I am delighted to announce that fellow author and literary talkshow host, Etienne Gibbs, has invited me to feature as a guest speaker on his talkshow, In the Authors' Corner with Etienne. Please do join me if you can (for those that can't, I will at a later date, include a recording on my blog). So, if you can make it, it's airing live on Wednesday, 27th January, 2021 at 5pm GMT right here:
So... this is a late announcement, as I suffered a major bereavement in December, 2020, in addition to other personal issues. However, I am absolutely overjoyed to announce my recent success at the SABA 2020 International Book Awards in which my second book in The Eternal Trilogy, won the coveted Audience Vote for Best Fiction. This is such a huge honour and privilege, and I would like to thank all my readers for their ongoing support and for voting for me!
I am excited to announce that REAWAKENED has been nominated for the 2020 SABA Book Awards in the Best Fiction Author category! Please consider supporting me by purchasing a ticket for the Awards Ceremony (online live stream) on Saturday, 5th December, 2020, and then casting your vote for REAWAKENED. Tickets are heavily discounted and can be purchased here:
To cast your vote, a ticket must be purchased first. You can vote here:
Best 'Author - Fiction'
Many thanks for your support! 🙏🏽💖😊
Oftentimes, at times of heightened emotion, we produce our best work; the energy from those emotions can pour out into your writing, creating something beautiful and authentic, with the bonus of benefitting from a truly cathartic experience. So my advice is - if your head is in the game (sometimes mine is not), channel that extra energy into your writing!
One of the most cardinal rules in writing is to avoid cliché; if I began a book with such an opener, I would immediately stop reading - unless it were a statement inserted for dramatic irony! When writing, you need to find your own voice, not parrot someone else's - or worse - use a glib and clichéd expression! Taking for example, the sentence below, you would need to find a different mode of expression: show, don't tell! So perhaps, instead of, “It was a dark and stormy night,” try something different: “A veil of Stygian darkness enveloped the land, punctuated only by the roar of thunder and piercing bursts of bluish-white lightning bolts.”
Use your imagination to create your reality, paint a picture with your words - and make it exciting, particularly when penning your opening line!
Guest Post from Sam, Co-owner of Eagle Mill Country Boutique Rooms, Houghton Hill, Huntingdon, PE28 2BS
The Eagle Mill played host to a lavish film shoot by local Young Adult Fantasy author, Denise Dowdell-Stent. Whilst scouting for the perfect interior (and some exterior) locations, Denise, upon viewing our premises, said, "this is absolutely gorgeous, just what we're looking for."
The film shoot was for the production of two book trailers to promote the second and third installments of Denise's Eternal Trilogy. Denise filmed her first trailer in 2012, and felt that it was time to complete the collection. The Eternal Trilogy focuses on young female protagonist, Vala Pendragon, descendant of King Arthur - and - unbeknownst to her at the story's beginning, she is also part Fae, possessing a wealth of untapped magical abilities. With the help of a beautiful Fae boy, Elvar Oakley, she discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. Eternal at it's core, is a voyage of discovery, growing up, love, family and friendship, as Vala - with her family and friends - face and conquer peril and evil together, proving that love really does conquer all.
Throughout the trilogy, there is distinct Arthurian vein connecting to the folklore of King Arthur that we are all familiar with, but with an original twist.
For the subsequent trailers, Denise used the Hemingford and the Wyton rooms, chosen she said, "for their opulent, yet understated glamour, and generous space." The versatility of the Hemingford room lended itself perfectly to depict three separate settings: Vala and Elvar's bedroom, Jelly and Max's bedroom, and Lann's interdimensional experience! In contrast, the homely Wyton provided the setting for Vala's famous healing scene.
The gardens themselves provided a bucolic backdrop for a number of exterior scenes, including several with the great and powerful Merlin! And in contrast, a more tender moment between our two protagonists, Vala and Elvar.
Denise also commented that, "Sam really went the extra mile to accommodate us - a 17 strong cast and crew! - making us all feel at home and generously giving us the space we needed to film. Bella, Sam's dog, is also a true star - couldn't have got through the experience without her! Oh - and Sam's breakfasts are the best - great soda bread!"
