The terror of writing

You stare at the stodgy sentences.
You can’t think what words to write next.
You are starting to bore yourself.
Your characters are boring each other.
Nobody will want to read this drivel.

And so it goes round and round in your head.

You’ve written ten novels or none. You’ve won prizes or you’re just starting off, snatching precious evening or weekend minutes. It doesn’t matter where you are on your writing journey – this writing terror hits us all.

And yes, we then find then thousand things to distract us from our writing; emptying the dishwasher, rearranging the office, even a desire to clean the loo. Some of us fiddle around on social media doing ‘marketing’ or even draft a blog post instead of getting on with our work in progress (Innocent face…).

But it can be sorted out.

A few things to consider…

Are you writing your first draft of a new story?  Then don’t worry – this is the first rubbishy version. As one prominent author interviewed on the BBC said “All first drafts are shit.” This is my favourite comfort blanket. But it’s true. The first draft for me is to get the story out, however mangled the words may be. Then I have something to work on and the real writing begins.

The scary blank screen and the pulsing cursor…  Haven’t we all been there? Yes, every writer knows this horror. No word occurs, no scintillating first sentence will come. The solution? Write some words. Any words. Not necessarily very good words. Keep it simple, just a short piece of dialogue, what the character is wearing, where they are, what just happened to them – anything – but get started. “The cat sat on the mat. It had just sicked up all over my new shoes. Now I’d never go to the ball and meet my heart’s love.” Don’t worry – the good words will mosey along in their own time, often when you aren’t looking.

Are you worried about the subject matter being considered silly?  No topic that can be imagined by the human mind is silly. Only if it’s poorly executed; that’s a matter of craft, skill and persistence, and it’s definitely achievable. A school for young witches, vampires, wars in the stars, spiders that talk, hundreds of murders in a sleepy English village – those don’t seem to have been ‘silly’ ideas. And as for a small country peopled by Ancient Roman descendants and ruled by women… 😉

Who am I to write this drivel?  No writer thinks they are good enough. We all think we’re imposters without a proper job. Let me tell you a secret – no writer is ever satisfied with their work when it finally goes off to the editor, agent, publishing house or beta reader. Every time you read through your manuscript at any stage, you see something that could be improved. But after the nth time you become completely sick of it. That’s the time to push it out into the world and close the door on it. Then start the next piece of work which will unconsciously benefit from all the effort you’ve put into the previous ones. Yes, even though you think you won’t, you will write better prose, draft more quickly, be more observant and creative with every new piece you tackle..

Are you afraid of nasty reviews, multiple rejections, scorn, and your work being ripped apart?  Sadly, some people have personality disorders that make them incapable of seeing anything positively. Some relish slashing and burning, but many are just envious of your achievement and of your daring and dedication. Even the very best authors, the darlings of the book world who may also be best sellers of all time have been rejected and lambasted. Yes, you will be hurt at sometime, but you are in honourable company. Not everybody will like your writing; they may dislike the genre, style  or story. But you DO like it and it’s yours. Nobody has the right to stop you writing your story. Make it the very best you can then arm yourself with a dollop of self-belief and ignore the carpers.

But… Sometimes there IS a kernel of truth in the harshest of criticisms, so it’s worth steeling yourself and reading them. No writer can be wonderful all the time. But most help and advice will come wrapped in warm encouragement, surrounded by friendly suggestions and full of positive steps you might like to consider. Writers are like that. Editors are like that. Most people in the book world are like that. We all want writers to succeed.

And there will be readers who LOVE your words, your characters, the finely tuned plot, the clever research, the intelligent observation and the action-packed narrative and will be desperate for more. So you probably need to settle down to some writing…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Second-hand book stalls – author's friends?

Some authors don’t like second-hand book stalls, whether run as a businesses or for a charity fête. In fact, they hate them. The author gets no royalty nor secondary right nor anything. The books are toted around, exchanged or traded like a lump of former tree for a pound/euro/dollar or two – virtually free. I heard one author say it was verging on piracy. A bit strong in my opinion, but I respect his right to say it.

