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Retreat Blog

The latest in what's interesting

Guest author: Nemma Wollenfang and Masked Hearts

August 18, 2016
Today Nemma Wollenfang, a previous winner of Retreat West’s First Chapter Competition, is here as a guest author to talk about ‘Masked Hearts’ – a sweet fantasy romance anthology recently released by Roane Publishing which includes her newest novella, Dragon Law, alongside four other fantasy tales from other authors. It’s about, as you’ve probably guessed, dragons! Which don’t tend to appear very often on the Retreat West blog!   Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath. For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair.     Here is what she has to say about it: ‘The original call for Masked Hearts asked for stories to go along with the book’s beautiful cover image. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to write something. Already a plot had started to unravel in my head. You know the way a story grips you and you can’t let it go? Well, that’s what happened. It was going to be about a girl and a dragon and a knight… but not in the traditional sense. I wanted to rewrite the classic knight-in-shinning-armour-saves-damsel-in-distress trope with a brand new twist, I wanted to create a tale where the princess does not get saved in the way she expects. Dragon Law is what I came up with. For those of you who fancy taking a look, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for having me, Retreat West!’   Here is an excerpt: Her eyes whipped to the cavern opening… nothing but blackness, then… a rumble, quiet at first. One, then another. The ground shook until each rumble became a boom. Tiny pebbles quaked, Draxa’s breathing shallowed. Could she see something there? Uncoiling in the darkness? Something vast and powerful and deadly? “The flag, you fool!” the high priest commanded, flapping his arm at another guard. “Put up the flag!” No sooner had he spoken than a white flag rose up, waving about. Andre’s mien had grown stony now and tense. Ready to fight, ready to protect. Draxa wanted to reach out, to take his hand, even in view of the priest and guards. But that would not help him fight so she stayed the urge, clasping her hands together beneath her red robe. Then, as if some ghastly apparition from her most terrifying nightmares had come to life, a gigantic form slithered from the shadows, larger even than any of her imaginings. Oh, sweet heavens… Sharp black horns jutted back on his

June 2016 First Chapter Comp Longlist

August 11, 2016
Many thanks to everyone that entered the June 2016 First Chapter Competition. Over 100 chapters have been read and we now have a longlist. All stories are read anonymously until the shortlist is decided so if your story is listed below then please don’t let us know which one it is! Well done to everyone on this list and good luck for the next round of judging. The shortlist will be announced later in August and the 10 stories that make it through will be passed to Jenny Savill to read. If you didn’t make this time, then go edit and polish and you’ll have another chance to get agent feedback in the December First Chapter competition. The judge this time is Sam Copeland, Literary Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White whose list includes many prize-winning authors. The June 2016 First Chapter Competition Longlist (in alphabetical order) A Policy on Kissing Birdwatching the Erinyes Broken Chord Grave Girls Jude Kissing Him Goodbye Love Refugee Mum’s Mistakes My Summer as Britannia Once a Happy Boy Refuge Rubble Secondhand Start Wearing Purple for Me Now Tear Gently The Chanteuse from Cape Town The Cold Benguela The Distance Between You and Me The Flesh The Haunted Tide The Lens You Look Through The Rosedale Miracle The Tin Sarcophagus The Uganda Sails Wednesday The Way Back The Zac Scaramouche Fan Club

