Thursday, 25 October 2012

Body count? Let's say a quarter million even.

In the aspiring writer circles of Kilkenny I've been accused of leaving bodies strewn across the literary landscape. That's the nature of my writing, but I thought I'd challenge the assumption and count the corpses.

Peril - let's see. Ilie the beggar, Tom the gay drug dealer, Aunt Mary the spinster, Renee the mistress. Just the four of them. How about Ger Mayes, does he survive? That's another story.

The Baptist - brother Ray, Mr & Mrs Baptist, Daly the Leaping Loony, Medwyn the Mad (well, okay, he didn't die), Joe McCarthy the failed doctor, Charles the aristocrat, those two obese tourists at the Cliffs of Moher, Alan the mechanic, then two more but that would give the game away. Eleven in The Baptist.

The Crucible Part 1 - 144,003 USA citizens (or did they survive the Rapture?), 100,000 Iranian foot soldiers, 77 Africans (mostly despots), two monkeys, a chimpanzee and a Dutchman. Let's call it a quarter of a million even. Maybe I've peaked there.

The New Author - no one dies in this one. Two hundred pages of tips on writing, building an author social media platform, and e-publishing your book. Currently free on

Allen's Mosquito - The Crucible Part 2 body count? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Due for release in 2013.

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What's your writing mood? Mine is a controlled frenzy.

Mrs Ruby says I'm an oxymoron. 

How do you create? 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, or the other way around?

I like to write in a relaxed setting. I'm a Peacemaker – scented candle or incense, Buddha Bar on the music system. Pilates exercises performed with control and precision, establishing the inner core. Elsewhere in the house family rampage at a safe distance, out of earshot. Writing flows from the spirit. Characters talk aloud and their dialogue falls upon the keyboard. At least that's what I thought until I was invited onto The Undercover Soundtrack by Roz Morris. 

When I examined what had gone on during the writing of The Baptist I discovered Peacemaker isn't really my default mode. I'm a Moodmaker. John and Mary rampaged through the asylum and rural Ireland to the tune of controlled craziness. When Alice appeared on the scene things became frenzied and uncontrollable. Their lunatic love, however, took on soft romantic jazz and blues tones as they circled each other and moved in for the kill. 

Head on over to The Undercover Soundtrack, turn up the volume, read and listen to the full story of how Melody Gardot and Nick Cave guided me through the moral and murder maze of The Baptist. I ain't gonna lie to you, it gets weird ;-) P.S. There's an e-copy of The Baptist to be one for one lucky commenter.

Many thanks to Roz Morris for this eye-opening opportunity!

Note: no brothers, mental health patients, trainee doctors, obese tourists, degenerate aristocrats or car mechanics were actually harmed in the writing of The Baptist.

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Have you got what it takes? Write that book!

I’ve always felt I have a novel inside of me. When I hear someone say this, a mental image appears of surgery being performed on the speaker to extract their story. Dripping with the experience of life, it emerges from the donor, be it memoir, fiction or a travelogue of sub-Saharan Africa.

There is almost no one on this planet who has led a totally uninteresting life. Even then the reason they have led such a life might in itself be interesting. A twenty-first century glut of celebrity memoirs and novels shows everyone is capable of producing a story of sorts (although we know they sometimes get a little help along the way). The trick is in the writing. Does it engage the target audience? Fact or fiction, there is an art to storytelling. In Ireland a shanachie is a gifted verbal storyteller. To hear one is to never forget the story or the shanachie (Niall de Burca is a good example). A novel author should look to leave the same impression.

Unless you are trained in writing, it’s unlikely that you will produce a best-selling masterpiece with your first attempt at writing a novel. Those that do often have an education and career in journalism behind them, having written to the moon and back.

Disheartened? Well, there is another alternative. Pick up one, or why not several, of the renowned How To books on writing. Read them all, digest and internalise the content and apply immediately to your writing. Wait a minute, isn’t that writing by numbers? Will the result resemble a picture painted by numbers, similarly lacking in spontaneity and creativity? More than likely, yes

So now we come to the crux of the matter. As a new author if you want to write a good novel then, in almost all cases, you need to build your experience of writing. You might be a marathon writer, throwing yourself at an entire novel. Alternatively you’re a sprinter and that means short stories. Either way, a literary athlete. I hope you’re dressed appropriately.

This post is an extract from The New Author by Ruby Barnes, 200 pages of tips and guidance on writing, social media and e-publishing. Available at all good e-bookstores.

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Time waits for no man

The grass under the tree is mostly moss. Roots break through to trip the unwary. Sky blues the thickening thatch of fresh spring leaves and lets the sun’s gentle rays warm me.
This willow and I, are we of an age? My waistline thickens faster than its trunk.
A bird searches the greening branches for a moment and then flies on. My nestlings will leave me in due course. I don’t want to contemplate that.
My complexion has fared better than the bark, rough and crisp against my back.
The sun is stronger now, easing limbs and promising a summer of slumber. I settle deeper into the willow’s womb. It pulls a share of the moisture from the ground, roots that go deeper than mine. Leaves bud, grow and thrive on light while I must consume, like a raptor, to survive. The imperceptible synthesis, my audible breathing.
A breeze aloft is more movement than sound. The pulse beats in my ears. It skips, then resumes.
This isn’t the time. There’s much to be done, some of it not yet known. When all is done and the birds are flown I will return and let willow take me to her bosom.

