Author Interview: Curse of Stone by Nikki Lockwood

Interview with Nikki Lockwood – The Author of the ‘Curse of Stone’.

What inspired you to write this book?

This idea actually came to me in a dream that was persistent over several weeks. It was Gabriel’s character that was in the dream, and his brothers. Their curse and existence were intriguing and complex, and then when the girl came into the picture (in my dream) I knew there was a story to be told here.

Can you tell me about the book?

When a strange man starts following her, and weird things start occurring, she turns to her best friend, Jamie, who is secretly a werewolf and knows more than he is telling her.  

When the great-aunt appears, things start to spiral further into danger. Danielle doesn’t know that she is being hunted by an ancient demon, and minions of evil are coming for her.

Enter Gabriel. A cursed man – and a gargoyle, he is searching for his healer – the one human female destined to break his curse. He must find her before evil does.

It’s really the old tale of good versus evil, but they are racing against the clock.

What does the title mean?

Curse of Stone has a complex meaning. It relates to an actual curse that becomes known in the book. The curse is about three stones, hence curse of stone. Three stones, one of blood, one of light, and one bound. The one of blood is the healer or the main character, Danielle. The one of light is a precious gem (stone) not of earth’s realm and is the necklace mentioned in the book. The one bound that relates to the man cursed in stone – and the second male character, Gabriel, who is a gargoyle. To understand how they interrelate you’ll need to read the book.

Were the characters inspired by real people?

Yes and no. To be honest, the character of Jamie is based on a person I once knew (obviously not with the same name). But his personality is based on several people.

Gabriel is not based on a real person, but his mannerism and the way he carries himself was inspired by a real person.

The character of Radu is inspired by a legendary folk tale from an Eastern European country. Researching that legend was incredibly fascinating and brining him to life in a different way from his legends was extremely rewarding.

Do you have a favourite character in the book?

From the perspective of writing the characters, at the start it was Gabriel. However, after developing the characters in-depth, Jamie was my favourite character to write.

How many hours a day do you write?

On weekdays, I write on average between 6-9 hours a day. On the weekends is when I try to do my editing, reflection, proofreads, plotting, and character or storyline research.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

That I know my characters inside and out before they even get to the page. But from a technical viewpoint, when I am writing I cannot hold a conversation with anyone because my mind is so in the zone that I cannot focus on anything but the story in which I am telling.

What do you think comes first, the plot or characters?

It depends on whether you are writing a character-driven story or a plot-driven story. For me I would say even when a story idea strikes, I tend to focus on who the characters are that are carrying/telling the story, then I will plot out what I want to happen – however the characters can take the story away from the original plot as well, which isn’t a bad thing.

How do you develop your characters?

I love developing my characters, it is so much fun. For ‘Curse of Stone’ I created a character book that has each character’s biography, background, quirks, and storylines in it, as well as drawings or photos of physical features that I wanted for each. The book is about 100 pages long as it has characters in it that weren’t in the first book but will be arriving in either book 2 or 3.

My methods for character development are intense. I can tell you everything about them, most of which never hits the page. I do this because I want to have my characters authentically respond and react to situations, with language specific to them. I’m not going to give away all my secrets here.

How much world building did you do before writing this book?

Because it is set in a city, there wasn’t much world building to do. However, I did have to think about the layout and complexity of getting around the city to each location in the book. So, I guess I did a bit.

What was the hardest scene to write?

This is an interesting question. If I were answering this generically, it would be any intimate or lovey-dovey scenes because I get squeamish writing them. However, the hardest scene to write was the funeral scene and then the final chapters.

What surprised you the most while writing this book?

The character of Velkan. Originally, he was going to be the main character’s main love interest and then would form a love triangle with another, but as Jamie’s character voice became stronger and more complex, Velkan’s character became not what I had originally planned and that surprised me.

If your book was turned into a movie, what celebrities would play your characters?

To be honest, I have given this a bit of thought already – not saying that it would ever happen, but it’s fun to think about. If it were to be made into a movie, I wouldn’t want any well-known actors or actresses to portray my characters – unless it was a background character.

I have set people in mind for the main characters and even the additional characters. I won’t say anything more except that I saw them on Instagram.

Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?

When you are in the nitty gritty of writing your story, you are extremely focused, and it is mentally exhausting. Some days, when I have been writing since dawn, I am exhausted by three or five in the afternoon and literally cannot do anything else that would stimulate my brain. So, I watch a movie – one that I have seen before so I am not as interested.

