dad helped him make it out of strong planks of wood. It has a proper roof, a little door and a window. The best thing is the ladder. It’s made of rope and bits of wood and goes all the way up the trunk. Johnny can pull the ladder up into his tree house and no one can reach him. No one.

When Johnny is in his tree he can feel the branches moving and hear the leaves rustling. He keeps some of his things up there – a very big shell, a poster of sharks, a tin of sweets and his book of football stickers. His Mum cut a log down the middle to make a shelf to put his best dinosaurs on.

She comes into the garden and stands at the bottom of the tree.

‘Johnny, time to do your spellings. Come down please.’

Johnny does not answer. A big crow lands on a branch near him. He likes the sound it makes.

Kark! Kark!’

When the bird makes the noise Johnny can see right into its beak. The crow’s eyes are like two black beads and the feathers are black and spiky.

‘Come on.’ His Mum’s still standing there.

Kark!’

Now Johnny’s little brother Dan is standing at the bottom of the tree.

‘Johnny?’ calls Dan.

Johnny does not answer.

‘Johnny, can I come up into the tree house. Please?’

‘Go away Dan, I don’t want you up here.’

‘Please, Johnny.’

‘Go away. Mum says you’re not allowed up here. You’re too little.’

A clump of acorns rattles onto Johnny’s roof. The noise makes him jump.

Now his sister Beth is standing at the bottom of the tree.

‘Mum’s made chocolate brownies, Johnny. If you don’t come down now I will eat yours.’

‘You wouldn’t dare!’

Johnny looks out of his little window. He can see Beth way down below. He looks down and thinks of the brownie. All squidgy and still warm from the oven. Beth holds the brownie half inside her mouth. Her eyes are all big and round.

Just then he hears voices in the garden below. Beth’s friends have come to play with her. She skips off, still holding the brownie.

He leans out of his tree house to count Beth’s friends. He’s very high up and it’s hard to see down through the leaves.

One’s called Jess, and another one’s called Ali. That’s two. Then he hears Sammy and Holly, the twins. Beth comes back and her friends follow. They stand under the tree, laughing. Five of them. No, six if you count Dan.

‘Well, do you want your brownie or not?’ Beth calls. ‘We’ve all had ours but there’s just this one left.’ She looks around at her friends. ‘We could share it out between us, couldn’t we girls?’

‘…and me,’ says Dan.

Johnny shouts, ‘Wait! Wait, I’m coming down.’

He throws the rope ladder out of his tree house and starts to climb down.

‘Please…’

Johnny climbs down a few rungs of the ladder.

‘…don’t…’

He climbs down some more rungs,

‘…eat…’

And then down the last few.

‘…mine…’

He jumps down to the ground and snatches the brownie out of Beth’s hand. It crumbles into bits. He picks the biggest bit up, but it’s got grass and a slug on it now.

He stuffs it in his mouth. Then he turns and starts climbing back up his ladder. When he gets to the top, puffing, he pulls the ladder up. Then he lies on the wooden floor of his tree-house, listening.

‘He ate the slug!’ says Jess.

‘He can’t have,’ says Holly.

‘He did, he did! Yuk!’ says Ali.

‘I feel sick just thinking about it,’ says Sammy.

‘Brave!’ Dan says.

Beth knows that Johnny would never eat a slug. But she doesn’t say anything.

Story by Julia Draper. (c) All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Julia Draper, Uncategorized