Category Archives: Guest post

Next stop: a book launch in Glastonbury

ninatorAs soon as we’re over the #lovehangover event, we’ll be heading off for a very important book launch. Established crime writer and our erstwhile member Nina Milton is launching the third in her Shamanic Mystery Series Beneath the Tor in the centre of Glastonbury on Saturday Feb 27th. Do join us if you can.

Beneath the Tor, published by Midnight Ink (Llewellyn Worldwide), features young Somerset shaman, Sabbie Dare, who enlists the help of the spirit world to fight the dark side of humanity.

All the Shaman Mysteries are set in the beautiful, but sometimes eerie landscape of the Somerset Levels, but Beneath the Tor opens on Midsummer Eve at the top of Glastonbury Tor, where beautiful Alys Hollingberry dies suddenly after dancing the night away. The book has its own cast of Glastonbury characters and examines many of the myths and legends of this mystical town.

IMG_0031The launch will take place at

The Avalon Rooms
at the Glastonbury Experience  (2-4 High Street BA6 9DY)
2pm on Saturday 27th February

All Nina Milton’s books will be available at a special launch price.

Ronald Hutton, professor of history at Bristol University, and author of Pagan Britain will give a talk on shamanism today, and Nina Milton will give readings of her work and sign copies of her books.

Complimentary refreshments will be served and blues guitarist Arthur Billington will provide acoustic music. All book lovers are invited, and admission is free.

Born in Bristol, Nina has been writing since she could hold a pen, and holds an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Nina Milton

Nina with her first Sabbie Dare novel

She began her writing career when she was awarded the Wells Festival of Literature Short Story Prize. She returned to the prize-giving in 2015 to talk about what can happen after winning. Milton Nina Milton is also a Druid with shamanic training. “Druidry takes me close to the earth and into the deep recesses of my mind. Shamanic techniques help me in my life – in fact  they changed my life.”

If you’re a reader or writer, Nina will be happy to chat to you at the Launch Event; “I love talking about my passion, writing,” she says. “Talking about it makes a break from the actual writing!”

Here are some reviews of her books:

Embark on Nina Milton…and you won’t stop reading…

Naomi Lewis, Sunday Observer

Nina Milton has created a unique fictional world in her Shaman Mystery Series, featuring Sabbie Dare as a young shaman. With Beneath the Tor  she passed the ultimate test of a writer, that of causing me to put off useful jobs which I really should have been doing, in order to see what happens next. She has become a mistress of plot-weaving, and above all, she pulls off the trick of setting the totally fantastic amid the totally everyday and making the two fit together with pace and excitement…

Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Triumph of the Moon.

This third mystery of the series hits the ground running. I read the book straight through with only some sleep in between. It’s not necessary to have read the first two to read this one. Wonderful mix of modern grit and ancient magic…

Chesapeake Reader Amazon.com review, December 2, 2015

Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year, and Milton’s tale is riveting…the visceral suspense Milton creates is commendable, not to mention terrifying. I like pairing her work with Elly Griffiths’s atmospheric English mysteries

…Library Journal

Milton puts an intriguing New Age spin on the traditional English mystery

…Publisher’s Weekly

Nina’s Backlist

In the Moors, 2013
Unraveled Visions, 2014
Beneath the Tor 2016

Milton’s books for older children, Sweet’n’Sour (HarperCollins) and Tough Luck (Bristol Publishers ThornBerry) were both set in Bristol.

She has a long track record as a short story writer, winning the Wells Literary Festival Short Story Prize among others.

And some of Nina’s most recent short stories can of course be read in our own Unchained Anthology.

Contact:

email kitchentablewriters@live.com and learn more about her writing at http://kitchentablewriters.blogspot.com

 

 

Advertisements

Live events round-up by Claire Snook

Claire Snook who lives in South Gloucestershire and is currently finishing a second novel, reports back on two of the many recent live events in Bristol- including our own! 

claireshaun

Claire with a local celebrity

Something special seems to be going on in Bristol at the moment. There’s never been a better time to be a writer in the city with so many opportunities for scribblers to get themselves seen and heard out there. I’ve even partaken in a couple of events myself; reading at the Writers Unchained inaugural Spine Tinglers’ night and performing a couple of stories at the marvelous venue that is Sanctum, a truly unique experience.

 

South Bank Club

The Spine Tinglers’ night at the Southbank in Bedminster was absolutely fantastic and it was great to hear stories from Bristol Women’s Writing group and guest speakers including Emily Koch and esteemed horror writer Pete Sutton (who has blogged about the evening here) . It was the perfect night for scary stories as well with dense fog outside. We heard about carnivorous slugs (something that has stayed with me :S), bodies manifesting their owners’ wrong doings, decapitation, and a death that doesn’t go exactly to plan. There are some fabulous storytellers around at the moment and the tales on the night were chilling. I’ve only read one of my stories in public before so I was absolutely terrified – and on last. Thanks, Ali Bacon! (Ed: – no problem Claire – we wanted a grand finale!)

