Jason Thorkwell on Writing

3D The QuarrelI always wanted to write a novel. Like most wannabe writers I’ve made numerous attempts at it, though nothing that stuck. I suppose my book – the one that did stick – began life as a Jerry Maguire ‘Mission Statement’ type thing. I wanted to write something that I could give to my daughters when they got old enough, a kind of guide to life. I suppose I wanted to talk to them, without having to actually talk to them. Don’t get me wrong, I want to talk to them! But when they get older (boyfriend age) they won’t want to talk to Dad about ‘stuff.’ My eight year old is already too cool in that respect.

Alcohol, drugs, relationships and the power of emotions, staying safe – online and in the real world – I can just picture them rolling their eyes at me! Writing this book was probably going to be the only way I could get the conversation started. So here it is – my 79 page ice breaker.

So how did it come to be? Well, three things happened:

  1. I watched a film called El Mariachi.
  2. I read Kevin Smith’s thoughts on distributing his film Red State.
  3. I discovered Rowanvale Books.

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Santiago Zoo: The Ugly Truth – by Christine Duts

Rowanvale Books’ author Christine Duts speaks openly about her heartfelt campaign to close Santiago Zoo, in an effort to protect basic animal rights. We ask that you take just five minutes to read her affecting story. 

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Twelve years ago, I went to the zoo in Santiago for the first time. There was a tiger and a bear, both in tiny cages. This bear had the saddest face I had ever seen, and the tiger was always pacing back and forth in frustration. He ignored every visitor that came to see him and just kept on pacing, but when I approached him, something happened. He stopped pacing, looked at me and lay down where I was standing. I came back on other occasions, and he always did the same: ignoring everyone else while pacing continuously, but when I came, he lay down by my side. When I moved to the other side of the cage to sit on a bench, he got up again, followed me and lay down at my feet. It was such a magical moment, and I knew that a bond had been forged. I made a promise to that tiger; I promised that I would find a way to get him out of there. Unfortunately, I did not know how – and after a few years I returned to Belgium.

I never forgot about that tiger, and when I finally returned to Los Cabos, I asked about him. When I heard that he had died of starvation, it broke my heart. I had not kept my promise… The bear had also died. In 2013, I started looking at ways to help those animals in the Santiago Zoo. It was in the December that I went back for the first time in many years to take photos. There were fewer animals there, and the ones that were left were living in horrible conditions. There was a lioness now, and she was extremely thin. She just lay there, depressed and miserable.

This zoo is a place of misery, starvation, filth, disease, and depression. Animals live in small, dirty cages with cement floors. I have seen animals with advanced infections and no visible treatment.Aves heces en la pared 2

 

Where is the veterinarian? Why does he not take care of them? The spider monkey belongs to a species that is in danger of extinction and, for that reason alone, it cannot be locked up in such horrible conditions. The badger is extremely frustrated and angry; the macaw is the only surviving macaw of many others and it is the saddest bird I have ever seen. The water of the duck pond is filthy, and there are many feces smeared on the walls of the bird cages. They are dark and dirty. The raven is losing its feathers and has infected skin; the coyotes are always afraid and one of them paces continuously; the python´s enclosure is much too small; the spider monkey, a companion animal, lives all alone in its cage and is craving love and attention. It is bored and needs to be with other spider monkeys. The coati is frustrated and lonely; the foxes are lethargic, and the wild cats are usually growling angrily at each other.

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I contacted animal rights organizations that are known internationally, but their responses were vague and it took me a long time to establish useful contacts. In May 2014 the lion finally died… and at that point I began my campaign, still not having had any help from organizations like Peta or HSI, but unwilling to wait any longer. The campaign was received very well by the locals. Most, if not almost all, wanted the zoo closed. I made a proposal towards anything that could be done with the place, once the zoo was closed down – a proposal that would bring more income to the local town and which would require little investment: the creation of a kids’ recreational center, with football and basketball courts, camping, theatre, workshops, cultural activities, etc. I had a meeting with the Director of Ecology, who also turned out to be the Zoo Director. He appeared to be very enthusiastic about my ideas and gave me the impression that he was completely involved. He promised he would talk to the Mayor and offer a proposal.

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I left this meeting with my hopes up, but later realized that it had been a waste of time. The Director of Ecology never meant a word he said, and I never heard from him again. He ignored my calls and emails, and, eventually, I gave up on him. Through the campaign I met a woman who became my strongest ally, and she and I got a meeting with Profepa, the judicial wildlife protection agency, on 11 June.

