A gift

Deep down in my secret self I wanted my books, or someone else at least, to sell

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One of the “classrooms” at Arte Umbria

themselves. Like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, I love to sink, undisturbed, into the depths of my work in progress. I do not like to talk about or sell myself or my books.

 

My first book, A Life Less Lost, came out in paperback. I was just beginning to give successful talks without having to lie in a darkened room for hours afterwards, when my second book, Once Removed, came out as an ebook. Being slow to grasp a whole new set of promotional skills, impacted on sales and self-confidence. Several false starts on the next book left me paralysed by doubt in my ability to write. And why would I want to, if it meant I had to face the marketing challenges that came with completion?

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Mealtimes on the terrace

I tried to fill the void with other things but the ache wouldn’t stop howling. Then as a very special birthday present (for one of those with a zero in it) I was given the chance of a writing holiday in Italy! WOW, I know, I couldn’t believe it.

Arte Umbria, about half an hour from Perugia, up in the hills provided an exquisite venue, Sue Moorcroft provided the tuition and the other members of the course gave endless encouragement and fun. The result? I’m writing again! Full of energy, ideas and enthusiasm. Watch this space…

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Thank you everyone!

Passion and Conviction

Like buses, no posts for months then two come along at once…

Jeff2014Jeff Gardiner is the UK author of three novels, a collection of short stories and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites. He’s also recently signed a three book contract with Accent Press for his ‘Gaia’ YA trilogy, which begins with Pica, a novel of transformation and ancient magic. Today he tells us about the need for passion and conviction in the search for that elusive goal of publication.

The first novel I wrote was ‘Treading On Dreams’, but it wasn’t the first one published. I had to go through the dreaded rejections and yet keep faith in my treasured work of art. My second novel ‘Myopia’ found a home sooner than ‘Treading On Dreams’, and I was even completing a third novel, ‘Igboland’ before my first was finally accepted. Don’t give up on those early manuscripts. They may well need polishing every now and then, but if you believed in them once, then give them another chance.

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Submitting novels and stories to editors is a difficult game. It’s never entirely clear what they’re looking for, and you have to have the courage in your convictions, unless you’re happy to compromise and write the book you think they want, rather than the one you feel personally passionate about.

I feel very passionate about all my novels. ‘Treading On Dreams’ is the story of a sensitive man called Donny who becomes Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 500obsessed with a young lady he shares a house with, but is hit by the debilitating sledgehammer of unrequited love. It is not autobiographical and Donny is certainly not me, but there are aspects of me in Donny: who hasn’t suffered the woes of loving someone who is either taken or uninterested?

‘Myopia’ is about Jerry, a teenager, who’s short-sighted and bullied. He invents some intriguing and certainly non-violent methods of challenging his bully to change his ways. I wasn’t particularly bullied as a child, but as a school teacher I’ve seen the traumatic effects that bullying can have. This is my response to those selfish, thoughtless individuals who make everyone else’s life a misery.

Ironically, ‘Igboland’ is my most personal book, even though it’s narrated in first person by a woman. Set in Nigeria during the 1960s Biafran War, it follows Lydia who is married to a Methodist minister posted out in a West African bush village. I was born in Nigeria, but came back to the UK as a young child, so Nigeria has a sentimental place in my heart and soul. ‘Igboland’ is a paean to my spiritual home.

My advice is that you should write the book that is forcing its way out of you. Don’t begin a novel unless it’s about something that every fibre within you is desperate to express. It should be bursting from you, because writing is a kind of obsession. Just as Donny’s obsession brings him tears, laughter and much anxiety, so does writing a novel. A novel should be something that challenges and provokes, like Jerry’s actions towards his tormentors. The most powerful novels are personal. When I read novels, I want to get a sense of the author’s or character’s different perspective on life; of what they have learned during life’s tough struggle; and to have my own beliefs and assumptions challenged.

Many people say they have a book in them, but not all of them write it. If you have a story inside you which feels ready to burst for freedom then give it a go. Like anything in life, the experiences that are challenging and which become obsessive are the ones that are life-changing, and believe me – writing a novel will be all those things. But once writing gets its grip on you, it’s impossible to stop.

