Author Intro – Ella Hazelwood

Name: Ella HazelwoodImage

Age: 30

Books published: Everdark Realms: The Darkening

Books coming soon: Everdark Realms: The Awakening

Top three authors: Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, Derek Landy

Favourite Colour: blue

Favourite animal: Dragons and Phoenixes

Favourite quote: “People need stories more than bread itself, they tell us how to live, and why.” – The Arabian Nights

Top three movies: Labyrinth, The Craft, Tin Man

Favourite reading genre: Intelligent humour

Favourite Tv show: QI

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be: Surprisingly Regina from Once Upon A Time – I get the strong girls who don’t take crap

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: Writer, Actor, Director, Artist, Bibliophile, Dreamer,  Mythology-Nerd, History-Buff, Imagineer

Do you have a burning question for Ella? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

TREASURE HUNT WEEK 2

Where will I be hiding, this Saturday, for you?

I need to be found, so I’ll give you a clue

It’s on a type of bank down by the town river

And where the city cat has passengers to deliver

These parklands are popular and have a lot of appeal

There’s a cinema and markets and even a Ferris wheel

And quietly in this forest sits a pagoda of peace

Where I will be meditating, waiting for release

Where Am I?

Published in: on December 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Gift

This year for Christmas, my true love gave to me a conundrum. Not only did I have to figure out:

a) how a partridge managed to lodge itself in my pear-tree; but also

b) how exactly I came to be the owner of a pear-tree; and furthermore

c) how to deal with the disdainful present of … well, a book. (Bookworms around the world pass out).

Okay, clearly, I’m exaggerating.  It wasn’t my true love. And of the above, only part c) is in fact accurate. Clearly if I owned a partridge I would not be sitting here at present. I’d be teaching it to play fetch.

The book was given to me by a family friend who was surprisingly thoughtful and put two (I love books) and two (I love books) together and came up with books. And I’m afraid I haven’t been this disappointed in a long time. I haven’t wished for socks so bad in my life. And I feel really bad!

I was touched by her thoughtfulness. And I was over the moon to discover it was a book. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but it’s just not a book I’m into. Despite this, I really tried to read it. And sincerely wished I hadn’t.

It’s not just the genre. This book is in short, well trash. It’s the sort of story they turn into a midday movie that you’re further afflicted with when you’re home sick because clearly you haven’t suffered enough.

Still, I did try and oh how I tried to read this, out of respect for the gift, out of respect for the simple fact that it is a book. And I just could not do it. One page was mindless stupidity involving the two main protagonists calling each other “darling” whilst sipping champagne and discussing their engagement. It reeked of superficial, rich, Manhattan nothing. No A5 sheet of dialogue should have the word “darling” in it 7 times, unless it’s a comedy pointing out the obvious fact that the protagonists are calling each other darling through gritted teeth. I hope the writer got a thesaurus for Christmas. In short it was bollocks. Complete bollocks, and I feel for the forest that was ripped to shreds to make copies of this pure crap that was eventually sold to the masses who actually buy this pure crap. If you need fertilizer, hit up the hardware stores, people!

Oh the torment that pulsated through my being when the protagonist had to decide between fish and chicken for their wedding reception! Nail-biting moments, simply nail-biting. I had an alternative suggestion – big bowls of plastic to go with the rest of that fake bollocks. These characters could not have been more dense and plastic and fake if they had been manufactured by Mattel.

This was one of those books that made me want to take the ‘author’ out with a pea-shooter full of pellets made from her book.

I’m sorry to say, this wasn’t a book, it was embarrassing and unfortunately it’s opened me up to the hideous truth that I can no longer dream of reading and devouring all the books in the world. Because some are so painfully damaged I’m surprised they’re not in therapy.

It pains me to think of it. I love books. Love them. And yet, I’ve come across a book I just can’t stand. There was no story, no real characters, nothing. There was no point to this thick mass of nothing. And it breaks my heart that there are truly talented writers, yet to be discovered who haven’t had their work published, yet there is this crap out there.

