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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

If You Love Them Let Them Go?

I'm in a bit of a quandary at the moment ... slowly dragging myself out, thanks to some firm assistance from a couple of friends.
This writing blog has been silent because I've been doing just that, writing, rather than talking about writing ... I've probably said something like that before but that's only because it's true.

(Bothers me no end to visit writing sites and see people complaining they've no time to write, and then you look through the forum and the post times shout out loud and clear they've been bloody surfing all day!)

Thing is - I've finished what will hopefully be the last of several edits on my second book; The Dust Of Ancients and am well into my third - as yet untitled supernatural thriller. However, I find myself completely unable to let go of the characters in Dust.

I don' t know if that's because there's more story to tell there, or if it's just that I've been working with these characters for so long ... I did the same thing to a lesser extent when I'd finished my first book The DarkFire Legacy. I made copious notes for a sequel, which are still here ready for me should I decide to pick them up at some point. That book is still with the publisher, and Dust has been submitted to an agent. I would love to start writing the sequel that's bubbling around in my head for Dust, but how do I know it's worth it when I don't even know if the first book is going to be acceptable anywhere?

Trouble is, I feel I want to do it now, while it's all still fresh in my head and while I can remember how it felt to be in that world with them. I think I'm talking myself into this sequel the longer I bang on here, which - I suppose - is the whole point of offloading to a blog rather than boring the pants off my friends ... holding them with my glittering eye and all that!

The characters in book 3 (Declan Farrell and Lexie Dawson) will hopefully prove interesting but they just haven't grabbed me yet. This is unusual and leads me to think that Richard and Laura still have more to go through before I can release them to their (probably) happy ever after. Hopefully Declan and Lexie are simply being good little characters, and patiently keeping their distance while I sort out the others.

What I hope this doesn't mean, is that I've left too much unanswered in Dust. That wouldn't be good. I've been assured it doesn't mean that, but that there are definitely some possibilities that were hinted at that could bear uncovering and exploring a bit more ... I choose to believe that version.

I know this is a very uncool entry because it doesn't have any little asterisks leading to explanations at the end,* nor does it have snappy little two word sentences. Like this. Ah well. Oh look! There's another.

Right, off to pay my respects elswhere in Blogger-land, haven't done the rounds for quite some time, sorry about that.

*except this one.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Submissions? I give up ...

Found this very interesting, quite funny article on covering letters to go with submissions.

Very little else to say, except that I've been busy putting together a submission package for "The Dust Of Ancients" and am now completely paranoid ...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Titles - sent to try us ...

I haven't posted here for a little while, and the very simple reason for that is that this is primarily a writing blog and rather than write about writing, I've actually been doing some. How very strange ...
Anyway, I'm feeling quite please with myself at the moment having just completed the first draft, and first and second edits of my second book. (The first one is still out there being perused by the damn publisher who asked to see it, and it's a daily struggle not to spend too much wondering if that's a good thing or a bad thing)

This book is the one that's been with me, I think, the longest ... I'm not sure. It's been through several incarnations - ironically the subject matter has no small connection with that as well - and even more titles. The first title was long-winded and annoying, but it popped into my head before I even started to write, and so I wrote the book around the title which was "The Haunting Of Jonathan Riley." Lots of problems with that: It's too much like something else, it was too long, and when I got into the story I realised that Jonathan Riley was not haunted at all, but playing host to something a bit unpleasant. Briefly, as a child messing about somewhere he shouldn't underground, he smashes a jar containing the treasured, and supposedly guarded, remains of an ancient Cornish king with unfinished business to attend to. Boy inhales dust in shock, boy becomes something you really don't want to fuck about with. (As I said, briefly ...) I understand this subject matter is either something you can run with or you can't, it's all a matter of taste. Not the point.

So anyway. It changed a few times, had the working title of "The Heath" for an awfully long time, set as it is on Bodmin Moor where I grew up. Then one day when I opened the document to get down to it, I just looked at the title and realised I was so incredibly sick of it that if I wasn't careful I'd bin the whole project.

So, the search for a new title began. Again. I'm notoriously shit at titles; either I come up with them and nothing to put under them (ie: a story) or else the story leaks out of my fingertips mega-fast and then I spend weeks searching for something catchy to hang on it handle-wise. The two rarely come together.

I played with several ideas and came up with a couple, then had to ask Ms Google to please check I hadn't nicked them. I had, of course. One was "The Dust of Ages" which turned out to be a song. Then I started with the word "ancient" to see what slithered through my mind, and came up with "The Dust Of Ancients."
Ooh good, I thought, that sounds nifty! So I Googled it, and it came up with a whole page full.
Shit, says I. Then I realised they were all the same thing, and that one thing was a line from Geoffrey Of Monmouth's History Of The Kings Of Britain. First published 1138. Abso-bloody-lutely perfect.

