Five Questions for Authors – Rayne Hall

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RayneHall - Fantasy Horror Author - reduced size Portrait  by FawnheartHow did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I’m not sure if this was the first piece I wrote, but it’s the first I remember writing. This came about when I was about six. I had learnt to read and write when I was four, so the stories in the school book post no challenge. I read them all in one day, and was bored when we had to read them in class and as homework.

I told the teacher that the stories in the school book were stupid and I could write better ones. She challenged me to write a story, and gave me the topic: a letter’s adventures from writing to delivery. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six-year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn’t know I’d had the help of my older sister.

From then on, when she told the rest of the class to read one of the school book stories as homework, she often assigned me to write stories. Soon I learnt to do it without my sister’s help, and enjoyed it very much.

What have you written which makes you the most proud?

There are many pieces of which I’m proud. If I have to name just one, then I’ll say Storm Dancer. I’ve recently re-read this dark epic fantasy novel, and it held me enthralled, even though I’d written it myself and knew what would happen.

Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?

I enjoy writing early drafts by hand with coloured gel pens in lined hardback notebooks, but I do the bulk of the work on my computer. I alternate between letting my creativity flow with freewriting sessions and structured approaches such as checklists and worksheets. I rewrite and revise a lot, and I seek critiques from other writers.

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I always have several projects under way, a major one – usually a non-fiction book or a novel – and several smaller ones, such as articles and short stories. This way, if I feel blocked with one project, I can switch to another one for a while.

My current main project is another book in the Writer’s Craft series, titled Writing Vivid Settings.

Other works in progress include a sequel to Storm Dancer and several horror stories.

With around sixty published books, there’s always something to promote. Right now, the focus of my promotions is the Writer’s Craft series: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Magic, Writing About Villains, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, Twitter for Writers, Writing Dark Stories, Why Does My Book Not Sell? Twenty Simple Fixes.

Among the fiction books, I’m mostly promoting Thirty Scary Tales which is available as a paperback and ebook.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

With my fiction, I like to entertain readers and make them think at the same time, inviting them to see new perspectives and reconsider their values. Many of my stories explore the boundaries between good and evil which are not always clear, especially when prejudice and hypocrisy come into play. I also want to show how we are not responsible for what fate deals us – but we are responsible for how we deal with our fate.

My aim with the Writer’s Craft series is to help writers become the best authors they can possibly be.

There are a lot of books and courses available at for novices, but once a writer has progressed beyond the basics, instruction is hard to find. At advanced level, there’s little guidance available for aspiring professional authors who seek to improve their mastery of the craft. I aim to fill that gap with practical books teaching professional techniques.


STORM DANCER Rayne Hall cover  11Jan13 reducedRayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series and editor of the Ten Tales anthologies.

She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.

Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.

You can follow here on Twitter http://twitter.com/RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.

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Five Questions for Authors – Richard Holliday

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481351_10152410004100398_443573859_n - BW SmallThis post is the first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with authors. The idea is to ask the same five questions to a variety of authors and see what different kinds of responses are given. Hopefully it will offer authors the chance to introduce themselves and their work, and to also share some tips, hints, and experiences related to writing. Starting us off, my pal Richard Holliday!

How did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I sporadically wrote during high school as a means of passing time, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally took it “seriously”. At school, I never really felt I had a proper creative outlet – I’m not sporty, a particularly competent artist nor can I play a musical instrument more complex than a triangle – but getting into creative writing has definitely reassured me that my imagination does have an outlet.

There’s a little bit of backstory between my first actual piece and my first proper piece, though the latter would not exist without the former. In 2001 I was in English class studying the Titanic disaster; being a history buff on this subject for some years prior, I loved this topic and I wrote a piece of historical fiction based loosely around it (The story was ostensibly about the ship more than the people on it; a trait I probably maintain to this day). It was the longest thing I’d ever written (I was 11) at 10 sides of A4. I handed the story to my English teacher, who was a little confused but gave it the once-over – I got it back with an A+. I still have the original marked copy and Word document somewhere but I’m far too self-conscious (about the quality and, to a lesser extent, the niche subject matter) to read it, let alone post it online! But it was certainly a learning experience of unusual stead!

Later on I mulled over writing again and took part in National Novel Writing Month 2009 and churned out a 50,000 word manuscript for an alternate history adventure story that I want to revisit, but feel my skills at the moment won’t do justice to the story I want to tell; more successfully, the 2010 NaNoWriMo event was more successful, and I took a lot of lessons from the previous year and eventually produced my first proper finished novel Colonisation, which I’m redrafting. Definitely it was those two frenetic months of non-stop writing that cemented in my mind that I had an actual talent and should pursue it, though I’ve not done NaNoWriMo since 2011.

What have you written which makes you the most proud?

A few of my projects stand out to me as particularly good but one feels especially worthy at the time of writing, and that’s my post-apocalyptic short story The Cloud. This was my first venture into the genre and I really think I did a great job with it; I really enjoyed building up the ominous atmosphere of the dead city and showing the plight of the protagonist as he attempts to escape. I really love world-building and setting the scene in which a story takes place. My approach is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind as if they’re “watching” the story in a cinema. Plus, going back to The Cloud, I had some really great comments from some influential people who took the time to read my work and give me feedback which buoyed my self-esteem. The Cloud is the first piece of work I’ve deemed worthy of submission and the first short story of mine that I’d consider (and am planning) expanding into a full-blown novel.