I know, it sounds like I’ve done a complete about-face since my blog about ‘at least it’s got them reading’. Here’s the thing. I love anything that introduces people to the world of reading and books and makes it more enjoyable for them. But it’s like that midday movie, it’s like that trashy magazine. Yeah, sure, sometimes it’s great to hang out and enjoy something entertaining and slightly mindless. We all have that moment. But I am advocate for the story. And I’m a big advocate for a good character. You know this; you’ve read my blogs about it.

I suppose the reason I write this is to be honest here. The main goal for any writer, I would imagine would be to write a story well. When I get together with other writer friends of mine, we sometimes read each other’s work and give critiques. Not bad ones, just feedback from an audience and writer point of view. It’s great, because there is a lot that we can sometimes miss. And there are things out there that we need fresh eyes and fresh perspectives on. It’s happened with my work a bit, and I’ve done it with other people’s work. It’s important not to get so wrapped up that you can’t see the story for all the words. And I think that’s what’s happened here. Either this author’s editor was too scared to tell her that this needs to be tweaked, or there was no editing process at all. No one was on hand to read this beforehand and mention that the characters need…character. They can’t be cut out of a cereal box and stuck in a book.

And yet, when stories like this are published, it throws some of my beliefs out the window. If the goal is to get your work published, and to do this by writing really well, then how is it possible for this kind of trash to exist in the public forum? I think the answer is democracy. We’re lucky to have the freedom to write whatever we choose and because we’re this lucky, some hideously written work will get out into the world. It’s up to the discerning public on whether they choose to read this or not.

My only advice to writers is, though it is disheartening when you see something that’s just painful to read, and as a published work makes a mockery of all things writing, keep going. Yes. It hurts. I know I’ve been there, I’m designing the shirt. But keep going. Personally, I use these sorts of books as a reminder of what not to do. I don’t want my characters to turn out like this, and it’s a great way to keep that in the back of my mind when I’m writing. A brilliant teacher of mine once told me, you only fail if you give up. Never think that you’re a failed writer, because your work hasn’t been published. It will happen, if you keep going. Among a lot of my writing friends it seems to be the consensus that if you’ve received a few rejection letters from publishers, you’re onto a good thing and your work is probably pretty damn good. Hey look, it’s so good it’s been rejected a few times.

So my point here is keep going.

Oh, the book? Yeah, I’m giving it Lifeline. I figure they might get a few bucks for it at their amazing bookfest.

 By Sandy Sharma

Resurfacing

 

The past few months I haven’t written. Not a word, not a sausage, not a damn thing. And at first I went a little stir-crazy and now, I’m just a bit lost.  Is this what happens when a village loses its chief idiot?

So why have I been sans-writing? Has there been a writing strike? Have I lost my marbles? Have I lost my pen? Have I crashed a laptop? For the love of all things decent, what, Sandy, what?

Nope. I’ve just not had the time. The last few months I’ve been a part-time student, full-time worker ant, and I’ve been in a play which has gone from intense to better start focussing and sorting yourself out, now! To the point where I’ve skipped some good opportunities to do many things in the public forum. My blogs stand neglected and abandoned with cobwebs growing all around them. And to be honest, it’s a little disheartening that there isn’t a regular audience clamouring for the next episode of my work…awkward.

So now, here is my challenge and the point to this, my first blog in months (how lucky do you feel right now) –how do I get back? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I want to get back to writing…sort of. And I have a lot of work I want to write. My biggest motivator for one of my novels was NaNoWriMo. The challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days is amazing. I won’t go into details, because there’s already a blog all about it, but damn it gets the blood pumping, doesn’t it? I even kept going with my work last year, after the due date, because I was enjoying writing it so much. Admittedly I wasn’t a part-time student, nor had many other art jobs going at the time, but still, there it was. And now, I see writing as my old friend. One I’m keen to be reacquainted with. I want to sit down, like I am right now, and have a cup of tea and maybe a warm cholesterol-inducing creamy scone and just get the words out of my heart, out of my mind, out through my fingers and onto something a bit more tangible. I want to do this. But right now, I’m just a little tired. I’m a little lost. I know where I want to go, but it’s just about trying to follow the path in the forest to my destination.