However, consider this…

If you live in a non-English speaking country as I do in France, you can’t always find books in English. Sometimes, local media stores have a small display of international best sellers, lost amongst the local language acres of shelves of not only books but games, music, DVDs and small technology. My local library has no books, let alone fiction, in English except easy readers for school age children. Of course, there’s always Amazon… (Other online retailers are available, as they say.) But there’s nothing like handling ‘real’ books, your fingers wandering among hundreds of titles by authors you’ve never heard of as well as ones by familiar authors.

Second-hand bookstalls and book exchanges, plus the pop-up summer and Christmas fairs, are an opportunity to discover new reads, new authors and to talk about books to the person running them. Usually, they’re avid readers which is why they got into selling books in the first place.

That’s the cultural argument.

Of course, I would LOVE you to buy my books first-hand and give me a little direct remuneration – I share a few thoughts on author income here.

But there’s a parallel argument to consider. It could be that having discovered a new-to-you author in a tattered copy picked up second-hand or perhaps lent to you by a friend, you are entranced by the writing, the story and the new world the author’s words have drawn you into. You thirst for more. You are desperate to read more.

Chances are the bookstall/second-hand shop doesn’t have any more by that author. Possibly you won’t see that temporary stall until the same time next year – a whole 12 months away. Horrors!

You clutch your new treasure to your chest and dive on to the Internet and, notwithstanding the postage, order two or three more by the same author. I did exactly this after buying one book for 50 cents in a barn sale and promptly spent another £35.00 on Amazon on the rest of the series. I had discovered Vatta’s War and Elizabeth Moon netted another four full book sales.

So perhaps the second-hand bookstall or book exchange, its wares sprawled in boxes on a trestle-table once a month, aren’t demons from hell, but a spur to  buying by keen readers.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Octavian and Bismarck – Visionaries of Empire

Today’s cracking guest post comes from Antoine Vanner – a regular guest here. His own adventurous life, his knowledge of human nature, his passion for nineteenth-century history and his understanding of what was the cutting-edge technology of that time, make him the ideal chronicler of the life of Nicholas Dawlish R.N.in eight volumes so far.  Antoine spent many years in international business but now lives in Britain but continues to travel extensively on a private basis.  His latest novel is Britannia’s Innocent (see below).

Over to Antoine!

Emerging from the ruins of the Roman Republic in 31 BC, the empire established by Octavian – later known as Augustus – was to endure for over four centuries in the West and a millennium beyond that in the East. By contrast, the string of empires proclaimed during the 19th Century in France (twice! 1804 & 1852), Haiti (1804), Brazil (1822), Mexico (twice! 1822 & 1864), Germany (1871) and British India (1877) were all to have much shorter life-spans.

The most spectacular “rise and fall” among these new 19th Century empires was to be that of Germany. Economically successful, by 1914 it was arguably the greatest single military power, but it would disintegrate, ignominiously, four years later.

As such, it seems to have little in common with Augustus’s great Roman creation. The link is however that both were brought about by the genius and determination of a single man who realised that current realities contained so many internal contradictions, and involved such instabilities, that a new reality must be imposed.

Almost a century of civil war had shown that the structures of the almost seven-century old Roman Republic were no longer “fit for purpose”. Augustus’ solution – “The Empire” – imposed order, fostered administrative efficiency, provided security against foreign threats and allowed a high degree of adaptation to local circumstances, religions and cultures. (Read more in Adrian Goldsworthy’s excellent Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor)

The German Empire’s creator, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), was no less clear-sighted and no less driven. He recognised that the patchwork of independent German states that still existed in the mid-19th Century (some 40 in 1860) was an anachronism. United, they could be Europe’s – if not the world’s – greatest economic and military power, guaranteeing stability at home and protection against enemies abroad.

Convinced that Prussia, already the strongest of the German states, should dominate such a union (an idea of which the King of Prussia was not convinced), Bismarck, Minister President – essentially Prime Minister – of Prussia from 1862, set about demonstrating the value of unity. The method employed was launching of three wars in six years:

Denmark, 1864: an act of political stupidity by Denmark in 1863 violated existing treaty conditions and allowed Bismarck to launch an attack on her by Prussia, in alliance with the Austrian Empire, the only other contender for German leadership. Victory was fast and absolute.

