#Excerpt #Giveaway: 'Thicker Than Water' by Mary O'Sullivan
Thicker Than Water :
When local teenager, Keira Shannon and her father, business man Gerard Shannon, go missing, the town of Ballyderg unites to search for them.
As the search continues rumours of domestic violence, extramarital affairs and criminal behaviour are rife. The crisis causes families and life long friends to doubt each other.
The only certainty left is that the town has been visited by evil. Or has it? Could it be the evil one has always lived there sharing history, laughter and tears? And if so, who could it be?
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Mary worked many years as a Laboratory Technician. Her hobby, her passion, has always been writing. Busy with family and career, she grabbed some moments here and there to write poetry and short stories. She also wrote a general interest column in a local newspaper.
As the demands on her time became more manageable she joined a local creative writing class. It was then, with the encouragement of tutor Vincent McDonald, that the idea of writing a novel took shape. She began to expand on a short story she had written some years previously. It was a shock for her to discover that enthusiasm and imagination are not enough. For the first time she learned that writing can be very hard work.
Mary now has six traditionally published novels, nine eBooks and hopefully more to come, inspiration permitting.
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There is no feeling quite like the one you get when an idea for a new novel suddenly hits you. The inspiration could be sparked by something someone says, by a piece a music, a news report, a smell, a taste. By almost anything. That is the beauty of human imagination. It is not confined by what is real, or proven. It can take a fleeting impression and imagine a whole new world of possibilities through the medium of creative writing. Art and music capture moments but the novel builds a whole structure where characters live, love, hate and die.
After eight novels I no longer actively research ideas for the next novel. Granted , it is tempting to look up best seller lists and check on the current literary trend – maybe sci-fi , BDSM, murder, tragedy – and write a story which encompasses some , if not all of the bestsellers themes. Perhaps a rave party in space where a BDSM game gets out of control might top the charts. There is always a trend until the next big thing comes along. But that is just if your entire aim is to sell books. I believe that the vast majority of authors are driven far more by their need to write than their desire to sell. It’s an undeniable truth that today’s market is very competitive but dealing with that is a long way off when you are just nurturing your idea for your novel .The only competition then is between you and the ideas in your head .
So you have been either allowing an idea slowly percolate, mulling over potential plots and character names, or else you have been hit by a sudden flash of inspiration. Whichever way your novel introduces itself to you, it’s time to open up that blank Word document and type Chapter One. Some people know the title even before they start the manuscript. That makes sense when the title reflects the essence of the story. Others, and I would be in this category, use a working title and allow the story dictate the final. For instance, the title Thicker Than Water, my latest novel, comes from a character, three quarter way through the story, saying that blood is thicker than water. An old, but true, saying.
At this stage you have committed yourself. Either a title or a chapter heading imply that there are on average 120,000 more words to follow. I never feel the weight of this task weighing on me. For each of my eight novels, I started off full of enthusiasm, struggling to type fast enough to get ideas down. It’s not that I don’t know there will be stages down the line when I will stare at a blank screen and be unable to think of one word to write, when I realise I took a wrong turn about four chapters back and must delete a big tranche of work, when I look at my plot and characters and hate them with the same passion I loved them at the start of the book. In the beginning, I put this hard-won knowledge to the back of my mind, and go with the creative high of writing the first sentence.
That opening sentence is either a deal maker or breaker. It can bring you exactly where you want to go, or send you off into a cul- de-sac. Likewise, as a reader you can be drawn in or put off by the opening words. Having read Jane Austen’s opening line- ‘ It is a truth universally acknowledged , that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’- it was certain that Pride And Prejudice was going to an elegant read which would most likely end in the single man finding the wife he needed. Likewise with George Orwell’s opening words in his novel 1884; ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ Who would not want to read on after that breath taking opening?
I no longer slave over my first sentence – not because I don’t care but experience tells me the first sentence I write in my infant novel will bite the dust in the first self-edit . This has been the case with my eight novels and I’m sure would also apply if I write a ninth. In fact not one of my initial first chapters survived beyond the first re-write. I have come to understand that when I am excited by a new idea and enthused about starting a novel, I pour all that drama out in a torrent of words. I describe in flowery adjectives, splash adverbs all over the place and construct the longest sentences as if I’m afraid I’ll lose the idea if I pause to put a comma or full stop. My first, first chapters, are just about giving my ideas physical shape on the page. By the time I have them written, I am ready to bring my characters forward in a more structured way.
Below I have included an excerpt from the opening of Thicker Than Water. The initial first chapter, the one I pushed the self-destruct button on, was about three female characters meeting for their weekly lunch date in their local Bistro. As you can see, the first chapter which made it through re-writing and editing has absolutely nothing to do with ladies who lunch. And that is the magic of creative writing – if you want to make things unhappen, you can.
Thank you to Penny for hosting me on her blogspot today and thanks also to Lucy Felthouse (Writer Marketing Services) for organising my visit here.
Excerpt from Thicker Than Water.
Gerard Shannon felt the tic beneath his left eye begin to beat a rhythm to his impatience. The Town Hall, an impressive granite-stone building from the outside, was a claustrophobic rabbit warren on the inside. To add to the unease of pale green walls, wilting yucca plants and vertical venetian blinds, the Planning Officer’s deep bass bounced off the ceiling and rolled in waves around the room. He spoke in sound bites. Gerard smiled at him because Phillip Long was an influential man. An essential cog in the slowly turning wheel of commercial life in the rural Irish town of Ballyderg.
“So when do you expect full planning approval through?” Gerard asked.
“Next planning meeting. Trust me, I’ll have the objectors on-side. Everyone wants to see Ballyderg recover and this development is the way forward.”
Gerard nodded but said nothing. Another block of retail units in the town centre was not, in his opinion, what Ballyderg needed.
“I’ll let you know about the meeting,” Phillip said. “Give you time to work up an ad campaign for letting the units.”
Gerard stood. As the only letting agency in the town his business should automatically get the contract without having to kowtow to councillors but that is not the way things worked. At this moment he didn’t give a damn about the units or even about Ballyderg. He offered his hand to Phillip Long.
“Thank you. I appreciate you keeping me in the loop.”
“No problem. No problem. We’ll touch base when the planning’s through.”Gerard made his way as quickly as possible down the once stately staircase. Outside he checked his watch. It was time. Leaving the town he headed towards the hills and the appointment he had to keep.