Sunday, 23 November 2014

Meet The Character Blog Hop

Author Demelza Carlton has asked me to join her in this Meet The Character blog hop and she’s a tough act to follow with her interview of Caitlin Lockyer. I first started reading Demelza's books last year and have so far read all of her Ocean's Gift and her Mel Goes to Hell series, both of which I can thoroughly recommend.

You can read her post here, 

and buy her book here, 

Meet The Character Blog Hop - K T Bowes, writer of Artifact ...introducing Lara.

Buy Artifact here:

What is Artifact about?

“The harsh English winter battered Market Harborough, grid locking roads and railways. But the sun-dial on the side of St. Dionysius Church spire still did its best despite the lack of sun that made its job harder. The position of the sun-dial gave away the location of the secret priest hole, not that many knew of its existence still. It was a silent beacon that nobody understood.”

The ancient church in a sleepy English town releases its secrets to historian, Lara, whispering tales of depraved humanity and the murder of innocent men.

But Lara has troubles of her own, arriving in the town emotionally bruised from a devastating experience in New Zealand, which caused her to flee with two precious Maori artifacts stolen from her employer.

Struggling to deal with the spectre of guilt that haunts her, Lara tries to begin again, finding work at the local museum and friendship with her new neighbours, Kerry, an eccentric primary school teacher and Arama, a handsome but hostile businessman. As Lara’s painstaking work, restoring the recently discovered treasures, causes her to reflect on the tragic lives of others she finds redemption and hope.

But life has some lessons for Lara in seeking to honour the past. Not everyone wants their history laid bare for all to see and some have good reason to wish it kept hidden. As Lara faces the owner of her stolen artifacts her secret is brought full circle and with his presence comes unexpected love.

Is Lara a fictional or historic character?

Lara is purely fictional although she represents parts of women I have met across the course of my life who have a tragic story in their past which invariably shapes their present and future.

When and where is the story set?

The storyline is deliberately timeless and could be anywhere between the year 2000 and now. I didn’t want the story to be dated because I feel there’s a tendency to disregard things as obsolete far too quickly nowadays. The places have and will exist for a very long time to come and I kept technology out of the book because I didn’t want markers. I wanted a sense of continuation from the old manuscripts that Lara handles to her present day.

The story is set in a beautiful little market town on the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border of England. I lived there for six years and know it well. It will always share a place in my heart because it’s where I met some of my best friends and had some of my most life changing moments. The church in the centre of town and the old schoolhouse are worth a detour off the beaten track just to admire. The wording around the sundial on the side of St Dionysius Church has always captivated me as it’s high up and often unseen or ignored.

What should we know about Lara?

Lara is stunningly beautiful - a real head turner who has no idea how attractive she is. She’s the daughter of a New Zealand Maori raised in England and has a strong sense of heritage, which has been passed down from her father. She’s someone who treads a fine line between the past and the present because of her role as an archivist. But her chosen career is a deliberate choice because apart from her aunt, there’s nobody left in her life who has any attachment to her. Walking that fine line allows her to dip into a past where she was loved and cherished and a present in which only her aunt knows or cares about her.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Whilst working in New Zealand, Lara suffers a huge emotional blow and feels like her life’s work has been wasted. It forces her to question everything she knows about herself. She does something completely out of character and runs back to England bearing a secret that will continue to eat away at her.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Lara’s goal is to preserve and protect history for the enjoyment of future generations. She constantly battles against a throwaway society that doesn’t care about the past and will happily bulldoze or trash the traces of other people’s lives - which they could have learned from. A good archivist will operate under the mantra ‘leave no harm’ when they work on an artifact. They should leave no visible trace of having touched it, unless it is a restoration. Lara’s frustrations are my own as a working archivist and she shares my personal need to preserve the past against a tide of wastefulness.

When was Artifact published?

Artifact went on sale in January 2014 at 99c. It’s sold really well so I might raise the price in the near future.

EXCERPT from Artifact:

The school building was magnificent and sent the historian in Lara into raptures. It was over a hundred years old and steeped in memories. The original part of the building was Victorian, red brick built with a sharply angled roof and the characteristic gable ends reached forward, perpendicular to the main structure. The windows were long and thin, slightly rounded on the top without bowing to the severe arches of previous eras, individual panes of glass set into complicated wooden frames. It gave Lara a feeling of security, creating a timeless solidity just by being there. It was a sensation she craved and the reason she was an archivist. She hunted for things to ground herself, historical facts and realities that gave her life a security that it had once had, but lost.

