Thursday, 28 April 2016

Guest Post: Andrew Higgins - Lyrics and Creative Writing

... (how I learnt to collaborate) 

Today's guest blogger is musician Andrew Higgins from ADHMusic:

First up, I confess I'm new to blogging, so even the very form is intimidating me. What is a good blog...? I don't know, so apologies for the mental stream that follows, but I thought, just go with what pops up. Lets think about lyrics and creative writing I thought.

I took a creative writing course last year. The intention was to learn tools, tips, techniques on how to 'unblock' ideas and help me write better lyrics (or perhaps I should just say lyrics, as sometimes I can't seem to put a single line together. My standard problem (as someone who tends to write the music first) is that I cook up a 'good' first verse, then it runs into the buffers. I have the rhythm and melody in my head and invariably I'm trying to 'fit' words to the music. Its like a 3D puzzle to me: the music, words, and tempo all have to scan in a way that is often less about the overarching narrative than the syllables, consonants or 'feel' of particular words. I'm not saying this is a good thing BTW, just that the feel (for me) is what excites me, and it can be more important than the idea of a self-contained narrative with a start, middle and end. 

I had an interesting dialogue with the leader of the creative writing programme, who on seeing a set of my lyrics asked me about certain word choices and sentence constructions. I couldn't really explain other than to give her a copy of the song ‘Rivers and Ravens’ to demonstrate how certain words had a rhythmic value and drive that worked in a 3D context that was music plus words. 

A bonus of the writing course, that I had not anticipated, was meeting other people who wrote lyrics and were looking for a creative outlet. I've done a number of collaborations over recent years, with people providing lyrics to which I put music, do the arrangement and recording. This has proven strangely cathartic, and I've found the act of working with somebody else’s lyrics very liberating. So when a member of the group, Elaina James told me she had a set of lyrics and asked did I want to have a look, I jumped at the chance. The result, 'This House', pretty much bounced straight off the fretboard, inspired by a great set of lyrics, and without the personal agony of having to ponder the next word(s). Whilst the recording took a few weeks, the song and arrangement actually came together very quickly, over a couple of evenings.

This inspired me to test the water with our creative writing tutor. What did she think about the idea of a 'group' song, the challenge being for each group member to provide a rhyming couplet on a given theme (fantasy) which I would try and munge into a 'song'. Why? Just to see if it could be done, and also to demonstrate the idea that a fairly random stream of words, if you manipulate the ebb, flow and scan, can still work in a creative manner. She agreed. We put the idea to the group and the end result ‘Gibbet Hill’ can be found here. I don’t claim it as a classic, or to be highly original. However, it is tangible evidence that we achieved our goal: to create a dark, fantastical song from nothing. 


Elaina and I plan to work on more collaborative projects and it's exciting! We both feel the sum of the parts will be bigger than what either of us could achieve alone.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Mslexia: Chasing Dreams Finale

For the last few months I've had the good fortune to be a guest blogger for Mslexia. For those of you who, like me, subscribe to this fantastic magazine and devour the words of wisdom imparted by its talented writers you can imagine what a tremendous honour this has been.

This week sees the publication of the final part of my series. It's charted my experiences from abysmal failure at a school talent contest, through years of stage fright and secret writing dreams, to the realisation that sometimes you just have to take a chance.

Of course the reality is that it's much harder to do than it sounds.

I haven't found the cure for my stage fright, but I have found the strength to battle through it and keep going.

I haven't discovered the secret to getting published, and my novel isn't on the shelves of Waterstones and WHSmiths yet.  But it is sitting in an agents inbox patiently waiting to be read (and hopefully loved), which is a whole lot further than I ever thought it would get when I wrote it in secret.



My song lyrics aren't blaring on the radio, but I was a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest and I have collaborated with a talented musician who recorded our track 'This House'.  I play our CD from time to time just to remind me that we really did do this.

Taking chances isn't easy and it doesn't always work out the way you want, but the rewards, especially the unexpected ones, make it seem worth it.

