a novel by l.e.turner

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About the Nature of Romance

Recently, fellow Bristol based author, Thomas David Parker, reviewed my novel and gave a great write up on his blog. One thing he mentioned that I was really happy about, is the lack of romance in the story. I was especially pleased with his comment that “it was far more effective by not having a romance at the centre of it. The character dynamics are far more interesting and makes the outcome far less predictable.”

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I made a conscious decision not to have romance in About the Nature of the Creature. The story has gore and violence but it doesn’t have romance. There is intimacy, there is also a hint at sex scenes happening behind closed doors, but I wanted to avoid erotica and even more so, romance. If there’s a complaint I can level at most books I have ever read which feature a female character in a non-romance genre is that there is romance, and often just for the sake of it. Why does there had to be romance just because the main character is female? This is especially infuriating when that character is going through a potentially life changing event where many women in reality would not be thinking about romance at such a time. I didn’t want that for my protagonist – she is not a romantic figure, she is an anti-hero that barely understands human emotions and romance has no relevance in her story. Far from not adding anything to the story, I personally feel it would gut it.

In the past I have written erotica, including a prize winning story and a regular gig with an adult toy producer. It is fair to say that I am both not a prude, and reasonably skilled at writing erotica. Even so, I don’t enjoy writing romance, and will never write it for the sake of writing it. Arguably my sales would improve if About the Nature of the Creature involved a romantic element or fell into the “paranormal romance” genre, but that’s not what this story is.

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That said, it’s not that I’ve never thought about including romance, or even that I wouldn’t include it in the future. In the currently work-in-progress sequel there is something that might almost border on romance. But it is not romance in the conventional sense given that the protagonist would struggle to understand the emotions involved, and it is a very small element of the story.

For me, a good story that will keep me enthralled, has to have cause and effect reality. Even if a science fiction or epic fantasy  – there has to still be real world cause and effect. If you do something, there has to be consequences good and/or bad. I’ve read many female lead novels in the last few years in several genres where I find the sudden turn to romance jarring because it doesn’t feel seated in reality. I don’t mean it lacks reality because the characters are (for example) a unicorn and a mermaid (though try and work out the logistics there!) but because in the real world most women aren’t likely to fall for the brooding, controlling, overprotective jerk (*cough*toomuchMills&Boon*cough*), especially whilst experiencing the trauma of a death or a loved one/having to save the world/on the run in a dystopian wilderness. So even if the character of Connie might be open to a romance, it would only happen when it would make sense and in a way that would fit with reality. In About the Nature of the Creature, the closest she comes to romance is the close and intimate relationship she develops with one of the other characters out of a pure need to have a connection – something necessary to a werewolf and thus seated in the reality of the story.

This one intrigued me but it turned out the "bondage" in question is the character's marriage D:

This one intrigued me but it turned out the “bondage” in question is the character’s marriage D:

Interestingly, whilst out with friends recently, I revealed over my second pint of cider, that there had been a sex scene in About the Nature of the Creature that I cut from the first draft. It was more sex than romance but with the hint that something might develop in the future. Ultimately I cut it for two reasons: firstly because it didn’t really further the story and characters; and secondly, because it didn’t really suit the characters. I knew that I was selling my story short because these two characters in reality would never end up together sexually or romantically. Whether true for others or not, I felt for me that adding just that one scene would change the nature of the story and weaken Connie as a character. She’s strong but in some ways vulnerable which I hope is clear in the story, but no matter how I wrote it, that scene would always diminish one or both of those aspects of her, changing the nature of her character entirely.

My friends joked that I could instead release the scene as a piece of About the Nature of the Creature fan fiction. I laughed. It’s an interesting idea, but for now I think Connie is happy enough being single and with that the singular focus of the story, and I’m happy that this hopefully makes for more interesting character dynamics with less predictable outcomes!

