Storytelling Forms: For or Against?

Bibliobibuli
(n) Those who read too much
Coined by H.L. Menken in 1957: There are people who read too much, bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.

As readers we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to genres, and now with the revolution of eBooks, we’re privy to all sorts of forms at the push of a button. Whether it’s the short story, novella, full-length novel, or even series and serials. There’s an ideal book to match the mood and time you have.

The beauty of writing is that there’s no limitation on imagination. So why should storytelling be subjected to something as constrictive as word count?

As a writer, I let my characters dictate how much they have to say, it’s their journey not mine. Because of this, I’ve written a series of full-length novels, a 3-part serial and even a bunch of short stories that come together with the same theme. I’ve recently been polishing a novella I’m submitting for my Master’s degree, and come next week, I’m going to be starting on the longest novel I’ll have written to date.

It’s all incredibly exciting because there’s so much room for creativity. If I bound myself with the ties of a mundane routine, sticking to the same style, form, genre, even the type of hero/heroine, there’d be no joy and life in what I write. The characters would be as dead as I’d feel. And you, the reader, would be throwing the trash back at me for wasting your time.

I know that there’s a lot of controversy when it comes to the length of a book. Some people love the episodic serials, they’re great for commuters with limited spare time, or for those that like to consume its entirety before bed. Others complain they’re not getting their money’s worth, but in this age of eBooks the pricing has no limit. And it’s all relative. How do you base the amount you’re willing to pay for an eBook? Is it on length? Quality? The author? Would you consider the daily cup of coffee you buy from the local chain-store is worth more than the story you pondered purchasing?

I love to read. And like my characters, I don’t confine myself to just the one genre, form, and size. Having the choice is what makes it enjoyable. Do you agree? Or would you rather we took a step back and stuck to more traditional rules?

You can make anything by writing.
– C.S. Lewis

 

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Is Writing A Craft?

As I’m coming to the end of my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, I’ve been reflecting on the subject and how my ability to entwine cohesive clauses in a plot thick with action, excitement, and an intricately woven storyline has grown.

In the past I had often been told that the more I wrote, the better I would become. Like working a muscle to its optimal performance. Even before beginning this degree, I had noticed a change between the first novel I published and the latest at the time. It still makes me cringe when I consider my standards then to what I now know in comparison. But, all of this is great, because it means I’ve progressed, continued to learn when I could’ve been lazy and stuck to what I knew.

I firmly believe that writing is a craft with endless development. Whether that’s in grammar and punctuation, language, purposeful use of lexis, tools in structure, story, plot, character, dialogue, forms. . . The list goes on, and like everything else it evolves. If you want to be better, you cannot stay still.

Do you remember in English class when you were made to inspect literature in fine detail, the likes of William Shakespeare for example? You’d be deconstructing the prose or poetry all the way down to single words. And I’m sure you often questioned whether the author had been that precise on word choice, sub-text etc. on purpose, if it happened haphazardly, or if it were coincidental and academia made it up entirely, wanting to find double-meanings for the sake of being intelligent. I know I often suspected if it were true, and that was mostly based on my own writing process.

When I’m in the throes of getting the first draft of my latest novel done, I can be so in tune with my characters and story that I don’t deliberately choose my vocabulary. For example, using the same verbs that relate to the location I’m in.
(In a coffee shop) ‘The man’s misery wafts around him.’

The verb ‘wafts’ directly links to the scent of a coffee shop, its aroma permeates the air. Admittedly, it hadn’t been my intention to write with such insight. I just did it. But now, after completing the first full draft of my dissertation, I understand how important it can be to carefully select phrases, structure, lexis etc. to strengthen my writing. Even if that means slight details where sentences affect pacing.

Now, this makes me wonder even more if Shakey etc. really did understand the power and impact their writings made. Then again, he is the brain behind much of our vocabulary and phrases e.g. ‘seen better days’, ‘sorry sight’, ‘full circle’. If only I could converse with him myself; I’d dissect every inch of his brilliance.

Do you think writing is a craft? Or is it an easy vocation, the job anyone can do?

Readers: What’s Hot & What’s Not?

Happy New Year! 

I know, it feels strange reading that in the middle of January, doesn’t it? This time of year comes with a clean slate and a list of good intentions – honestly, how many of you have deviated already?

I, myself, have big plans for the year ahead. Lots of publishing is on the horizon – I currently have 4 projects on the go. Doesn’t that show how indecisive I’ve been lately? But, I just want to. . .

WRITE ALL THE THINGS!!

