Monday, 21 June 2010

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

...and I'm not even a Dickens fan.

This somewhat dramatic turn for quoting springs from my present state of affairs: I am trapped somewhere between far too many things to do, far too many things to wait for, and far too many other things to be stressed out about. This is what comes from trying to sort out doctor's appointments, enjoy your last (hectic) week of university life, and move into a new house at the very end of that last (hectic) week (with all the innumerable exciting and stressful things moving house involves) - all at the same time.

As a result of which, I'm very sad to say that blogging is going to have to take a backseat for a couple weeks, until I can find some breathing space and hunt down my elusive creativity again.

It really hit me this weekend how much time blogging really involves. I love to do it, so I didn't really notice it before. But when you're swamped, it's so much easier to tweet from your phone, browse the internet for something quick, or send someone an email, than it is to sit down at a laptop for over an hour and enter the alternate reality of the blogosphere.

I'm hoping to be able to write up a couple of posts over the next fortnight (but let's face it, I'll probably be too immersed in packing to even think), and I really hope I can pop in to all the wonderful blogs I follow now and then. Reading a blog post isn't too hard to do from your phone - it's just commenting that's nearly impossible!

Still, mustn't knock the marvels of technology.

So, I hope you all have a fantastic week(s), and do try not to forget me because I will be back, a la the Terminator!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Bad Boy Blogfest (Sorry!)

So today I'm supposed to be participating in Tina Lynn's Bad Boy Blogfest. I have to apologize profusely, but I'm going to have to back out. I have been way too swamped to write anything for it and I don't think I could whip something good up right this very moment. Sorry, everybody!

Do click on the link and check out all the other entries, though, I'm sure they're marvellous and I'm sorry to not be able to read through them all!

And now I'm off again, back to the Real World where there's just far too many things to sort out and do...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Tagged: What's in my Bag?

Well. A different kind of post for me, which is probably a good thing because I daresay my writing-related posts can get a bit repetitive, even for fellow writers! And as I can't resist the urge to talk about clothes, shoes or accessories sometimes, this is a perfect time for me to indulge myself.

Earlier this week, the fabulous Vix tagged me, asking me to tell all about the contents of my bag. Alas, I wish my bag were more exciting, but here goes, anyway.

The bag in question. I'm sort of in love with this bag, it feels so summery and its colours are brighter than they look in this photo!

And what's in the bag? Well, starting from the top left (about nine o' clock) and working clockwise: there's a tissue, a package that I tried to post today but couldn't, my wallet/purse, my sunglasses, my passport, a scarf (it was chilly today!), Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract, a scrap of paper on which I've written everything I needed to buy in town today, a stick of lip gloss that you can't see because I seem to have placed it badly, and a bunch of postcards from the art exhibit I went to on Tuesday. Sadly, nothing scintillating to be found in my bag today!

Now I'm going to tag:


But I'm also going to throw it out as an open question because I'm generally nosy, and I love how sometimes the most unexpected and random answers come up! So, what's in your bag right now? 

A post from Steve: Just a couple of links

Hi, everyone!

I'm just popping in to do what Sangu refuses to do, which is shamelessly plug some other bits of her writing that have made their way onto the internet! Long time followers may remember that Sangu occasionally lends her skills to, and (in my humble opinion) makes excellent contributions to the site. 

Here are her two latest articles that popped up on there this week:

(Ignore the occasional lack of punctuation; apparently it sometimes gets lost in the editing process) 


Friday, 18 June 2010

Breaking the Rules Blogfest

Well, this is pretty embarrassing. Mostly because the excerpt I'm about to paste in below comes from a novel I wrote six years ago, which, quite frankly, sucks.

But I shall bare myself to humiliation (and resist the urge to edit and fix mistakes, typos and general horror), because this is for the lovely Elizabeth Mueller's Breaking the Rules Blogfest! Do click on the link, check out her entry, and mosey over to the sidebar for all the other entries. Thank you for hosting this, Elizabeth!