Austrian Empire 1866: disagreement over details of settlement of the Danish War allowed Bismarck to trigger conflict with Austria. The resulting “Seven-Weeks War” resulted in a massive Austrian defeat. Superior Prussian strategy, use of new technology and mastery of railway transportation to concentrate its armies inflicted a humiliation on the Austrian Empire from which it never recovered.

France 1870-71: Bismarck engineered a crisis with France that he intended would lead to war. Leading an alliance of German states, Prussia inflicted a series of French defeats that included the encirclement of an entire French Army and the capture of Emperor Napoleon III as well as the siege and surrender of Paris itself. The culmination was the proclamation of the King of Prussia as Emperor of a united Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles.

Largely forgotten today, the smallest of these wars, that against Denmark in 1864, inspired me to write my most recent novel, Britannia’s Innocent. Massively outnumbered by Prussia and Austria, Denmark’s army performed heroically although defeat was recognised as inevitable. The war was however a disaster in every sense for Denmark. It lost almost 3000 dead and slightly more than that wounded – a heavy toll in a population that was reduced from 2.6 million to 1.6 million by cession of territory under the peace terms. The only major Danish triumph was a naval victory over an Austrian naval squadron off Heligoland, in the North Sea, but it had no impact on the war’s outcome.

Small as the Danish War of 1864 was, by comparison with later conflicts, its tactical lessons were significant. Trenches and earthworks proved surprisingly resistant to artillery fire and allowed small numbers of rifle-armed troops to hold off much larger attacking forces. Massed assaults succeeded only at the cost of high casualties. The same was found across the Atlantic when, that same year, Confederate forces entrenched at Petersburg in Virginia imposed a virtual stalemate, that lasted some ten months, on Union forces.

On the naval front, Denmark’s only ironclad, the Rolf Krake, proved a very valuable asset in its operations against Prussian land forces. With her heavy turret-mounted guns, she represented the future of sea warfare, by contrast with the wooden broadside-frigates that fought each other at Heligoland.

 

My writing of Britannia’s Innocent reflects these matters and more besides, not least the first appearance in war of the newly formed Red Cross, a revolutionary concept at the time. While working on the book, I found the brutal realities of this conflict oppressive – the awareness that suffering and death for the combatants, and misery for their bereaved families, had been brought about by the wilful stupidity of Danish politicians and by the ruthless determination of a single man, Otto von Bismarck.

And by the time I finished, I found myself loathing him.

A succinct and powerful summary – thank you, Antoine.

Connect with Antoine
Find out more about the Dawlish Chronicles series: www.dawlishchronicles.com
To follow Antoine’s blog click: https://dawlishchronicles.com/dawlish-blog/

Britannia’s Innocent

1864 – Political folly has brought war upon Denmark. Lacking allies, the country is invaded by the forces of military superpowers Prussia and Austria. Cut off from the main Danish Army, and refusing to use the word ‘retreat’, a resolute commander withdraws northwards. Harried by Austrian cavalry, his forces plod through snow, sleet and mud, their determination not to be defeated increasing with each weary step . . .

Across the Atlantic, civil war rages. It is fought not solely on American soil but also on the world’s oceans, as Confederate commerce raiders ravage Union merchant shipping as far away as the East Indies. And now a new raider, a powerful modern ironclad, is nearing completion in a British shipyard. But funds are lacking to pay for her armament and the Union government is pressing Britain to prevent her sailing . . .

Denmark is not wholly without sympathizers however. Britain’s heir to the throne is married to a Danish princess. With his covert backing, British volunteers are ready to fight for the Danes. And the Confederacy is willing to lease the new raider for two months if she can be armed as payment for the lease, although the Union government is determined to see her sunk . .

Just returned from Royal Navy service in the West Indies, the young Nicholas Dawlish is induced to volunteer and is plunged into the horrors of a siege, shore-bombardment, raiding and battle in the cold North Sea – notwithstanding divided loyalties. In 1864, Dawlish is still an innocent, relatively raw. But to survive he will need to learn fast . . .

Buy here:  https://amzn.to/386dd2A

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Can a song inspire a story?