For now, I’m interested in hearing your opinions on this big wide world of words. What genre book are you currently addicted to? What or who’s making you 1-click immediately? And what are you absolutely fed up of seeing?

I’ve been on a crime fiction binge for months now, devouring between 1-2 a week – my purse can’t keep up with my voracious hunger for the written text. I’m also slowly getting back into the groove of fantasy/paranormal. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Last year we saw the rise in step-brother romances, pushing the boundaries of taboo subjects. This year I believe we’re going to be seeing more cross-genre fiction – bleeding the lines between categories even more. What do you think is going to be this year’s biggest trend?

Justine who? Yeah, I’ve forgotten too. . .

6 months of the year already over and I’m feeling even more detached from this beautiful book world. When I took on my Master’s Degree last October I had no idea how much it would consume every aspect of my life, I thought I was the Queen of multi-tasking and organisation. And even though I haven’t stopped writing, I haven’t necessarily been able to write the projects I’ve got lined up for my author biz. I know, it seems daft. My inner monologue goes something like this. . . “How can you write all these words and still not have anything ready to publish?!” I’ve even driven myself insane by imposing deadlines on my work and having to push them back All. The. Time. because just when I think I have a handle on all the work. . . BAM! New pile. More deadlines to crunch. But I’m LOVING this degree. My mind is pop-pop-popping with brand new ideas and information.

Back at the beginning of the year, I said I’d do a vlog answering all of your burning questions, and funnily enough you all seemed to have the same two questions, so I’m going to quickly sum them up here.
1. Where the hell have I been?
2. What’s next dammit?!

Amongst the really hard work, I recently ventured out and did something I’ve wanted to do since I was little.
I drove a Ferrari.
AND AN ASTON MARTIN…
Around a race track! Undoubtedly, it was the BEST day ever! I had the widest, cheesiest grin on my face all day, and was so focused on pushing the cars around the bends Top Gear-style I completely forgot I had a camera pointed at me the entire time. There’s video evidence, but for now I’ll stick to a couple of photos.

 

And this past weekend I headed over to Swansea Bay for the annual Wales Airshow which I absolutely enjoy every year, especially now that I have my Canon EOS to play around with. Can’t go wrong with an Airshow on the beach in the sunshine.

 

As for what’s next from me, that’s more of a tricky question. For more than a year I’ve had several projects on the go, some closer to finishing than others. You might recall me mentioning a holiday-themed Nature’s Destiny short story book – I can tell you that I have every intention of releasing that during the remaining months of the year. I’m really close to the end. SO CLOSE. It’s like saying goodbye to Luna and Riley all over again. (That’s probably why it’s taking me so long to complete, I can’t say bye-bye again.)

Finally, the biggest news I have to share is that I’ll be attending Chapter Con 2017 at the end of August (25th-26th) in Teddington, London. What does that mean? During this two-day event I’ll be talking on one of the five panels set up, whilst also having a table with my books to sell and swag to give away with a ton of other awesome authors from around the globe. Come meet me, ask me anything, take some selfies. For some more in-depth information, click here.

 

Tickets are available here with many different options. Friday only. Saturday only. Both days including the evening ball. Whatever takes your fancy and budget.

This is the first indie book conference of its kind in the UK, adopted from Nashville’s UtopiaCon which has now, sadly, ended its annual event. But, as one page ends, a new chapter begins. And I’m ridiculously excited to meet you and talk about the things we love most. BOOKS!

To spread the love for this event, I’m giving away 3 tickets to the Saturday Signing (26th August – either morning or afternoon). To enter, head here to the rafflecopter giveaway.

 

Why do you write?

Oftentimes, the conscious act of writing is personal. Our minds can become heavily trafficked by every day problems and life:

* Something you did didn’t go to plan and you start fretting.
* Someone else’s stress starts affecting you.
* Marital issues become unbearable.
* Lack of money and an increase in bills have you panicking.
* Your boss dumps a huge pile of work on your desk at 3pm on a Friday, expecting it to be done by Monday, yet you have plans to take the kids away to a theme park.

Daily struggles have a way of consuming our thoughts with loud chatter, and as humans we often need an outlet, a medium to voice the craziness in order to clear the clutter. For many, the choice is to sit with a cuppa and vent, let it out to those closest to you. For others, they choose to write it down. Whether somebody else sees it is irrelevant, the aim is to empty the mind.

This is why writing is often personal; it’s a kind of therapy. 
You bare all your darkest secrets, desires and fears on the page because you know it won’t judge you. There’s no reply. No criticism. It’s your sanctuary to explore your current journey.

Sometimes, you write to understand what you’re thinking. It’s a logical thought process that enables to get you from A to B in order to find the solution.