The following is from the prologue of an epic fantasy involving a wicked emperor (shock, horror) and a force of good who want to fight him using standard fantasy tactics. Oh, and there's a young boy who obviously becomes the Hero (goodness me, how original I was).

The last scarlet splash of light in the west faded, and they were bathed entirely in the shadows.
A lone horse sped desperately across the rough, undulating terrain. A sharp wind blew from the south, and the smell of rain and blood hung thickly in the air. The horse bled from a foreleg, and there was something stilted in its gallop, but it persevered on, under the urgency and encouragement of its rider. The man in the saddle looked terrible; he appeared caked in dirt and blood, his own and others’. A stained sword was clutched in his right hand, while the left held onto the reins for dear life.
Sweat and rain dripped down his face, deathly pale. He wiped both out of his eyes with the back of his hand. He pushed his horse on, feeling its pain beneath him. His own he felt acutely, almost as strongly as he felt his fear. But he plunged on, knowing that there was no other way for him to go.
And then a shadow fell over him.
The man felt as if his bones had been frozen. He lifted his head, terrified, and saw the sight he had most feared. He jerked right, but it was too late. He heard his screams echo out through the night as the fierce talons of the beast lunged out of the sky and seized his horse. A pitiful animal’s cry pierced the air, along with the screams, a terrible symphony.
The horse, torn by the talons, was dead before it was flung to the ground. But as the man saw land and sky spin wildly before him, he knew that he hadn’t been granted the mercy of death yet. His mind still screamed, and his body too, as the talons held him in their vicious grip. Then, the terrible wings flapping close beside him, he saw the ground loom closer, and in a flash, they were on the ground. Something cracked in him as he bounced over hard rock and dirt, and he let out an involuntary scream. His sword went flying into the mud. The shadow of the wings swayed nearby, ominous and deadly, and even had he had the will to move, he couldn’t have. His body was damaged beyond any repair. The man saw death hovering softly above him, waiting to claim him, eternally hungry for more. A different vision flashed before his eyes… and he felt something tighten in his throat, squeezing the very breath out of him. If only…
If only. Those two words were by far the most empty and the saddest that any person could use, and regret by far the most destructive emotion.
The sound of soft footsteps in the mud made him turn his head. Rain fell into his eyes, but he blinked the drops away and looked up as a tall figure crouched down beside him. A hood had fallen back, and the man in the mud could look into cold, pale brown eyes. A faint, bitter smile twisted his mouth.
“Has it come to this?” he asked sadly.
The figure shook its head. “It needn’t have,” it said coldly, “You ought to have learned by now that we bring our suffering upon ourselves. You brought yourself here.”
“Because of you.” It was hard to breathe, let alone speak. “Are you going to kill me?”
“Yes,” hissed the figure, “Are you afraid?”
The man choked out a laugh, blood trickling out of his mouth. He saw the blade of the sword hover above him through a film of water and sweat and blood and tears. Was he afraid? Yes, he was afraid. But it was too late to dwell on fears and pain. He blinked and his eyes were able to focus upon the cool brown ones again. As if unable to break the eye contact, the figure lifted the sword… and struck.
“Brave even in death,” murmured the figure coolly, a smile playing along thin lips, “I’ll confess to admiration. It isn’t pleasant, is it, when you’re killed by an enemy.”
There was a pause as the man choked blood, trying to say something, to speak for the last time. “It’s worse,” spluttered the man, barely audibly, meeting the figure’s eyes, “When you’re murdered by a friend.”
Silence. And then the figure stood up, and strode away into the shadows.

Another Blog Award!

Over the last few days, I've been lucky enough to be given the award below four times! Thank you so much, Suzie, Clara, Zoe and Bryan!

(Bryan, I can't seem to comment on your blog - something about a proxy - so sorry for not thanking you there!) 

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who think you are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

So, the
7 Things

1. I'm engaged. (Yep, sorry, had to say it! Still so excited!)

2. My little brother was quite badly bitten by a dog when he was a toddler. Ever since, I have the odd bad dream of him in some kind of life-threatening situation. Yuck.