For more information, please visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

Links:

Treading On Dreams: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Gardiner_Jeff/treading-on-dreams.htm

Igboland: http://www.jeffgardiner.com/igboland.htm

Myopia: http://www.jeffgardiner.com/myopia.htm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeffGardiner1

 

Book of the Day!

Once Removed is the featured book of the day on asidefromwriting, a website that brings together readers, authors and bloggers from the YA world http://asidefromwriting.com/2013/05/12/iam-once-removed/ A Life Less Lost also gets a mention. For the month of May they are running a fantastic Indie Author event ~ well worth a visit.

Genres, themes and inspiration

Author Maria Savva talks about the genres, themes and inspirations behind her work. For more information and buy links, just click on her name.

Different Genres

With the launch of my latest novel, Haunted, a crime thriller, many people have commented that I don’t tend to stick to one genre in my writing. For example, my last book, The Dream, was a paranormal, time travel novel, and the one before that was a contemporary romantic drama; I’ve also written a family saga, and a mystery/drama. Within my short stories, you’ll find ghost stories, romance, and even a sci-fi tale, to name but a few story types.

The most common description I hear of me as an author is that I am a ‘multi-genre’ author. This is true. I don’t stick to one genre in my novels or short stories. Even in one short story, I include facets of different genres. I have, however, noticed that there are common themes running through my novels and stories. So although I don’t stick to one genre, I do explore similar themes in my writing. Maybe it’s just a matter of me looking at different themes in different ways with each book I write. To be honest, I don’t set about writing something with the intention of including a particular theme, but as my novels take shape they tend to incorporate many aspects of things that have inspired me in my own life, so it’s not surprising that there are recurring themes running through some of the books.

In this blog, I will explore some of the common themes I’ve noticed in my work. Perhaps this will help give readers an idea of my style, because it’s often hard to categorise my work, so, difficult for a reader to know whether they would enjoy reading it.

Firstly, I would say that I think most of my books and stories could probably be classed as dramas. This is because I tend to have true-to-life characters and situations. Some of my fiction has been described as literary fiction. This may be because I have always read a lot of books and have been inspired by some of the more traditional writers. I do, however, feel that my writing can be classed as contemporary.

The essence of it all is that I love writing and I love exploring different types of writing. I am also a bookworm, and I don’t only read one genre. I like reading all types of books from memoirs to fantasy.

Here are some of the common themes I’ve spotted in my books:

Dreams

In Coincidences and also in The Dream, a dream plays an important role.

In Coincidences, Alice’s dream is what makes her curious about the father she has never met. The dream spurs her on to look for him.

In The Dream, Lynne is told by a strange man in her dream that she should not marry her fiancé, Adam. The man in the dream becomes a significant part of the story.

Why dreams? Well, I’ve always had quite detailed dreams and can usually remember quite a lot about my dreams when I wake up. Often, especially when I was younger, my dreams would contain some kind of prophetic message, that perhaps I didn’t notice until the event happened. This was so intriguing to me that I started keeping a dream diary a few years ago, and was quite surprised at how some of the dreams I was having seemed to almost predict future events. So that’s probably the reason dreams feature in my books and will probably continue to do so.

Divorce or relationship breakdown

I notice this theme cropping up in my work. It’s probably because I worked as a family lawyer for a couple of years and heard lots of stories. My imagination was inspired by all the stories I was told.

In Second Chances, the theme of a relationship breakdown is pivotal to the story. James and Pamela, the protagonists, are on the brink of divorce. James is actually a divorce lawyer as well. So there is the irony that what he deals with at work is also happening to him.

In Haunted, Nigel’s marriage has fallen apart after over 20 years of neglect on his part.

In Coincidences, Alice’s parents divorced when she was just a child.

In The Dream, Lynne’s relationship with Adam is turned upside down after she has a dream warning her about marrying him.

In A Time to Tell, we see another aspect to marriage breakdown. Penny is the victim of domestic violence. Again this is inspired by my time as a family lawyer.

Secrets and lies

I have always been fascinated by the secrets people keep and the lies they tell, so this is reflected in my work. It seems to crop up in all my novels.

In Coincidences, Stephanie, Alice’s mum, has kept a big secret from her for many years. It’s something that almost ends their relationship. When Alice meets her father, there are even more secrets and lies revealed.