I guess it’s important to keep good health, take moments to breath and take in your surroundings, eat good food, stay away from negative stimuli, believe in your story, practice your craft, and get a good night’s sleep – however that last one I cannot claim I do, as I suffer from insomnia and barely get 1-3 hours’ sleep a night.

Yes, so eat well, live well, take breaks, and sleep, because being mentally exhausted is just as taxing on the body as being physically exhausted.

How do you deal with reviews, do you read them?

I love reviews – good and bad. Critical reviews make writers better at their craft and I know that may not be a common opinion but who else can give you brutally honest feedback than a disgruntled reader. I haven’t received any negative feedback about ‘Curse of Stone’ yet but have received complimentary reviews so far.

What can we expect in book two of this series? Any snippets you can share about the future of the characters?

I have an array of wonderfully crafted new creatures to introduce. More plots twists. In book two, the readers will get to know Gabriel’s story more, as well as some of the other werewolves.

There will just be more explanation and the ‘why’ of certain characters.

The second book takes the characters out of the city of Estermoore and into different realms, so the world building for the second and third books is more elaborate.

I know those who have read the book are wondering what happens to Jamie, well, I have something lined up for his character – but I am not willing to give out any details yet.

What are you working on right now? Could you share any details with readers?

I have just finished the editing and publishing of an anthology of works by our local writers’ group. I have my non-fiction book coming out shortly about Africa, which I have been working on for the past five years.

I have finished a new standalone novel that is really cool, and I have several other manuscripts on the go.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

I am on Instagram @nikkinzwriter; Twitter @nikkinzwriter; Facebook @nikkilockwoodnz; and I also have a website and blog www.nikkilockwood.com. And yes, I will respond to legitimate comments and questions, not spam or irrelevant nonsense.

Curse of Stone‘ is available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.com.

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Book Review: National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places

National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places, published in 2014, is one of twenty non-fiction books written by Sarah Bartlett. Based in London, Bartlett is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2, has a Diploma in Psychological Astrology, and spent three years studying a range of fields including astrology and mythology.

In the book, Bartlett goes beyond identifying infamous haunted hotspots and tales of supernatural beings. It is clear she has done in-depth research in order to present all the facts to the reader – history of each; cross-references to various sources; and other literature that has been written due to each. Along with illustrations and photographs, this creates a convincing believability to each haunted location and the story behind the story.

At the beginning of the book, Bartlett gives a thorough introduction to the history of supernatural sightings. Her research has gone back thousands of years, from ancient times to modern-day, she provides continuing evidence of civilisations believing in the supernatural. This is critical to the book, as many of the ancient monuments mentioned in the book, their original purpose has been lost. Categorised by type of supernatural occurrence, the book then breaks each into geographic locations for easy reference.

One thing that struck me was her use of dramatic language to convey the grim and mystery when reading it – some of the stories gave me goosebumps. Every word leaves me on tenterhooks, terrified but wanting to finish reading, for example, ‘a bloodsucking woman will sniff you out and disembowel you’. Even with the use of dramatic language, the writing is tight and is direct. This makes it faster, and easier to read.

Reading this book gave me the notion that there must be a reason for a supernatural being to exist – there is always a back story. The why and how of how a person became supernatural or came to be. It brought a clearer perspective of the how and why of Gabriel and Jamie, who are two different supernatural beings – gargoyle and werewolf. For Gabriel, his back story needed to be focused and clear. He has been alive for millennia, but age is not an indicator as to the why he acts the way he does. Spending time working on his story, I was able to find the reason why he acts the way he does and gave him a ‘how he came to be’ story.

The back story is important for depth to a character but just as important as how it is told. In this book, Bartlett keeps it short and sharp; just enough detail to inform the reader not bore them. I went back to my own writing and rewrote the entire back story scenes, for instance, the book was going to start with Gran’s back story, her sighting, but from reading this book, it is now in chapter six, with snippets placed throughout interactions between Danielle and Gran.

Bartlett, S. (2014). National Geographic guide to the world’s supernatural places. Washington DC, USA: National Geographic Partners, LLC.

Short Story Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name for the American short story writer, William Sydney Porter, who was born in 1862.  His stories are well known for their surprise endings. This short story was originally published n Dec 10, 905 in The New York Sunday World, and was subsequently published in O. Henry’s 1906 short story collection The Four Million.

