Category Archives: writing

8 Great Podcasts for 2017

8-great-podcasts

Podcasts – what are they?

Podcasts are episodic, usually themed, audio content that you can listen to on the web or subscribe to using iTunes or on your smartphone. They’re almost always free and come in a variety of styles from Audio Drama, How-To Shows and Lifestyle, to Science, Comedy, Music, Current Affairs and True Crime.

Anyone who knows me, reads the blog or follows me on Twitter will probably have noticed my passion for podcasts. I even co-host one with Leah Osbourne – The Joined-Up Writing Podcast, where we interview succesful authors, editors, agents, screenwriters and anyone connected with reading or writing good books.

The range of choice and the quality of this relatively new medium (the birth of the iPod was when things really got going) continues to grow. I seem to find another great new show almost on a weekly basis, but here are my latest recommendations.

8 Great Podcasts . . .

Writing Shows

The Worried Writer – author, Sarah Painter is the self-confessed ‘Worried Writer’ who hosts this monthly show which usually includes interviews with other writers who give the background behind their work and process and offer advice on dealing with the dreaded Self-Doubt.

The Creative Penn – if you are a budding indie writer, chances are you are already familiar with independent publishing poster girl, Joanna Penn and if you aren’t, you should be. Joanna podcasts on a weekly basis and her archive and blog posts offer a wealth of advice and inspiration for independent authors everywhere.

Audio Drama

LifeAfter – a very new 10 part tech thriller that follows Ross, a low level FBI employee who is trying to deal with the death of his wife using a social media platform as a form of digital resurrection. Of course, all is not as it seems. It’s full of twists and turns and I was lucky enough to interview the show’s writer, Mac Rogers for a recent episode of The Joined-Up Writing podcast.

Homecoming – a star-studded cast includes David Schwimmer and Oscar Isaac and everything about this psychological thriller oozes class. The script, acting and excellent sound design help to tell a story about an experimental therapy treatment for traumatised soldiers. This really does show what can be done with the medium and I can’t wait for Season Two.

crimetown
My latest binge – Crimetown

True Crime

Crimetown – my current addiction and a superb example of how podcasts can handle true crime stories. Told through interviews with ex-criminals, government officials, police officers and an expertly crafted script, Crimetown is a serialised story of one of the biggest organised crime families in America – in the small city of Providence. Make sure you start at episode one and get ready to binge.

Stranglers – another gripping series that tells that fascinating (but often grizzly) story behind one of America’s most infamous serial killers, The Boston Strangler. Again, start at episode one to follow the story from the beginning and perhaps don’t listen to this one before bedtime, unless you like nightmares.

Science

Science Vs – a fascinating Pop Science show, that tackles topics like Hypnosis, Fracking and even The G-Spot! It never dumbs down, but keeps a light touch in its mission to ‘sift through the facts, so you don’t have to’.

Cinema

You Must Remember This – detailed research and a haunting soundtrack make this an interesting trip down memory lane, focusing specifically on the first century of Hollywood. Each episode tells a different story from Tinseltown’s sometimes glamourous, often mysterious and always entertaining past. Covering everything from the McCarthy Witch Hunts to Buster Keaton and Bruce Lee, this podcast is a must for film fans.

That’s it. For now . . .

I could go on and on and on and you can always check out my post from 2015 for a few more ideas. I’m always on the look out for new recommendations, so drop me a line in the comments to let me know what your latest listening pleasures are. Happy listening!

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Parker and why we love an anti-hero

I’ve always been a fan of reading Crime Fiction but, aside from a couple of humorous short stories, was never inspired to write in that genre. I loved Rankin’s Rebus, Connelly’s Bosch and, of course Mr Sherlock Holmes himself, but writing a police procedural or following the investigations of a lone detective just didn’t appeal to me.  Everything changed when, a couple of years ago, a tweet caught my eye – from comedy writer Graham Linehan – waxing lyrical about ‘The Parker Novels’.

 

thehunternovel
Richard Stark’s debut ‘Parker’ Novel

Who is Parker?