Inside, the solid wooden floors were dark wood, possibly oak and shone with the love and care put into their maintenance. Thousands of feet had passed over their surface, running, skipping, slouching, feet driven by childish elation or misery and bearing away future politicians, doctors, cleaners and astrologists. Each one as essential to somebody as the next set of small, twinkling toes.

Lara spent most of the morning in tears. Not out of sadness but out of pure mirth and the sheer effort of keeping it in. The room of four and five-year-olds were both clueless and hilarious and they had no idea how funny they were. In their little world, everything was deadly serious and every minor accident a full blown crisis. Lara didn’t know how Kerry coped with it every day of her working life. Kerry viciously allowed the art session to run into the next lesson with a glare at Lara. “We haven’t finished our works of art,” she declared, ignoring the fact that the archivist had a pounding headache and a bizarre urge for a large, unadulterated gin.

“You laugh a lot,” one little boy commented to Lara, as she poured glitter on his horrific picture of his grandma and he spread the deliciously creamy glue around his face like shaving cream. Lara didn’t know if the comment was appraisal or criticism, but she was alarmed when she turned around and saw him trying to shave with a plastic ruler. She couldn’t ask for clarification because he had glued his lips shut.”

links to me:
Twitter: @hanadurose

coming up next week Lorrie Farrelly:

My first introduction to Lorrie’s work was reading Dangerous, which I absolutely couldn’t put down. I would strongly recommend her work as books that will suck the reader in and keep them there. She'll be introducing her character on her blog:

Buy Lorrie's book here:

eNovel Authors at Work:

#meetthecharacterbloghop #KTBowes #NZauthor #romance

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Children's Surgery - How to make it exciting

Surgical operations for children are a parent’s worst nightmare. There are so many factors to consider outside of the obvious logistics of date and time. With the odd exception, most children’s wards are extremely well versed in the art of getting children into surgery, but that doesn’t account for the weeks leading up to the event, where mum and dad have the insurmountable task of persuading Little Johnny, that they know best and this thing is definitely going to happen.

All of my children at some point have had a surgical procedure which required them to have a general anaesthetic. Some of them were older and needed emergency help, but two of my girls underwent surgery before the age of three and one of them, more than once.

I’m an author now, but back then, I was a mother with a love of books and stories and I used that to my advantage. Meal times were sacred in our house and we tried most nights to eat as a family. I’m not quite sure how it started, but while everyone else ate dessert, I would read to the family, not just children’s stories but the classics too. I read to them on long car journeys, boring waits in the car and once in the emergency waiting room while my husband listened avidly with a broken hand propped on his knee. Wet holidays, appointments and any time that we could all be potentially bored, out would come the book from my bag and the story would continue.

Coming up to my daughter’s first surgery, I decided how I would handle it. Our family code was ‘no surprises’ and we tried hard to stick to that, wherever possible. Big changes would always be talked through, even with the littlies and everyone would know where they sat within the grand plan. It meant that even emergencies were less frightening because someone would be around to think on their feet and there would be a plan, even if it took a little while coming. Weeks before the operation, I started to read an Enid Blyton book called, The Magic Faraway Tree. The story deals with the inhabitants of a magic tree and a family of children who find it and become friends with the characters. At the top of the tree is a world in which the ‘Land’ changes every day. The children visit the different Lands and have exciting adventures and that is primarily what the book is about. They never know which land will be at the top, but they must be back down into the tree before the land changes, or they’ll be stuck there.

My children loved the story and really bought into it. It wasn’t a great leap of faith for them to believe that when my daughter went into surgery, she was actually visiting the Faraway Tree and would be able to go into the Land at the top and bring back gifts for her siblings. The instructions for that child would occupy everyone’s mind in the lead up to the operation.

“Moonface and Silky will be waiting for you at the bottom of the tree and they’ll help you climb the branches.”

“Don’t look in the Angry Pixie’s window. He gets cross. He’ll tip his teapot over you.”

“Watch out for the Washer Woman on the top branch who throws her laundry water down the tree. You don’t want to get wet.”

“The Saucepan Man will help you if you get lost or scared.”

“The Sandman will help you to sleep and then find Moonface and Silky with you.”

My husband and I would put our heads together and decide which Land would be at the top. We had the Land of Sweets and Chocolate, the Land of Surprises, the Land of Toys, the Land of Gifts and very recently as residents of New Zealand, the Land Called England.