It falls into the genre of fictional short story as well as the sub-genre of dramatic irony.

Jim and Della Dillingham are a poor, young married couple who don’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents for each other. Both sell their prized possessions to pay for a gift for the other at Christmas time.

I like how O. Henry uses similes throughout the short story like when he compares Della’s hair to ‘rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters’. He does the same when he describes Jim as well, ‘as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail’. While some use of the language is hard to grasp understanding, I am sure for the places and time period it was written, it made perfect sense.

I liked how the reader learns a secret that the main characters are unaware of yet, it creates a unique personability towards the story, as a reader, I just wanted to tell them. I will be reading more of his works as to see how his famous pattern of surprise endings are worded and use that to help my own surprise endings.

Henry, O. (1906). The gift of the magi. Retrieved from https://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/GifMag.shtml

Book Review: The Time Road by Doug Wilson.

This is the second book in ‘The Changeling Warriors’ Trilogy. Doug further expands the adventure of Siobhan and Peter into further realms of fantasy and myth. The characters have grown and developed. Here we see them set off on a wild adventure to save Meriline, a druid, from evil, and they meet some colourful and beloved characters along their way. Robin Hood and a great Knight of old, a pirate captain, and many other characters.
I loved the concept of the ‘time road’ in this book. Walking a road back through time, and visiting different eras and the people within those realms, was really fantastic imagery. I loved the dragons, and goblins, bears, and vikings. It really was a fantastic book that kept me entertained and wanting to read more. 

Writers Block

I actually touched on writer’s block in my post ‘What makes you a writer? Self doubt and writing’, about how a blank page wasn’t a bad thing, but an opportunity.

Writers block is an interesting one for me, because I would say I am never sparse in ideas. I have to keep a journal because my ideas come at the weirdest times, and especially in my dreams. My dreams, about 2-3 times a week, are the most bizarre things ever, from waking up in cold sweats, scared, to my heart pounding in my chest at the happiness – it is utter madness. But in that respect, I never have writers block starting a new piece of writing because I turn back to my journals and expand on ideas. It’s a wonderful and kept very close to me – a great source of inspiration.

The part where I suffer writers block from is when getting into the nitty-gritty of a manuscript, and I have all the action scenes planned out, but those are what I call the ‘boring bits’ – the link scenes, I find my mind goes a wash with a blankness. It is like trying to find a pin in a haystack, near damn impossible. But I normally stare at my screen, scratch my head, check my phone, make some lunch/dinner, pay a bill, buy something online, then sit back down again. If that doesn’t work, I pause it all, leave my screen open where I stopped and do something else, normally read a story or watch a movie that gives me inspiration or ideas pop out from. Not the ideas from the film, but it might a line or the colour of a jacket, or a set of eyes, that triggers my brain back into gear.

If I am really stuck, I leave it for a few days, weeks, even months, until I can plan it out. Otherwise depending on my mood and other projects on the go (yes, I do always have several writing projects on the go), I may tackle it head on and brainstorm what it needs to lead to or what I want to happen, and that helps gives me slightly more direction. Sometimes I discover exactly what I was missing, the missing link.

Writers block can be both good and bad. One, it gives a writer the chance to reset or refresh – by the time they take from stepping away from a project and then coming back to it with a fresh mindset. Two, it can be very maddening because sometimes we have an idea but either don’t know how to convey it from our minds onto paper, or we don’t know where to start. Either way, don’t become angry or annoyed with yourself if your mind is blank or the words fail to pour from you – it is natural and not every artist is struck with brilliance every second of every day.

Flash Fiction Review: Chapter V – by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway sets the scene immediately with the first sentence being direct and descriptive – it sets the initial tone and feeling of the story. He then continues with four short sentences to really convey a sense of setting and the mood: “It was a glum day, dead leaves, puddles and rain, windows nailed shut, it’s all reiterating the feeling of gloom and despair.” – there is a coldness, lack of empathy or emotion.

For the flash fiction it has not been over described but rather exactly described without using too many words. I found that reading this it is clear that Hemingway wanted to convey a sense of gloom for the reader and focuses it around that. I feel a slight lift in the mood part way through, but that reaffirms the setting as described.  

Referencing:

Hemingway, E. (1925). Chapter V, in our time. Retrieved from https://biblioklept.org/2012/08/12/chapter-v-in-our-time-ernest-hemingway/

Comparative Poetry Analysis: Five Poems by different poets with the theme of ‘vampire’.