Well, for a start, he really isn’t ‘The Good Guy’ – in any sense of the word. Unlike Rebus et al, he’s on the wrong side of the law, a ruthless single-minded criminal always looking for the next big score. He is the creation of the ‘Crime Writer’s Crime Writer’, Donald E Westlake, writing under his pseudonym of Richard Stark. Parker is merciless, amoral and has a complete lack of empathy, but like most anti-heroes, he does have his own strict code – a set of rules as inflexible as he is. There’s a full run-down of those rules on the 50 Years of Parker website, but the gist is that he is the ultimate professional. The job is everything. Killing a man is the last resort – but only because it tends to bring unwanted interest from The Law. He is totally loyal to his colleagues right up until the point they try to double-cross him, at which point they become his mortal enemy. Revenge is a recurring theme throughout the novels and the stories are littered with the bodies of those who thought they could betray Parker and live to tell the tale.

Any redeeming features?

Even for an anti-hero, Parker’s redeeming qualities are pretty thin on the ground. Yet Stark created a protagonist that readers found compelling and addictive – there are 24 Parker novels and at least three film adaptations.

For one thing, Parker gets things done. He makes things happen and that alone is an attractive trait for a main character. He’s decisive and straightforward. If you’re looking for some existential angst or emotional hand-wringing, look elsewhere. That’s not to say that Stark doesn’t put his main character into some sticky situations. Parker spends most of his time against the ropes and railing against the huge faceless criminal organisation called The Syndicate. In the opening chapters of his first caper, ‘The Hunter’ he is betrayed and left for dead. In a cast of low-life, disloyal undesirables, Parker stands out because he lives his life to such a strict set of rules. He’s almost monastic in his dedication. And, most importantly, he is very, very good at what he does. In fact, he’s the best and that’s irrestible to a reader. Throw in the fact that Parker is always the smartest guy in the room, able to cut anyone down to size with his deadpan wit, and it’s easy to see why he’s such an enduring figure.

He doesn’t have the vulnerability that so many other anti-heroes often exhibit, but his greatest strength – his ‘code’ – is also his biggest flaw. That unwillingness to bend, to double-cross the other guy first – is often where his problems begin.

My Inspiration

Stark’s prose is terse, tight and full of wit and after only a few pages of The Hunter, I was hooked. This was the type of character I wanted to write. A remorseless, unapologetic bad guy that everyone loves. The man that can walk into a room and say or do anything he damn pleases. And so, my leading man, Mickey Blake, was born.

Like Parker, Mickey is a career criminal, but is very much in the British villain mould. Unlike Stark’s man, by the time we meet Mickey at the beginning of my novel, he has plenty of vulnerability lurking beneath a tough, sarcastic exterior. In any given situation, he will choose the most inappropriate comment, just to score a cheap point, get a laugh or gain the advantage over whichever ne’erdowell he’s faced with.

In Stark’s novels, Parker’s stories unfold in third person point of view, but I wanted my readers to really get under Mickey’s skin and into his head as he’s forced out of retirement for the sake of his dying wife and an estranged son that hates his guts. That meant choosing a first person perspective and it’s been fun ‘being’ Mickey during the months I’ve been working on my first draft.

I couldn’t and wouldn’t try to emulate Richard Stark’s style, but I do hope that in Mickey Blake, I can create a British anti-hero that can at least hold his own with Parker – The Man With The Getaway Face.

Who is your favourite anti-hero? Or maybe you prefer the good guys? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know your favourite Crime books too.

No one said it would be easy . . .

(Hitchcock Calendar - pic by Wayne Kelly) This year has been a scream - can you believe it's nearly over?
(Hitchcock Calendar – pic by Wayne Kelly)
This year has been a scream – can you believe it’s nearly over?

This will be a short post as I still intend to do a “Review of the Year/Looking Forward” type piece to kick off January, but yes, I feel I have neglected the Kelly’s Eye blog of late – my last real post being way back in July. July?! I blinked and now I’m staring down the barrel of 2014. Scary stuff.

I haven’t been resting on my rump though. My day job has been pretty full-on for the past few months, I’ve been trying to keep on track with my writing submission goals, working on a new project with Phoenix Writers and blogging over on the Phoenix Subs blog. Oh, and, you know, living my actual life. So, as a consequence, like a long suffering canine friend, my personal blog has been waiting patiently to be once more taken for a walk.

Whilst I have continued to submit my writing for competitions, I haven’t spent a lot of time working on new content. I did have a month of chairing the Phoenix Writers meetings, which was interesting and rewarding, but did mean that I focused less on producing new material to take for critique and more on ensuring the work of others was aired and commented on.

Having said that, I have written a new short story for an upcoming anthology our group is working on, and have edited and submitted another that I was working on a few months ago. I have also had some excellent advice and motivation from a fellow writer to help me get my unfinished novel back on track. My first draft is stuck around the 70,000 word mark and is so near to completion that I can almost see the words ‘The End’ shimmering in the distance. It is my number one priority to at least get the ball rolling again during the Christmas break.