I've asked my fellow writers and bloggers to join me in marking this occasion as my final blog post is published. For the next two weeks they will be blogging about music, what it means to them, how it's influenced them, and how it forms part of their lives.

I'll be adding their details here as their blogs go live so do check back and join in as we take a musical blog tour.

And don't forget to keep chasing those dreams.

Participating bloggers:


Morton S Gray : Musical Notes


Morton S. Gray is a writer from Worcestershire, U.K. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she recently graduated from their excellent New Writers' Scheme. Her debut novel, 'Who is Harry Dixon?', is to be published in the Autumn of 2016 by Choc Lit Publishing, after winning their Search for a Star competition in March. Morton writes romance stories with a mystery to solve.


Website and blog www.mortonsgray.com

Facebook author page : Morton S. Gray

Twitter : MSGray53




Julia Ibbotson : If Music Be The Food of Love, Play On


Julia Ibbotson writes mainly women's fiction with a historical setting and a strong thread of romance, although it's often 'romance with bite'. She also writes children's fiction for the 9-14 age range. She was a school teacher for 20 years (secondary English and Drama) and is now a senior lecturer at a Midlands university. She loves music and sings in choirs, including a rock choir and a classical choir. Julia wrote her first novel when she was 10 and hasn't stopped since. However the first novel she dared to submit for publication was only 4 years ago. She is currently completing the last book in her Drumbeats trilogy and a new novel called A Shape on the Air, which is a time-slip into the dark ages. All her books are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. Julia writes a blog on her website: www.juliaibbotsonauthor.com


Rhoda Baxter : Do you listen to music when you write? No way!




Rhoda Baxter writes women's fiction for Choc Lit Publishing. Her books walk the line between humour and darkness, which is how she ended up writing a romantic comedy set in a hospice. She believes that laughter is essential to getting you through the horrible bits in life. You can find her wittering on about science, writing and cake on her blog or on twitter (@rhodabaxter).

Website: www.rhodabaxter.com

Book link: myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe







Alison May : In which I muse on musical muses



Alison May is a novelist, short story writer. Her contemporary romantic comedies, including Shakespeare adaptations, Sweet Nothing and Midsummer Dreams, and the Christmas Kisses series, are published by Choc Lit. Alison has been shortlisted in the Love Stories and RoNA Awards. She is also qualified teacher with a degree in Creative Writing and runs novel writing workshops and weekend courses.

You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk or on Twitter @MsAlisonMay





Nimue Brown : Stage Fright For Authors


Nimue Brown has been singing folk music as an enthusiastic amateur for much of her life, and writing a bit more professionally for more than a decade. Her non-fiction is published by Moon Books, she has several novels with Snowbooks and a graphic novel series coming out with Sloth Comics. She does talks, and workshops at events, and has judged twice for Stroud Short Stories competition.


 You can find her talking and singing at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2iAnLZ1JJzOfltGrnS0P8Q
and blogging at www.druifdlife.wordpress.com






Christina Philippou : Music to my eyes: On music and writing




Christina Philippou is an author and book blogger. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel, due to be published on 15 September 2016 by Urbane Publications.

Christina is also the founder of Britfic. You can connect with Christina via her blog, Twitter and Facebook.








Jennifer Joyce : Reach for the Stars



Jennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies published by Carina UK (HarperCollins). Jennifer lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters, plus Jack Russell, Luna and bunnies Cinnamon and Leah. Her latest novel, The Wedding Date is out now. You can find out more about Jennifer and her books on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jenniferjoycewrites

Twitter: www.twitter.com/writer_jenn

Blog: www.jenniferjoycewrites.co.uk








Sally Jenkins : What’s Your Musical Era?