So, I’m going with the tried and true method. I’m putting on the music, I’m taking time out and I’m sitting down and writing. I think this time though, instead of jumping back into my stories like I used to do, I’m going to have to start a tiny bit slower. It’s like trying to move the rusty handle of something. You’ll need a little oil, and you’ll need to let it take it’s time. But wait, just wait a second and she’ll be back to her former glory in no time.

I’ve also had some personal things that have happened since I last wrote and it’s definitely coloured my experience of life in general. So right now, as much as I would like to write and forget all the hideous, grotesque bollocks that’s happened recently, I just need to relax and go with the flow.

And I think that’s what it’s about for me, at the moment. Different writers work differently. And depending where you are in life and in the world, your writing will be different. Right now, it’s reflective, so I can deal with everything. But when I’m feeling strong and awake enough I look forward to going back to some good old fashioned gothic action. It’s sort of like recovering from an illness. The fever has broken and I’m starting to get my appetite back. It’s going to be a little while before I feel like a rich meal, but right now, I’m getting my appetite back and it’s a good thing. I’m reconnecting.

I suppose the reason I’m writing this, is just to say that as writers we get impatient with ourselves. I especially do. When I have the time, but not the inspiration. When I have inspiration coming out of my ears and no time to write. When I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, but I’m doing it and loving it and racing along with it, not sure if I’ll land or crash and burn. But sometimes, just sometimes, whatever is out there, whatever life hauls at us, torsion catapult style, whatever hits the fan and whatever you’re left cleaning up afterwards, the thing with words is that they’re these beautiful things that don’t just entertain or amuse us, they sort us out. They help us deal. They help us cope. Sometimes they help us understand and sometimes they leave us questioning what the hell the author was smoking. But sometimes, just sometimes, instead of demanding that they do our bidding, instead of insisting that inspiration get its butt down here and help us because it’s the only day we will have in a long time, sometimes, it just pays to sit back, relax and go with the flow.

Believe me, as much as I have a tree-hugging hippie side to me and I love the ‘go with the flow’ notion, I’ve never really done it with my actual work. I’ve always had an agenda. I’ve always had somewhere I’ve wanted to go or something I’ve wanted to get out there. For instance, the genre, the type of story, the beginning of something. Sometimes even just one line. One line that starts that story for me, whether it’s beginning, middle or end. And the only time I’ve been reflective is when I’ve journalled and kept my thoughts to myself. But these days, I think I need to let the intense agenda go. I just need to go with the flow. I just need to write and see what happens. And maybe I’ll keep it and use it, maybe I’ll change it, and maybe I’ll keep it hidden for now and see when I’m ready to share it, if I ever am. The other thing that keeps cropping up for me is to let someone else into this world of mine. I’m a very private person when it comes to certain things in my life, most of us are. And there are a lot of people who wouldn’t believe that about me, because I come across as the warmest, friendliest, outgoing person who isn’t shy to talk to someone. But my closest friends who have known me much longer and have seen me at my worst and for some reason have still stuck around know this about me. I’m exceptionally shy. I’m terrified of letting someone into my most sacred world. And every day I slide into my little customer service mask, and pretend that I’m not shy. And every day it requires effort. But there are days when I just can’t deal with people. And there are days when I can’t be bothered trying, because I’m exhausted. Keeping up your defences every day does that to you. So why don’t I just relax and ‘go with the flow’ and let everyone in? Easy – because not everyone is respectful or tolerant. And lately I’ve had that reconfirmed. Writing for me isn’t just about slipping into different worlds, putting something completely fictional out there, entertaining myself and the world and leaving it be. It’s much more than that.