I know I’m not alone in struggling to knuckle down to any focused writing at this time of the year. Everything is so manic, at work, at home and everywhere else that when I do get the odd half an hour to sit at the keyboard, my mind is zipping off in several directions at once or cloaked in the fog of exhaustion. For the past few weeks I was battling with this, beating myself up about not being as creative and productive as I would like, but then I realised I was fretting about a lot of things that are out of my hands.

I was getting stressed about ‘not doing enough’ when really I should have been pleased with the things I was achieving. I have managed to consistently submit work since joining the Phoenix Subs Group, I’ve written a new story and I’m regularly attending critique sessions. These are all positives and I just need to ensure that I make the most of the rest and relaxation I will have over the Christmas break.

So, what about you? Have you found the lack of daylight and the stresses of modern life have been affecting your creative endeavours or do you thrive on the extra pressure? If it’s the former, take my advice and go easy on yourself, stay positive and enjoy the holidays.

Merry Christmas and take a minute to comment below. I would love to hear how you are all doing.

Writing – taking stock and moving forward.

Marble Head Sculpture in Cartagena, Spain - Wayne Kelly
Marble Head Sculpture in Cartagena, Spain – Wayne Kelly

It’s been a few weeks since my last post – I had a manic time at work, followed by a fantastic two week holiday. Now I’m back, refreshed, recharged and ready to write.

Actually, I was ready to write after only a few days away, and I began a brand new short story whilst holidaying in Spain. The story seemed to appear, fully formed from nowhere, but was no doubt inspired by the sand, sun and sea all around me. It’s called ‘Beach Hut Monsters’ and is quite a departure from the stuff I have written of late, being firmly in the action/horror/suspense genre. I have almost reached the end of the first draft and it’s coming in at around 5,000 words. I’m hoping to get the word count down with subsequent edits.

It has been great to work on something new and to recharge my creative batteries. I was feeling fatigued and jaded before my holiday, but time out has allowed me to take stock and set some new writing goals. It was only with hindsight that I realised I currently have a number of stories that are near completion, but need to be finished ready for submission. These are:

Life of an Artist – During a book signing a successful children’s writer is confronted by a mysterious man from her past, transporting her back to a cold, dark and rainy night on a railway bridge when she was ready to take her own life. The story needs quite a bit of editing before being ready for submission.

The Autumn Anecdote – Two aging musicians reunite for one last night of glory at the local pub. Will they be ready for their final performance? Will their patience and aching bodies hold out? This story just needs a few more edits and a tweak to one of the main scenes, but will then be ready to go.

When Your Number’s Up – Doris can’t believe her luck when she wins the strange automated bingo calling robot, ‘Willy Balls’. However, she soon discovers that Willy isn’t quite the model house guest that she expected. This is very nearly ready to go – just a couple of edits and it will be ready for submission. If possible, I’m looking for a bingo themed short story competition.

Beach Hut Monsters – My current WIP. 3 adults and 2 children find themselves trapped in a beach hut on a secluded coastline, surrounded by terrifying creatures that have emerged from the sea. But are the real monsters inside or outside of the hut? I am nearing the end of the first draft, so there will be a couple more drafts before I’m ready to do anything with this one.

As well as the above, I also have a number of flash fiction pieces (many of which can be found on my blog) some of which I would like to enter in online competitions.

My aim is to finish all of the above, and submit at least one of them. Then, and only then, will I return to finish the first draft of my novel, ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’.

Time away from ‘real life’ can enable you to step back and put things in to perspective. It was only with this perspective that I could see that I was frantically moving from one project to the next without properly finishing anything. So my new goals are based around working on one piece, finishing it, and then moving on to the next. I’ll keep you posted with my progress.

How about you? Do you find it difficult to set goals and stick to them? What works best for you? I would love to hear your thoughts below, so please comment, subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter.

15K in May – my next big challenge.

Join the 15K in May Writing Challenge
Join the 15K in May Writing Challenge

Am I mad?!

Having just completed one challenge (the A-Z Blog Challenge) only yesterday, it’s time to move on to the next! This time it’s the 15K in May challenge (#15kinmay) and I will be updating you on my progress every Wednesday during May.

Starting today, and for the rest of the month, I am aiming to take a big step towards finishing the first draft of my novel, ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’. As the title of the challenge suggests, the aim will be to add at least another 15,000 words to my current word count by the end of May.