All-in-all, it was a great project to be a part of and I wish Denise every success.
Scenes from dress rehearsals:
'Reawakened', my second book in the Eternal Trilogy, is now available from Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.
To celebrate its launch, I am offering one lucky reader the opportunity to have their name in print in 'Foretold', the final installment of the Eternal Trilogy.
To be in with a chance to be featured on the acknowledgements page of 'Foretold', win a copy of my new novel, 'Reawakened' and a £/$25 Amazon gift voucher, you will need to do the following: suggest a name for a key male fae character to be featured in Book 3, 'Foretold'. Protagonist or antagonist? That one's a little complicated, so I can't really say ... However, the winning entry will receive all of the above and see their character's name in print! Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on Eternaluk.com
For more information on 'Eternal' and my new book, 'Reawakened', go to:
Closing date for entries is 24th December ⛄. Good Luck !
Below is a poem I wrote during another play session with Rory's Storycubes! If ever stuck for creative inspiration, have a go - I highly recommend it!
Sleeping – yet eyes tracking
An imaginary foe – or is it?
A scuttling; dark, foreboding.
Yet like a magnet
Draws me in
A scratch on my foot
A silent scream escapes my lips
A scarab, black as the night
Beckons me to follow.
Ahead is a door – simple oak
Yet something about it ...
An arrow on the floor
To the wall – I tentatively touch
Crumbling mortar gathers at my feet.
The brick is gone.
I peer within
A chasm of blackness
A voracious mouth
Yet my hand reaches in.
A yellow envelope.
Within it, a key.
Within my grasp
I carry my freedom
Turning the key
I open the door;
The night stretches ahead
The howling moon high.
I bound into the
Forest of fear
My fur flying free.
The cold air
Licking at my gums.
I stalk towards it.
The tower awaits.
The most fundamental piece of advice, and a realisation I have learnt through experience, is to trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, stay away from it!
My first big mistake was approaching a number of UK literary agents, before my manuscript was completed and before I had done any groundwork and preparation into what I should present to them. This resulted in numerous rejections before I had barely begun. My second, most costly mistake, was employing the services of a company that claimed to critique the first three chapters of a manuscript and help to prepare a perfect package to present to literary agents. They took a large amount of money for their services for very little return. These experiences were both very disheartening and detrimental to my already meagre bank balance. But as with any adversity in life, one can lie down and give up or dust yourself off and carry on.
I would definitely advise spending money wisely on a reputable professional editorial and marketing service such as Standoutbooks; they will perfect your book and help it achieve the prominence it deserves. This is not an area to scrimp on – there are far too many badly edited books out there (in fact, I wonder if some of them have been edited or proofread at all). This does not present a professional package; it is immensely irritating to read a book riddled with errors, many of which include bad grammar and avoidable typos. Content editing can be expensive so if professional services are out of the question, find someone knowledgeable and whom you can trust to do a meticulous, thorough job. In my case, my first three chapters were critiqued by a company providing editorial services; I took on board the comments I felt had some validity and dismissed those that did not. After this, my husband proofread my manuscript. However, it was not until I employed the services of Bronwyn and Alex Hemus at Standoutbooks (http://www.standoutbooks.co.uk/), and had my first three chapters content edited by Bronwyn, that I realised that the rest of my novel needed a much more comprehensive edit. Unfortunately, my finances did not permit me to have this done professionally so my father took on the job of content editing my manuscript. As before, I took on board all the suggestions made, which not only involved corrections, but also shortening certain scenes and adding some scenes and paragraphs.
Following this, both myself and my father repeated this process twice – I then submitted my manuscript to Bronwyn for a professional proofread – I once again made corrections, my father and I read through it making further corrections, and then Bronwyn checked it again before it was finally ready. So, even if not using professional content editing, save the pennies for professional proofreading.
