#TwistedChildhood: NEW Short Story Project

Mushrooms
#ChildhoodRuined

Given the success we had with the last short story project hosted here on chynnablueink.com (see: The Zombie Project), it’s just about time for another. Good short stories are like Doritos. You can’t stop at just one. And it’s been WAY too long since you, my lovely readers, were treated to a delicious, all-you-can-eat buffet of amazing content from published authors and querying writers alike.

What you can expect: Free content from your favourite writers? Check. Undoubtedly weird theme that’ll push the boundaries of said writers’ creativity? Double check. Discovering new authors you just luuurve, some of whom have books available to buy right now? Triple check. It wouldn’t be a #codeblue project, otherwise.

The theme: One of the worst things about growing up is losing touch with your favourite characters. So this time, we’re bringing adulthood to Neverland. I’m talking Winnie the Paralegal. Horton Hears a Homicide. It’s like reading your favourite bedtime story but with beer goggles on and instead of milk and cookies you’ve got leftover chinese food and wine. Ever wondered what would happen if The Grinch stole Guantanamo Bay? Now you don’t have to!

grow up

How to get involved: We’re still taking sign-ups, so if you want to take part, hit me up on Twitter (@chynnablueink) or send a raven.

Interested? All updates, including featured authors and new stories, will be posted on Twitter via the hashtag #TwistedChildhood. A list of the authors involved will be posted reallll soon right here on chynnablueink.com, including Twitter handles and blog links. Following them is another great way to stay updated. And trust me–you don’t wanna miss this.

 

Operation SoapSud: Job Hunting

Today’s Soundtrack – Everybody Loves Me by One Republic (awesome track.)

I don’t need to tell you that the world is increasingly going Online (here we include the appropriately ominous capitalisation.) If you want to find a job nowadays–hell, if you want to succeed at anything–your online presence is a Big Factor (again, with the capitalisation.) When you have a name like mine, Google can be your best friend or your worst enemy. (Hello, awkward Instagram selfies; Goodbye, potential position at prestigious firm…) One way to counteract the personal vs. professional issue is to create separate accounts that are specialised. By that I mean one account for you and your crazy self; another account for your writer-ways; a third account for your professional hire-me face…

are you not entertained
Me when I don’t hear back from a job application. Seriously, guys, I’m awesome. What gives?

Privatise your personal account and keep those Samuel L. Jackson memes where they belong–under the virtual Twitter lock. Voila, you’ve got your fresh, world-face, open to the public, and your 1AM cheese-puff crumb face saved for your nearest and dearest. Or, at least, those online friends you’ve never met but somehow are more willing to listen to your woes than your actual relatives.

What started out as one, personal Twitter account has become two, or three, or more. If you’re anything like me (qualified graduate praying for a decent position, anyone?) you’re faced with a problem. You’ve amassed a significant following on your ‘personal’ account: Check. At some point, that personal account merged into a semi-professional-this-is-what-I-do-in-my-spare-time-please-pay-me-for-it platform. How to extricate the two?

You can’t privatise the account and keep it as your personal without losing your significant following as a platform. It also hides your account content from potential employers (obviously) so they have no knowledge to back up your high following outside the possibility that you might just post hilarious memes all day. You could create a new account and blast it on the old one (read: New account, please follow!), but then you’re a.) annoying and b.) probably gonna get lost in the quagmire of everyone’s timeline. Plus you’re then dividing your time between a personal and a public (maybe even two publics–writer and professional), and if you’re like me and want a career in social media, by the time you’re finished at work you’re unlikely to be dedicated to keeping your own stuff updated in triplicate. Apps like HootSuite can be great for scheduling posts and keeping on top of things if you’re down for this approach. At the moment without paying for premium you can run three accounts comfortably. That includes Twitter, Facebook and Bubble. It also lets you geotag searches, which is good if you’re looking for info within a particular area–useful for me when I was sourcing clients within a particular region during my time as a marketing manager. For me, though, Hootsuite is better if you’re running a professional campaign rather than managing your own accounts. Scheduled tweets lose some of the personality of updates, especially on Twitter where responses help build your presence. I don’t think you can really substitute the hands-on approach (where possible) which is likely why I’m always glued to my computer.