With a little help from my friends . . .

Fortunately I have the inspiration and support of the other 2 founding members of 15K in May to help me towards my target. Maria of First Draft Cafe and Lynne from Lynne Lives are also taking part. We are all approaching the challenge in our own way, splitting the target in to a daily or weekly target, or focusing on editing a certain amount of pages.

I am aiming to write at least 500 words every day – which sounds very achievable, but I do have a busy day job, family and all the other stuff that likes to get in the way of finishing something!

YOU can help too!

My current word count is just shy of 62,000 and as well as the support of my fellow 15Kers, I would love your help and motivation throughout the challenge to help me get closer to 80K. I will be updating you on my progress on a weekly basis – as well as regular tweets using #15kinmay, so follow the blog, monitor the hash tag and please give me the gentle push/kick up the backside that I will inevitably need during the tougher days and weeks that lie ahead.

Join in . . .

Of course, there is nothing to stop you joining in and setting your own writing goals for May – even if they are less than 15K – so feel free to let me know what you are up to and tweet the hash tag.

You can find out more about ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’ in my recent WIP post, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts, tips and inspiration as well as any goals you might be setting for yourself, so please comment below.

Z is for Zero – the word count no one wants to see!

Filling the page is not always easy . . .
Filling the page is not always easy . . .

When writing, keeping a tally of your daily word count can be a great tool to keep up the momentum.

My first experience of this was last November, during NaNoWriMo where the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month. To achieve this you need to write, on average, 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY. The great thing about NaNoWrimo is that they have an easy to use online system which allows you to input your total every day. It’s really inspiring to see the various totals change – words written, words to go, percentage of completion, daily average etc – and as I described in the post that I wrote on completion of that challenge, I missed having that incentive and I am yet to find a method that works as well.

What are your Word Count Tools?

I did ask other writers if they could recommend any blog plugins or phone apps that have similar word count tools, but aside from creating a spreadsheet (I HATE SPREADSHEETS) there doesn’t seem to be anything else available. As I am about to undertake another challenge (15k in May) I thought I would use this post to ask again – do you have any suggestions as to online tools I can use to record word count, and get other useful data from?  I would love to hear your suggestions.

Write SOMETHING!

Of course, recording your word count seems trivial in comparison to actually achieving a word count! For me, the main consideration is to at least write SOMETHING every day. Overall targets and daily averages are good, because they allow you to break it down in to more manageable daily chunks – ever mindful that if a day is missed, it will only increase the amount you need to do the next day, or the next.

If you want to keep your writing momentum going, any daily word count is positive – just make sure you avoid that big fat zero, and eventually you will reach those 2 words you are longing to write . . . The End.

The End?

And on that note, I want to bring to a conclusion my A-Z Blog Challenge for this year and thank all of you who have got involved, written your own posts, commented, followed, liked and shared. If you missed any of my posts, or just want to see how the whole thing panned out, you can find an amended list of my A-Z content here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, and your comments on the challenge as a whole. Did you find it useful? Will you continue to blog regularly now? See you all next year?

W is for WIP – Work In Progress

Will I ever reach the editing stage??
Will I ever reach the editing stage??

Yes, today’s short post seemed the perfect opportunity to tell you all about my work in progress.

In reality, of course, I’m actually working on several things at once – regular writing challenges from my weekly Writer’s group, a few short stories, songs when I get the urge and blogging just to fill out the time! But what I really class as my WIP is my unfinished first draft of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie.

I started it for NaNoWriMo last year, managed to hit 55,000 words in the month and it currently stands at around 62,000. By the beginning of this year, I first slowed, then stopped, then took on the A-Z Challenge as an elaborate way to procrastinate for another month (ok, I readily accepted the challenge when suggested by Maria at First Draft Cafe).

Which means I only have a matter of days before I promised myself that I would jump back on the horse and get galloping on my word count again. I have even entered in to a pact with a couple of writing buddies to try to keep up the productivity. We haven’t decided on a title for our own little challenge yet, but I’m going with May The Words Be With You (#maythewordsbewithu?)

I’m describing the novel as part satire on big business and corruption, part paranormal comedy caper, but that will no doubt be refined by the time I’m finished! You can find a quick synopsis and short excerpt on my Nano profile here.

So what is your current WIP? Novel, short story, poem or prose, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

This was my 23rd post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – X for X-ray Music (song with lyrics)