In 1897, poet Rudyard Kipling diversified the genre of romantic poetry by addressing the subject of vampirism. Kipling’s poem ‘The Vampire’,was inspired by a painting of a woman depicted as a vampire with teeth bared, and while it was mildly erotic, she was predatory.

Kipling talked about the relationship between the fool and the woman, constantly referring to “she will never understand,” that her unscrupulous exploitation of him left him dead inside but still walking. He used ‘vampire’ as an allegory for her nature and tried to get sympathy for men by persuading readers that females of any species are more deadly than the male.

It is written narratively as if Kipling was a bystander. He used rhythm to control the enthusiasm and intensity, breaking it up with exclamation marks and italics, giving it a light-hearted lyrical tone.

It is a short poem – only six stanzas. His rhyme scheme is unusual but controlled – in stanza one the rhyme scheme is ABCACB, stanza two – DEFFE. Each stanza has its own rhyme.

The depiction of a vampiric woman was common in early poetry. Henry Thomas Liddell, a British poet published ‘The Vampire Bride (I am come – I am come!)’ in 1833.

A tale of a female vampire married by “nuptial pledge,” to a human man, preparing his body for an eternal undead life with her, draining the “warm life-blood” from him. Reaffirmed by line, “to-morrow be laid on a colder bed – Albert! that bed will be mine!” This highlights inequality of the sexes through property ownership. Prior to the Reform Act 1832, a rare number of female property owners had permission to vote. However, when the Act passed, women in Britain were officially banned from voting.

Alternate lines are indented for line continuation and to amplify the rhyme, pace, and feeling of the poem. Liddell, like Kipling, used many exclamation marks, creating an excited flow.

While not free verse, it is structured by a rhyme scheme in line two, eleven and twelve. Within the lines, lexical repetitions are found, emphasizing the imagery – ‘I’, ‘she’, ‘and’.

I liked the imagery of the word ‘shround’, and how it relates to the man lying on a bed, “like a corpse”. The word is miss-spelt, as ‘shrouds’ are the cloths wrapped around a person for burial.

Shrouds are also mentioned in ‘Oil and Blood’, by William Butler Yeats. Written in 1927, the imagery is vivid, “Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.”

Yeats used vampire to describe the subjects, but used “tombs of old and lapis lazuli,” to paint a different image. Liddell and Kipling depicted life-sucking women, but Yeats talked of men and women surrounded by lapis lazuli – a deep, celestial blue stone, which remains the symbol of royalty, gods and honour.

With a singular stanza consisting of six lines, there is no rhyme scheme or rhythm, and appears to be free verse.

Poet, Madison Julius Cawein, was opposed to free verse, adhering to strict poetic structures. In 1896, Cawein published an iambic tetrameter sonnet, ‘The Vampire’. Sonnets typically are about love, but Cawein talks of beauty, mortality or lack thereof. Almost love in reversal – the abuse of love by power. Reiterated by the female vampire preying on men.

Middle-class men during this era sought the services of prostitutes. Prostitutes were labelled as ‘problems’ – men blamed them for ‘infecting’ the male population with sexually transmitted diseases. In 1860, the Contagious Diseases Act passed, which forced ‘infected’ women into asylums.

The poem was published in 1896, interestingly, the same time when suffragettes protested to change the law-enabled male exploitation of women. Some men brushed it off, H. G. Wells said, “the vote for women was an isolated fad and…an epidemic madness that would…pass.”

The strict alternative rima rhyme scheme used in this poem is ABAB in each stanza.

His imagery of her dark features and pale skin are vivid, and “of hell may smile…witch-words…the spell binds me to a fiend,” symbolizes her power over him.

“She rose among us…darkness shot across the sky…with mouth so sweet, so poisonous…blood-red moon…burning eyes…to thin the blood along our veins…possess me secretly…and darkness fell…” – such vivid imagery and portrayal of a woman preying on a man. Conrad Aiken’s “The Vampire,” in 1914, is chilling and beautiful.

Leading up to World War One, suffragettes were referred to as militants, used violence, alongside protesting, saying “they were at war with the British Government.”

With the makings of a ballad, it is a long poem of fourteen octave stanza’s – made up of two quatrains mostly. It’s about a beautiful female vampire using her beauty to lead men to their doom.

During this era women were only supposed to have sex with their husband. If she had sexual contact with another man, she was considered ‘ruined’.