“The written word, in all its forms, holds tremendous power.”
Hrvoje Butkovic

However, I write to quieten the madness inside me, to give structure and purpose to my every day musings. It’s there I’m most objective; I see what’s going on around me as if through a filter lens.

“I write to give myself strength.
I write to be the characters that I am not.
I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”

Joss Whedon

I write to mould words into life, to give credence to what I observe. It isn’t easy to write coherently, to have readers sympathise with your characters, but the joy of fitting sentences together like the pieces of a jigsaw is undeniably satisfactory. Yes, it’s a long, lonely road filled with a constant battle between doubt and glee, but the gratification of a completed project makes it worthwhile. Your efforts will be rewarded eventually.

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold;
they change the world into words.”
William H. Gass

I made a deliberate decision to write publicly:

* To open myself up to new opinions and thoughts in order to grow.
* To view the Universe through another’s eyes.
* To learn.

I will never know enough about this craft to honestly profess I need not study anymore. Writing evolves every day, making it more exciting and challenging, forcing me to work harder.

I might never reach the status of Writing Queen. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. When passion, determination and ambition collide, magic happens. Don’t let fear get in the way of your dreams; you deserve what you’re willing to work for.

“You can make anything by writing.”
C. S. Lewis


Struggling with being a writer in the age of social media? Check this article out. You’re not alone.


Finally, last call to submit your questions to me in my open Q&A session. All entries must be given in by the end of Saturday 4th February 2017. The giveaway is also open internationally. Read this short post for more information.

Happy New Year

justine-winter2

I do desire we may be better strangers.
William Shakespeare

Happy New Year, Wolves!
I know, doesn’t that seem strange reading those words so late in January? But I’m sure you’ve noticed a considerable amount of silent treatment on my end the last few months. Sometimes, life has a funny way of creeping up and consuming you. Even in my absence I didn’t stop thinking of you, and I’ve been writing. I’m constantly writing, it’s just not what I always want to write. I’m looking at you, Uni assignments. However, my intentions and goals for this year are pretty humongous – both personal and professional.So, why am I quoting Shakespeare today? Well, it’s pretty simple. I’m well overdue a new Vlog – that’s a video blog btw, you know, in case you’re not down with the kids. (I can hear my younger self tutting and shaking her head in disapproval at that. When did I get old? Scratch that question, I don’t think I’d like the answer, it’ll probably have something to do with grey hairs. Yes, I have them. A LOT OF THEM. Gone are the days of snipping one or two. Anyway, I’ve digressed…)

The last time I created a video I’d only just started out in this Author ShowBiz back in 2014. Everything was all new back then! If you haven’t seen it, please cringe along with me here. But now, I’m ready to dive back into the swing of things, and that means keeping in touch with you about words I’m finally going to publish this year. Want to know more? Then ask me. That’s right. I want to know what you want to know from me – sorry, this isn’t supposed to be some riddle you have to solve before you get the prize. Basically, I’m going to answer all your questions in a video. Whether they’re about my books, what I’m working on, what I’m currently doing with my weird life or even who my favourite superhero is. Actually, no, please don’t ask me that. I don’t have an answer! What I’m suggesting is you have carte blanche. Go crazy! All you have to do is comment below with your question. And what’s more, one lucky inquisitor will win a mystery prize. Game on?

Let’s do this!
Speak soon,
Alpha J – XO

Sacrifice

remembrance-day

 

Empty shells dress the ground at my feet,
Echoing in my mind as I blast each lethal sweet.
My targets they wait, hiding down below,
Cowering behind ruins as they run out of ammo.

My breathing remains even despite my pounding chest,
I inch forward slowly, testing my armoured vest.
Bullets hurtle all around, terrified shouts fill the air,
Red pools soak the ground; a poignant outcome of warfare.

My comrades take cover at the howl of a grenade,
We wait out the blast, gearing up to invade.
Sweat trickles down my neck, the burning heat sears my soul,
Yet I trundle ahead, towards the emerging black hole.

I wish for my home, for the strength of my wife,
For the press of her lips as she gives me new life.
But as we scout out the zone, danger sparks up anew,
At this moment I know, I won’t make our rendezvous.

Slowly, I fall, time disappears from me completely,
I ignore all the pain, taking my enemy with me.
My army brothers lean down as I pat my left pocket,
A goodbye to my love with her favourite sonnet.

Though it is day, darkness closes on my eyes,
I take my last breath, envisioning the sunrise.
As my essence drifts away, I have only one regret,
There’ll be no more ‘I love you’, and too much upset.

Lest We Forget.

r-day