Bristol Story Trail

I’m very excited that an excerpt of About the Nature of the Creature has been included in the upcoming Bristol Story Trail that begins on 17th February. I hope everyone in Bristol gets the chance to take part in the trail and read at least some if not all of the contributions of Bristol based stories. 

The statue of Neptune keeps watch over this historical port city

The statue of Neptune keeps watch over this historical port city

The Story Trail creates a fun and exciting exploration of Bristol by following a series of short fictions. Story locations are sought out based on a street or building and, once found, will reveal a QR code unlocking a link to a short story associated with that place. By following the trail and discovering locations, new secrets and tales will be revealed in places which were previously unnoticed. Each visit back will forge new memories and unlock a hidden magic to Bristol.

The trail has been put together as a combination of installation art and storytelling by Toby Smith. The trail is part of his research in urbanism and fiction, for his Masters of Architecture from the University of the West of England, Bristol. You can follow Toby on Twitter @DoaSLiveFiction for more updates and check in on the trail website.

From Bristol Story Trail website –

We occupy two worlds, one of reality and one of dreams. The way we perceive our physical environment is entirely reliant on the blurring of these, from the assigned value of items we treasure, to urban myths which sculpt our cities. Fiction has the ability to lift us out of our daily lives, transporting us into a fully immersive fantasy realm beyond our own.

But what if these realms could meet? Rather than escapism through fiction, the Story Trail begins to meld the fantastical with our day-to-day lives, exploring the possibility of storytelling as a means to greater enjoyment of the city.

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Book Giveaway: New Year Resolution to read more!

Following on from my post about indie authors reviewing each other, I totally intend to read more indie novels in 2015, and I’m really excited about this. I read some very good ones last year – especially After the Fear and Rogue Genesis – and look forward to finding more gems!

I also want to encourage others to read this year and so far have taken part in one giveaway of my novel as part of a larger giveaway being hosted by author Angela Snyder, and now my second giveaway of 2015 is here!

If you want to win a copy of About the Nature of the Creature then keep reading!!

 

Win a copy of a this “gritty British urban fantasy mixed with elements of classic Gothic horror”

To win – pop over to my facebook page and click like! It is that simple.
If you have friends who you think would also love a chance to win then please share this post or invite them to also like my page.
On January 31st I will chose the winner at random from all my facebook likers!
You could win a signed paperback copy of About the Nature of the Creature
(will post anywhere worldwide).
It really is as simple as liking my facebook page!

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Indie Authors: Reviewing and being Reviewed

You’ve written it, it’s on sale, and now you await the reviews. And then you wait. And wait.

For me, getting reviews has been a steep learning curve. After not having the marketing in place that I had hoped when I first published About the Nature of the Creature, and pretty much not knowing what I was doing in terms of being my own publisher – getting reviews has been a bit of a mission.

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I hold my hands up and admit that I would have done things differently then had I known what I know now. When I first published it was to get it out there, I had no real clue about indie authors, self publishing and the industry building up around it. Over the last year I have been really soaking up the guidance, tips and advice that can be found readily online if you know where to look. Twitter has certainly helped me connect with other writers, many of whom have experience that they are happy to share and let others benefit from.

This has really helped me plan out the launch of the sequel, which I am hoping to be sometime in 2015. But, in the meantime I am stuck at only 5 reviews for Creature and even these were hard to come by.

One review was by a friend, two from strangers who happened to read my book. Two were from bloggers. The two bloggers reviewed the book off the back of my sending out around 30 invitations to read and review – which believe it or not appears to be pretty good odds from the advice I’ve read.

As a blogger myself I do review things now and then (mostly movies) but recently decided to review an indie book after seeing the author putting a shout out for reviewers and knowing the feeling I was happy to help out. After putting up the review I received several private messages from other indie authors asking if I would review their books too. Could we be our own greatest resource!

