Posts Tagged ‘charity’

I’ve been a very bad blogger recently, and not in a fun way.

A combination of life events and general malaise has resulted in an extremely unproductive writing period. I can only write (or blog) when I have something to say and I envy those who are disciplined enough to sit down every day,  inspired or not, and simply write. I am starting to realise that my usual tried-and-tested working method has now become counter-productive but doubt I can change it, since it is the same one I have employed for nearly forty years in my design career. This is how it works:

I have an idea and let it roll around in my head until my deadline approaches. In design terms it’s called visualisation and was something we HAD to do in the dark days before the advent of computers. Back in the 1970s, when I started out, we worked with pencils and pens on paper, so it saved a lot of waste and rubbing/scratching out if we had a clear idea in advance of what the finished design should look like. Then all we had to do was draw it down accurately for the printer to follow. Simples. But now that we can see instant results on a screen, visualisation techniques have been virtually lost. We don’t even have to imagine what our living rooms would look like in certain colours and fabrics any more because retailers can show us with their specialist applications! It’s great for those who have no eye for design but has induced laziness in the rest of us.

TBND 2013 Poster smallFor some years I found the visualisation technique worked very well for my stories. I had an idea, often stemming from personal experience, from something overheard, a passing image (as in The Beast Next Door) or, if I was very lucky, from a fully-formed opening line that popped unbidden into my head. I then let it swill around without directing it until it formed itself into a story. This could take weeks or even months and it never worked out if I tried to force it. I didn’t write anything down – no jottings of any kind – until it was virtually complete. I had to know what happened before I wasted my time actually writing it, much the same as in my early days designing with pencil and paper. As I wrote, extra nuances and clues/red herrings occurred but the basic storyline was settled – and even edited – by the time it hit the page.

Unfortunately, subliminal editing sometimes gains a momentum of its own and a story gets shortened to a point where it is no longer worth writing down. I recently had a fairly complex idea for a novel that gradually dwindled into a short, then a flash fiction, then a sentence. There is no way back at this juncture as everything added back in feels like padding. It’s a dangerous process when allowed free rein!

But generally, my ‘method’ also worked well when I had several ideas at once. I let them jostle for position until one or two fought their way to the top, relegating the others to the outskirts of memory until most of them vanished. This was a signal to me that they would never make decent stories and I was happy to let them go. However, these days my memory is not infallible and I am finding some ideas that really interest me are wandering off into the sunset without permission. Well then, you may say, why don’t I carry a notebook and write the bloody things down? My answer is, I don’t know. I have developed an aversion to it – almost a phobia – as if I believe I might end up putting out a story that hasn’t been through the rigorous selection processes my brain previously imposed. That’s nonsense, I know, but it is definitely having an effect on my output and it is something I need to address before too much more time slips by. Any suggestions gratefully received.

On the UP side, while I have been hatching and forgetting plots, some little successes have occurred without my having to make any effort! Firstly, the short feature film of The Beast Next Door has been completed and submitted to several film festivals. I now have an IMDb profile too, which is something I wasn’t expecting. And there’s a poster with my name on it…

Next, out of the blue, I had a request from Cambridge University Press for permission to use my flash fiction, The Prisoner, for teaching purposes. I’ve just seen the questions and they are really interesting – and difficult!

final cover smallThen Rosemary Kind, who runs Alfie Dog Fiction, asked if she could include The Seventh Christmas in a Christmas-themed anthology, both as an ebook and paperback. I am very pleased about this as the story is close to my heart.

I also heard that my flash, A Matter of Taste, has won a place in Raging Aardvaak’s anthology, Twisted Tales. And I had two stories shortlisted in the last Flash500 and one longlisted in the Fish flash competition earlier in the year. Also, Readwave have sent three  stories to World Reader, a charitable organisation that aims to help improve literacy in developing countries. So at least things are still happening in spite of my sloth.

Actually, writing this post is giving me a lift. Perhaps I’ll go and get one of those beautiful hardback notebooks in our lovely local bookshop. Or start a local writing group. Or get my husband to give me a kick up the backside. Hmmm…

Back soon – I hope.

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Huw Thomas - medThere’s nothing that remarkable to my story. I grew up in a small market town in southern England, the youngest of six children living in a big old house. There were fields beyond our garden and a canal not far away.

I always loved exploring – woods, streams, buildings with unlocked doors… still do, although now I’ve reached the age of being (allegedly) responsible for my actions, I tend to go a bit easy on the trespassing part.

As a boy, life had its ups and downs. I wouldn’t exactly say my school days were the best time of my life. My family was vegetarian and we had no television – both of which helped make me a bit of an outsider. I also had strict parents who put academic achievement way above personal comfort.