Author Interview: Claire King and Everything Love Is

July 28, 2016
Happy publication day to Claire King for her wonderful new novel, Everything Love Is. I loved this book. It made me laugh, cry and think about it for days after it ended.  So I’m delighted to have had the chance to ask Claire some probing questions about it… Claire, thanks for coming. Love and memory and how the two are intertwined is a strong theme in the book. Can you tell us what made you want to explore this? When I originally started writing this novel the predominant theme was happiness; what we think it is and the ways we try and achieve it. When I think of my own day-to-day happiness, it depends not only on the present, but also on the future…and on my past. Certain aspects of the past have the power to make us happy (or unhappy) in the present, both consciously and subconsciously, and this is where memory started to come into play. Also photographs, which crop up several times in the book. Love too, of course, is strongly linked to happiness in our society. We are led to believe that love can make us joyful and fulfilled: our search for it (in whatever form that takes) and our success in finding and keeping our ‘Happily Ever After’ strongly influences how happy we consider out past, present and future to be. connection of these two elements – memory and love – to happiness began to shape the story and its characters. As the story grew, they became more and more inseparable. Your main character Baptiste is a lonely man dwelling in his memories rather than living in the present day and too scared to take action to make his life happier. How did you find your way into his character when he is so closed off emotionally? It took me so long to write this book. Baptiste was such an elusive character and my first attempts at writing him were most unsatisfactory. I tried rewriting his sections using present tense, which was disastrous, and I tried changing them from first person to third and quickly went back to first again. I began to suspect that the reason he was hard to get to know was that he didn’t really know himself that well, and ultimately the trick to getting under his skin was putting him into a variety of situations with different people, seeing how he behaved there, and then asking myself why. Some of these stayed in the book. Others are now consigned to untold backstory. Baptiste is someone whose decisions in the present are strongly rooted in the unfinished business of the past, and his relationship with his parents was a particularly important one to explore. Although she doesn’t appear too often throughout the story, Baptiste’s mother – a quiet but wise character – is present at pivotal moments and became one of my favourite characters in the book. What inspired you to set Baptiste’s story against the backdrop of political unrest in

Win a place on the 8 Month Novel Course

July 27, 2016
The next 8 Month Novel Course starts on 22nd October 2016. It’s a mix of creative writing course through exercises and readings, 1-1 mentoring and by the end you’ll have a short first draft to go away and work with, along with an editorial report to help you develop it. The course is for a maximum of 5 writers to work together at a time. You can get the full info on it here. You can win one of the places on the course by entering the competition – all you need to do is pay the competition entry fee and submit up to 500 words pitching you and your story idea and why you’d like to do the course. Full T&Cs below. A winner will be chosen from all entries received by the closing date and will get to join the online, collaborative course in October. Competition T&Cs You can enter as many times as you like with different novel ideas but must submit them separately and pay the competition entry fee of £10 each time All entries must be written in English and received by 23.59 on 28th August 2016 The prize is a free place on the 8 Month Novel Course starting 22nd October 2016 and it is not transferable and there is no cash alternative By entering the competition you agree to take part in the course if you win and to having your details announced on the website Enter using the button below

Results: Win a place at the self-edit retreat comp

July 26, 2016
Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in November. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries and I’m delighted to announce that the winner is…Justine Kilkerr for her 500 word novel opening written to the prompt ‘A holiday at the beach’, entitled Sea Fret (read it below). Congratulations Justine. A beautiful piece of writing that immediately drew me in and left me wanting more. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat. Well done to all on the shortlist as well. Some great responses to the prompt and strong writing. Sea Fret It was a day muted by mist, unlike the sweltering days before, the morning she found the beached dolphin rolling in the surf and decided she would never go back. Kittiwakes ghosted above her on the updrafts, patrolling the crumbling cliff face. She watched a gannet hurl itself, bullet-quick, arrow-sharp, into the waves. It few underwater for a while, zigzagging after fsh, then bobbed to the surface like a cork and launched itself into the sky. She held the stone and traced its knuckled edges with a sandy thumb. It was the size of an apple and nestled, warming, in her balled fst. Her bare toes had found the ammonite in the sand as she had walked naked into the waves hours before, intent on never coming out. She allowed herself a smile that felt like a gift. Strange, how high and happy the morning had felt when she decided to walk into the ocean and not come out again. How simple this day had seemed then. But she had hissed at the pain in her stubbed toes and somehow forgotten her long-planned march into the waves. She had bent instead to scrape at the sand. The fossil came up in her cold fingers, its stone curves cradling millennia, and something had changed. She had put the stone to her lips, licked the salt and turned back to the beach, paddling herself through the water with her hands. Had struggled, shivering, into her shorts, damp T-shirt, jacket. Had walked towards the cliff along a high water line sketched out in black seaweed and broken shells, until she noticed the humped side of the dolphin, moving back and forth as the waves nudged it, gently, gently. The dolphin was dead. The beach lay heavy beneath its grey body and she sat down cross-legged on the wet sand there and hugged herself. The taste of brine on her tongue. The whispering of the waves. The animal gone into itself. She sat a while, she didn’t know how long. I will never go back. The road out was flooded. It was a spring tide, after all, and the tarmac held its breath below the milk-pale water; she couldn’t go back if she wanted to. Which she didn’t. Which meant that they would be coming to look for her as soon as the waters receded. She would not wait for them to come. So