Monday, 30 June 2014

What if? - Guest post by Lorraine Mace


Today I am handing my blog over to the multi-talented Lorraine Mace. Not only does Lorraine write children's books, magazine articles and advice columns but she judges competitions and teaches writing as well. She also moonlights as crime writer Frances di Plino. Today she is being herself and giving us an insight into the creation of her novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler.

So without further ado, here's Lorraine:

What if?

As a creative writing tutor, I tell my students the most powerful tool in their writing box is the what if question. From the point of view of my own writing, nowhere is this more in evidence than in my children’s novel, Vlad the Inhaler.

Vlad started out in my mind as a bit part character in a children’s short story, which, by the way, never got written because of what if? Vlad was going to be one of a whole group of characters who lived in the woods and helped people when they were in trouble. He was going to be a good vampire, friends with a good werewolf and other good creatures going around doing good. Yeah, I know, boring, right?

But then I thought: what if Vlad is vegetarian? How could that happen? I needed to give him a human parent who made sure he never drank blood – and so the legend of hupyres was born (pronounced hew-pires). Vlad’s vampire father would fall in love with a human; he, in turn, would give up drinking blood and, with his beloved wife, raise Vlad as a complete vegetarian to ensure he never developed his vampire side.

Hmm, so what? That wouldn’t put obstacles in Vlad’s way. What if he was also asthmatic? And scared of the dark? And couldn’t turn into a bat?

But he had two loving parents who wouldn’t want him out in the forest in case he ran into danger – so they had to go. What if Vlad’s evil vampire relatives do away with his parents and take over his castle? What if they only keep Vlad alive until they find out where the treasure is hidden?

By this stage I realised I had too much story for short fiction and needed to think of a strong enough plot for a novel to send Vlad off on some scary adventures.

What if he escapes from the castle only to fall prey to a pack of werewolves? What if he has to overcome bounty hunters determined to bring in a hupyre – the rarest of mythical creatures? What if the people he thinks of as friends are really his enemies? What if the local townspeople think he is evil?

What if Vlad has to save his old nurse from the vampires? What if the only way he can do that is by using vampire traits?

As you can see, Vlad the boring creature destined for a short story turned into Vlad the Inhaler, hero of a novel for children aged 9 to 12. Judging by the feedback I’ve received from my young readers, asking what if has paid off. The question I get asked the most during school visits isn’t what if, but that’s okay. I get asked a much better question: when will the next Vlad book be out? Just goes to show the power of what if?

LorraineMace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book

She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers. She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.

Her novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler, was published in the USA on 2nd April 2014.

Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes and Call It Pretending.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Today I'm Guest blogging at Sue's place.


 See my guest blog over at Sue Howe's place

Many thanks to Sue for giving me the opportunity to talk about joining Triskele Books.


Monday, 16 June 2014



Today is the 110th anniversary of Bloomsday (16th June 1904) - the day the fictional but very real Leopold Bloom wanders around Dublin in James Joyce's Ulysses.

Leopold Bloom is one of my favourite characters in literature
- indeed he's probably my most favourite. He is a warm, flawed, self-deprecating auto-didact who is always ready with an interesting fact whether other people want to hear it or not. 

He's a more sympathetic character than the starkly intellectual Stephen Dedalus, whose peregrinations around Dublin criss-cross Bloom's as they meet and part and meet again. Stephen has the spikiness of youth; Bloom, the roundedness and maturity of middle age.

Bloom is a deeply sad man who deserves to be happier - and by the end of the novel there is some small hope that he might be. But Ulysses isn't a sad book. It's full of humour and ribaldry and life and sweat and physicality - and all of this is what makes Leopold Bloom so wonderfully human.

I can never understand when some people say Ulysses is unreadable. It most certainly isn't. Yes, there are parts that are obscure but the novel also presents humanity in a clear light that shows the solid earthbound fleshiness of it while delving into inner lives and private thoughts. This is what we are, Joyce tells us, and why should we shy from it?

If reading certain chapters proves difficult - I always found the Nighttown scenes hard to get a grip on - try the audio version. 

In the Naxos edition that I have, Jim Norton (aka Bishop Brennan from Father Ted, among many other things) does a great job of bringing the whole thing to life.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ascribe Novel Solutions - for Great Indie Books

I'm so pleased to report that THE LAND BEYOND GOODBYE now features on the Ascribe Novel Solutions website.  Visit the site for information on more great books.