In A Time to Tell, Cara has kept a secret for 50 years. When history starts to repeat itself, Cara is facing regret and realising that she may have to reveal all. One regret she has is the lie she tells her husband, who died without knowing the truth.

In The Dream, Lynne is woken up to the truth about her fiancé, Adam, after her dream. His secret is the final nail in the coffin for their relationship.

In Second Chances, Pamela’s secret/lie is one of the things that James has a hard time dealing with.

In Haunted, my latest novel, a long-kept secret eats away at Nigel’s mind.

Ghosts

I have always loved a good ghost story. I also grew up in a haunted house, so it was inevitable that some ghostly goings on would crop up in my fiction.

In The Dream, a paranormal tale, there is a ghost who appears to Lynne.

In Haunted, my intention was to leave the option to the reader to decide whether this is a paranormal story or a psychological thriller. It’s an interactive novel in that sense, the reader decides what they want to believe about the events in the book, and hopefully, I have left it open-ended enough for that to be the case.

I have a few ghost stories in my short story collections. ‘There but for the grace of God’, ‘Visions’, and ‘The Reunion’, in my collection Fusion, feature ghosts, as does ‘The Artist’, in Love and Loyalty (and Other Tales).

Unemployment/being fired/redundancy

Much of my fiction is inspired by events in my own life and I have been out of work quite a few times. I have been fired and made redundant before, so it’s no surprise that this topic makes an appearance in my literature.

In Second Chances, there is a minor character, Pete, who is fired. The circumstances surrounding the way he was fired reflect the way I was unfairly dismissed from a post many years ago. James also loses his job in this novel.

In The Dream, Lynne is made redundant, and I used a lot of the emotions about the way I was feeling about my own redundancy in describing the way Lynne reacts in the novel. Lynne goes through a long and unsuccessful job search, similar to the one I went through.

Love/relationships

This is a subject that is covered in most if not all of my novels, and many of my short stories. I have always been a hopeless romantic even though I am unlucky in love.

I would describe A Time to Tell as a romantic drama. It is also a family saga, but for me, the main theme is that of true love and how love can survive over time and distance.

In Second Chances, at the risk of giving too much away, James and Pamela are a couple who are deeply in love. There are a lot of obstacles and hurdles for them to get over, and the question is whether their love can survive that.

In The Dream, Lynne’s friend Sandra has always believed in soul mates/true love, something that Lynne has never considered in the past. The man in Lynne’s dream tells her she has a soul mate. This causes her to think more about the subject.

Many of my short stories deal with the highs and lows of love and relationships too. Love and Loyalty (and Other Tales), is so titled not only because it contains a story called ‘Love and Loyalty’ but also because the theme that runs through most of the stories, I noticed, is that of love, and loyalty in relationships.

Celtic visions…

A fascinating post today from Scottish author, Nancy Jardine. I’m looking forward to reading your answers to her question. Now over to Nancy:

I’m very pleased to visit you, Kimm, on my mini-launch tour for my historical adventure novel, The Beltane Choice, published by Crooked Cat Publishing. I thought I’d explain what spurred me to write an adventure novel about Celtic tribes being attacked by the Roman Army.

Strange though it may seem, the soil in my garden had quite a lot to do with it since my plot is approximately 500 yards from a site of Roman occupation. If I lived in southern England someone might be quite justified in saying…what of it? The Romans left plenty of evidence there. The fact I live in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland, means I’m very fortunate to have had Romans right on my doorstep. The Romans invaded the north, though didn’t colonise as in southern areas. In Aberdeenshire, I know of no Roman hypocausts or villas having been uncovered. What Aberdeenshire has plenty of are standing stones, Neolithic tools, and…evidence of Roman marching camps. The camps were used for varying periods of time – some of them for only a night or two, and others for longer durations.

My husband isn’t interested in history. He couldn’t understand me imagining eight thousand leather-clad feet marching over the soil of my garden, fleeing Celts running over towards the river and up to the higher ground where evidence has been found of Celtic roundhouse occupation. Thousands of Roman soldiers tramping across my grass was an awe inspiring image. I’ve got deep loamy soil, in some areas the bedrock being ten feet and more below surface level. Over the years I’ve dug up many different items. Canine jaw bones, sheep bones…and other bones I’m too scared to look into in too much detail. Lots of rusty nails, and bits of iron, which I had originally thought to be Victorian. Since 2002 I’m now not so sure. The bits of metal could be much older. I might even have something left by the Roman Army. That idea was so exciting, since I love all things historical! My imagination took flight – though it took a bit longer for me to put pencil to paper.