When I write, I’m letting you into a sacred area of my world, powered by the one thing I prize more than anything in the universe – imagination. I’m letting you into my world. I’m showing you what I see, what I feel, what I hear, what I think. And I’m trusting you with it. Sometimes it’s an exceptional risk and sometimes I don’t get involved in thinking about the type of person reading it. It’s too much to deal with, I don’t need that kind of pressure. Because at the end of the day this is my world. These are my characters. And you are a guest in my world. So, I write for me. But there is my world, and when I write I invite you into it. Because I’m curious, because I want to connect. I want you to see something. I want to show you something. On some level I hope we can understand each other. You don’t have to love it, you don’t ever have to read another thing I write, ever again. You don’t even have to finish reading what I’ve written.  And today, just today, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to try and shape anything. I’m not going to try and impress you. I’m not going to try and entertain you. We’re not going to pretend that I’m not shy and I’m not unsure. Today, we’re just going to be honest with each other. Respectful, but honest. I’m not sure. I’m unbelievably shy. I’m doing something different and I’m trying something new. So here I am. My castle is unguarded and my defences are down around you. And I’m just going to sit back and see what happens.

So I tell you what. I’ll invite you in for a cup of tea and a few words, and in return I’ll let go. I’ll relax and I’ll go with the flow. And let’s just see where the evening takes us.

If this works, then all right. We’ve achieved something. If not, then screw it. It was a good experiment. But right now, while I’m trying to find my way back through the forest and the thickets, let’s just stop, check out the scenery, let it go and go with the flow.

 

~Sandy Sharma

 

 

 

Judging a Book by its Cover

“No!” Screams a friend of mine in disdain as she stares despairingly at the cover of a book I’ve just slid to her, across the table.

“Look just read it, it’s actually quite good,” I tell her, soothingly.

“No!” she cries out, a bit louder now, as the people in the cafe we’re at, turn around curiously, trying to get some tidbit of gossip to pass onto their friends. “I already know, by the cover, I’m going to hate it.”

I scowl. I wish I’d painted the damn cover black. I try telling her that the cover does not accurately reflect the contents of the story it’s wrapped around, but to no avail. She points out that she’s lent me good books and this is what I give her in return. I try not to throw the book at a passing cyclist, in frustration. As people start whispering excitedly at the unfolding action, I push it towards her and manage through gritted teeth, “Just read the damn thing, it’s good!”

She reluctantly takes the book, like a child being made to eat a piece of spinach, with an unhappy, “Fine.” I doubt she’s even looked at it since.

We all know the famous adage. Never judge a book by its cover. And we all know that it is, really, about how we treat other people. But, I do find it interesting that the majority of us are guilty of not adhering to its more literal meaning.

I’ve done it. I’m sure you have. Whenever I browse bookstores, libraries, look over at what someone else is reading while they wait for the bus, I do it. I have to see what the cover will tell me. Because, as much as we would like to be creatures who are not easily swayed by suggestion, the cover of a book gives us a glimpse into what we can expect to find in the pages of the stories we are promised.

It is often the cover of a book that gets our attention, and makes us stop and look at the book before us. Does this make us shallow? Does it make us visual creatures, brought up as television generations who have lost our ability to see past a cover to the “personality” of a book? I think it just makes us human.

Every writer works, among other things, with a very important element – imagination. The stories we write, and tales we tell, the yarns we spin, if you will, they all need to be able to engage the imagination. Even, the non-fiction works out there, get us, not just by fact, but by the way they are written. At least the good ones do. And so it follows, that if we can visualise the world of a character through the words on a page, the cover that holds the book takes it just a step further.

A good cover will get our attention because it works to engage our imaginations. It kicks our belief in possibilities into a sort of over-drive. When I pick up a book beholding its magical cover, I get a small rush of excitement, because the cover looks great. It tells me that this book is about a dark story, or a funny story, or an independent character just trying to make things work. The teaser to the book has done its job and grabbed my attention.

Having said this I have also picked up books, with seemingly simple covers and felt the same little rush of intrigue. Whether it’s a leather-bound book, with just the title of the story and the author’s name or book with the jacket fallen off, it does the same thing. It captures my imagination. I pick up leather bound books, and am immediately taken to the 18th century, where I imagine this book has come from and wonder at the sort of people who picked it up and read it. I wonder at the world it’s come from, what the people looked like, what the done thing was in those days. And in the case of jacket-less books, I just enjoy the curiosity as to what this book might be about. Surely it’s a special, chosen book. I’ve read about tomes like this. They are discovered, their contents breathlessly poured over until they reveal astounding secrets. And sometimes they’re not.

