Happy 1st Blogiversary To Me!

Pic courtesy of pinterest

Pic courtesy of pinterest

It’s one year since I posted my first blog entry!

How time flies.  I could never have imagined where it would lead.

I started out with the aim of doing at least one post a week, and I’m pleased to say I’ve achieved that (and often more).

I wanted to publish some of my fiction on my blog, too – and I’ve done that.

I wanted to learn more about the craft of writing. Thanks to the support, encouragement, and advice from fellow bloggers and writers, on WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook, I have learnt a lot (I hope!)

It also led to me starting an Open University Creative Writing course in October, which runs until May and which I’ve a) enjoyed and b) found very useful.

First pic I ever posted - Sam in the clean washing!

First pic I ever posted – Sam in the clean washing!

Some things I never expected:

Writers wanting to guest on my little blog. I didn’t know about blog tours, cover reveals, and all that stuff when I started. I sure do now!

Guesting on other people’s blogs, and having them actually ask me to write articles or fiction for them. Wow!

Blog Awards. Thank you to all those who nominated me.

The amazing friendship and support from other writers. I know I keep going on about this, but I never dreamt I would meet so many great people and receive such encouragement. Thanks for your patience in answering my daft questions!

Pic courtesy of freelancedream.com

Pic courtesy of freelancedream.com

My future bloggy/writerly plans:

One thing that doing my course has taught me, is that I CAN be disciplined and make time for writing every day, unless I’m doing something extra special. So, I intend to devote just as much time to writing once my course finishes, but next year I shall be:

Writing more short fiction and flash fiction

Submitting more of the above to magazines and anthologies

Working on my novel

Still blogging at least once a week, and posting fiction on my blog

The kind of dark stuff I like

The kind of dark stuff I like

Finally, I wish to thank *gets hankies out*:

My Long-Suffering Hubby, for being there for me, supporting me in this writing venture, and bringing me cups of tea

My Bestest Bud, for the same (without the tea, but with lots of wine)

My Freaks, as hubby charmingly calls them – this refers to my rock friends and my writer friends, sometimes interchangeable. Some are online, some offline, and some both, and they are all awesome!

My Muse

And finally finally, some highlights from the past year, if you like that sort of thing:

Top post: My Writing Process (I’m supposed to have a process??)

Top fiction, which also happens to be sexy, you naughty people: Wickedly Wet

Top non-sexy fiction: The Summoning

Thank you all so much!

Karen xx

Music Monday: Alter Bridge. WARNING: Fangirl Alert!

Time for some unashamed fangirling now. Today sees the release of ‘Fortress’, the new album by one of my favourite rock bands, Alter Bridge. Three weeks today I go to see and hear them live, along with two other great bands, Shinedown and Halestorm. So, for Music Monday, on the run up to the gig, I’m going to post tracks by each band. My rock fan friends will love this. The rest of you – feel free to skim over this stuff and look out for more sensible blog posts. Although there might not be any of those, as my Creative Writing course starts on Saturday and I’m already mildly freaking out about my workload. 😉

Due to being able to listen to official previews, I have heard the album a few times already and it’s fantastic. A great mix of tracks, from soaring anthems to breathy love songs (although Alter Bridge love songs tend to have a bit of a twist). Actually, a lot of AB’s songs are quite dark. Some of my friends find it surprising that I like this band, as I’m also a glam rock/musical theatre type. I like horror and paranormal fiction, and some of my own writing is dark, so when that comes out in someone’s songwriting, I’m drawn to it. Hubby finds it odd that I like AB because he thinks they’re too ‘heavy’ for me. I keep trying to explain that as long as there’s MELODY, it doesn’t matter to me how heavy the music is. (He doesn’t quite get it).

Photo credits to Austin Hargrave, via metalingus.de

Photo credits to Austin Hargrave, via metalingus.de


Above from left to right: Mark Tremonti (vocals, guitar), Scott ‘Flip’ Phillips (drums), Brian Marshall (bass) and Myles Kennedy (vocals, guitar). Don’t let the scary tattooed look fool you – they’re all dedicated, (fairly) clean-living family men!

In my opinion, Myles Kennedy is the best living vocalist in rock. (Hi, Freddie, wherever you are). I will get people shouting lots of other names at me here: Corey Taylor, Brent Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Steven Tyler, to name but a few. Yes, I love all of these guys. I did say ‘in my opinion’. Myles’s amazing vocal range, together with heartfelt delivery and charismatic stage presence, make him a force to be reckoned with. Before anyone says it, yes, the fact that he is very easy on the eyes helps too!