Why 2002? A bit of explanation should clarify. My house was built in the 1820s on what had been open ground owned by the Earl of Kintore. The house was inhabited by a succession of village doctors, and remained the only building at my end of the village for decades. Lots of things could lie buried under my garden soil. (Maybe fodder for another novel here.)

In 1875, a granite school building was constructed opposite my house, again on what had been the Earl of Kintore’s land. The philanthropic Earl of the time sold the land for the school but gifted an adjacent plot, Deer’s Den, for public use- a recreation area for the villagers. The site of a Roman marching camp had been noted at Deer’s Den nearly a century before, and evidence of earlier civilisations had also been uncovered. That knowledge didn’t stop the creation of a couple of turf pitches somewhere around 1890.

Aerial surveys in the 1970s corroborated a Roman marching camp had been on the site, but it remained a recreational facility till 2002 when the council decided to build a brand new school. Construction work was unable to commence till a thorough archaeological dig was done.

The results were incredible. The Romans had occupied the site more than once. Probably during the Agricolan surges around AD 83, but it was also likely to have been used during the Severan campaign of AD 210.  More than 250 Roman bread ovens had been uncovered, meaning many more soldiers had been encamped than originally estimated. The outside boundaries indicated the area had housed maybe even ten thousand soldiers. Ten thousand was an unbelievable number. Right across from my garden!

I taught across at the school. We viewed the excavations. The curriculum was altered to suit the current situation, and enthusiasm over the dig was high. My class learned about the Celtic people who had lived on the land, and about the marauding Roman Army who most likely scared them off. My class wrote fabulous stories. Their work inspired me to write more than my tiny introduction to the creative writing lessons.

I envisaged Roman scouts surveying the land in advance of the main cohort. Imagined them deciding their first spade would be dug just a little way away from my garden soil, perhaps because the burn near my house was just too close. A source of fresh water was always sought before a camp was made but maybe the water always needed to be a short distance from the perimeter of the camp? I could, and still can, imagine all sorts of scenarios.

I wrote the first draft of a time-travel adventure novel for 9-12year old kids, set in my home village in Aberdeenshire, where a trio of kids go back to a Celtic/ Roman occupation of the same geographical area. That has eventually become my novel for kids, called Dabbling With Time.

I enjoyed writing about the Celtic era so much I used the basic Celt/ Roman conflict to create an historical adventure, which eventually became The Beltane Choice. I set my adult story in the border areas between Scotland and England, and used an earlier time of AD 71. I enjoyed writing that so much, too, that the sequel to The Beltane Choice has already been started.  Though that story is already moving geographically north, it hasn’t got to Aberdeenshire…yet.

Kimm, I wonder where your readers think I should mainly base the sequel to The Beltane Choice? Should I stop at what we now term the central belt of Scotland, or should I take the action further north…to Angus, or even Aberdeenshire? Drop me a comment in the box to let me know, I’d love to read your ideas.

Thank you for hosting me today!

Blurb:  Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?

Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.

When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?

Buy links for The Beltane Choice: http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=63

Book Trailer for the Beltane Choice: http://youtu.be/igJmfBoXRhQ

Tags: historical, romantic, Celtic, adventure

Other books by Nancy Jardine:

Monogamy Twist http://amzn.to/wwaGCv  amazon .co.uk http://amzn.to/OmXH3V Monogamy Twist Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJVzbrkJQzA

Take Me Now (TWRP)  http://bit.ly/MQJXvw   amazon.com: http://amzn.to/R3ysrU Book Trailer:  http://youtu.be/stDC4Yhm2r0

Author bio:

A former Primary teacher, Nancy Jardine lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who feeds her well or she’d starve! Ancestry research is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. In her large garden she now grows spectacular weeds, which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.

Author Links: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com   http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com    http://facebook.com/nancy.jardine.56    Twitter @nansjar

 

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