We spoke to tMono Araña 2he Director who told us that “this case was already open, due to other complaints filed”. We were going to file an official complaint as well, but since Profepa’s director told us that “the case was already open“, and “that we should not think that Profepa does not do anything”, we believed him and did not file a complaint, naturally assuming that they were doing their job. I sent a letter in which I suggested several sanctuaries for different animals. He stamped the letter in receipt and gave us a copy. He told us that they would get all the animals out, but that they needed time and discretion for such a task. He also said that the Mayor “had had his opportunity, and that it was too late for him now – that now it was out of his hands”. He asked us for discretion, in order to get the animals out “without interference from the Mayor”. It was a strange request, but since he represented an official governmental institution that is supposed to protect wildlife, we continued.

I collected donations for the spider monkey’s trip to its sanctuary, and for the other animals too. After a few weeks I realized that Profepa were also wasting our time, that they had told us half-truths or just lied to us, and that they would not lift a finger for the animals. They took advantage of our lack of experience with official institutions (or our lack of experience with dishonesty?) and effectively stalled us indefinitely. Although the population of Los Cabos, La Paz, and Santiago want the zoo closed, the mayor does not want to close the zoo, and the director of ecology and Profepa do not seem interested in helping the animals either. In this zoo, 90% of the animals have died there over the last 30 years. The tiger, the bear, and several lions have all starved to death. One visitor told me that she saw a lion having no choice but to lie in his own urine and excrement. It did not even have the strength to lift its body – no will to live, no will to do even the most basic things. Someone else said that she watched a visitor giving the spider monkey a coke…

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It is a sad, depressing place. A prison for animals, which is mistakenly called a “zoo”, and the authorities want this zoo to be kept open. Articles have appeared in local newspapers, stating that work will be done and that the zoo will be improved and become an ecology park, but that needs a lot of investment, and they do not even have trained staff to look after the animals. The work was supposed to have started in July, but nothing has been done. Similar projects were proposed in previous years, but never realized. We are being asked to remain quiet, to believe these “articles”.

Oso Hormiguero 2Coati

 

We have found beautiful sanctuaries for the animals, raised some money for their transportation, and made a viable and lucrative proposal for the zoo once it has been closed. All we need is the documents and a signature from Profepa, but they do not seem to want to do their job. Nobody seems to want to do their job. How many more animals have to die for the authorities to see sense and do what they are paid to do? Why so many lies? For what purpose do they want this misery to continue? Why are they not listening to their citizens, who want the zoo closed and the animals sent to sanctuaries? How is it possible that a place like Los Cabos, where so much money flows in, boasting many five star exclusive hotels, private beach homes owned by Hollywood stars, and world class golf courses, insists on keeping such a miserable animal prison? I just don’t understand the insistence on cruelty. What educational value is there for our children? There is none.

For more information on Santiago Zoo please watch the following video:

If you feel, as Christine does, that these animals deserve a better home then please, help make a difference by signing the petition:

http://goo.gl/xZinT7 (Note: Your browsers translate function must be turned on for English language speakers)

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily of Rowanvale Books or any of its staff.

3D-Book-cover - A RIGHT TO LIVEIf you’ve been affected by what you’ve read today then we urge you to pick up a copy of A Right to Live, Christine Duts’ upcoming novel, in which she explores further the treatment of animals living in Mexico. Her story centres around Rusty, a young puppy, who is faced with the struggle against homelessness and hunger that many dogs in Central America must battle with on a daily basis. The book will be available in all eBook formats from the 31st August – you can read more about the novel at:

http://rowanvalebooks.com/books/aright.html

Interview with the Author – B.

3D The Claws of the EarthHow did your book come about? Where does the inspiration behind the book lie?  

I see something, or hear a piece of music that sets off a chain of reactions in my foggy mind. Cogwheels start turning and grinding. Then, one day I sit behind my desk and start to draw a picture with words. The picture starts to move in my mind like a movie and I write what I see happening. Do I know where the story will take me? No, I let myself be swept along with it.

 

Where are you from? Does location have any significance with your book?

I am from Holland, I live near the coast and make long walks in the forests. There I see the twisted shapes of the trees and they usually give me inspiration. Or the quietness of the forest.

 

Do you have a specific writing style?

Readers say my books read like watching a movie.