Myles and Mark are both talented singer-songwriters. Their guitar-playing backgrounds are very different. Myles honed his skills playing blues and jazz, and even taught guitar at one point. Mark is a self-taught, speed metal guitarist. They complement one another perfectly. Together with their rhythm section of Brian and Flip, they make a formidable whole. Stand-out songs for me on the new album so far: ‘Calm the Fire’, which shows off Myles’s incredible vocal range, ‘All Ends Well’, written by Myles from his mum’s point of view, talking to the insecure younger him (genius idea), and ‘Lover’ which sounds very breathy and sexy, then you listen to the lyrics… Mark takes lead vocal for the first time on ‘Waters Rising’, which will delight fans. Mark has shown his ability as a frontman with his band ‘Tremonti’ over the last year.

I’m not setting out to review the album or do a bio of the band here; this is just me talking about why I love their music. So much so that I will queue all day to get to the front row of the gig, along with a lot of other like-minded loonies (you know who you are). 😉

I’ve featured two videos below. The first is ‘Addicted to Pain’, the first single from ‘Fortress’. This is ‘loud, fast and thrashin”, as they say. We all know somebody in a relationship like the one the song is describing. The video complements the dark, angry tone of the song. If you don’t like dark and heavy, give it a miss, and skip to the next one…

…‘Watch Over You’, from AB’s second album, ‘Blackbird’. A beautiful ballad, although if you listen to the lyrics – there’s that twist. Myles often performs this as a solo acoustic number during their live set, which works brilliantly and usually has the crowd (and sometimes him!) in tears.

Alter Bridge are a band who are not nearly as well known as they deserve to be. They have built up a well-deserved following through regular touring and interacting with fans (hello, AB Nation)! They sell out arenas all over Europe and the UK. ‘Fortress’ could be the album that makes them a household name.

Temptation…and Inspiration

Photographs are a constant source of inspiration to me. Along with music, they spark a lot of my ideas, especially for flash or short fiction.

I don’t usually put my fiction on my blog home page, but for a change, I’ve included a little excerpt below, along with the photograph that inspired it.

I’m mostly writing erotica, or at least, sensual pieces, at the moment. That seems to be the way my mind’s working, just now! I’m sure lots of people would say I’m having a mid-life crisis. 😉 I’ve liked to read ‘sexy stuff’ ever since my teens, and I’ve always made up my own scenes in my head. Over the past year, I started writing them down properly. I discovered that I enjoyed writing them, and some people thought I was quite good at them, so that encouraged me to keep going.

But this isn’t about writing sexy scenes. It’s about inspiration.

The photograph inspired me to write the lines featured below, along with the fact that it was the autumnal equinox. I was thinking about autumn, and apples ripening – maybe because we have an apple tree in our garden. I remembered that I had saved this photograph some weeks ago. I took another look at it, and the word ‘temptation’ immediately entered my head. I thought about how Eve tempted Adam with the apple. I certainly find the young man in the photograph tempting! I imagined the apple tree above him. Like a movie playing in my head, I saw the serpent slither down the tree…and I started writing.

That’s one example from my creative process. I’ve realised that I do ‘picture’ what I’m describing, whenever I’m writing – not just when inspired by photos. Sometimes that’s to see if what’s flowing from my pen (or keyboard) actually works. In this case, the photo was a jumping-off point for all kinds of other images. When I’m inspired by a piece of music, I find the same thing happens: the image of what the song or melody means to me appears in my head.

Of course, I’m inspired by all kinds of other things as well: people and incidents from all walks of my life, paintings, quotes…the list is endless.

To my writer friends: where do you get your ideas from? Do you ‘see’ what you’re writing? What’s the strangest thing that’s inspired you? Fellow music lovers: does a song or piece of music ever create an image in your mind? Is it ever different to the story the lyrics are telling?

Temptation

Photo courtesy of @LapsedSaint on Twitter

Photo courtesy of @LapsedSaint on Twitter

I am Eve.

He lay on his back under the trees, forbidden as the fruit all around him. His body dappled, the light struggling through the dense branches. One hand held an apple; the other shaded his eyes. The blankets he lay amidst artfully covered him, but even in the dim light I could see he was naked.