And yes, I do enjoy penguin classics, but even those famous orange and off-white covers promise me something. They promise me a story that has been assessed by many people before me and has been chosen to be part of the all-time literary greats. They are the Penguin Classics. We know them and some of us love them.

Promises, intrigue, curiosity and above all else, imagination. That’s what these covers show us. A small preview of what to expect from these stories. I don’t think it makes us shallow to get a little excited about a book, because the cover looks so good. I think it just makes us human.

 

~Sandy

Literary snobs

I recently read a brilliant argument regarding a book I dislike.

Twilight. By Stephanie Meyer. It has the literary world divided. There are the pro-twilighters and the anti-twilighters. Recently, I came across a brilliant argument made from the I-don’t-care-other-way-ers. It was from a teacher in the US who said that say what you want about the series, he found that kids who didn’t like books, who couldn’t care less about reading were picking up these volumes and having intelligent literary debates and discussions with him about the text. And for the first time in their lives, they cared about the written word. In his book (sorry, no pun intended), this was a definite positive and I must admit, I see the point as being very valid, indeed.

I have re-assessed a lot of my reading choices. My bookshelf is overstocked with books and while I have continually promised myself that I will not purchase another book unless I have finished reading the one’s I have, I have continually broken that little pie-crust promise. And what sort of material stocks my shelves? Well, I have to admit, it’s not always the classics.

Much of the material I have is (much like everyone else, I assume) either that special something that caught my attention, or perhaps something I need to read for a particular project I am working on. For example, when I write children’s books, I spend a great deal of time reading children’s books. It’s a brilliant way to get acquainted with that world, and because I tend to write a lot of adult fiction, it’s a great way to switch between worlds.

And yes, those little gems I find out and about on my literary treasure hunts aren’t all the big famous Robert Louis Stevensons or Aldous Huxleys. But the truth of the matter is that I just love a good story. And I love a good story-teller.  Whether they’re world renowned or not. Whether they’re apparently the greatest thing to happen to literature since the invention of the printing press, I really don’t give a rat’s right femur. I just want to be told a good story. And so that’s what rocks my bookshelves.

So I have to ask the question, does this make me a literary savage? I don’t own a single Tolstoy. I’ve never read any Goethe. Right, it’s off to the jungle to live on piranhas, with me! But I might be saved from piercing my septum with bones, because I do appreciate Oscar Wilde. But then, does that mean…could I be…am I literary snob?!

When did we become literary snobs? When did the process of evolution involve excluding people from intelligent discussions because they don’t like the same books as you?  Oh, every writer has their particular gripe with certain other authors or books, but have we allowed ourselves to become snobs? Do we look down our noses at people who don’t read the same things that we do, or don’t spend their time on 3000 page tomes, like they should?

Holy Cheese! I hope not. I don’t think of myself as a literary snob. I mean I’ve met some real snobs out there who question your level of intelligence because you aren’t reading Tolstoy and loving it. And I’ll be honest, those people make me want to reach over with a Tolstoy and slap them with it. But, there are a small group of books out there that I remember as the “well, I’m not getting those hours back, again” books and the one’s that I don’t bother to look twice at, because I just don’t feel that some are worth the paper they are written on. But who the hell am I to say that? I’m appalled. I’m terrified that I may be a literary snob. I don’t like the mills and boons books. Crap, I’ve done it now. I’m going to have to join the ranks of the elitists, wear robes everywhere, grow a moustache and smoke a pipe.

But here’s the cheese, there are some ‘classics’ out there that I know as a writer and book lover I should read, but I’m putting off. I know Tolstoy is important. I’ve seen his books. That’s what scares me. I want to give it a shot, because I’ve heard all right things about it. But I hate war stories. Just hate them. So I don’t know how I plan to get through War and Peace… I don’t want to read them. There, I’ve said it. And now I’ve been kicked out of the Elite Book Club, with its capital letters and its holier-than-thou members. I have to hand in my robes and pipe. Damn, I’ll miss the arm-chairs.

