I recently posted about the Waterstones Books Quarterly Short Story Competition with an amazing prize (please scroll down to archive to check out its details) and as I shared it out here for people to learn about it I also spread the word to the students I know at college who do a bit of creative writing as well. All who were told came back to me super happy that I had told them and made me feel deeply grateful at being able to provide them with this opportunity whereas otherwise they might not have found out.
Yet it ended abruptly when one student came to me as she had discovered a problem with it. She had wisely read the terms and conditions where it gave a contradicting statement to the one on the website.
One the website it said ‘as long as you’re over 16 you can enter’ yet in the term and conditions it said ‘entrants must be over 18 to enter and be accepted.’
This proved to be a dream shattering flaw for my students as most aren’t 18 and some have only just turned 17.
So I emailed the editor of Books Quarterly demanding to know they are misleading young writers on their website and haven’t corrected it to mirror the terms and conditions.
I suprisingly got a quick response from Ed Wood who explained that the 18 rule was brought in due to advice from their legal team who said that if a lucky under 18 year old writer won the competition than parental consent and guardian attendance and other child protection/safety rules would be needed to be applied due to the types of prize on offer (a meeting with a publisher and a place on an Arvon writing course).
Yet Ed was deeply sympathetic and understanding towards the new plight against my young writers and so offered to be contacted by those students who had any questions to do with writing and the publishing industry.
I explained all this to my students who were sad they couldn’t enter the competition but equally delighted that they now had a valuable contact to question.
So through the power of my complaint my writing students didn’t get chance to win a major prize but Ed provided them with the next best thing – an insight into how the writing and publishing industry works which I’m sure will prove invaluable to them.
Now in my last post (discussing the response from potential readers regarding my developing novel title and tagline now greatly improved due to this interaction so early in the writing process) I have now I think completed the next challenge which was writing some kind of blurb/briefing to easily explain what type of novel it was and summarising the plot into a hooker for readers. It is now available in it’s own page section (please see top of blog) but here it is again (any comments on it would be greatly appreciated):
Title: At present ‘Valkyrian Ventures’ but it will change - Still to be decided as to what – depends on potential reader input on vote.
Genre: Magic Realism/Urban Fantasy (where magic/supernatural forces are involved in the unknowing modern world)
Current Length: 3 Chapters (currently drafts) and growing.
Cover tagline: “There are more than Angels and Devils after your soul.”
In present day York in North Yorkshire a group of women go about their work – collecting souls of the dead. But they are not God’s Angels – at least not of the Christian God divinity. These women are Valkyries, who used to select the slain warriors after battle in order to increase the undead army of Odin, Ruler of the Aesir. The Old Pagan Gods of the Vikings.
Through the centuries strength and faith in this religion has faded but not entirely. Even today there are those in the old Viking homelands of Denmark, Norway and Sweden who still follow in the ways of their ancestors.
Yet this old faith operates more like a business, it has had to change it’s ways and methods in order to survive in a world where increasing numbers no longer believe in divine influences or are squabbled over endlessly by the growing conflict between Christianity and Islam. Not to mention that hardly anyone dies by the sword anymore with the development in science and technology.
One such Valkyrie, Jennifer Wallace, is a perfect example of this new adaptation of this old religion. As she is a fairly modern 20th Century girl having only departed the living world in early 2000. She has managed to adjust to the strict way of life Valkyries must live in order to work amongst the living and the dead – not to mention the other supernatural and holy forces which are after their dead ‘clients’ for other purposes.
Yet Jenny thinks she has the afterlife all worked out until her mentor and fellow Valkyrie Katherine is vanquished in disturbing circumstances and a chance encouter with a pair of mortals, brother and sister Chloe and Nathan (who is blind with Odin’s Sight) thrusts Jenny into the intricate secrets and agendas of the Aesir Gods.
Before she is prepared for her new role, truths are shattered, dark secrets are discovered and she is made to realise that there is more than Death that entwines the lives of those in the world of the living and the afterlife.
Since writing the blurb and brief I’ve spurred myself on to continue writing Chapter 4 – Know Thy Enemy which is nearly half way now although having reviewed my rough plot plan for this individual chapter I may well have to split it into to two and continue it in Chapter 5. But here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve recently added to it since the last sneak peak at this chapter. *Remember you can still vote and help me decide a working title – just go to the poll at the top of the blog – all votes are greatly appreciated and welcomed*
Half dead were words that suited Hel’s complexion for it was more subtle than the obvious difference between her hands and arms. She didn’t have the half skull face I’d imagined but in a way I was relieved to see she had a whole face. She did look quite deceased through the pale blue and bone white tones to her skin, patches of wrinkled mouldy skin, her torn ears and cut lips. But it was her eyes that were more striking and in the complete opposite manner to Freya’s. The skin all around the sockets had shrunk and become taught revealing a black ring of space around her eyeballs, making them appear to be on the verge of popping out at any moment. The eyes themselves were like mini moons, chalk white unlike the fog whiteness of the blind.
My heart stopped for the second time when I saw her smile, revealing broken and missing teeth in a small black pit. Hel’s two magpies had recovered also and were cackling at the miserable soul trapped in her bone grasp.
“Tell me your name.” She spoke, the voice of an aged crone creeping into the darkness.
The soul girl sobbed before muttering, “Sophie.”
“Sophie.” Hel’s smile changed to hide her teeth. With a wave of her hand she silenced her bird companions. “How would you like to live forever young? Just as you was when you died?”
“Will I see Mummy and Daddy?”
“Yes Sophie. You will see your parents again. Would you like that?”
The poor soul nodded.
“Come to me then Sophie, I will grant your wish.”
I wanted to stop her, to prevent what I knew was about to happen but I could feel the protective hands of Geirölul on my shoulder, the shake of her head told me she knew what I was feeling. So I watched on, helpless as the soul of Sophie cautiously stepped forward and was lifted up onto Hel’s robed lap by the same hands that had picked her from the jar and held her close. Hel cradled Sophie’s head in her hands and lent forward as if to kiss her on the forehead but it was a kiss that lasted longer than any true kiss of affection should. Once Hel’s lips made contact with Sophie’s essence she was sucked up, like a grotesque milkshake through a straw. The soul’s glow went into Hel’s mouth and shone out from behind her eyes. It then turned red and spread all over Hel’s face. When it vanished a few seconds later she was transformed. Her skin was young and well toned, her teeth were all visible and clean and her eyes were a startling emerald green. She smiled a beautiful and cruel smile like a snake about to strike. I had witnessed a beast becoming a beauty.