They were always to be found in the orchard, at this time of year. Young men, mostly, doing it for a dare.

I am Eve. The thought ran through my mind again, as my mouth watered in anticipation. The serpent whispered. I could already taste the fruit…the sin…him.

Leaves scrunched as I moved closer. He stirred, but didn’t look. I touched the tree, bark scratching my palm. The serpent uncoiled, slithered, tempted. Reaching out, my fingers alighted on smooth skin, over firm flesh.

*****************************************************************

So…who am I? What am I touching? (Not that – naughty people). What’s going to happen? I don’t even know myself yet. I have a few endings in mind… 😉

Interview with K.N. Lee, author of The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld

A few weeks ago K.N. Lee released her debut novel The Chronicles Of Koa: Netherworld, which is already gathering great reviews. I first met K.N. Lee on Twitter and thought this book looked like just my sort of thing. I was busy trying to order a copy when lo and behold! Up she popped on Facebook as well looking for people to read and review the book. I jumped at the chance and we’ve been chatting ever since. I was very flattered as a new blogger and writer when she agreed to be interviewed on my blog. Here’s what we talked about:

Where were you born, and brought up? Where do you live now?

I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My mother and I moved to Atlanta when I was four and later to Charlotte, N.C. when I was 13. I really dreaded moving to North Carolina, but it quickly grew on me.

When did you start writing, and what led you to do it?

I started writing when I was in the second grade. I was obsessed with books and felt like I could create my own. So, I started cutting up cardboard boxes, wrapping wallpaper around it and voila, I had hardcover books. I drew my own pictures and started creating my own fairy tales.

I used to create my own books that way too! You say you are an avid world traveller. Why do you enjoy travel so much?

I enjoy exploring new lands, cultures, and languages. I’m an adventurer, and I have an insatiable desire to absorb as much new experiences as I can. My trip to South Korea was a huge changing point in my life. There was a moment of total culture shock, but the people were so friendly that I fell in love. I think that trip made me a little less shy.

Who and/or what influences you as a writer?

Terry Goodkind, Stephen King, and Anne Rice are big influences of mine. I was introduced to fantasy by Mr. Goodkind, when I picked up his novel, The Stone of Tears. Later, Tolkien also inspired me to create my own creatures instead of recycling the same ones we’ve seen for centuries. Also, my dreams are huge influences on my writing. I’ve been keeping a dream journal since high school. Most of my stories come directly from the elaborate nightmares that I have.

How do you balance writing, travelling and other life commitments?

No matter how busy I am, I always find time to write. I always keep a notebook and pen in my purse for those times when I get an idea or see something interesting. From 14 hour writing days, to half an hour after work days, I never sacrifice writing.

You have just published “The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld”. Introduce us to Koa and her world…

Welcome to a world where vampires must register, humans sell their services as pets, and angels patrol the Earth. This is Koa’s world. As a half-blood (half human and half vampire) Koa and the other agents of the Netherworld division keep order in the mortal world. Prepare to be introduced to a new species of vampire, and original creatures created from my darkest nightmares. Prepare to embark on a journey to the Netherworld.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

The idea actually came from two dreams that I had. One of the dreams was of a girl who was home alone with her cat. Someone knocked on her door and when she answered it, he tried to hurt her. The twist was that this intruder had made a mistake. This was the wrong girl to mess with. The girl in my dream in turn killed the intruder, turned to her cat and nonchalantly said, “Now look at this mess that I have to clean up.” Then, the cat talked back to her. Amazing dream! The first chapter was pretty much laid out for me right there! I love the idea that people aren’t always what they seem. Koa is that kind of girl. You do not want to mess with her. The second dream was pretty much the chapter with Raven and Al!

Are any of your characters based on you or someone you know?

Koa is the girl that I wish I was. Decisive, feisty, independent, and fearless. Halston is my dream guy. Raven is based off of my black cocker spaniel…named Raven. Everyone else has a measure of personality traits that come from nightmares, friends, and family.

Koa’s world is filled with amazing and scary creatures. How did you come up with the fantastical inhabitants of the Netherworld?

I absolutely loved creating the creatures of the Netherworld! I feel like vampires, werewolves, and the like are so overused nowadays, that the world is craving something new. Syths, Scayors, Jems, War-Breeders, and my version of ‘vamps’ are original creatures that came from nightmares I’ve had.