For those reasons, I prefer the cleanup method. Review your timeline, your followers, those you’re following, remove, edit, alter, polish, big smile, flashbulb, etc. Which is why I’ll be spending my afternoon on operation SoapSud. Like raking the leaves from my technological garden, I’ll be sprucing up my online presence. SoapSud should help both my job-search and author image look a little more put-together. After all, how can people employ me to run their social streams unless I can show my own is squeaky clean and flowing smoothly?

 

Wish me luck!

Blue

wish me luck
Job searches are coming…

 

Twitter Pitch Contests: How To Be Pitch Perfect

Today’s Soundtrack – Favourite Record by Fall Out Boy

Twitter pitch contests are a big deal when you’re searching for an agent. For most of us, querying is an arduous process which involves sending a lotta lotta emails out and hoping to get a response other than a form rejection.

Pitch parties change this game in a vital way: for once, the agents are looking for you, rather than the other way around. On one hand, this is good: you have the opportunity to attract the attention of multiple agents with the power of a single tweet. On the other hand, there are a zillion other writers vying for the attention of the same few agents.

For those who don’t know, a pitch contest involves tweeting an 140 character summary of your book, including the relevant hashtag and genre–be that #PitMAD, #PitchMAS, #PitchCB, whatever. Agents who are taking part in the event then skim the tweets and favourite those which pique their interest. A favourite is akin to a query request–basically, it gives you the green light to flash your query over to that agent with the pitch party hashtag in the subject line. As such, your query will be prioritised by the agent over the rest of those in the slush pile. Winner, no?

This presents two challenges:

  1. Making your pitch stand out amongst the zillions of others flying in every second. Some pitch contests have instilled rules to try to limit the endless stream of tweets which come in once the flood gates open. To prevent unfair advantage through multiple tweets, the recent Curtis Brown pitch party, which happens on the fourth Friday of each month, mandated a one-tweet rule. And if you can only tweet once, you better make sure it’s a good’un.
  2. Making it stand out in a very, very limited number of words.

I suppose the argument as far as No. 2 goes is simple–your premise should be snappy and interesting enough that describing it shorthand isn’t a problem. Wishful thinking, right? We all have those crucial plot points we want to get across, and choosing which to prioritise can be a bitch. Once you’ve taken part in a couple of pitch parties, it gets easier. Looking at your tweets which get the best response can give you a good idea of what is better included and what’s better left out.

BUT, if you’re impatient for success (like me), you can do what I did. Having had a fair measure of success with pitch parties, I feel semi-qualified to share some #tips. If anyone better and more experienced has input, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments.

Start playing with pitches a couple of days beforehand

Write, rewrite, reword, ask your CP’s and betas and your Mum to read through and choose the best. Hold polls. Schedule a vote. Give yourself chance to get the bad ones out of your system before you tweet the solid gold that’ll land you an agent on the day of.

Look at what everyone else is doing

If you can resist, wait until a couple of hours into the contest, then check out which tweets are doing the best and which already have favourites. Then emulate. I’m not saying copy someone else’s tweet–that’s a no-no. But recognising commonalities in the winning tweets and employing the same tactics in your own is just good business. 

Include the conflict!

I’ve seen a couple of agents cite this one as a biggie. If your tweet doesn’t spell out the conflict, i.e. Why we should give a shit, it’s agent-repellent. Whatever you choose to include in your pitch, make sure you get the key drama in there somewhere. It’s a good jumping off point for the imagination. Who? What? Why? We must know!

Include. Your. Genre. 