There were times when I felt I’d got a rough deal compared to my friends. But – thanks to a fertile imagination and the countryside on my doorstep – it was easy enough to escape into worlds of my own making.

Now, a few decades of distance help give things a different perspective. In particular I wonder if I would have developed the writing habit quite so early if I’d spent my younger days sitting in front of the television.

All those days spent roaming my town and the area around it also put me in touch with my world. I knew my town, the villages around it – and much of the countryside between them – like the back of my hand.

That connection with where I grew up has also helped fuel my writing. My third novel, The Vault, is set in an imaginary town called Compton Fosse. But while the town itself doesn’t exist, its world does. Small English towns are what I know best.

Much of the story also takes place in a fragment of ancient woodland called Hobthrush Wood. It’s where my main protagonist – young Adam Strong – fights most of his battles with the yobs from the council estate. It’s also where he and his friends discover something a lot more dangerous.

As well as the inevitable gnarled oaks, hollies and towering beech trees, Hobthrush Wood is also full of meandering streams, bogs, patches of rhododendron, and areas of regimented conifers, exactly the kind of place where I spent many happy hours as a boy.

Looking back now, although I felt a sense of injustice about certain things in my life I know I didn’t suffer any real hardships – certainly not compared with those born in other parts of the world.

When I published The Vault, I decided that half of all royalties would go to the disaster relief charity ShelterBox. It’s an organisation that I know well – I used to be in charge of their PR.

In 2010, my wife and I also undertook a one-year tandem cycle ride in aid of the charity. For that challenge we were chiefly inspired by a short video about a young girl from Java – called Siti Ayeesha – who was helped by ShelterBox after an earthquake in 2006.

In the video, Siti explains: “A few days ago, we were woken up by the sound of the ground shaking. My house fell down and a lot of my things were lost but I’m very lucky because I still have my family. 

“Not everyone was so lucky. Our village is not the same since the earthquake. All of the houses are gone and lots of my friends are no longer here.”

Now, when I go back to my hometown, a few places have changed but most are no different and many of the people I went to school with are still there.

Maybe I’d have written different books if I’d grown up in a country where earthquakes can wipe out your home and kill large numbers of the people around you. On the other hand, I’d settle for growing up without a TV and only getting to eat bacon sandwiches at my friends’ houses.

ShelterBox was able to help Siti and her family. I’m hoping that, through The Vault, I can help their work by writing about my world. With a little bit of help from my imagination. After all, I never actually came across a gang of armed robbers when I was playing in the woods.

Vault front cover Mar 13The Vault:

The Vault is a mystery thriller set in a small town in southern England. The book revolves around young schoolboy Adam Strong and his battles with a gang of local yobs. Woven around Adam’s story are three other strands – an armed raid on the home of a reclusive billionaire, the discovery of three dead bodies in a local pond and a sex offender who goes on the run after breaking his parole.

The different stories – and timelines – all gradually come together as the significance of the vault and its contents finally become clear.

Aimed at adults, The Vault explores questions of trust and loyalty from a range of perspectives.

ShelterBox background:

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other aid that a family needs to survive in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

I originally trained as a journalist before going into PR. From 2006 to 2007, I was in charge of communications and fundraising for ShelterBox at the charity’s base in Cornwall.

Although I left the UK to retrain as a TEFL teacher (English as a Foreign Language), I continued to support ShelterBox and – in 2010 – my wife and I undertook a year-long tandem cycle ride in aid of the charity that involved riding nearly 11,000 miles across 10 countries and raised nearly £50,000.

Bio:

My wife, Carolyn, and I have just bought a house in Bournemouth after several years teaching in Portugal. As well as writing, I currently juggle several part-time jobs – gardening, teaching at a language school and working as a sub-editor for a local newspaper.

I had my first writing success in 2005 when The Tale of Findo Gask won a UK contest for new authors. I was over the moon to get a publishing contract but sadly – although I did get to see my book in print and got one royalty cheque – the company involved went bust not long after.

Subsequently, along with Findo and The Vault, I’ve published one other novel – Thin Ice – and one collection of short stories – Fractured Lives – under my own name. I’ve also written an adventure novel called Pagan’s Sphinx under the pen name William Webster. At the moment – slightly annoyingly – this is selling a lot more copies than my other books.

I’ve also just completed the first draft of my next novel – Church of the White Rabbits – which is a bit more quirky than anything I’ve written before. This is currently in the hands of my beta readers but I hope it will be out by the end of the year or early in 2014.