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With many review sites not taking independent/self-pub books we need to look elsewhere to get reviewed, so why not look to each other? I responded to the requests for reviews with a “yes” and a request for a review in return if they would be happy to. My approach on it is completely honest – I will still review your book if you don’t review mine, and I will review it honestly, regardless. I can see there is the danger that indie authors mutually reviewing can end up with dishonest reviews in the hope of 5 stars, but I’m hoping to find like-minded authors who can move past this – who like me will write an honest review regardless of the star rating on either side.

So, Indie Authors, get in touch if you want an honest review of you book, and/or fancy doing the same in return.

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Seasonal Writing

I don’t think I will be alone in this, and welcome feedback, but my productivity on certain projects can often be affected by the season and weather.

In general I find I write more blog posts and less fiction in the warmer months, and during the Autumn, Winter and crisp early Spring, I am more inclined to write fiction – which is why you might notice the decline in posts of late. Personally I think this is because a lot of my fiction is set during the winter months and so I find them more inspiring.

Bristol to Bath cycle path - eerily quiet in the snow

Bristol to Bath cycle path – eerily quiet in the snow

At the moment I am currently working on the sequel to About the Nature of the Creature, which is set not long after and so also in the winter. I have also blown the dust off a children’s fantasy I have been working on for quite a few years. I’ve never gotten around to finishing as I have prioritised other projects, and yet every winter it comes back to haunt me like the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. There’s a lot about the story that I am still thinking over and deciding where and how to take it and I’m ok with that. I might not finish it this winter, but I will move it along a little more and come back to it next year.

it's getting chilly in these parts!

it’s getting chilly in these parts!

In the meantime, here’s an early Christmas present to you all – the first draft of the introduction:

An Introduction to Little Crookensby

If you asked anyone where to find the village of Little Crookensby you might not get any two answers alike. Some would say Somerset, some would say Gloucestershire, you could even be forgiven for believing it to be nestled in the depths of the Cotswolds. One thing is certain, once you arrived there – should you ever find it – you would know it.

The village of Little Crookensby was the very definition of small.  There was only one shop, and one pub.  No trains stopped at the village, indeed the station that could be found behind the main street was closed to all passenger trains, and the small old country bus ran infrequently.  This was not a problem, however, as no-one really wanted to travel much outside the village and rarely did people ever come to visit.  It was a quiet village.  That was the way the village had always been, from the very first day it had been founded those many hundreds of years ago.

Twice a day during school term a rattling old bus, driven by the local scout leader, would ferry the children to St Agnes’s, the closest school to the village at a mere 14 miles away.  During the winter the bus would leave 20 minutes early in case of bad weather on the narrow and winding country lanes that accessed the village, and more than once had met a troublesome snowdrift. During the summer it would take an extra half hour to return to the village as the bus would often get stuck behind cows being herded along country lanes from one field to another.

Through the middle of the village was a long straight road with a crossroads sitting at one end with its respective roads leading off, in various directions, to the outside world.  This road, Brook Way, was the centre of the village.  In fact there were only two rather small lanes that made up the entirety of the village.  Brook Way housed the more important buildings, in fact the only local building of any interest that wasn’t on Brook Way was the great manor house on the hill that overlooked the village.

In the middle of Brook Way stood a large building.  It would be wrong to call the building a church, but it was hard to describe it as anything else.  It was not a mosque, nor a Temple, nor a Synagogue.  It had a steeple and stained glass windows, but it seemed altogether more exotic than the average old English church.  The stained glass displayed fanciful pictures of forests, plants, trees and animals, and the walls of the building itself were thick with clinging ivy and walls of climbing trees.  So much so, that in the right light it didn’t look like a building at all but a forest in the middle of the street.  Outside the building a cobbled foot path wound down through a crammed graveyard, through stone and marble tombs, to a set of rusty old metal gates, and a sign that said:

Castum Nemus

Open as always.