If you’re pitching a YA, those two letters better be in your tweet. According to the posts I’ve read, some agents will skip right over tweets that don’t state the genre, because they’d rather not waste their time requesting a manuscript which turns out to be in a genre they don’t represent. There’s only so much chasing these agents will do in these contests, guys. You’ve gotta play your advantage. A YA agent skimming through will spot your tweet because of those two little letters–so use them. 

Don’t wax lyrical

It uses too many words. Yeah, it sounds pretty and catchy, but in my experience success comes from the tweets which give more juice from the plot and less from the word choice. It can be tempting as a way to stand out from the crowd, but trust me, tweets which sacrifice floral wording to give more meat always do better. Plus, if you have to write a fancy tag line to pitch your book, why are you overcompensating? That’s not to say you shouldn’t write a snappy line if it works–but don’t sacrifice necessary content as a trade-off. 

There you have the few things I’ve learned so far. I’ll probably update this at some point in the future, and if anyone has any useful tips, PLEASE comment (I could use them, too!) I’m gonna go bite my nails over the #PitchCB request I sent off. Wish me luck!

REVIEW: The Shinigami Series by Julie Hutchings

Running HomeTitles: Running Home and Running Away

Genre: Horror/Romance

Author: Julie Hutchings

Other Works: Featured in the Dark Carnival anthology

Score: I’m awarding five stars to these spellbinding reads.

Full Disclosure: I was sent PDF copies of both books for review (However, I then went on to buy them, so that should tell you somethin’.) I am long-time friends with the author, although this in no way diminishes the integrity of my review. She’d kick my ass if I tried to blow smoke up hers.


Death hovers around Ellie Morgan like the friend nobody wants. She doesn’t belong in snow-swept Ossipee, New Hampshire, at a black tie party––but that is where she is, and where he is: Nicholas French, the man who mystifies her with a feeling of home she’s been missing, and the impossible knowledge of her troubled soul.

Nicholas followed an abomination that is one of his own, but finds that fate has driven him to New Hampshire. He is a being of the Shinigami, a heroic vampire order that save their victims from more tragic ends. And he knows why Ellie is human repellent… why physical agony grips them when apart.

Conceptualising this series is difficult. Think ‘Enter the Dragon’ meets ’30 Days of Night’, mix in a little of your grandma’s home baking and a side of black depression and that should just about cover it—⸺although that doesn’t even touch upon the bloody sexuality which lingers, unapologetic, between lines of brownie-scented bookshop prose.

The Shinigami Series is an exploration into vampire territory yet uncharted, which seems an impossible task in itself, given the sheer volume of vampire literature available these days. However, Hutchings pulls it off with aplomb. Urban scenery and/or small woodland towns are the usual backdrop to any vampire romance worth its salt, and though Hutchings subscribes to this mantra in the first novel, Running Home, her second deviates from the archetype in a way that forces the reader out of their usual vampire-genre comfort zone. In place of sprawling city-scapes and fairytale woods, we’re given mountainous Japanese beauty. In fact, the change of scenery is almost cathartic to the reader following the shock-ending Hutchings serves at the end of Running Home. As a result, the introduction of the fiery Kieran—⸺an Irish rogue of a vampire with a tongue-in-cheek attitude—⸺which accompanies this scenery change becomes a metaphor for the confusion felt by both protagonist and reader.

‘Confusion’ is a buzzword, here—⸺sexual tension does not accurately summarise these books. Sexual confusion is better, and a whole lot more accurate. It’s non-typical in that the romance isn’t in-your-face; even two books in, you’re still not quite sure what the relationship between Ellie and Nicholas really is. Rather than being irritating in its murkiness, it instead prevents the book from being written off as your average gal-meets-ghoul romance. The uncertainty lends itself to a rawness beneath the surface which resists any kind of typification, and with it, any chance of reader boredom. It’s refreshing—⸺if dark, brooding and blood-soaked cleanses your palate—⸺to see a romance not constrained by the usual tropes. And if the darkness gets too much, snow-topped Japanese scenery soothes the mind.

