Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest 2015

Thought I'd share the details on this most awesome Speculative Fiction contest hosted by the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

The IWSG Anthology Contest is now open until November 1st!

The theme is Alternate History/Parallel Universe (I know!) and it's for members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group those who blog or Facebook.

Winners will be published in a royalty-paying anthology next year.

Even if you don't enter or write Speculative Fiction, this is a great group to follow. I enjoy reading the posts and find them motivational and uplifting. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not alone on this journey.

Best of luck!

A Peek Into Your Life-- Katrina Mountfort

A peek into your life, is a segment spotlighting authors, specialists, and friends who brave my countless questions day in and day out. It's the best way I can share with you all, the many people who taught me the bizarre things I know, who satisfy my thirst for knowledge and adventure, and who keep me motivated.

I met Katrina Mountfort through social media. I was excited to learn she was a new author at Elsewhen Press, mainly because I've enjoyed so many of their books but also because her title got me thinking. What was so perfect about this future? How was that going to affect the story? Most of my stories are about a not perfect future and people trying to make it better, but dang... what if the future was perfect? What would happen?

Her book is so cool! and!!! her new one comes out this week. So check out FORBIDDEN ALLIANCE.  

This series is about a future where people are trapped in Citidomes where they strive to live by Mind Values that are a bit extreme, in a world where they reward BodyPerfect traits, making the population more and more unisex and identical. So what could possibly go wrong in this Utopian world of perfect people? Human nature, I suppose. Urges. Natural reproduction... Yup, you see, to keep the standards of BodyPerfect, natural selection is not possible. Much to my horror, in this Utopian world, sex is banned. BANNED! Not only forbidden, thanks to Mind Values these citizens believe it is yucky. In all fairness, it does sometimes make them sick and leave them with scars on their perfect bodies.

Caia lives in this world, but doesn't fit in. She tries. Bless her for trying, but thank goodness Mac comes along when he does. He's just so dang... not perfect. He's a breath of fresh air in her stale life of perfection. When they get paired up to go on a mission outside the Citidome they discover a world unlike theirs. But can they give up the perfect life of game shows and empty parties to live a life of hardwork and running?

It boggles your mind how real this world is. By the second chapter, I knew it was a book my daughter would love as much as me. The action kept moving, the intense danger was very real, and the setting impeccable. It was hard to put down, but it was also hard to finish. I did not want to leave them. I actually found myself rereading pages or reading them slow. I was so glad to learn a new one was coming out quickly!

Of course, I had to seek Katrina out and invite her over to share her story, because it is worth the read. So welcome Katrina!

Where did you get the idea for Future Perfect?
I had the idea around ten years ago when I first heard about men waxing off their body hair. At the same time, waif-like supermodels were plastered over every magazine and it occurred to me that if this trend continued, in a hundred year’s time, men and women would be almost indistinguishable.

Is there a message you try to pass on while writing? Or a theme that emerges naturally?
I don’t intend there to be, but I’ve noticed that whatever I write, the theme of conformity creeps in. It can be summed up in a saying I have above my desk – stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out – and that’s the way I try to live my life. With Future Perfect, I wanted to hammer this message home. I see kids becoming obsessed with body image at an increasingly younger age and it saddens me. When I grew up in the late seventies, there were adverts in Jackie, the teen magazine, for a supplement called Wate On, which promised weight gain for girls who were ‘too skinny to have fun on the beach.’ It seems hard to believe by today’s standards! I hope the trilogy helps young people see that that beauty is an artificial concept created by society

What book would you recommend as "this is a book every writer should read”?
Jo Jo Moyes: Me Before You. She writes in a genre that used to be dismissed as chick lit, but this novel is a masterclass in character development, as well as in creating engaging characters. A writer may have created the most original, well-constructed, beautifully written novel, but if readers don’t care about the main characters, they won’t enjoy it.

Is there a particular genre, target audience or age group you write for? Why?
I write speculative and women’s commercial fiction because they’re the genres I enjoy reading. But I find difficult to categorize novels – for example my husband loves so-called women’s fiction! In the first draft of Future Perfect, the main characters were in their twenties. However, an agent suggested I made them teenagers to appeal to the YA market. While rewriting it, I read plenty of YA fiction and was so impressed with the quality – when I was in my teens there was so little to choose from. But although I imagined that the target audience of Future Perfect would be young women, that hasn’t been the case. A surprising amount of men have enjoyed the book and as far as I know, my youngest reader is 13 and my oldest 88!

Tell us about your bucket list!

I’ve ticked off a lot off my bucket list! This includes seeing gorillas in the wild in Rwanda, walking the Inca trail, a tandem skydive, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and aerobatics in a Tiger Moth. There’s still plenty left to do though – in a few years I’d like to take a year off to drive round the US National Parks in an RV.

What is the best thing about where you live?
I live in a small town and it’s impossible to walk into the town centre without bumping into a few people I know, a nice respite from the solitary writing day. It’s also close to the beautiful Audley End estate where I walk my dogs. I get most of my best story ideas on those walks.

What do you do for a living?
I’m a home-based freelance medical writer, which involves writing articles for medical journals. It can be hard switching my brain from factual to fiction writing mode. But I started out as a scientist – I’ve worked in food and forensic science. I also studied homeopathy for a while and was briefly a homeopath. I seem to have a major change every seven years or so, which has given me plenty of writing material.