My story was more of a confession as it actually happened while I was living abroad. It involved dancing nuns and rats. I hosted a mini Q&A session afterwards as people wanted to know more – and see the scars. I hadn’t performed one of my horror stories before and it was great to have such a shocked yet positive response. People were still talking about the story the next day across social media, posting videos about parts of it and I even received an email from an audience member telling me she hadn’t slept all night because of my story. Great, and I’m getting it framed.

Sanctum Bristol

Sanctum: a ruined church and a 24/7 performance space

A few days later I found myself sat in front of an audience at Sanctum. This is such a great venue where I again performed a couple of stories – one horror and one magic realism. It had the right atmosphere too – grey and eerie, raining a little outside with just two spotlights in the entire place. People drifted in throughout my twenty minute talk.

There’s definitely something very special about performing there, it was an incredible experience. It’s very intimate with a max of fifty people in the audience. Afterwards I received lots of hugs and talked to people, discussing my stories in depth. People were curious. Another highly enjoyable performance! I think I’m getting the hang of these.

Sanctum is worth a visit; I’ve been back to watch a few performances and can highly recommend dropping by while the project is running. You never know what might pop up next!

Thanks Claire. Sanctum is running until Nov 21st but no programme is published. Kevlin Henney describes it here or follow @situationsUK
Or if you like the idea of performing with Writers Unchained, we’re planning another event at Southbank in February. Details soon 🙂 

Historical novelist Margaret Skea on how she freed herself from the tyranny of truth

In the second in our series of posts on the theme of Unchained, we’re welcoming award-winning historical novelist Margaret Skea.  I really love how Margaret creates absolute authenticity (fuelled by meticulous research) without ever burdening the reader or losing sight of the plot, which in the case of A House Divided is a real roller-coaster encompassing family feuds, contemporary medicine and witchcraft. Here she explains how neither book might have been written at all if it hadn’t been for a moment of liberation here in the West Country.

Margaret Skea

Margaret Skea

A House Divided, set in 16th century Scotland, is a sequel to Turn of the Tide, for which I was fortunate enough to win two awards – Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition 2011 and the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014.

Although Turn of the Tide was my first finished novel it was not my first novel, or rather it wasn’t the first version of my novel. Here’s how I became ‘unchained’ from the restrictions of writing from the pov of an historic character and discovered the freedom that a fictional main character brings.

It went like this…

I wrote short stories. I’d only ever written short stories (well apart from the poetry of my teenage angst days, but the less said about that the better). Three thousand words was my comfort zone and it was a rut that I was more than happy to remain in.  Until one month I found myself bereft of children, my job axed and our recently acquired brand new house clearly in perfectly good nick. My husband said ‘Forget looking for another job, you’ve always wanted to write a novel, maybe now’s the time.’

Initially it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought, for the main character had been in my head for many years. Ever since I researched his family as part of a dialect study. And far from struggling to get past three thousand words, about a year later I found myself with 70,000 – approximately three quarters of the way through. Then I began to flounder.

It wasn’t that his story was boring, or that he himself didn’t provide me with enough material to work on, but there was a constant battle going on in my head between truth and fiction, a battle which truth was definitely winning, severely restricting my plot options.
Problem: it was a novel I was supposed to be writing, not a history book.
Solution: An Arvon Advanced Fiction course – combined Christmas present from all my nearest and dearest and a few others besides (they aren’t cheap) ‘for those at least half-way through a novel.’

Totleigh Barton

Arvon at Totleigh Barton

 

I won’t bore you with the technicalities of getting to Totleigh Barton, a beautiful thatched long house buried in the depths of Devon, but what a fabulous environment in which to write. I went with 70,000 words and high hopes that the four days there would make all the difference. And they did. Just not quite in the way I’d expected.

Day 1: My first one-to-one session with a tutor. I strolled across to my meeting with the opening of my novel which introduced the main character (as it should) and the first page of Chapter 3 in which a two-bit messenger boy who didn’t even have a name was sent to set up an ambush.  I wanted to discuss the differentiation of major and incidental characters.  Which I suppose in a way was what happened. The tutor read the two passages, then after a pause picked up the ‘two-bit messenger boy’ page and said, ‘I think this is your main character.’

As those who know me will testify there haven’t been many times in my life when I’ve been speechless, but that was one of them. After I’d metaphorically picked myself off the floor we talked. About fictional versus historic characters and the huge advantages of a fictional main character. It all made sense, but could I ditch 70,000 words and start again? That was a terrifying prospect.  His parting shot – ‘Think about it overnight and we’ll talk again tomorrow.’