If the snowy backdrop is the yin, the introduction of a shadowy presence no doubt set to loom large over Ellie’s life is the yang in Running Away. The second book sees further development of our protagonist’s identity and sexuality as she seeks to define herself in an alien landscape. Only one of the many factors muddying the waters between Eliza and Nicholas, and opening the cracks for other potential suitors to slip through. Is their attraction natural, or a structurally-engineered tool of fate, designed to ensure they fulfil their prophetic destiny? In Nicholas and Kieran we see a juxtaposition of fire and ice which has the potential to burn Ellie right up, unless her shadow intervenes.

Ultimately, these novels prevent a fresh take on the vampire genre, and one definitely worth exploring. Warning: Although not a horror in the strictest sense, these novels do subscribe to some of the tenets of the genre; expect blood, death and darkness. If you like your plots cut-and-dried, perhaps these books aren’t for you. However if, like me, you like a little interpretation and introspection with your novels, definitely check them out.


Buy Running Home: United Kingdom / USA

Buy Running AwayUnited Kingdom / USA

Want to read more about these books? Cassandra Page previously interviewed the author and I talked to the characters. Or, check out her blog over on deadlyeverafter.com.

Life and Things

Soundtrack – By The Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

 
I was reading my own manuscript the other day using the Kindle app on my phone and thinking about all the things I’d change were I sitting in front of a computer. Perspective is a funny thing. I never bought into the idea that leaving your writing alone for a while would make a difference. And yet, looking back retrospectively at words I’d written years before–what I just this second realised was three years before, to be exact–I noticed things not previously apparent to me. The redundant statements I’d made. Things that were obvious in the prose which I spelled out a couple of lines later.
 
I’m not really sure if it’s a case of me improving as a writer or that the distance made it easier to notice my mistakes. Maybe my style is changing. I could wax poetic and talk about how my approach is becoming more succinct in line with my changing worldview, but I’m not feeling a Hamlet moment today. I have noticed a difference in the way I see things. Whether it’s a result of ageing or experience, I don’t know. The latter part of that statement sums up what seems to be a fairly prevalent theme in my life at the moment–I don’t know. Anything. Except the simple stuff.
 
I miss writing. Once my tests are out of the way, the ideas that have been marinating will be going down on paper. Or screen. Whatever.
 
This has been a public service announcement. Inspired by life and things. I miss you guys.
 
Peace.

In Which I Explain My Absence…

Today’s soundtrack – Underground by David Bowie

What up, guys and dolls?!

Hell, it’s been a long time. A really long time. Although it seems kind of appropriate that my return falls on this day, of all days. I have to tell you, with the amount of lines I’ve written and deleted in this post, it’s a wonder it isn’t ten times longer than it is.

There’s a lot to say and I’m not really sure how to say it. A lot has been going on in my life over the past few months, as you can probably tell from my extended absence. It’s not even so much that I’ve been busy. I’ve had time to post, I’m not gonna lie. A couple of times I’ve opened up the webpage, hit ‘new post’, only to realise I have nothing to say. Because all the things that have been happening–mostly too personal to share–wouldn’t get out of the way so I could write something else. It’s been months since I opened my manuscripts. Months since I’ve felt like reconnecting with the writer world. The flipside of that is a good way to explain how I’ve been feeling: disconnected. Totally, completely disconnected. But as of today…well, I kind of feel like me again.

There’ve been a couple of false alarms–I don’t know how many times I’ve opened Twitter, posted some grand, sweeping statement about being ‘back’, then disappeared into the ether again. Real life can be a huge, unwelcome distraction, especially when it comes between you and virtual friends you’ve come to rely on. Julie, Kristen, I only hope you can forgive me for being such a shitty friend. I haven’t been there when I should’ve been, and I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.

