Friday, February 28, 2014

dEaDINBURGH: An Interview with Zombie Writer Mark Wilson

Let's face it: zombies are everywhere. From scary shows like The Walking Dead to bestselling novels like World War Z by Max Brooks, the smelly, limping, moaning popularity of the undead is undeniable. What makes them so popular in today's culture? Is it the survival aspect of the end-of-the-world scenario? Is it the creepiness of dead people searching for a human appetizer? Is it just a fad? I don't know. I may never have the answer, but Mark Wilson knows exactly why he chose to write about zombies. Mark is the author of the upcoming YA Dystopian novel dEaDINBURGH.  It's releasing March 10th, 2014, via his own publishing house, Paddy's Daddy Publishing. I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Mark about zombies, writing and what it's like living in Edinburgh - a place that is currently lacking zombies. But you never know what tomorrow may bring. 

Welcome, Mark! Let's start things off with the obvious question: Why zombies? 
I wanted to write a book that gave the reader a sense of being trapped. Edinburgh, with its narrow, cobbled streets and threatening buildings, was the perfect setting for this. I’d been reading a lot of Jonathan Maberry, particularly his excellent Rot & Ruin series, and I guess that zombies just seemed the logical plot mechanism with which to seal the city and challenge my main protagonists.

Writing about a dystopian city filled with the hungry-dead is also a great catalyst to explore the duality of human nature. I was able to place my characters in a range of situations and challenges and drag their emotions through a whole spectrum of extremes as a result. The absolute heart of any story (for me) is the human responses and development of the people who populate it. I approach every book with this at the forefront.  Why zombies? ‘Cos they let me put my main characters through the wringer.

Sum up dEaDINBURGH for my readers. 

dEaDINBURGH tells the story of two teens who were born in a quarantined city and know no other life. Despite their surroundings, the lack of electricity or any communication with the outside world, they are both vibrant, determined and above all, they are both fighters.  The city is filled with the living dead, but these kids don’t just exist, they truly live life in a way that the former residents of the city never did.

You teach biology at a school in Edinburgh - and you also own Paddy Daddy's Publishing. I'm impressed! Why did you decide to start up your own publishing company? 

I spend all of my spare time outside of school with my children who are both under five years old. When they go to bed, I write and run my wee company. I started the company with aim of giving representation to those authors whose books I love but aren’t deemed commercial enough for large publishing house.
PDP puts great storytelling and great stories before marketability. There’s a growing need to represent a large group of authors who are writing fantastic books but can’t bring them to market or make them discoverable to a wider audience, either because they lack the technical skills or the contacts. This is what the company exists to do.

It is an absolute pleasure to represent these author’s work and one I never take lightly. Being trusted to produce a project that a writer has spent months or even years working on is a big responsibility but it’s also tremendously exciting.
I won’t lie to you, I don’t sleep much but working hard at something you love so much is very rewarding despite the hard schedule. I’m very lucky in that I love being a teacher and a writer and a publisher equally. How many people are lucky enough to find one job they love and get to do it every day, never mind three?

Describe life in Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh is a stunningly beautiful city to live in. With its crypts, dungeons, cobbles and gothic buildings and alleys, Edinburgh is also one of the most atmospheric cities in the world to set a book in. It’s also Scotland’s most cosmopolitan city, with thousands of tourists visiting or working in the city.

Most of my earlier books, I’ve deliberately set in the very small Scottish town I grew up in. With dEaDINBURGH, I’ve used my new home-city. As part of the process I walked the city, deliberately scanning the locations I’d written about in the book. It rained the whole day and was one of the coldest days of the year. My friend, Paul McGuigan is a photographer and took some amazing images for me to use on our walk, which you can find on the dEaDINBURGH website. I also used one of Paul’s shots as a cover image.

You've published two books before dEaDINBURGH: Bobby's Boy and Naebody's Hero. How different are they than the YA Dystopian genre that you're writing now? 

Bobby’s Boy was my first book and very Scottish in nature, in that the language and violence is fairly strong, as reflects the area the book is set in. It’s a very gritty book but ultimately it’s a love-letter to my hometown.

Naebody’s Hero was my first dip into the YA genre and really developed my skills as a writer as I used three main characters and had to develop different voices for each of their narratives. The book does well in the UK, but the US market hates that book. The first time I felt like a good writer was on completing that book.
I wrote a novella titled Head Boy last year, which is a very dark story about a schoolboy serial-killer. I got to indulge my dark side writing Head Boy.