At the far end of Brook Way, the opposite end to the crossroads, off to one side stood the small village hall.  Welcoming and warm, it was used on weekdays by the sparsely attended Women’s Guild, and in the evenings and weekends by the Little Crookensby Players.  A few days before the end of December it housed the famous Makepeace Dinner, thrown by Lady Makepeace of the manor house, and her daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Thomas Snow.  All the villagers were made welcome to the Makepeace Dinner, which included carol singing from the Women’s Guild Choir and a raffle in aid of one of Lady Makepeace’s favourite charities.  As the road continued past the village hall it narrowed into an old winding country lane which lead up the one hill in Little Crookensby turning off shortly before the manor house was the building known locally for its twisting chimneys as the Old Crooked House, or more usually, “the house on the hill”.

The Old Crooked House was not, as many people supposed, haunted.  It had been the home nearly 200 years before of an eccentric poet whose madness and demise were well known.  Leaving no heir, the poet’s house was deserted after his death by all but his faithful housekeeper to whom he left the property.  When she died, not 15 years later, the house was boarded up.  Over the years it became the source of much myth and legend.  And then one day, and quite unexpectedly, an estate agent from a nearby town arrived, opened the house up and erected a “For Sale” sign.  Even so, little to no interest was ever shown, and like many such similar signs in the village, it yellowed and rotted.

Not much interest was ever shown in any of the properties in Little Crookensby.  As the people grew old and many of their children moved away more and more houses fell vacant.  The one shop in Little Crookensby had been closed for the last 5 years and the now retired owner lived in the rooms above it with several unfriendly cats.  The pub was, thankfully still open, but only because John Pringleton did not have the heart to close it though he longed to retire.  There was however a sign on the front wall now yellowed with age still bearing the hand written words “Jobs Available, Enquire Within”, though nobody ever had.

The problem, estate agents used to say amongst themselves, was that Little Crookensby was so far from anywhere.  Over an hour of difficult country road to the nearest city and no good public transport, it didn’t sell it well.  Trendy city folk did not want to move there, as there were plenty of closer and better equipped villages from which they could commute.  And mostly everyone else would not live there unless it was to be close to family.  Estate agents dreaded the day another Little Crookensby property came their way.

It was then to the great surprise of the estate agents, and the villagers, that one day some interest was registered in the house on the hill.  The woman who phoned the estate agents was certain that this was the house for her no matter how many times the estate agents asked, just to make sure before pinching themselves to check they weren’t dreaming.

The village, perhaps because of its size, always processed news rather quickly.  The lady in question made her offer to the estate agents at 9.20am on the 29th of September and by 2.05pm the whole village knew.  There was a great buzz of excitement and much speculation over who this woman was and why she would want to buy a property in the area, much less the broken down house on the hill.  It was not long before rumours were flying and eager ears were happy to listen.  In fact that night, and for the 3 nights that followed, the pub hosted more of the villagers than it had ever done before – some of whom had never stepped over the threshold before in their lives (like the tea-total spinsters, the Watts sisters who made the cakes for the regular Castum Nemus bake sales).  There was a mixture of emotions in the air as some welcomed the event that seemed to promise an end to the slow demise of the village, and others worried about the disruption to their lives.  After all, this woman could be anyone.  And if there was one think Little Crookensby was proud of it was the village spirit they had seen so many other villages lose as their properties were bought up by various town and city folk.  By the time the refurbishment company van had started to drive regularly through the village most of the villagers had become deeply suspicious, and each journey of the van was watched with hawk-eyes through twitching curtains.

Of course it wasn’t until the new villagers themselves arrived two weeks later that the gossipers passed their final judgement… after all what kind of person would move into the house on the hill!

Let Me Tell You A Story, Jack!

I’m ashamed to say that although it has been running for a year, last night was the first time I made it along to Let Me Tell You A Story, Jack – one of Bristol’s story telling nights than can be found at The Crofter’s Rights.

Storytelling ahoy!

Storytelling ahoy!