You mention getting ideas from dreams and nightmares a lot. Are your nightmares scary at the time? How do you cope with them?

Yes, my nightmares frighten me most of the time. I sometimes wake up crying and afraid to go back to sleep, but I’ve learned to embrace them. How can I not appreciate my mind handing me cool stories while I sleep? I tell myself that they are not real, and hurry to write them down before they fade from memory. Once I write them down, it further reminds me that the nightmare was nothing more than my imagination giving me literary gold!

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Can you tell us anything about the second book (without giving too much away, of course!) Do you know how many books there will be in The Chronicles of Koa?

The second book, Lyrinian Blade, will be released Christmas 2013! I honestly cannot wait. I would love to release it today, but alas, I must send it to the editor and revise it again. In this book there we will finally meet Greggan, the king of the Central Dominance in the Netherworld. Bund will cause major havoc, and Koa will be tested in new ways. I’m sure everyone is curious about what happens to Halston, and I don’t think anyone will see what I have in store coming! I also look forward to developing the secondary characters a little more…especially Ian. There is a huge surprise about Ian!

I’m looking forward to finding out more about what happens to Ian! Did you plan the book meticulously? Did your characters or the story ever go off in an unexpected direction?

The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld started as a web series. I would write and release a chapter a week. Then, I figured that it would be much better as a book, so I started filling in Koa’s background and events leading to her journey to the Netherworld. I did use an outline, but more of the time the characters steered the plot away from my outline!

Who is your favourite character – besides Koa of course?!

Halston! By far, Koa’s boss is my favourite character. He has such an interesting backstory that I cannot wait to explore in the upcoming books! I think I’ve created my dream guy. He’s blonde, British, and creates cool weapons. I’m sure other girls will agree 😉

Being British myself, I would have to agree! What other writing do you do? Any other novels in the pipeline?

I also write short stories (mostly horror) and poems. My high-fantasy trilogy, Rise of the Flame is complete. Welcome to a world divided. There are seven races, four realms, and one human girl meant to bring them all together in peace…or war. Meet Lilae, a fire manipulating warrior that has been hunted since the day she was born. I cannot wait to introduce my life’s work to the world!

I can’t wait either! What is your writing routine? Do you have any writing rituals?

I try to write 1000 words every day. Most of the time, I can write more. I usually turn on Celtic music, or movie soundtracks, such as Braveheart and Inception. I’ll even burn incense or candles whenever I’m writing about a foreign land. It actually helps!

I often feel I need to step away from writing as I’m going cross-eyed! How do you relax when you’re not writing?

I know what you mean! I admit, I am a big gamer…so I’ll play Sims 3 or Lineage (my favourite MMORPG.) I also love taking long walks with my dog, going to yoga classes, or riding my bike. Sometimes I’ll even paint or sketch.

I love your website writelikeawizard.com, where you set other authors writing challenges. What led you to do that?

I’m glad that you love it. It has become pretty popular. The concept started with my daily writing prompts on http://www.facebook.com/knycolelee. I would put up a prompt every morning and my friends would write creative stories with them. I would then post those stories to my website. Soon, actual authors would participate and I got the idea that it would be an excellent promotion strategy to help other authors out!

Do you have any advice for other writers or would-be writers?

Easy! Keep writing. I hear that so much from fellow authors that I interview, but it is so true. Writers must write. Never give up what makes you happy. Also, if you’re writing a novel, it’s never too early to start working on your author platform.

Who are your favourite authors? (I’ve made this plural because I can never name just one favourite of anything!)

For fantasy, my favourite authors are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Terry Goodkind. However, I am also a huge classic British literature fan! I love Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, (She’s also Koa’s favourite author) and Charles Dickens.

How did you go about getting your book published? Do you have an agent?

I am in the process of finding an agent! I want to go the traditional route for Rise of the Flame. Lilae’s story has been in my head since I was a child, and I feel that she deserves the best! Nonetheless, I am quite impatient, and securing a publisher takes a great deal of time, therefore I decided to use Amazon KDP to publish The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld. Still, I wanted my novel to be as polished as possible, so I have an excellent editor, Ann Wicker of East Oak Media, an awesome graphic designer, Brandon Jackson, and a few great girls in my critic group. The amazing author of the Roswell series and former writer for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, Melinda Metz is one of my beta readers. To have her call my characters and weapons cool, blew my mind!