With this background, dEaDINBURGH has been a big change for me. I loved writing the new book and have gone straight into the second volume whilst the first is being edited.  I have to say that with the exception of Naebody’s Hero, I wouldn’t recommend my other books to a YA readership.

What inspired dEaDINBURGH? How long did it take you to write the book? 
I’d had the desire to set a book in Edinburgh for a while but hadn’t really felt that the city was right for any of my stories to that point. I’d been writing another book, titled The Man Who Sold His Son and had produced fifteen thousand words, when the idea that would become dEaDINBURGH began itching my brain. I sat and did an outline for all three books that evening and twenty-one days later a first draft of book one was complete.

I don’t normally write that quickly, normally I take around three months per novel but this book just flowed.

Any advice to writers that are trying to make it in the dystopian or post-apocalyptic realms? 
As I’m new to the genre I really don’t feel qualified give advice specific to the genre. What I will say is that I never worry about what genre I’m writing for. I simply go with the story I have and worry about what type of genre it falls into when I’m more than half-way through and it has become apparent what kind of tale it is. For me, if I set out with a particular market in mind, I feel as though I lose any spontaneity or miss out on interesting diversion in the story by trying to make it fit in a box.

Thank you so much for your time, Mark! Best of luck to you! 

Thanks Summer. It’s an absolute pleasure.

About the Author 

Mark Wilson is married father of two, born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire and currently living in Edinburgh with his wife, their son, Patrick and baby daughter, Cara.
Mark left Bellshill Academy in 1991, qualification-free. And worked his way through a huge number of jobs including, window-cleaner, delivery driver, Levi's salesman, microbiologist and cinema usher.

Mark returned to full time education nine years later, earning his Highers and a degree in micro-biology before entering teaching.
Mark currently teaches Biology in a Fife secondary school and is founder of Paddy's Daddy Publishing, a company he set up to assist Scottish authors. He writes in his spare time, in lieu of sleep.

As well as his autobiography, Paddy's Daddy, Mark is the author of three fiction novels. Bobby's Boy, Head Boy and the bestselling Naebody's Hero. His novels have been well received and feature Scottish characters. Mark has seven other books in progress. Somebody's Hero (sequel to Naebody's Hero), Prophets (an irreverent look at the return of Moses and Jesus), ML4 (a YA time-travel novel), dEaDINBURGH (a YA zombie thriller trilogy set in a quarantined city) and the thriller, The Man Who Sold His Son.
Mark is also co-founder of Paddy's Daddy Publishing
You can visit Mark at or
You can also connect with Mark on twitter: @markwilsonbooks

Monday, February 24, 2014

Writer's Notebook: Cause and Effect

Sometimes I find that the best inspiration for Writing Belle comes from children! When I teach, I always go back to the basics of writing. Once you understand the core mechanics of stories and writing, you can do anything. So today I'm looking at the Cause and Effect format. Basically, it works like this: 
Cause: I'm hungry. 
Effect: I go make myself a sandwich. 
Yes, it's simple. But simplicity is always best. 
Another example? 
Cause: I dropped a glass vase. 
Effect: It shattered when it hit the floor. 
And, being the imaginative people that we are, we can also assume that once the vase hit the floor, the glass shattering wasn't the only effect. Somebody will have to clean it up. You'll have to put on shoes (you don't want to get glass in your bare foot!) and you'll have to take the glass to the trash can. Somebody might get in trouble for breaking the glass, which might make somebody else cry. Like dropping a rock into a pool of water, the ripples will spread far and wide. Every cause has a corresponding effect. And when we write, correlating these points of change is a great way to add quality and depth to our stories. 

The effects of a single action are often what kickstart novels. In my book, State of Emergency, the "cause" is an electromagnetic pulse. Its effects are devastating, and each effect has an impact on every individual in my story. In Divergent, by Veronica Roth, Tris's adventures are the direct after-effects of the fact that she doesn't fit into any one faction of society. "They call it Divergent," as Kate Winslet says in the commercial. Creating a strong cause and effect situation for your characters is one of the best ways to write a story. Rather than having a character simply start her adventure randomly, give he or she a reason. In Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry, Benny Imura and his friends travel across the zombie-infested ruins of the United States because they saw an airplane. Not because they just wanted to go on a really long hike. But because they wanted to know if the airplane would lead to civilization, a better life and safety. And those are good reasons. 