A solid marketing strategy is fundamental, so explore the possibilities and utilise what feels right for you. Writing is a creative endeavour but to sell your book it also important to treat it like a business venture. I have a website www.eternaluk.com which features information on my book and myself, a photo gallery, trailers, a blog, a newsletter, sample chapter downloads, a media kit and links to retailers selling Eternal. I also use Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Pinterest. Guest blogs on literary sites and reviews for your novel also garner much more publicity and exposure for your book. Additionally, I have a listing on http://findagoodbooktoread.com/fiction-book-list.php, author interviews, guest blogs and hopefully a forthcoming professional book review.
Especially important if selling on Amazon is to obtain a few positive reviews – this will help to improve your ranking and potential future sales.
Writing is my passion and provides an escape route from real life allowing me to indulge in my imagination and fantasies. When I am writing, I am living vicariously through my female protagonist, feeling her emotions and thoughts. I believe this really helps create an authenticity and realism that would not otherwise be there. However, although I find writing provides solace, it can also be quite isolating at times; this is part of the reason I enjoyed making my trailer – it was a wonderful experience to work with others who shared my vision and we had a lovely camaraderie between us.
However, one more essential that should be implemented is a professional, beautifully presented website. For me, the trailers were also imperative as they provide a visual representation of my book and allow readers to experience the world I have created in my novel.
Another author gave me a great piece of advice: your family and friends are your greatest asset. Friends and family provide a great network of support and offer great scope for future sales as they are more vociferous in helping to promote your book through writing informative reviews and spreading the words to their friends, who in turn will hopefully tell other friends and so on.
One final word: establish a good support network. A life/work balance is important so spend time with family and friends and enlist their help.
I apologise for the lateness of this month's blog post; I, in fact, my whole family have suffered the tragic loss of my beloved Aunty Elaine: beautiful, kind, generous, fiercely intelligent, vivacious and courageous to her very last breath; she was the epitome of Carpe Diem and an inspiration to us all. I miss her so much already that it physically hurts. The painting above is of Elaine, painted by my father, Robert.
It is to Elaine that I dedicate this post, generously contributed by my hugely talented son, Andrew. It is a tale of love and loss, but ultimately, the eternal and unbreakable bonds we share with the truly special people in our lives. Enjoy!
Revolution of Love, Part 1: Béatitude
by Andrew Dowdell-Stent
A young man in his twenties with blonde hair walks through a portal and vanishes. He opens his eyes to see a beautiful field and a sign saying “Fraise Ville”. He looks behind, sees the portal and then presses the remote in his pocket – the portal vanishes.
Just behind where the portal was, there is a river. He walks along it to see a fallen tree. He sits down slowly. A sweet blonde girl then comes up to him and clasps his hand. Still holding on to his hand, she runs off and he runs with her. They run pass six conjoined houses and then in the distance they see two houses with a tall bush surrounding them both.
They rush into one of the houses and lean on the wall. They begin a sigh or relief but are cut off by hands bursting through the door trying to reach them.
They dash into the back garden and help each other over the fence into an adjacent garden. They knock on the back door hastily and two men open the door quickly and let the man and woman in. They then dash through the house and make it outside. The mob of people spot them and begin to chase after them.
The man and the woman escape but the two men who live in the other house are not so lucky. The man and the woman then race up to where the portal used to be, they hold each other’s hands. The woman is torn from the man’s grasp by two men and another man with a torch standing behind the two men. She quickly signals for the man to leave her but she shakes his head. She then kicks him with both feet and he falls backwards.
The button on the remote in his pocket is pressed as he falls back, the portal opens and he falls through it.
He falls back into his laboratory where he first created the portal device. The remote breaks and the portal steams and deactivates. He spends day and night relentlessly trying to repair it, spending every penny he has.
By the time he finally gets it working, it has been eighty years, his hair is grey and skin is wrinkled, but it is worth it. He presses the remote, the portal opens and he walks through it.
Intermission Poem: Blood That’s Scarlet, Heart That’s Black
All men have blood
All men have hearts
They’re both in the body
They’re both body parts.