Sally cut her writing teeth on short stories for the women’s magazine market and has also written
several articles for Writers’ Forum magazine and Writing Magazine. She is the author of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners which guides the novice e-publisher to successful publication on Amazon Kindle. Sally Jenkins’ debut psychological thriller, Bedsit Three, was published at the end of 2015. A bedsit tenant disappears, leaving behind the detritus of his life. When he returns, a horror unfolds, sucking in the other residents of the house.

Website/blog: https://sally-jenkins.com/

Twitter: @sallyjenkinsuk



Andrew Higgins : Lyrics and Creative Writing (how I learnt to collaborate)


Musician Andrew Higgins is currently working on his first album, and assists others with arrangements, recording and production.

Andrew made 'This House' possible, by transforming the lyrics in my note book into an actual song.

His guest blog gives an insight to using a creative writing course to unblock ideas and help him write lyrics.

Website: http://adhmusic.co.uk/

Our song: This House : https://soundcloud.com/adhmusic/this-house


Chrissie Bradshaw

Chrissie Bradshaw writes contemporary romances and her first novel A JARFUL OF MOONDREAMS is coming out this summer. Her latest blog talks about writing and listening to music. Read Music and Moondreams on http://www.newhenontheblog.com. She has a Chrissie Bradshaw Author page on Facebook and tweets @Chrissiebeee


Janice Preston : Music: Do You Hear Without Listening?

Janice Preston is an internationally published author of emotionally intense historical romance. A member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists'' Association, she is an animal lover and a fair-weather gardener who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and two cats.
https://janicepreston.co.uk/













Wendy Clarke : Waiting in the Wings - a musical inspiration

Wendy lives in West Sussex with her husband, cat and badly behaved dog. She has written around two hundred stories and two serials for national women's magazines and is a regular fiction writer for The People's Friend. She has also written several articles for Writing Magazine. Wendy is a member of the RNA NWS and has just finished her first novel. She has published two collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose.


My website: http://wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: WendyClarke99

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wendy.sargent.376


Emma Davies : Let The Music Play On













Website : http://www.emmadaviesauthor.com/







Julie Stock : How Music Inspires Me


Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance novels, novellas and short stories. She self-published her debut, From Here to Nashville, in February of last year. She blogs about her writing on her website, ‘My Writing Life’ www.julie-stock.co.uk. You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page. Julie is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. Julie is in the middle of editing her second novel, which she hopes to publish later this year. Debut Novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ out now: http://bit.ly/1zjew51

Monday, 18 April 2016

Thank you

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement after my blog last week. It's comforting to know I have such wonderful caring friends when I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself and my family.

I'm delighted to say that whilst there are dark clouds still hanging ominously overhead, the biggest and scariest has thankfully now passed by.

Dad got the all clear from the hospital. Yippee!

I'm sure you can imagine how relieved we all are that he has managed to side step around that dreaded C word after having already battled it once.

The other stuff, whilst still not great, somehow seems a little more manageable now in light of this fantastic news.



Monday, 11 April 2016

To The Friends Who Make You Smile

You may have noticed that my presence on my blog, and all things social media for that matter, has been a bit sporadic recently. Or possibly you haven't missed me at all, though surely not!

Anyway, the reason for my absence has quite simply been reality. You know, that pesky thing that messes with all those great intentions and plans you had? Yep, that's the one.

I'm used to it rudely interrupting my escape into my fictional world. Reality is like my alarm clock that goes off each week day morning to tell me to go to work. It's that infuriating reminder that there are other things to be done besides holding conversations with the voices in my head, (the ones that most people out grew in childhood).

It needles me about the dusting, vacuuming and horrifyingly even the gardening. I ignore it as long as possible, until eventually I grudgingly comply, because I know that spending a little time in the real world is not only good for my sanity, or at least helping to maintain the presence of it, it also makes that fictional world all the more exciting. It builds the anticipation and fuels the imagination, so when I do return I am invigorated by my absence, no matter how brief.

Unfortunately reality deviated from its routine interruptions of working, shopping, cleaning, cooking and sleeping. No longer satisfied with letting me skate by with the minimum requirements, it threw a few obstacles at me.