And the caretaker said "I'll have to ask you to move off the lawn." 

If you've enjoyed reading Ruby's blog then please sign up to Ruby's News for freebies, advance review copies of upcoming novels and occasional updates. Thanks!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tweet dreams are made of this

So you want to know how to keep your blog content alive, re-use your twitter microblog moments of glory and broaden your social media reach? Bear with me, I'm going to take you off on a hygiene products tangent.

You're walking down a corridor at work, a hotel lobby for an event, the final few steps to the wine bar for a date. Did you remember to put on anti-perspirant deodorant? Doesn't matter, you're cool. But now you start to worry about whether you forgot to put it on and the sweat begins. Even if you put it on now it would be too late. What's that odour? Body or fear? That's how I feel about all the things I have to do to keep my social media platform running. I've forgotten something essential, my weaknesses (social armpits) are exposed and the strange smell in the room is me. How can I keep things sweet, make sure the toilet paper is hanging the right way everywhere I go and maintain my sanity with everything else going on?

Social media fads come and go. Remember MySpace? A few months ago Google+ was going to be the next sweet little number. Since its flotation the predicted demise of Facebook has had people scrabbling for footholds on Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and goodness knows where else. Everything is a whirling blur of social networks, blogs, photo collections, discussion forums, online chat and update feeds.

How about Twitter? What is the point of a 140 character message which might not get read by anyone before it sinks into the 340 million daily tweets? Maybe you use it for a kind of global chat. Are you a microflash wizard who gets favorited every five minutes and manages to send tweets viral? Twitter doesn't seem to offer much to those of us mortals who don't have spare hours to follow the streams of consciousness. Unless you're a blogger.

Content is the key to good blogging. Some folk blog about their routine daily life, others about a book release, product review or maybe a competition. Authors engage in round-robin writing challenges, give updates on their WIP and share writing tips. People tend to follow or bookmark the blog if the content has value for the reader: well written, entertaining and pertinent. They skim and immediately forget uninspired posts.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The housemate from hell - her or me?

This short story is based upon true life events. Thanks for reading.

The letting agent arranged a joint viewing of the canal-side property at five o’clock on a Monday afternoon in April.
Take the turn off the Preston Brook main street just after the canal bridge. Then drive down the gravel road, past the derelict rope works. 1 Canalside is the first semi-detached house on the left. The building is in good repair but unfurnished.

I parked a good way up the gravel road, which was more of a path, and approached on foot. A black Volkswagen Golf with darkened windows was in the driveway, a dark shadow of a figure just visible in the driver’s seat.
The first few steps on Canalside put me in a relaxed mood. Birds chirped in a small gated apple orchard that banked the canal. A deep-throated mechanical rhythm came from the mouth of the canal tunnel, just visible beyond Canalside’s seven houses. It increased in volume as the prow of a canal barge emerged from the tunnel, its rope fenders clustered around the long, low steel hull. Foot after foot of red painted steel emerged, a man at the tiller easing off the throttle as the stern cleared the tunnel mouth. He saw me up above the orchard and waved. I returned.
‘Mr Mayes?’ a voice greeted me from behind.
I turned to the speaker and extended a hand. The appearance of the female letting agent escapes my recollection, as does her name. By comparison, the woman who then stepped out of the black Golf, and smoothed her leather skirt, is burnt into my memory.
‘Mr Mayes, this is Ms Doyle. As I explained on the phone, Ms Doyle has first refusal on 1 Canalside as her enquiry was received before yours. On that understanding, and to save time, we’ve agreed to view the property together. Okay?’
We both nodded and Ms Doyle extended her hand to me.
‘Fay,’ she said.
Her hand was cool and wiry.
‘Ger,’ I returned, and let her have the look. What I received back was a once-over that didn’t end until Fay released my hand. First impressions? She was my age or slightly older, perhaps early thirties. Tall, maybe five-seven. Dark, like a gypsy. Unsavoury, like a biker, yet thrilling. Straight away I knew that 1 Canalside was my Hotel California. This could be heaven or this could be hell.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Size does matter! Keep it small. Tiny.

Please tell me you all have the same problems as I do in this internet-based world that we live in. It's all driven by usernames, passwords, URLs, cookies and crumbs or something. An infinite number of web places with wondrous free things awaiting if you just register, sign up, log in, tune in and trip out. Maybe there's a log in with facebook option, or twitter or something? It all just seems to work. Until it doesn't.

This person is saying terrible things about you ... A friend has tagged you in a photo ... I can't believe this is you in this video. You click the message and, hey presto, someone has hacked your twitter, your facebook and who knows what else. You might not even know you've been compromised, unless a kind friend who has received spam from your hijacked account decides to let you know. Do you use the same username and password for internet banking and social media? System meltdown.

Almost as bad is when someone munches your cookies. You go to Goodreads, facebook, twitter, Google, webmail or whatever and hit the first letter of your username. It doesn't fill in the rest like it usually does. You type it in and wait for the long forgotten password to automatically appear as a row of asterixes. It doesn't. This can happen accidentally (using too broad a brush when clearing out internet history so no-one knows you've been looking at cute puppies), deliberately (if you let comeone else use your computer and they trash your cookies while eradicating their forensic trace evidence, because who can you trust these days?) or inadvertently (e.g. when you start using a new browser or your employer does an upgrade that wipes the slate clean or your hardware / software spontaneously combusts because it just knows your life is becoming dependent upon it). But when those cookies are gone, they're gone.