 

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

All I want is to give readers a little time in a different world, so that they can forget their daily worries.

 

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John Davies on Writing

3D-Darren and the Draaken

Why did you start writing?

I worked as a chemist for over thirty years with BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay. The factory closed in 2002, so I decided to pursue my interests of music and literature. I’ve played guitar in several bands since and have written many songs and poems. My first book (with Geraint Davies) was a biography of Welsh language singer/songwriter/actor Geraint Griffiths. Next was a journal of my bike journey around the coastline of Wales from Chester to Chepstow. My third book was a light-hearted look at the relationship between song lyrics and poetry – can lyrics be regarded as poetry? Everything is hand written first and then typed out. I actually enjoy the physical process of putting pen to paper

 

How did you become a writer of children’s stories?

My granddaughter, Freya, was born in September 2010. I wanted to give her some sort of special gift so I wrote a short rhyming story called ‘Trevor the One Eyed Tractor’. Then in February 2013, Freya’s sister, Ayla, was born, so I had to write something for Ayla as well. This turned out to be ‘Darren the Dragon’. I enjoyed writing this so much that I decided to expand it into a series of six. Each of these stories has a distinctly Welsh flavour and Darren and the Draaken (Part II in the series) will be released in July.

 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My first three books focused on subjects I was interested in and knew quite a lot about – I just felt compelled to write them. I also get some inspiration from a poetry group based at the Lorelei in Porthcawl. It’s a once a month ‘poems and pints’ meeting of very talented and friendly people. A challenge is set by the winner of the previous month’s challenge which gives me the impetus to write regularly. As far as the children’s writing is concerned, I’ve always enjoyed humorous poems by the likes of Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan and Roger McGough. I love Julia Donaldson’s ‘Gruffalo’. It’s the perfect rhyming story picture book. I wanted to write in a similar way, but also to keep a Welsh influence in my writing. That’s largely how Darren the Dragon came about – oh, and there was also a certain amount of perspiration involved as well!

 

Have you got more books planned?

I’ve already written the first five books in the Darren the Dragon series. I have an idea for number six and will be starting on that soon. Also with the publishers at the moment is an anthology of shorter poems and limericks called ‘How to be a Dog’ which, hopefully, will be released around Christmas 2014. I’ve also started work on a second anthology titled ‘Antics on the Allotment’.

 

Do you have any other interests?

People say to me, ‘What do you do with all your spare time, now that you’re retired?’ My answer is always, ‘I’m so busy now that I don’t know how I found time to work before!’ Athletics is my most time consuming hobby. I run every day and still compete in Masters Athletics. A few weeks ago I won a silver medal in the pentathlon at the Welsh Masters Championships – the first time in my life that I’ve ever done this event. Added to that I’m treasurer, membership secretary, kit secretary and race organiser for Port Talbot Harriers. I’m also president of Welsh Masters Athletics. I have a keen interest in pop music and play bass guitar and rhythm guitar in two bands. Not a hobby I suppose, but my family also plays an important part in my life. We babysit on a regular basis for our two young granddaughters, and it’s been a delight to watch them develop as they’ve grown over the last few years.

Editing 101: What to Expect from your Editor

So, you’ve chosen to have your book published by us. You have a completed manuscript and a ton of enthusiasm, and the cover designs on Rowanvale’s bookshelf make you excited to see what yours will end up looking like. You’ve filled out that proposal form, sent off your story, and are eagerly awaiting your publication date.

But, what happens now? Once your manuscript has been sent off, what will happen to it?

That’s where the humble editor comes in. Rowanvale Books work with several skilled freelance copyeditors and proofreaders to ensure your manuscript is to the highest quality it can possibly be. But what exactly do these editors do?

1. We read your book in its entirety. That’s right! We may well be your first readers. Normally, we will edit on our first read-through so that we can pick up any errors immediately.