Even better was, when I read the whole excerpt, the line is: "The dust of ancients shall be restored."
I have a notes document for each project, these usually run into several thousands of words for a longer piece, and I just hammer away at it when I've got a problem. It's always fun to read through and see how the thought processes work and how the original idea evolved.
Very often it's peppered with things like "fuck, this isn't working, I need coffee/a nap/a miracle" etc. The notes document for this book totalled 39,262 words - the book is just over 107,000.
Here's the bit where I worked through the title problem (the most recent one)

I hate the title!!!!

Gah! Go back to something like the original? The haunting of Thomas Riley? But that sounds like a ghost story and it’s not. Also sounds bit archaic and it’s set now. So no.

There follows a lot of other notes and then this:

How about something like King’s Dust for the title? Strange, but keep thinking along those lines. Dust of The King? King to Dust? Dust Of Ages? Sounds familiar though ... Google it.

It’s a song, but not a book title!! So don’t rule it out.

Dust Of The Ancient

Dust Of Ages?

The Dust Of Ancients – quote from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History Of The Kings Of Britain.

Okay, so the new working title, is The Dust Of Ancients. It’ll probably stay that.

Now, if only the perfection of this little find could be taken as an omen. What do you think?

Just out of interest - one of my first entries here concerned characters and their inability to behave: I've just seen this in my notes document:

SHIT! Bloody Laura has found something in the grass by the old mill house and I don’t know what it is!!! ARRGGHH!

Why can’t she keep her feet to herself??

I rest my case.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Brief Is The Word

... It's been several days and I still have only one thing to say:


Very well, as you were ...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Clearing the blockages ...

... and no, there's nothing biological about this very short post.
But a couple of clearances have occurred today; firstly an irritating block in the narrative of the book (see the post about characters having a life of their own) and then the sink. God alone knows what's down there in those pipes; I dread to think. But I had a session with the plunger this afternoon ( nothing like Sue White's session with the turkey baster I can assure you ...) and now the water gurgles away happily, so I'm happy too.
I really doesn't take much.

Huge, monstrous thunderstorms last night and this morning. My boys were out camping with their dad and I spent a tense few hours trying not to picture what might be happening out there. But it turns out they only heard the odd rumble. It was smack bang over my house though, and the forked lightning out over the moors was horrific to watch - but I couldn't stop watching it nevertheless. I think we're due for more of the same tonight.

Other than that this weekend has been very, very dull in a perfectly wonderful way. Lots of coffee, lots of toast, lots of writing - today, at least. And I'm on leave next week. Hoorah and huzzah, and other assorted whoops of delight.

And congrats to me: this template does not have a links section so I had to do the farting about with html thing - which I don't do - and have managed to put a list of links in. Marvellous, now I'm tempted to play with it a bit more but will probably lose everything if I do, so maybe not, on second thoughts ...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pointless Ramble #1

Some of you will note that my other blog entries have also been pointless rambling, but this is the first official one. Nothing of any note has happened with my writing, but I want to blather on for a bit anyway. When I'm in this kind of mood, bullet points work best as I found out on my Xanga blog a few months ago. Suddenly everyone was doing that, and saying things like "RYC."
This bothered me because no-one told me what it meant and I had to work it out for myself, yet everyone else knew about it. Paranoia isn't attractive and don't let anyone tell you it is.

* Work. Bleh. Why is the most irritating person in the room also the one with the loudest voice?
* Hoorah and huzzah, #2 son actually had gravy with his tea without making an enormous fuss.
* Bugger all on the telly again tonight so it's on with series 3 of Drop The Dead Donkey. Why don't they show them again instead of all those ghastly repeats of Friends?
* Child is now climbing into the cupboard muttering: I like to eat foooood. He's a bit odd.
* Bought fresh rolls and a bottle of white. Is it very wrong to drink in the middle of the week?
* Looking forward to Thursday writing day, but it bothers me that they're coming around faster than they ever used to.
* Had my appraisal at work yesterday; I'm officially God.
* So where's my pay rise?
* Channel 4 get all the best comedy shows; Father Ted, Black Books, Drop The Dead Donkey, and, of course, Green Wing. I love Channel 4 comedy. Except Friends.
* I need to dye my hair again, it's going gingery instead of that nice, interesting deep red I strive for. I always kid myself I'll try something new, but always end up with the same old colour -basically because I'm a big scaredy cat.
* Who said "cat"? Where's my water pistol ...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kettles, Cats and Maryland Cookies

Why is it, just when I know exactly what I'm doing with the piece of writing I'm working on, I immediately feel the need to celebrate with a cup of coffee? This inevitably takes me away from my computer and out into the kitchen, where I'll be distracted further by next door's cat sniffing at my rubbish (Thursday writing day is also Thursday bin day, and living on the nipple of the city apparently we're too awkward to warrant the supply of wheelie bins) and if I've been stupid enough to leave a bit of chicken in the rubbish, the feckin' animals will stop at nothing in their quest to strew my path with crap all the way to the end.