To sum everything up, I've been giving some good thought to the cause and effect format lately, especially as I've been writing the fourth installment in The Collapse Series. You might find it helpful to do the same!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How To: Editing Tips & Tricks

Any writer will tell you that the real challenge of writing a book is not necessarily penning the first draft - it's editing it. You see, the truth about writing is that we as authors are professional re-writers. We write books. And then we revise them. And revise them again. And revise them some more. We do this not just because there is no such thing as a perfect first draft, but because that's how it is when you're working in publishing. Over the years, I've noticed an editing pattern when it comes to writing and publishing a book. There are certain things that are always done between writing the first draft and the last. Here's a peek into how it works: 

  • Write draft one. The primary job of any author is to write that book! During this stage, it is your duty to let the creativity flow. Write whatever your imagination tells you. But as you progress in your career, you will find yourself catching your own mistakes as you go - self-editing, I like to call it. It's an awareness of repeating words or phrases over and over again, and watching for grammar as you're writing draft one. The more you write, the more you'll be able to catch. 
  • Say goodbye to draft one. Yes, sorry. It's a necessary farewell, trust me. Once you have completed a manuscript, it is highly helpful to set it aside for a bit before looking at it. I've said this many times in the past, but I'm saying it again: distance between you and your work will allow you to see it with fresh eyes later on. When I write a book, I hand it over to editors and let them pore over it for a month before I go back and try to fix anything. The separation allows me to see things clearer. 
  • Get out the red pen. Oh, the dreaded red pen. It's actually a positive thing, so don't look at it with fear. Go back over your draft and fearlessly pick it to pieces. I've done it many times. Makes notes, ask questions about the plot line, look for repeat words or phrases, check know the drill. Be tough on yourself - because nobody else is going to be easy on you, either. 
  • Do the drill. Most authors that I've known will tell you that their book went through about seven to eight drafts. Depending on the length of my book, I clock in at about the same, but there are certainly exceptions to that rule. If you're editing thoroughly, you'll probably end up at around the same number. 
  • Say hello to print. You will find things in a print copy that you're blind to in a digital copy. One of the final steps to publication - for me, at least - is printing out the manuscript. I will go through it with a highlighter - and so will everyone else. When that's done, I apply the changes to the book itself. 
  • Read it again! Oh, hey. You're not done yet. Order a printed proof of your book in book format. It's the final, ultimate test. If you've missed anything, you'll find it while you're reading through the book. Once you've corrected the proof, you've just finished the last draft! 
  • Publish it. You're done! Publish your glorious work of art for the entire world to enjoy. 
Like everything about writing, editing is just another aspect that takes a lot of work. And in many cases, a lot of patience. Take it from me. The best thing you can do is establish an editing routine. Routine and knowing what to expect helps take the mystery and frustration out of changing your work. It takes it from pure imagination to imaginative professionalism.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day? So Many Types of Love!

In the world of writing, love is a very strong theme. And I'm not talking about just romantic love. Love is, in my opinion, the most powerful driving force that a character can have. Love for a father, a sister, a brother, or even a place or an intangible feeling is often strong motivation for our characters. Hence, love is extremely powerful in writing. In The Hunger Games, it is Katniss's love for her sister that begins her adventures in the arena. Even in my own Collapse Series, it is Cassidy's love for her father and her freedom that eventually drives her to step up her game and fight back. This Valentine's Day, I'm setting aside the chocolate (for a minute, at least) and taking a look at the major types of literary love that we can find in the pages of our favorite books. 

  • Parent/child. Some people mistakenly believe that all love stories are between a boy and a girl. This is simply not so! Some of the greatest love stories of all time are those that show the relationship between a mother and daughter or father and daughter, etc. In The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare, Clary's unwavering love and devotion to her mother is the driving force throughout the novels. Her love for Jace is strong - but it's the mother/daughter bond that gives the story the power it needs to hit home. 
  • Friendship. The power of friendship is a type of love all in itself! I love books that draw on the power of friendship to bring the main characters through their trials. I think that Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin books do a great job of that, in addition to James Dashner's The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. The bond between friends is, many times, what keeps characters alive - and what makes you fall in love with them
  • Boy and girl. I had to mention it, because yes. It's kind of a big deal, like it or hate it, when it comes to literature. Love makes characters to crazy things. Come to think of it, love makes us do crazy things. But that's okay, because it's a great emotion to utilize in stories. My favorite romance stories include great classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Beauty and the Beast and so many more. I like deep love. Not instant love. Love that develops over time, that comes out of respect and understanding. Yes, I'm an old romantic, but you know what? Old romantics are what make the world go round! *wink* 
  •                                             An Idea.
    This is a huge one, and one that I think is vastly overlooked in many cases. The love of a way of life or an ideal can be a very strong motivator for characters. Take Saving Private Ryan, for example. Captain Miller's love - and his men's love -  for the American way of life are why they're overseas fighting in Europe in the first place. It drives them to do the right thing and yes - save Private Ryan.