The language used conveys intense and defined images, “basilisk eyes…skies grown red with rending flames.”

The rhyme scheme is aaabcccb for the octave stanzas. In the seven lined stanzas the rhyme scheme is ggghiih.

Literary device – anaphora, has been used at the beginning of successive lines, i.e. “she,” “and,” “with,” “we,” and is repeated throughout for artistic effect and to persuade emotions of readers.

Of all the poems my favourite was ‘The Vampire’ by Conrad Aiken, because of the language used to create sinister and vivid images.

Word count 786 (excluding quotes).

Reference List

Czaja, K. (2012). The vampire: poetry Friday. Retrieved fromhttps://www.katyaczaja.com/posts/pf34/

Kipling, R. (1987). The vampire. Retrieved from https://www.bartleby.com/364/121.html

Liddell, H.T. (1833). The vampire bride (I am come-I am come!). Retrieved from https://poets.org/poem/vampire-bride-i-am-come-i-am-come

Yeats, W.B. (1927). William Butler Yeats. Retrieved from https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/oil-and-blood/

Crystal Vaults. (2009). Lapis lazuli meanings and uses. Retrieved from https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/lapis

Cawein, M.J. (1896). The vampire. Retrieved from https://theyearofhalloween.com/2011/10/18/the-vampire/

Aiken, C. (1914). The vampire. Retrieved from https://poets.org/poem/vampire

Wikipedia. (2019). Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_Kingdom

Wikipedia. (2019). Women in the Victorian era.  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_Victorian_era#Sexuality

Neale, R.S. (1967). Working-class women and women’s suffrage. Labour history, volume 12, pp. 16. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/27507859?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Winsor, M. (1914). The militant suffrage movement. The annals of the American academy of political and social science, volume 56, pp. 134. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/1011988?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Hughes, K. (2014). Gender roles in the 19th century. Retrieved from https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/gender-roles-in-the-19th-century

Wallis, J. (2012). Looking back: this fascinating and fatal disease. The British psychological society, volume 25, pp. 790-791. Retrieved from https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-25/edition-10/looking-back-fascinating-and-fatal-disease

O’Brien, C. (2004). Looking at the female of the species. Retrieved from https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A2=rudyard-kipling;6f3cfbea.0405

Book Review: Stephen King’s Writing Memoir

Interestingly, I have been making notes the entire way through SK’s book. When I read his section on plot, thoughts jumped into my head (very aggressively) that I had to stop and write them down. Here is one thought I had from the plot section with reference to my own writing or plotting.

What’s interesting about Stephen King’s memoir is the plot subject. It is not his job to steer or help the characters but merely watch them work the situation out themselves. Let the characters figure it out. It instantly got me thinking about the characters in my manuscript. What if Velkan should die, but rather than die right out, he is wounded by the (secret characters), poisoned, and dies as Stone awakes. As her eyes flutter open for the first time, Velkan takes his last breath. It’s rather a romantic notion. If I was to kill Velkan off in the first book, who would search for her in the second book? With Casmir?

On the other hand, it could eliminate romantic complications between her and Gabriel, and Jay. I’m going to revert to my very first initial idea (I just have to dig it out of the box of notes I’ve scribbled to do with the book), and see what the future for Velkan was. And Jamie.

If Velkan makes it into the second book, then he should be killed off, or should Jamie die after he confesses his love to Stone. He’s injured. They kiss. He dies. It’s rather dramatic.

Stephen King says that plotting kills the natural story. It does just as much bad to a story as it does good.

More thoughts on SK’s memoir to come.

Curse of Stone

First book in ‘Curse of Stone’ Series.

Danielle Stone is searching for answers about her great-aunt’s mysterious disappearance fifty-eight years ago. Following a new lead, she quickly discovers that the world is not as it seems. Each step she takes closer to the truth puts her in more danger than ever before.
Unaware she is being hunted by an ancient evil who seeks her heart, and minions of evil descend upon Danielle. She confides in her childhood friend, Jamie, who is fighting an inner battle to keep more than one secret hidden from her.
When her great-aunt suddenly reappears, Danielle’s life hangs in the balance.
Enter Gabriel. A cursed man who searches for his healer – the one human female destined to break his curse. But he must find her before something evil does.

Can Gabriel and Jamie save Danielle before it is too late?

Will the battle of good versus evil prevail? Or will evil succeed this time?

Get it now on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback) and Google Play Bookstore.