So I spend the next ten minutes - firstly squirting the cats with Dominic's mega-super-duper-hotshot- pump- action-hyper-hydro-blaster - (that's a water pistol to you and me) and then picking up half chewed chicken and soggy crisp packets full of snails.
By the time I get back to the kettle the water's gone cool again, and if you boil the same stuff again it starts tasting metallic and shite. So I empty the kettle, re-fill it with fresh water and switch it on, trying not to look out of the window in case the cats have got over their fear of aforementioned Sherman tank-esque squirter, and then the biscuit tin strays into view.

Well come on, what's a girl to do? Maryland Chocolate Chip cookies are about the only kind of chocolate I'm biologically programmed to require on a daily basis, and it's impossible to take one, they're just too small and look terribly lonely sitting on my hand. Still, it's a well known fact that if you eat something really quickly you don't have time to gain calories from it; your brain hasn't worked out the correct quantities of hydrogenated fats it's having to distribute around your arteries and your arse, so it gives up and pretends it never happened.

So by the time I've got over the guilt and made the coffee, the original problem solving brainwave has faded into a murky kind of shadowy thing at the back of my mind, and the only way to put cats, soggy chicken and chocolate biscuits out of my head is to read back over what I've just written and hope the spark comes back.
It didn't.
That's why I'm blogging instead.
One day, when I'm rich and famous, I'll look back and laugh.
Ha, bloody ha ha.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Characters - do they have a life of their own?

This is a debate I've been considering lately; some (real) writers claim that their characters never act or speak on their own. They say that each word and act is carefully considered and thought through, and that their creations never do anything spontaneous. It's been said that to claim that they do is pretentious and even ridiculous.
Now - these are real, paid writers, so people like me are supposed to listen to them, right?

The truth is I think it depends on the way you write; some authors, like Dean Koontz for instance, polish each and every page until it's as perfect as they can make it, and only then do they move on.
I prefer to hammer away at my keyboard and let everything just spill out onto the page, and then I go back and cut away at it, and change it, until it's reading the way I like it. Because of this, my characters sometimes, often in fact, do things that surprise me. Sometimes it causes problems when that happens, sometimes it solves them.

It's always a joy.

A little while ago I had cause to ask my lead male, Richard Lucas, to drop his friend off at the airport. When he came back to his car there was a man leaning on it. I sat here for ages staring at the screen, wondering who this man was and where he came from. He is now a major character and the person who stands between Lucas and his future.

Yesterday I was writing a conversation between this character and someone else, and it turned out that the other had an uncanny knack for mimicry. I don't know how, but I believe this is going to impact on the story quite significantly.

Does this make me pretentious? I hope not.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And so we begin ...

Well - up until now I've been posting at Live-Journal and Xanga. But this place looks friendly enough so I think I'm going to be using this one for my writing blog and continue to post rantings, ravings and general, personal bleh stuff over at Xanga.

So far as a writer I have published through independant publisher BeWrite, a full royalty paying company, not to be confused with many of the fee-charging/vanity press sites out there. My work for BeWrite has been largely horror-based, but some genre-leakage has occurred and I've even been known to raise the odd smile. (But don't tell my kids, they think I write only horror, and am therefore scary and not to be crossed ...)

Currently I've published short stories only, but I do have a novel submission package out there doing the rounds; I've told it not to come home until it's found representation. The latest writing news is that among the gazillions of "no thank you"s I've received from agents, one publisher has, at least, asked to see the remainder of the novel.

This is how you find me then: not sure if the publisher will like the rest of the book enough to offer to publish it, not sure if the publisher will take the piss if they do, given that I don't have an agent (yet) and not sure if I'll ever find representation anyway. Still, I keep flogging away, and maybe one day I'll have something exciting to post about.

I'm working on a second book, distinctly different from the first, and hoping that this one will find a permanent home. Or I'll have two little manuscripts, getting exhausted but at least travelling far more than I ever will - even if they're making no friends along the way.