Love isn't always what you think it is. It shows up in the most peculiar of places, and is often present in the most hopeless situations. In real life, it's what gets us through our worst days - and in the fictional realm, it does the same thing. It saves our characters! 

Happy Valentine's Day, folks!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Dead Girl Walking, by Ruth Silver

Title: Dead Girl Walking (Royal Reaper)
Author: Ruth Silver
Expected Publication: Summer 2014
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy
Cover Design: Erica Crouch
In 1346, Princess Ophelia Dacre sneaks out of the castle to visit her boyfriend in secret. A perfect night cut short when she’s brutally murdered.
Ophelia is given the rare chance to become a grim reaper. She must become Leila Bele, cut ties with her old life, and follow the rules of the reapers. Her greatest adventure begins with death.
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                "The scroll chose you. For whatever reason, she's your reap."
                "Well, that sucks." Leila chewed her bottom lip. "If I don't do it?"
                Edon hesitated before he said, "Her soul will rot inside her body. Do you have any idea what that’s like? She'll be a living corpse, a shell of a person. She won't feel anything including love. We as reapers, the undead, feel more than she ever will alive."
                Leila swallowed the lump in her throat. "How do you know that?"
                "Because I've seen what it does to a person," Edon said. "That little girl deserves better."
About the Author

Ruth Silver attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication in the spring of 2005.  While in college, she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, Deuces are Wild, which she self-published in 2004.  Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.  Her love of writing led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. 
Silver enjoys reading, photography, traveling and most of all writing.  She loves dystopian and fantasy young adult stories.  Her debut novel published by Lazy Day Publishing and Patchwork Press, ABERRANT, was released April 2013.  The second novel in the series, MOIRAI, continues the saga. ISAURA, is the final installment in the ABERRANT trilogy. Ruth has been actively writing since she was a teenager.  Her current writing projects include a YA science-fiction fantasy series, ORENDA, and a YA paranormal series, DEAD GIRL WALKING. Both novels are due for release in 2014. She currently resides in Plainfield, Illinois.
You can visit her online at her websitetwitterFacebook, and Amazon.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Release Day: The Dividing Line, by Victoria Smith

The Dividing Line

A new love and a new life.

Drake left Chicago with little more than the clothes on his back to be with his girlfriend Lacey. Though he has no regrets, he sometimes wonders if his time spent in Paris has put his life on hold. He’s overworked and underpaid at his dead-end job, and his employer sees him as expendable. His bright light at the end of the day is Lacey, but he finds himself slowly falling into the shadow of her newly-acquired fame. The city of love has found their new starlet in Lacey, but Drake is simply the man by her side.

With all good things there comes a price.

Lacey has been living the dream. She arrived in Paris with nothing but heartache and loss. Now, she’s the rising star of the city’s newest opera and dating the man of her dreams. When her performance contract is extended, she must decide if her new life of glitz and glam is what’s best for a future with the man she loves—or if it’s just what’s best for her.

Paris brought Drake and Lacey together. But when their hopes for the future begin taking them in different directions, they must a find common ground or risk a line dividing them that may prove to be insurmountable.

The Dividing Line is the sequel to the new adult multicultural romance The Space Between.

Author Bio:

Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the twenty-something characters she writes give her an earful about it.

In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, blogging, reading, and sending off a few tweets on Twitter when she can. She writes new adult fiction romance in the sub-genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, and contemporary, but really, anywhere her pen takes her she goes. She’s also co-founder of NA Alley, a group fiction blog dedicated toward the spread of the ‘new adult’ fiction category.

Stay connected with VictoriaH. Smith:

Purchasing Links:

The Space Between (Book #1)
Amazon and B&N 

The Dividing Line (Book#2) –
Amazon | B&N | Smashwords  | All Romance | Print 


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Congratulations, Victoria! :)