It was a fantastic evening with some really strong storytelling and live music (provided by Will Harding), though I may be bias as I actually ended up winning a prize! The format of the evening is that of an open mic night for storytellers, with two themes. Readers don’t have to stick to the themes but if they do they are in with a chance of winning best story! Last night’s themes were Spooky Stories, for which Tom Parker’s amazing tale of Anansi won, and Lucky Escapes for which I won with my new short story Running Home. The vote was by audience cheer, and I feel so honoured that the audience chose my story and have been suitably excited ever since!

The suitably spooky Thomas David Parker

The suitably spooky Thomas David Parker

The storytelling, both long and short, were fab and some stories I really loved! But there were also other highlights of the evening for me. Firstly, it was the first time I’ve been to the Crofter’s Rights since it changed hands and was transformed from The Croft. This was an interesting experience, because I found myself telling a story next to the same stage I stripped on as a burlesque performer the last time I was there. I think there is probably a story in that somewhere!

Secondly, it was such a pleasure to be entertained by Shonette and Will, the evening’s organisers. Between them they told stories and sang, much to the delight of all. Shonette’s tale of a spooky hen do, complete with facial expressions, was fantastic! And Will’s storytelling was only surpassed by his songs. I can only describe Will as the result of a genetic splicing between The Rutles and the Kinks, who was then raised semi-wild by folk singers. My favourite song-come-public service announcement was the reminder to everyone that tomorrow is bin day (he’s right it is bin day on Thursday’s in Bristol).

If you are a local writer, or even just want a good night out listening to stories and music then this is great event to pop along to. I’m certainly hoping to pop back for the January event for another round of storytelling!

Did I mention I won a prize?

Award Winning writer of an Award Winning short story, technically!

Award Winning writer of an Award Winning short story, technically!

Reading Emotion

Last night was another fantastic night at Small Stories, though I had to leave early as I had been ill all weekend. I really enjoyed my first time at Small Stories back in April, and last month’s was very inspirational, but moreover it has been great networking and getting to know other local authors.

Small Stories Chapter Seven (artwork by Sam Rowe)

Small Stories Chapter Seven (artwork by Sam Rowe)

I really enjoy the inspiration I get from other authors and their stories. For example, last night’s story of teenage hilarity “Minge: A True Story” by Clare Eddington reminded me of some funny events in my own teenhood that would be worth putting on a page, because the story touched me on an emotional level. In all I love the imagery and the styles of all the authors I’ve heard read at the event and I’ve enjoyed being part of their emotional experience. Whether it be their humour and laughter, or their darkness and sorrow, there is something revealing and personal about what you commit to the page, and even more so, how you read aloud.

Before last night I had only read funny stories at the event, humour being one of the stronger emotions in my life, and I was glad to share them and pass that emotion on to others. So I was actually quite nervous about reading last night as I was not only reading a decidedly not funny story, but also something written from a much more emotional place than usual for my short stories.

As a result of a situation I experienced, and my on going rage against women being put in refrigerators, a story sprang into my brain that I had to put on the page. So I wrote Words (and the injuries they might cause), and that is what I read aloud last night. When I wrote it I was cool and detached, I knew what I wanted to say and I wrote that. But afterwards I was surprised at what I had tapped into. I actually went on to write Him, a short story that I put on my blog the other day – inspired by someone close to me and the abusive relationship they once found themselves in. I appear to have opened a door into a dark place inside me, where there is rage and revenge.

The Furies

The Furies

I don’t know how to describe the reading itself. A friend with me last night described it as “intense”. I found I read the words with deliberate pacing and a quiet rage. And I felt it. I had no idea before stepping up to the microphone how I was going to go about the reading – being a performer by nature it comes natural for me to act the stories out to a degree. But it was beyond acting it, I was possessed by the emotion of what I was reading, I felt the anger of the character. My body was tense and I had to remind myself to keep my voice level rather than allow the anger to boil over. It was powerful for me to experience my own writing like that, and I hope it touched some of the audience too.