Once the Land was declared, via a fake letter which would arrive through the post from Moonface and Silky, the child would excitedly go round everyone asking what they wanted to have brought back from the Land at the top of the Faraway Tree. Someone who could write would follow behind with a pen and paper, writing it down for Mummy or Daddy, who would then have to buy the stuff. None of my children ever called it ‘going into hospital,’ it was always “I’m going up the Faraway Tree.”

Thankfully my parents brought into the tale and my mother would always help by reinforcing the illusion. “I want to know what it’s like when you come back from the Faraway Tree. Make sure you phone me and tell me all about it.”

On the day, it was last minute helpful instructions from everyone and off to surgery they were wheeled, a special cloth bag that my mother made with a draw string to keep the goodies in, firmly clutched in their fingers. The hardest part was getting that cloth bag back off the nursing staff so that we could secretly fill it and get it put back before the child came round. It also had to be done sleight of hand so that the other children didn’t see.  

That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of, not the fact that the poor child was having a general anaesthetic and surgery. We were too busy stuffing things in a cloth bag like bank robbers and wishing it was a bigger, wider, more oddly shaped bag.

Once when something went awry at Lincoln County Hospital and we weren’t allowed into Recovery to be there when my daughter woke up, she was so afraid that she wet herself and came back up to the ward distraught. Most of that wing of the hospital heard her howling along the corridor and it was a dreadful moment for everyone. Until her three-year-old brother pointed at the puddle she sat in and said, “Oh no! You looked in the Angry Pixie’s window didn’t you?”

"Yes!” she wailed and that was it. Over. No trauma, no embarrassment. Finished.

The bag was opened, always by the patient and the list examined to make sure everything was correct. Thank goodness we never stuffed up. Things were handed out, admired, the patient thanked and life returned to normal, until next time.

There are a number of books in the series of The Magic Faraway Tree and I think we went through all of them, some of them twice. It took the fear and the sting out of something that could be quite traumatic, especially for a two-year-old. I know there are families who deal with things clinically. The child knows the absolute truth and that’s fine. We all parent differently and find ways that work for us. For my family - this worked.

I was reminded of The Magic Faraway Tree recently when my seventeen-year-old daughter needed surgery. We sat in a packed waiting room, corralled like cattle when she turned to me and sighed. “I wish I still thought I was going up the Magic Faraway Tree; it was so much more exciting and it took the fear away.”

A quick text to my husband saw him nipping to The Best of British shop in Rototuna and grabbing some English delights, things we can’t routinely get here. The special bag is long gone, perhaps in my parents’ loft back in England, but this time, a carrier bag did just fine. My daughter smiled after her surgery when she saw what the Land Called England had supplied. Polos, Snowballs, Curly-Wurly and other things once taken for granted in a very different life.

The items from the Land had to be posted to siblings who no longer share the same house, to Hamilton, Palmerston North, to adults living lives in other places. But they still smiled, enjoyed their treats and remembered. 

Parents remember - everything can be got through, with a little imagination. 

#positivethinking #readtokids #bebravelittleone

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Show not Tell - never trust an author

As a new writer, all I heard was the phrase ‘show not tell’ and after a while it did my head in. I read countless blogs about it and sort of got it and hoped that I had stopped doing the exact opposite. Throughout my writing journey, I seem to have crossed a massive divide. I’ve moved from creating novels that pass through my soul on the way out to the page, to crafting something that allows someone else to join me on that journey. I’m a completely different writer to that girl who pressed the submit button on Kindle Direct Publishing and then hid in the bathroom for hours afterwards terrified. I like to think that it’s a growing process but like all growth, sometimes it hurts.

Currently free on Amazon and Smashwords
Passive voice was a hurdle for me and I dealt with that in a previous blog. Another one was the issue of showing not telling.

I’m a born romantic and always have been. The heroes in my head are always larger than life, never cry, save the day with a well-timed kick and look dashing in a well-cut pair of jeans. I imagine their entry and exit to heart-stirring music and struggle to manage my violin playing whilst typing.

Writing Logan Du Rose has revised all of that and more. He is all of the above but would likely do a runner if I cranked up the CD player when he strutted anywhere. He would take a baseball bat to it and look me in the eye while he smashed it. What I’ve found is that I need to put my romanticism on hold while writing. The gushing emotion I feel conceiving the scene is not attractive for someone reading it months later. Unless I’ve done it right - they won’t even know it’s there. It will have become faintly nauseating.