So, where am I at right now? Well, I recently started a new job–wamw, that’s me. (To anyone not familiar with Fall Out Boy–‘waitress, actor, model, writer’.) I tend bar in a country pub not far from my house. It’s cute. Very quaint. Typically English. I’m sure you guys would love it. I’m back at University, still plugging away at my degree. I’m also in a new relationship, which I’m pretty fucking happy with. Sickeningly so.

New house, new everything.

Life is weird. For a long time I felt kind of like I’d lost control and I was watching my life happen without me. As though all my decisions were premade, and things were going to go that way and it wouldn’t be good but life is cruel and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because no one really gets what they want, and no one is ever satisfied, and happiness is a myth we made up to give us something to strive for. Cheery thoughts, no?

So I made some changes. I feel better now. Like I can take control again. I still feel like I’m spinning, but I’m learning to roll with it. It’s hard to get back on the horse when you’ve been off it for so long, but I think the wall I’ve been stuck behind has only contributed to the listless purposelessness I’ve been feeling. I need to get back into writing, into blogging, into being myself–i.e., word vomiting through a pixelated medium.

So, hey. I really am back this time. At least for the foreseeable future.

I’ve missed you guys.

Blue

Are you there, fan fiction? It’s me, Blue.

Today’s Soundtrack – Allie by Patrick Stump. (Here’s a thought–why don’t you listen whilst you read? I’m tryna give you a multisensory experience here, yo.)

I am a fan of any kind of writing.

I love words. Books, poems, TV, lyrics, blogs…literally anything that at some point in the creative process has involved someone scribbling on a piece of paper. I find that whole writing-by-candlelight thing fascinating. Which is why I endeavour to do it, natch.

In terms of books, though, there’s something that’s always bothered me. It kind of splits into two halves, and neither of the halves can be reconciled, so it’s essentially a pointless and rambling statement. But this is my blog, so tough shizz.

Número uno: it bothers me that authors never do what you want them to do.

Admit it: we all have our guilty fantasies about the characters we wish had gotten it on. All those lust-filled gazes that never amounted to anything can be pretty damn frustrating. And who says the characters even have to get together at the end of it? Keep to the main love story if that’s what you wanna do, but dammit, don’t fill our heads with possibilities then dash them like you’re a disciple of G. R. R. Martin. Not cool, man.

Número dos: it bothers me that authors do follow the obvious course/play to reader fantasies.

Yeah, we all love a love story. I’m as much a fan of the “finally they fucking did it” kiss as the next person. But, in a lot of cases, the moment of unbridled passion and loin-clenching flaming butterflies is so expected it’s almost passé. We all know it’s going to happen. Sure, it’s still fun and fulfilling and all that stuff to read, but ultimately, everyone is expecting it.

Yeah, I’m hard to please. I know. The only thing I could possibly think of that would solve this problem pour moi would be for the author to write the book a hundred times over, following every possible angle. But that would be insane, you scoff…wouldn’t it?

Welcome, friends, to the world of fan fiction.

*cue flashing lights and pumping techno music*

Fan fiction, for me, is a genius concept. There’s something beautiful about loving a story–loving characters–so much, you feel you have to write them again. And again, and again, and again, exploring every possibility and venturing into crossovers until you can’t even remember what’s actually canon anymore. It gives stories a universal depth that can’t come purely from the books themselves–unless you’re writing epic fantasy, in which case I applaud you. Books are no longer just stories–they become universes, with alternative pairings and ships and new elements.

As a writer, fan fiction is pretty damn easy to write. The characters are already there, and so is the audience’s love of them. All that’s left to do is harness the power of the story.

20140516-134114.jpg

Fan fiction is by no means a recent discovery for me. This is, however, the first time I’ve tried writing it myself. Initially, my plan was to write a book that I intended to put up on Wattpad, as a way of boosting my audience–so people could check out my writing, and see if they liked it.