Thanks you so much for allowing us a peek and best of luck with the new release! Thanks for writing! 

A Few Secrets

I am visiting over at Jacqueline Ward's blog today! Be sure to stop by and say hi and! check out a few of my writing secrets in her excellent segment What, When, Where?

Hope you're all enjoying the summer. Happy readings!

And BIG thanks to Jacqueline for having me over! 

A Peek Into Your Life J.A. Christy

A peek into your life, is a segment spotlighting authors, specialists, and friends who brave my countless questions day in and day out. It's the best way I can share with you all, the many people who taught me the bizarre things I know, who satisfy my thirst for knowledge and adventure, and who keep me motivated.

I was hooked by the cover of  J.A. Christy book, which is coming out as an eBook this week thanks to the folks at Elsewhen Press. So, I went to see what a SmartYellow was. What did the title mean? or all that yellow??? Her book sounds like something I'll enjoy :)  I'm looking forward to reading it and was excited to find out more about this upcoming author, so naturally, I invited her over for a little peek into her life.

To find out more about this story, check out the premise HERE.

Thank you so much for stopping by J.A.! I know this is a busy and exciting week for you. Congrats on the new release!

Where did you get the idea for SmartYellow?
I got the idea from a TV series starring Rob Bryson and Steve Coogan called The Trip. It started with a conversation between them about surviving or living. I was interested in the difference between people's experiences of simply living day to day with little ambition and meaning compared with others who live life to the full. Also, what social dynamics make these two states better or worse, something explored in SmartYellow and, in many ways, through SmartYellow. At the time, I was researching thought experiments and I was very interested in Schrodinger's Cat and the question of decoherence, both of which feature in the novel in unexpected ways.

Around the same time there were riots in Manchester, where I live, and a spotlight on how groups of disenchanted young people (and some older ones) had taken action. There were many articles about social control, and I just took that one step further. So the idea was really fragmented until the main character Kat came into being and I was able to filter them through her life. 

Is there a message you try to pass on while writing? Or a theme that emerges naturally?
I always start with a central theme and a core idea, as well as finding out what the characters want, before I start writing. I'm a great believer in idea gestation and I've found that once the idea is ready to be written it's fairly formed. I enjoy reading novels that have a central message, novels that have depth, and I hope that the subtext of SmartYellow concerning social inequity comes through.

Sometimes an overarching theme emerges and sometimes a story is just someone's story. I don't try to force it beyond my original loosely formed ideas.

What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a second speculative fiction novel and a crime novel. I'm
one of those lucky people who can multi task and switch gears easily. The speculative fiction novel is in the gestation stage, with me waking very early and scribbling notes and calling my own answering machine with ideas! The crime novel is in the editing stage and I am working on it with my agent. I've got a couple of short stories on the go, but these can take between a week and a year to complete When I'm not writing novels I'm writing screenplays - nothing serious as yet but watch this space. 

What book would you recommend as "this is a book every writer should read”?
For me there are two, each with a fantastic message. The first is Scarlett Thomas' 'Monkeys with Typewriters'. The thing that sets this book aside is the chapters on seed words and themes, and on how to organise ideas. The second is John Yorke's 'Into the Woods'. While a lot of it concerns screenwriting and script structure, I had a real light-bulb moment about 'show and tell' whilst reading this book. 

I think writing books are invaluable, as are writing communities. It's so easy fall into the trap of complacency and feeling that art matters over structure and it took me a long time to realise that the structure of the story is the container for the magic of the art.

Is there a particular genre, target audience or age group you write for? Why?
I write crime fiction and speculative fiction for adults. I started out attempting to write chick-lit, but every novel I wrote ended up dark, with someone dead, or thick with 'issues'! When I started submitting my work to agents some of them commented that perhaps I should consider writing in the crime genre instead. As a psychologist I am interested in the criminal mind and the social dynamics of crime and war and I've developed this into a novel about women on the peripherals of modern warfare.

Speculative fiction has emerged out of my love of speculative novels. As a child, I read Alan Garner and I was enchanted. I carried on reading speculative fiction as my science career developed and I became more interested in 'what if's' and different worlds? Speculative fiction comes from a different part of me than crime fiction - perhaps my heart.

Tell us about something you've done that you're proud of. 
I've got an MBE! I am not a Royalist and my politics are to the left, but when I was recognised for my work with vulnerable people I was proud of myself and all the people I work with. I was really surprised when I got the letter as I had no idea who had nominated me. I realised that it would position me to help even more people and it was a unique experience to go to Buckingham Palace to accept it. It really humbled me to meet the exceptional people who were there and to hear their stories. I didn't trip up but I did shed a tear!

What do you do for a living?
I've worked as a barmaid, an auditor, a dancer, an accountant and as a cashier in a garage! I've even worked in a BT canteen when I was sent there in error by a temp agency, which didn't work out so well as I am not good with food! In the end I got a PhD in psychology and I work as a health psychologist and as a CEO for a national charity. I also do some freelance work around workplace communications - including storytelling - and health dynamics. 

Although I have been writing all my life, it was around seven years ago I started to work professionally as a writer. I love writing, but I also love my day job and the two sit together quite nicely.

Thank you so much for stopping by! It was great getting to peek into your life. And!! best of luck with the new release this week! 

To check out more about J.A., visit her at her hangouts: 
Twitter: @smartyellowtm