You are having a release party for The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld on 15th June. What does that involve? Can I come? 😉

Yes! I am so excited. Of course you can come. All are welcome. There are details on the website, http://www.thechroniclesofkoa.com. I will have local media, a photographer, and catering. More importantly, I will be signing paperback copies of The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld. Yippee!

Unfortunately as I’m in Scotland I won’t be able to make it to the party in person, but I’ll be there in spirit! Thank you so much to K.N. Lee for this very enjoyable interview.

Buy The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld from Amazon here

For more on K.N. Lee go to:

thechroniclesofkoa.com

writelikeawizard.com

facebook.com/KNycoleLee

twitter.com/knycole_lee

The power of ROCK!

So this week I booked tickets to see one of my favourite bands in concert – well, three of my favourite bands actually, all on the same billing. In doing so I managed to regress right back to my teenage years, except instead of hanging around on a phone or in a queue outside a record store, I was glued to my computer at the appointed time, the exact moment the tickets went on sale, in order not to miss out. Heart-stopping moments ensued: would my computer crash? Would the ticket agency be unable to cope with the overwhelming demand? Would my bank have mysteriously emptied itself of all funds just at the moment I used my card? Fortunately none of these things happened and the tickets (for two shows, yes, I am that much of a fan) were duly purchased. And I knew that all over the country, and all over several other countries, other people of all ages and backgrounds were doing exactly the same thing. And that got me thinking: why is music, particularly live music, so powerful? What makes us wind ourselves into knots over getting tickets, stand for hours in a queue in the cold and rain to get right in front of the stage, and sing and scream ourselves hoarse along with every word of every song?
Of course, if you’ve never done this, you will be a bit mystified by this post. If you have, I would love to hear about your experiences. I can’t speak for everyone else, but here’s why I do it.
Now, I love all kinds of music. But as my title suggests, this post is about rock music. I lo-o-ove rock music. It can be raucous, it can be melodic, it can be both at once. Personally I prefer it when it’s both, as I like a melody to sing along to, but with the power of a great heavy guitar riff behind it. I listen to rock in the car, when I’m cooking, when I’m cleaning…I have a huge music collection: vinyl (what? say the younger readers), CDs, and lots of downloaded music as well. But nothing beats seeing and hearing a band live. There’s something a little tribal about it. Actually, there’s something a LOT tribal about it. The band is the mystical shaman and we are the worshippers, yet when we are all singing (chanting??) together we are as one. For those couple of hours you don’t think about all the worrying day-to-day stuff, as thinking is impossible at that decibel level anyway. You just sing, dance and feel. I remember my biology teacher at school (who, funnily enough, was a rock music fan) explaining the science of it, how the vibration goes through your solar plexus and lower and excites your…no, no, I’m not going to continue with that. I’m sure you get the picture. He was, incidentally, absolutely right, especially if the lead singer is hot. *winks*
Rock music has been the common point between me and many of my friends, and has made me lots of new friends throughout my life. There’s nothing like the shared experience of queuing to see a gig to bond people together. With the advent of Facebook and Twitter, it’s much easier to keep in touch and exchange news, alert fellow fans re ticket sales, and meet up at future gigs. Even the people I’ve never met in person have in some cases become very good friends, a kind of modern-day ‘pen-friend’. (Gosh, that shows my age. Younger readers won’t know what a pen-friend is either). It’s my personal belief that this is how Facebook is meant to be used, not for bitching about people. What’s that you say? Oh yes, Facebook is for worshipping cats as well, of course.
But I digress. One final thing from me: rock music, and a few particular musicians, are partly responsible for me starting this blog, and writing in earnest. They, along with my husband and friends, helped keep me sane last year when my world seemed to be falling to bits, and inspired me to get off my a**e and start creating. I would even go so far as to describe one of them as my muse. So instead of blaming rock music for the usual selection of bad stuff, people can now blame it for the fact that I am compelled to outpour my thoughts here once a week.
I deliberately haven’t listed my favourite bands/musicians. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you will soon find out. You can probably guess a couple of them from the photo!
On a different note (see what I did there?), this weekend I am off to a folk music gig. Variety is the spice of life!

I don't know who owns this pic, so credits to them, and The Myles Kennedy Fan Page

I don’t know who owns this pic, so credits to them, and The Myles Kennedy Fan Page