I wouldn't have minded if there had been less of them, or even if they'd been the good kind. You know, the ones that are really tricky but lead to something good in the end.

But they weren't.

They were just bad.

The kind of bad that makes you want to pull the duvet over your head and hide until things get better. Except of course you can't, because the only way things will get better is if you get up and actually deal with all the bad stuff.

The trouble was that no matter how much I dealt with, more kept coming. Instead of just being restricted to one aspect of my life it was like a virus that spread, contaminating everything I touched; work, home and family. Nothing was immune.

So is it over now? More like a temporary reprieve. A kind of suspended animation where everything has paused ominously waiting. Waiting for results to be received and decisions to be made. Just waiting.

And then? Well, who knows? Perhaps normality resumes, or the madness continues. At the moment they're each huddled in their corners waiting for the bell to ring and the next round to start.

In the mean time I'm clinging onto hope that it will get better. It has to, right?

Thankfully I have great friends, like the one who gave me the thoughtful gift bag (pictured at the top of the blog) full of goodies to make me smile on a day when all I wanted to do was cry.  It reminded me that no matter how bad it is, I'm not alone.



Monday, 4 April 2016

Guest Post: Sophie Claire - Why Bother With Writing Courses



I’ve always enjoyed going to writing courses and that isn’t going to stop now I’m published. Surprised?


A lot of people are, yet it was at a writing workshop that I came up with the opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, and that’s just one example of how courses have really benefited me and my writing. Here are some others:


They give you the chance to step back from your novel-in-progress and look at it in an analytical way, they make you think about overall structure and themes rather than the nitty gritty of individual scenes. I find that often in these circumstances, new plot ideas and insights about my characters come to me.


Then there are the workshop exercises. When you’re given ten or twenty minutes in which to write something, you jump straight to it – there’s no time to stare out of the window and consider the possibilities. You’re given a task, and you simply put pen to paper and write! There’s something about the urgency of this which fires up my brain and opens up new ideas, leading to breakthrough moments like the opening of my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex.


I’d had the back story for two characters, Luc and Natasha, in my head for while – I knew they’d had a passionate affair followed by an accidental pregnancy, shotgun wedding, then a miscarriage and a hasty divorce – but I couldn’t think of a reason to bring them back together again and start the story in the present day. Yet I knew that fundamentally, they were meant for each other. Then I went to a workshop about conflict. It was run by my local writing group and we did several warm-up exercises, then were asked to write a scene in which two people wanted opposite things. The opening scene ofHer Forget-Me-Not Ex landed in my head and wrote itself: Luc walks into Natasha’s shop desperate for her help; whilst she is horrified and certain that she will never, under any circumstances, become entangled in his life again. It raised so many questions – why hadn’t Luc told his family about the divorce? Why was his father so adamant he wanted to meet Natasha? What would persuade her to go?


I came away from the workshop buzzing, and desperate to get started on the story. It was a lovely feeling, and that re-energising effect is what I love most about writing workshops. They inspire you, they reconnect you with why you started writing in the first place, they spark fresh ideas.


Before I was published, I used to love attending residential writing courses because they gave me a short-term deadline (my long-term deadline was to submit a finished book to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme each year) and motivated me to complete an opening chapter for critique. Getting feedback on a new project was invaluable, and gave me faith to carry on with the idea and finish the book. I also made wonderful friends on courses, including my critique partner whose feedback is priceless.


Writing workshops can be useful no matter which stage of your writing career you’re at, and that’s why I’ll grab any opportunity to go to one!


 Author Bio and Links:

Her Forget-me-Not Ex is Sophie Claire’s debut novel and is available on Amazon


Sophie has a French mother and a Scottish father but she was born in Africa and grew up in Manchester, England. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award 2011 and the Sophie King Prize 2014.


Previously, she worked in Marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heart-warming contemporary romance stories set in sunny Provence.


www.sophieclaire.co.uk