It’s hard to really pin down specific works as I’m proud of all of my work, even if in certain circumstances the piece in question doesn’t quite execute the concept I was going for quite right as that puts that piece down as a valuable learning experience. I’d like to think that the work on my website shows a clear progression of my abilities as both a writer and in terms of grasping new concepts and running with them, to varying degrees of success. Certainly I have favourites, but if I can’t be proud of my work, why should people be proud to read it?

Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?

In terms of workflow, I’ve developed an amusingly-anachronistic approach. I work on my drafts in Scrivener, which is a wonderful program designed for writers that I feel helps a great deal in terms of getting out of the way when it comes to writing and supporting me when it comes to important structural stuff. Once I have a draft, I literally print it out and work on annotating a hard copy in red ink pen. It’s amazing how the “disconnect”, as it were, by reading the work on paper helps me to see it from a different angle and scribble all over it. One problem I’ve encountered so far, especially when it comes to my full-length novel Colonisation which I’ve been editing for ages this way, is getting the marked up pages back into a digital realm. I’m a pretty hard-going tech geek so, funnily enough, I find solving these problems part of the fun of writing!

Sometimes the hardest part is getting in the chair and putting one finger in front of the other. I usually try to aim for relatively low word count sessions fairly often, between 300-500 words a day. I’ve recently been trying to adopt the Pomodoro technique of work sessions broken up by very short breaks. Of course, when inspiration strikes at 4AM, this can be a little hard to manage so it’s best to just go with the inspirational flow while it lasts!

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I’m keeping myself rather busy at the moment! There’s a couple of projects on the back burner as it were; I’m still editing my novel Colonisation that I released briefly in 2013 on the back of some useful feedback for an eventual re-release on Kindle. I’m working on an expanded release of my short story collection Rememories, which is a compilation of all of my short story work from 2013 in an edited and enhanced form. After seeing your success with releasing Resolutions on Smashwords I’m eager to take some lessons away when Rememories hits Smashwords in early 2015 and really get my work out there as best as possible. I’m also pretty active in writing some new short stories and I’m hoping to have at least a couple new entries to my list before the end of the year!

Interestingly, I’m also writing my first short film! My script is titled Doors and is a science-fiction/psychological horror set in the near future where one man is invited to test a new piece of wearable technology. Unfortunately, some of the side-effects are agonising visions that only he can see… until they transcend into reality itself. I know a couple of independent filmmakers as friends and they’re mentoring me on the script side of things and are also looking to put Doors into production sometime in 2015. I’ve already had some good feedback on the script so far and it’s a really cool way of developing as a really versatile writer.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

I’d like to continue developing my skills with my writing; I really do believe it’s a journey of continual improvement. Definitely, part of the journey of being a great writer is being a great reader and if I get to experience some really good work I otherwise wouldn’t have then that’s a success. Generally, I want to give people some good stories to get involved in and care about first and foremost – what’s the point of doing this if no-one is enjoying it? In the medium term I want to work on building a network of fellow writers to get my work out there and get a profile. I’ve had a bit of an underlying goal that’ll tell me that I’m where I want to be: I’d like for one person to honestly say that I am their favourite writer. That may sound egocentric but it would be incredibly awesome if that was the case!

Richard Holliday is a writer from South London. His main areas are epic space operas, gritty cyberpunk and atmospheric post-apocalyptic. A fan of an eclectic mix of 70s prog-rock concept albums, naff 80s Doctor Who and fizzy drinks. He’s currently embarking on an English Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University.

Website – http://richardholliday.co.uk/

Facebook – http://facebook.com/richardhollidayauthor

Twitter – http://twitter.com/rjpholliday

Something old, something new

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided that I want to refocus my creativity so that I’m not working solely on StoryMechs. In fact, since I’ve made this decision I’ve been much more productive with StoryMechs.

There are some past projects which I had stopped working on, and now I want to kickstart my desire to achieve these targets.

The first of these is to self publish my science fiction short story collection, Resolutions. I picked up the draft recently, and although it definitely needs editing with a fine-tooth comb, I still love the narratives and think readers would too.

I also want to resurrect my aim to write a novel. I started writing a story called This Dark World, a young adult fantasy story inspired by the biblical theme of spiritual warfare, but I found that the theology was too dense to distill into a simple plot mechanism. However, I do have another idea in the pipeline, which I think could bear fruit. I’m currently working on the structure plan, using the A Novel Idea iOS app to set things out. More will be revealed in future.

Those are my old ideas, onto the new. I’ve become a lot more into board and card games recently, and this has sparked a desire to design a game myself. I did try to create a card game based on the premise of StoryMechs, but that didn’t pan out very well. However, lots of lessons learned there, which I’ll share at some point. I’m working on a idea for a strategy card game at the moment, so look out for some insights into my work on that.

Last but not least, I want to start a creative project geared towards a Christian market. My faith is the linchpin of my identity and existence, and therefore I want to use my gifts to serve God directly, as well as indirectly i.e. by doing everything I do as an offering to him. I have an initial idea for something along these lines, but I want to keep myself open to where God leads.

So, only five creative/writing projects to focus on! My plan is to switch focus regularly, to keep things fresh, but also to have some clear objectives to stay productive. I’ll keep you posted on how things go!