I’ve edited my novels more times than I can count and it’s not just to remove the odd typo or sort that bizarre cut and paste that perhaps went a bit wrong. I’m out to kill passive voice and any hint of telling. I want the reader to come with me into the action and feel the fear. It’s not a boxing match where the audience sits around the sides of the ring watching the action and needing the shouts of the commentator to let them know the intricacies of the scoring. They need to be in the ring, dodging the punches, splashed by blood and sweat and tasting the essence of failure and success. 

First hand.

Anything that stands in the way of that end product needs to die. And I mean seriously - no mercy. If you have to rewrite - that’s just tough on you. Serves you right for not doing it properly the first time. As an avid reader, I get pretty sick of lengthy descriptions from authors who are in love with their own characters beyond the point of reality. I hear the violins and it turns me right off! Unfortunately, the relationship genres - erotica and romance float along in a heady bubble of the stuff and it’s a steady, seeping infection into the other genres too. It’s everywhere like mildew. You turn the page of an innocent sci-fi and there it is.

The books that sell are those which document the lives of real people who don’t do their supermarket shop to resounding drum beats. Their squalling kids don’t stand up in the trolley with their arms outstretched like Rose on the Titanic and the women have stretch-marks. Real ones.

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Just as an example, I’ve been editing my earlier works for the zillionth time and thought I would share this hideous blooper with you - just before I nuke it. I have no idea how it’s escaped detection before as I’ve found almost none this pass through, but I can pretend it was deliberate if I share it.

To put it in context, Logan Du Rose has taken his wife up to his tract of land in the North Island of New Zealand for the weekend and they pull over and sit on the edge of a ridge overlooking the sumptuous hotel in the valley that his family runs. They swing their legs over the precipice as the sun goes down behind them and chat companionably together. And then the text says:

“Logan pulled Hana in close, enjoying her presence.”

Ok, so the seasoned author rolls their eyes about now and says, ‘Oh no she didn’t - she told not showed.’

Those who are newly out of the gate might peer blankly and say, ‘So what am I meant to be looking at?’

The fact is this. How do you, the reader know that Logan enjoys Hana’s presence?

Did he write it in the dirt behind her butt with his finger, just so that you could feel part of things?

Did he pay a fortune to a pilot to drag a sail across the sky behind his plane declaring, ‘Logan loves Hana’s presence’?


How do you know?

Don’t trust the author. That’s not a safe way to live. Any time I want to, I could push Logan right over that cliff edge and then where would you be? I can do whatever I like with him because he belongs to me. It’s not my problem that you’ve fallen in love with him and would be devastated.

When I was a little girl, my mother had an expression she used when I did something particularly stupid. My answer would invariably be, “Bex made me do it!” It was probably true as well. My sister always thought up the stupidity in our household and skilfully got me blamed for it. Mum would roll her eyes and say those infamous words,

“If she told you to put your head in a gas oven - would you?”

“No,” I would say with a convincing shake of my head while my sister stood behind my mother smirking. Of course I would.

It’s no different for you as a reader. How do you know that Logan enjoyed Hana’s presence?

Because I told you, fool. You can’t trust me. I’m not trustworthy. It’s like the popular expression now for someone’s outrageous claim. 

‘Photos or it didn’t happen.’

Here is a later rewrite. Notice I didn’t say anything about Logan enjoying Hana’s presence. But the fact that he’s still sat there and yet there are probably other places he could be leaves the sentence redundant.

“They sat on the ridge overlooking the hotel until the sun slithered down behind them. Logan pulled Hana in close and kissed the side of her face. His fingers twisted a stray curl, fascinated by the red glow coaxed out by the dying sun. “I love it up here.” His voice sounded husky and contented as he sighed and rested his chin against Hana’s soft cheek.”

Telling instead of showing is something we all do. In an age in which we demand the right to be heard it’s an easy trap to fall into. You might know that I’m depressed because I say so. But you’re more likely to want to help me when you see me struggling outwardly with something and my eyes and body language tell that you I’m at the end of my rope. We live in a world where the little boy continually cries wolf, so don’t believe him.

And if you’re an author, expect to be able to back up your claims with actual proof. And if you can't - well, then don't say it at all!

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And no, I won't push Logan off the cliff so stop worrying. But I might hurt him other ways instead!

#shownottell #writingtipsandtricks #novelines #ktbowes