I don’t like being defined by these boundaries. And who the hell came up with them anyway? Why should they even be there? Just because you enjoy books, just because you enjoy writing, doesn’t mean you need to be a literary snob. Everyone’s going to come across a piece of writing that they won’t like. Sometimes it’s about the story, sometimes it’s something else. Sometimes you can’t even put your finger on what you don’t like.  It’s just something that rubs you the wrong way. Likewise, I’ve read some books of critical acclaim and wonder who acclaimed it.

And yes, I did read the Twilight saga, and here’s my big take on it. I actually liked the first book. I thought it was well-written and the story wasn’t bad and I didn’t even care about the sparkly vampire sparkling, because it was a different take on a myth, so I let it be. And then it went down-hill. The other books didn’t lift the story for me, they did the opposite and I felt significant chunks could have been taken out of the books, because I didn’t need to hear the main protagonists moan their angst for each other over and over again.  I actually put down one of the books, while I was reading and screamed across the room “Oh, just get on with it for ****’s sake!” I’m not a fan. And that’s just my opinion. Several millions of people disagree and good for them.

The thing is, when something is consigned to paper it becomes almost immortal. And that’s brilliant, but that doesn’t mean all the ideas are taken. And it doesn’t mean that all the stories have been told. Books and writing evolve with the story-tellers who weave these tales. It’s only natural that people are going to find some good literary work out there and love it. And it’s only natural that an equal amount of people are going to not like it. And yes, sometimes it’s about the writing style, but sometimes it’s just about the fact that a particular book is just not your cup of tea.

I like Jane Austen books. I find them entertaining, but according to a friend of mine, Austen is trash. I rebuff this with the Mensa-like intelligent response, “You’re trash.” Having said that, some of my favourite classic authors include Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare (MacBeth – the darkness in that little genius bit of work, alone, is amazing!) but that doesn’t mean that just because you’re a ‘classic’ author, I’ll love the work.

I love Mary Shelley and love the way her evocative words still haunt me. I’ve had a similar experience with many Anne Rice novels. Supernatural fiction does things to me, I love it. But there are some supernatural authors whose works I never want to look at again. Just because the genre is awesome, doesn’t mean I like the way you weave a story.

Most people, myself included, look at a book as its own individual body of work and despite what people have said I like making up my own mind and deciding for myself if it is in fact a brilliant bit of work or not.

It doesn’t make us literary snobs to have an opinion on literary work. And likewise it doesn’t make us literary savages to not like what other people like. It makes us individual human beings. It makes us people who are willing to decide for ourselves what is truly deserving of such praise or not. And it’s a good thing that a lot of us disagree on things. We need to have discussions of this calibre. We need to debate why we liked a body of work and why we didn’t. We should question. We should read and decide. And to be honest, I’m sick of people who look down their noses at you because you disagree with their ‘fine’ opinion.  Screw you, snobs! I’m going to tell the world the truth about me right now, and shed this literati shame that follows people around, dragging its good friend, guilt, behind it.

I have no interest in reading Tolstoy! I’ve tried reading Dostoyevsky and haven’t even made it past the first chapter, but I’m keeping the book because the person who gave it to me means more to me than he’ll ever know! I’ve never read Dante’s Divine Comedies, though I plan to. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I refuse to read Jodi Picoult’s work! The first and only time I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, I thought it was as boring as guano! Now, I want to try it again, because the premise is good and I think I could appreciate it more. I barely made it through Lord of the Flies! I think To Kill A Mockingbird is damn good!  I’ve never read Plato’s Republic or Marx’s Das Capital or anything by either Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. (Although I am intrigued by Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and I hate Tess of the D’Ubervilles because it’s an appalling piece of work that makes you want to slit your wrists and take casualties.  I think The Prophet is clever and wise and I love Terry Pratchett because he is the penultimate genius.

And I think literary snobs can kiss my literary dust.

By Sandy Sharma