2. We catch those pesky typos. It’s hard for an author to notice any mistakes within their own work, so there are normally quite a few! We blitz them and restore your original meaning.
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9 Memorable Writing Tips from Authors

Often the most valuable advice comes from those who have been there, done that. So we’ve compiled a list of our favourite author quotes on writing for you to sink your teeth into, next time writer’s block comes knocking at the door.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

-Anton Chekhov

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“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

- George Orwell

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“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

- George Orwell

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

- John Steinbeck

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“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”

- James Patterson

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“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

- Mark Twain

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“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

- Kurt Vonnegut

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Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

- Kurt Vonnegut

“Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”

- Will Self

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Derek Smith on Writing

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The Beginning

I started writing a couple of years ago when, following an accident, I had to take early retirement. Walking with my dogs I would let my mind wander, and a story would come to me, and I would go home and start to write them down. I always know the end of the story before I begin writing. I‘ve always had a vivid imagination, and was always getting told off in school for daydreaming. I had often thought about writing a book but had thought I would write on the cowboy/western genre. As a retired builder I have worked with a great variety of people, each with a different background. The story originated there, and each day I’d get home and write a bit more, all in long hand. Later, once it’s finished and hand-written, it’s finally typed up.

 

My Inspiration

When writing ‘Point the Finger of Blame’, I thought of the men that I have worked with in the past, many of whom were called up to fight in Korea, and my time spent listening to their stories. They told me of how they were plucked from their simple lives and put into a war they felt they had nothing to do with, and once they had finished their term of service, they were just thrown back into civilian life, to ‘get on with it’. The Korean War, unlike the World Wars, was a forgotten war, and was soon buried by the general public.

 

Future Work

I have several works in progress at the moment, but in varying genres and styles. No two are alike, and I am happy to announce that both a Pirate and Western title live among them. So who knows?  I write because I enjoy it, and hope others enjoy reading my work in the future.  

Friday the 13th: Writing Horror and Suspense

 

Keep the violence low key.

The best horrors are often those that contain very little violence. There is always a risk, when creating grisly scenes, that the reader will become accustomed to all this blood and gore, and will inevitably distance themselves from the hideousness of it all. This is why the best horror novels always lure us in with the promise of violence, and then leave us waiting in a cold sweat, wondering what could possibly be happening to our poor, unsuspecting victim. It’s all in the imagination. Trust me, the imagination can create gruesome scenes that a writer could only dream of getting down on paper, so leave it to your reader to fill in those horrific blanks. When writing a horror novel, try to always remember:

A violent act does not create suspense, but the threat of that violent act does.

 

Don’t skip the scenery.

Since you’re letting the reader imagine all the gory details, it’s common courtesy to paint the rest of the scene for them – after all, they can only do so much. If you’re building up to a particularly climactic scene, make sure you describe the setting in as much detail as possible before you even reach that point in the story. Constructing the ‘scene of the crime’ early on will allow the reader to visualise your character’s gruesome end, and, if all goes to plan, dread said ending, long before it’s about to happen. We’re talking sights, we’re talking sounds, smells… the whole shebang.

 

Go easy on the backstory.

Focusing too much on backstory is the easiest way to slow down the pace during a tense moment. Your readers need to know enough about a character to care about their wellbeing, but not too much that your terrifying horror is turning into an emotive memoir. The best plan of action is to feed little bits of information about your characters into the novel sparingly, so that your audience is always interested in finding out more. You might reveal information through flashback sequences or through dialogue, in order to keep the reader in the know, but always remember you are planting the seed; the promise of new information, new twists and new discoveries are what keeps the suspense riding high

An Interview With : Gavin Whyte

 
 
1. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
 
I really wanted to write a fable that would encourage people to dream, regardless of their age. I am a firm believer that we can achieve anything that we put our minds to. Many of us don’t strive to better ourselves because we doubt our own potential to achieve. We doubt our own unique existence and our one-off place in the world. I have witnessed firsthand that self-belief, determination, focused positive thinking, ambition, faith and a burning desire can bring about the results one asks for. The issue then arises, are you ready to receive what you asked for?
 
2. Do you have any advice for other writers?
 
If you want to be a writer then you have to write, but it’s important to find your passion. You have to find what makes you tick. And the only way to do that is to look at your interests and the books that you read. If you get absorbed in fantasy novels, then chances are you’re going to want to write your own style of fantasy novels. If you are passionate about yoga and well being, and find yourself engrossed in non-fiction self-help books, then follow your passion (which is connected so intimately to your heart) and bring your own unique experiences to that genre. It’s so important to follow your heart. It’s not always easy, but it’s the only way to be true to yourself – and to your readers. Another piece of advice is this: Tell the world that you are a writer. You obviously have to back this up with actually writing something, but the more people you tell, the easier it will be to perceive yourself as a writer. This then feeds your dream, your, self-belief, your determination, your faith, your passion, your tenacity . . . tell the world who you want to be! Then watch the world support you in making it a reality.

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