All men have scarlet blood
But some men have a heart that’s black
And once you’re corrupted
There’s no turning back
It’s definitely not wise
It will lead to your demise
The good men have hearts that are red
Every man will one day be dead
For every man there is a day
Where you find a grave in which you’ll lay
The Revolution of Love, Part 2: Time Unwound
by Andrew Dowdell-Stent
He opens his eyes and sees a tattered unreadable signpost and singed soil in a humanoid shape. He walks along the river. He trips over, but he must continue. He gets up and hobbles along to the fallen tree: it is mossy and mostly withered away, but he sits down.
A ghost of the woman he once loved floats up to him. Slowly, he follows her to the house where they once hid. To their shock, they see nothing but a demolished wreck. So, they go the house owned by the two men.
He gives two frail knocks and opens the door. He sees the ghosts of the two men hovering before him. He walks slowly upstairs and lays in a dusty bed. Slower than before, he gets his remote out of his pocket. His hand goes limp. The remote falls. Smashed. His eyes begin to begin to close as he lays there in the dusty bed. Then, the ghost of the woman he once loved, the ghosts of the two men, and the ghost of himself when his youth, floats there and feels good!
For me, the key to making your characters believable is to care about them: invest in their lives as you would if they were your actual friends and family. Think about their hopes and aspirations, their deepest fears and insecurities, their strengths and weaknesses. This may sound a little off the wall but it does work.
When I started writing Eternal, the characters of Vala (my female protagonist), Elvar (my male protagonist) and Amalia (a fae spirit) formed almost instantaneously, with Jelly and Max (Vala’s friends) closely following. The characters took on a life of their own and the story just flowed.
Vala, my female protagonist, is ostensibly a younger version of myself, and Elvar, my male protagonist (and Vala’s love interest), possesses all the qualities of my ideal man. When I am writing, I am living vicariously through Vala, feeling her emotions and thoughts. I believe this really helps create an authenticity and realism that would not otherwise be there. Again, Vala’s relationship with her parents is similar to my own. However, her friends and the other characters are not directly based on real people – I just drew upon certain attributes and personality traits and the characters simply materialised; it was as though they already existed in some alter dimension, just waiting to be actualised as part of my story. The antagonist of Eternal, the Spindler, is an amalgamation of fear, nightmares, terror, and ancient evil, personified as a powerful adversary.
Because my female protagonist is essentially myself at seventeen, it is easy to cast my mind back to that time. Mentally and emotionally I still do not feel any older than I did at eighteen so this is not a difficult process for me. As the plot develops and a character is thrown into various situations, whether they be fantastical or ordinary, I imagine how I would respond and my character’s response reflects this. To do this it is imperative to completely immerse yourself in that character – shut out any external distractions, any unhelpful internal chatter – live and breathe what your character is experiencing – be in their world, not your own. Likewise with the other characters, if you have made them real, imagine how they would respond to your story’s scenarios and challenges – base this on their unique personas. It is paramount to give all characters, not just the protagonist(s) a background – a history; we are all a sum of our life experiences and genetic blueprint.
Another critical component to writing believable characters is their inter-personal relationships and interactions with the other characters. As I mentioned before, neither my male protagonist, Elvar, nor Vala’s friends are based on real people – however, I imagined them as though they were, giving them fully developed personalities and life histories. When they interact with each other, I am envisioning them as real people. As all dialogue is a written expression of your characters’ interactions, it is important to fully immerse yourself in the moment to make it real. With Eternal, Vala and Elvar’s relationship is woven into the central theme – the main essence of the story, so the believability factor truly determines the story’s success.
In my personal experience, developing the antagonist’s character, was a slightly different process. My antagonist’s provenance came from a piece of poetry I had written years earlier based on an early (and highly unpleasant) paranormal experience. The Spindler is an insidious, dangerous character – however, his conduct and speech patterns still reflect the fae world of which he is a part. He is much more of an enigma than the other characters as his origins are unknown so we do not, in the first instalment of my Eternal trilogy, find out his motivations and background. I believe a little mystery surrounding a character is absolutely fine – it creates intrigue as your reader will be itching to discover more.
To conclude, just write from the heart – whether you love or hate a character, it does not matter as long as you have a strong emotional response to them as indifference is a killer and will make your characters flat and dull, creating an uninspired story no matter how clever the plot. If your characters are believable, your story will come alive and be a delight to the reader.