Then I discovered there was such a thing as Fall Out Boy fan fiction, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I know more Fall Out Boy trivia than anyone I know–with the possible exception of a fellow FOB fan fic writer, who shall hereafter be referred to as @birdsatemyface (because that’s her username on Mibba, the fan fic site–not because birds actually ate her face. That I’m aware of, anyway. Remind me to get back to you on that one.) Writing something has never been so easy. To put it in perspective, I’ve written around 30,000 words since last Thursday. It’s been cathartic, stress-releasing, knowing every word doesn’t have to be perfect, not worrying over every niggling thing because, hey, the info is already there, and if I mess it up, there’s always someone else who can write it better.

Posting chapter-by-chapter has been a real confidence booster, too. It’s a great feeling to get continual feedback, and to know people are enjoying what you’re writing.

I have an unfinished manuscript and exams, but I don’t feel guilty about spending time on my fic, because of the way it makes me feel. If anything, it’ll hone my craft. Hopefully when I come back to Deathfens in June (unfinished MS), I’ll have learned something from the experience.

I’m pretty sure I’ll keep writing fics for a long time, too.

Some people might see it as a step back, but in my eyes, the only thing spending time writing can do is make me better at my craft–whatever I’m writing.

If you want to check out my story, you can find it here. There’s sex–duh–and it’s essentially unedited, so don’t be expecting a masterpiece, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to write. And when you’re writing for yourself (and other crazy fans like yourself), fun is all that matters.

Peace.

(If you do head over to Mibba, I recommend checking out this story by @birdsatemyface. It’s epically long but sinfully good, and there’s a sequel. This girl has definite talent. Okay, now I’m done.)

Never stop fighting time

Inevitability.

Inevitability is the world’s favourite word. Getting older, growing up is inevitable. Inevitability is what gets you in the end. *Time* is inevitability. We all start out wanting to be unique, fighting the man, wanting to break through and forge our own path, but it’s the inevitability that gets you. The ‘one day I’ll have to settle down’, the feeling that time is running away from you in skips and lulls so that you’re so busy thinking about what you’re not doing that you spend no time doing anything at all. You want to indulge in youth and passion but you’re so god damn scared of what you *should* be doing that you stop fighting time and let it take you instead, numb yourself and close yourself off, forget about the minutes and hours passing and just join the inevitable tide of life until it takes you and leaves you neatly where it wants you, in some menial job in an office running on caffeine and grey conversation. Don’t stop fighting time, clawing at the minutes, feeling every second of stress and worry and panic that everything is going to fall apart because that means you’re doing it fucking *right*–you’re not surrendering and falling asleep, you’re watching the tick tock and running the other way and doing exactly what you want to be doing, you’re not taking the sedatives and joining the tide. Fight to fail. Fight for the right to fuck shit up. Fight to ignore life’s path and follow your own fucking path instead.

Happy Easter, everybody!

Today’s Soundtrack – Weightless by All Time Low

Today’s the day we all sit around watching TV and eating chocolate, playing with playdough and Lego and all the other ‘o’s. If you’re a writer, like me, you’ll be trying to squeeze in some words around the mandatory egg hunt. Good luck and solidarity to you.

I wanted to take this Easter Sunday to apologise for my absence recently, here and on Twitter. What happened with Entranced was a real kick in the crotch and I’m not lying when I say it’s knocked me for six. I’m finding it hard to write right now and there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve lost my shot. Intellectually, I know that’s stupid. I believe that if you truly expect something to happen to you, if you have every faith you’re going to make it, you will. So yeah, I still tell myself every day that it’s going to happen for me. But still, sometimes it’s kind of cathartic to turn round and say you know what? It has knocked my confidence a little. I AM upset. I DO feel crappy about it.

I felt that a day dedicated to chocolate would be the best time for me to do this.

To anyone else feeling this way, be you ex-Entranced or be you not, a toast to us: the overcast kids. We WILL make it. Today’s soundtrack always makes me feel better when I’m feeling particularly unproductive/crappy, so grab an Easter egg and go listen.

Happy Easter, amigos.

Blue