Can music inspire a story? It seems so!

I’m taking part in the December StorySong short story fest organised by Discovering Diamonds Reviews’ organiser Helen Hollick.

Each day, there’s a new story and a chance to guess the song/music that inspired it. There have been some crackers so far!

Mine comes on 17 December, the first day of Saturnalia (of course!).  What exactly did Honoria Mitela and her troops do at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 when Europe was threatened with conquest by the mighty Ottoman Empire?

In the meantime, here are the other stories (I’ll add the new link each day they appear on the Discovering Diamonds Reviews site)

2nd   M.J. Logue   First Love 


3rd   Richard Tearle Chips and Ice Cream
4th    Helen Hollick Promises, Promises


5th    Paul Marriner Memories
6th    Pam Webber One Door Closing
7th    Louise Adam Hurt Me Once


8th    Barbara Gaskell Denvil Sticks and Stones
9th    Judith Arnopp Secrets
10th  Erica Lainé Silk Stockings
11th   Anna Belfrage Hold Me, Love Me, Leave Me?


12th  Annie Whitehead Frozen
13th  Tony Riches Alas, My Love
14th  Clare Flynn, Zipless


15th  J.G. Harlond The Last Assignment
16th  Elizabeth St John Under The Clock


17th  Alison Morton Honoria’s Battle 
18th  Jean Gill The Hunter
19th  Patricia Bracewell Daddy’s Gift
20th Debbie Young It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

21st   Ruth Downie  Doing It Properly
22nd Nicky Galliers What God Has Joined
23rd  Elizabeth Chadwick The Cloak
Image result for red cloak white cross24th / 25th HAPPY CHRISTMAS
26th  Helen Hollick Ever After
27th   Barbara Gaskell Denvil Just The One… Or Maybe Two
28th   Deborah Swift Just Another Day
29th   Amy Maroney What The Plague Brings
30th   Cryssa Bazos River Mud

 

 

 

 

 

 

31st  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Enjoy!

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

How to whitelist with GMail

(Other email programs are available…)

GMail is a very accessible way of instantly creating an address and enjoys a high level of security. Its layout is clear and easy to navigate, especially when you’re searching for an old message.

(You can hear the ‘but’ coming…)

However, Gmail’s security sometimes works a bit too efficiently. I approve of good security; we have back-ups, spamcatchers and firewalls ad nauseam here), but a few subscribers to my mailing list have reported receiving my newsletters showing a red warning, or not at all.

This is obviously not good: readers are not getting what they signed up for, or are being put off by that red warning.

Roma Nova newsletters have photos and links to articles which I think may interest or amuse subscribers. Like anything in this world, there’s no guarantee, but I do my utmost to ensure they don’t contain anything ‘icky’ in the digital sense.

GMail and spam emails
The ‘spamcatcher ‘function in your email program works by identifying messages that are likely to be spam and sending them directly to a spam folder, so you never have to see them. But this function can become problematic if it works too well, such as when Gmail identifies a message as spam that really isn’t. When that’s the case, you might continue to miss email messages from a certain sender because they always end up in your spam folder.

If Gmail keeps sending messages from a certain sender to the spam folder, you can make it stop by telling Gmail the email address is safe. This action, called whitelisting, puts the address on your safe sender list and allows those messages through the spam filter and into your inbox.

How to whitelist a sender

1. Open Gmail. In the upper-right corner, select the Settings (gear) icon. From the menu, choose Settings.

2. Select Filters and Blocked Addresses.

3. Select Create a new filter. If you already have many filters, you’ll have to scroll down to find this link.

4. A dialog box appears. In the From field, type the email address you want to whitelist. Be sure to type the full email address, like example@yahoo.com. To whitelist every email address from a particular domain, type just that domain name, like @yahoo.com.

5. At the bottom of the dialog box, select Create filter.

6. On the next screen, tell Gmail what to do with the email address or domain you just indicated. To do so, select Never send it to Spam. To finish the process, select Create filter.

7. And breath!

If you fancy subscribing to my Roma Nova newsletter, here’s the link: https://eepurl.com/ckNeFL
Oh, and there are freebies to download when you sign up. 😉

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.