I did sleep, surprisingly, but at some stage during the night Munro rode into my head on his horse Sweet Briar, complete with a surname, and demanding the centre stage.  I woke up buzzing and ready to re-hash that single page of Chapter 3 into the opening of a novel. Of course I had all sorts of ideas about re-using masses of the other 70,000 words too – with a few tweaks here and there to alter the perspective. It would be the same basic story after all. Right? Wrong.

Turn of the Tide

The finished article – an award-winner!

Some of the historical events that featured in the first version did provide a framework for ‘Novel Mark 2’, but it became a completely different story. By the time I went home I had written 3000 words of the new Chapter 1, which, incidentally, made it into the published manuscript unchanged.  I also had a clear image in my mind of the final scene, so a goal to aim for.

It wasn’t just the novel that benefited, the experience has impacted positively on all my writing. ‘Killing my darlings’ one sentence, a paragraph or even a whole chapter at a time is now remarkably easy; after all I ditched 70,000 words and survived. The final versions of both my novels are much better as a result.

And the original 70,000 words? They languish in a box in my attic – maybe they’ll be worth something some day…

Layout 1Both Turn of the Tide and A House Divided are available in paperback, via bricks and mortar bookshops in the UK , online via Waterstones, Amazon and the Book Depository and also on Kindle.

 

Amazon.co.uk http://tiny.cc/dsgt4x

Amazon.com  http://tiny.cc/gtgt4x

Waterstones http://tiny.cc/nvgt4x

 

You can also find Margaret on  https://www.facebook.com/MargaretSkeaAuthor.Novels
And her website www.margaretskea.com

A great story from Margaret and one that having recently retired from battle with a historical novel makes absolute sense to me. Maybe I need a fictional minor character – or a writing course!

 

Do authors need a brand? Chris Hill chooses freedom

I ran into Chris Hill on Twitter and having read his intriguing literary novel Song of the Sea God (reviewed here) I was surprised to notice his second novel (see below) is lad-lit. Today he’s kicking off a series of guest posts on how writing can be unchained by an event, an idea, or in Chris’ case, his own frame of mind. 

Chris Hill

Chris Hill

I write for myself first and then look for a publisher who will take whatever I end up producing. As a result the first two books I’ve had published are quite unlike each other. Almost anyone in the know will tell you I’m doing this all wrong.

My first novel, Song of the Sea God, published by Skylight Press (ed’s note: brilliant writing!) is literary fiction and is a kind of creepy fairy tale about a man who washes up on a small island and convinces the locals he is a god. My second, The Pick-Up Artist, published earlier this year by Magic Oxygen, is a modern take on a rom com with some strong women and a weak man, bawdy jokes, elements of farce. It has a few points to make about the way men and women are these days but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Publishing professionals will tell you it’s madness to write like this – that if you produce pretty much the same thing each time then you build a brand. You also give agents and publishers an idea what to do with you. I’ve ignored that advice not out of bloody mindedness or because I’m on some sort of crusade. It’s just that I find I write best if I’m writing something which interests me and which I am fully committed to. I have a day job which pays the mortgage and keeps the kids in trainers, as do many writers more successful than me, so I don’t need to become a production line worker turning out a series of interchangeable units of product. I can do as I please and, if I do it well enough, I will find a publisher happy to take it on.

There’s a great freedom in writing like this, I’m not sure what my next book will be, only that it will be unique – in this way I suppose I would say I’m unchained.

I certainly don’t have an axe to grind with authors who write similar genre books in a series, good luck to them – each to their own I say. I’m sure they will build up readers over time who know what to expect from them. My readers on the other hand are probably thinking ‘what on earth’s he going to do next?’ I will just have to hope I can find a readership of people who enjoy the unexpected.

Biog and links

chrishillbookChris Hill is an author from Gloucester in the UK whose new novel The Pick-Up Artist is published by Magic Oxygen Publishing. You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pick-Up-Artist-about-Dating-Digital/dp/1910094161/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424014293&sr=8-1&keywords=the+pick+up+artist+chris+hill.

Chris works as a PR officer for UK children’s charity WellChild and spent more than 20 years as a journalist on regional newspapers. He lives with his wife Claire, their two teenage sons and Murphy, a Cockapoo.

 

Chris is a social media addict with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter @ChilledCh  he is on Facebook here:https://www.facebook.com/chris.hill.3726 and has a popular blog where he talks about reading, writing and more at  http://www.chrishillauthor.co.uk/

Thanks to Chris for sharing his brand-free philosophy.

Our next guest will be historical novelist Margaret Skea on how she needed to free herself from one novel to move on with the next (and the one after that!)

If you’re a writer with a local connection and would like to blog here on the theme of Unchained, please contact us.