3. I often stumble across gorgeous pink shoes, but can never wear them because my skin colour's all wrong for the colour pink.

4. To follow on from the above: yes, I love shoes. Absurdly. No, I wouldn't spend five hundred dollars on them like the women in Sex and the City do. (Mostly because I don't have five hundred dollars, but also because I'd rather buy food. Sorry.)

5. I'm about to graduate from university, and am half-sad half-happy to be rid of the student life forever.

6. I've been chased by an elephant three times. While I've been in a car, of course. I don't think I could outrun them on foot. They're very, very fast.

7. I love tigers.

I assume you can't pass the award back to the people who gave it to you? I'd have liked to, but as I suspect that's against the rules, here are the other bloggers and blogs I'm going to pass this award on to (this time) -

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Carrie Bradshaw: a Rant

Another character post today, largely triggered off by this post by Saumya, about Sex and the City. While it's a great post, it got me thinking about Sex and the City in general.

I'm not a big fan of the movies, but I like the show. I like the shoes, I like laughing at and half-admiring the lifestyle portrayed, and I like Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte (i.e. the heroine Carrie's best friends). In fact, when I watch an episode of Sex and the City, I always check the episode description first - and I find myself looking for phrases like 'Meanwhile, Samantha...' or 'Charlotte realizes that...' or 'But Miranda thinks...' or generally any combination of those names and some sort of similar phrase involving them.

Fact? If an episode seems to revolve almost entirely around Carrie alone, I skip it.

Why? Carrie Bradshaw sucks.

This is the Main Character. The Heroine of the Tale. The Narrator whose voice we have to listen to right through the episode. The Writer of Rhetorical Questions about Men. We're supposed to love her (and I'm sure many SATC fans do). Most of the show's characters are flawed in some way, but their flaws come across with such honesty, humour and sympathy that you can't help liking them anyway. Carrie, on the other hand...

I find that 90% of the time I can't stand her and 10% of the time I feel a little bit sorry for her. That's about it. As a character, she so utterly does not work for me that I often want to beat her on the head with a broomstick.

For one thing, she's unimaginably selfish. I've lost count of the number of times one of the other women has had a genuine crisis (Miranda finding out she's pregnant, Charlotte being unable to get pregnant, Samantha and breast cancer), and Carrie, most of those times, can't do anything but whine about her boy problems. Seriously. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, Carrie is whining to her friends about the most insignificant little details and completely overlooking their (bigger) problems. Occasionally, they'll call her on it (usually it's Miranda), at which point she'll say 'oh. Saw-ree' and then go straight back to whining.

This just makes me think, she's a crap friend and I wouldn't want to know her, let alone be her friend. And the thing about characters (the protagonists, anyway) is that for them to work, you have to either want to be them, or want to be their friend. Otherwise, why would you care to watch or read about them?

(Yes, antagonists are an exception. Plenty of books have made successes out of antagonist-Main Characters. But this isn't one of those situations. Protagonists can be as flawed as anything, but should still be likable. Carrie just... isn't.)

Then there's the way she treats men, notably Aiden. Aiden, for those of you who don't know it, is a flawed, lovely, wonderful guy and one of Carrie's Great Loves. He wasn't perfect, but he loved her and forgave her and he was just nice. But she treats him horribly and eventually 'chooses' Big, who, by the way, I've never understood the attraction of. 

That just made me think you're an idiot. And not a very nice person.

I really should apologize for the rant, but I think it's got such a significant point at the heart of it. Basically, that I like Sex and the City. But I'll never buy the DVDs. I'll never love it. And that makes such an enormous difference. 

And the reason I'll never love it is Carrie Bradshaw. Were she a small bit part, I could overlook her. But how can you overlook someone who is constantly whining and in your face? 

Main characters should not suck.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"I've got a feeling, oooooo"

That tonight's going to be a good night?

Well, I think it will, because I'm determined to get to bed early, curl up, and read one of the new books Steve bought me last week. I've been meaning to do this for three nights now, but I've instead ended up staying at the laptop late into the night trying to sort out things like houses, moving in, finances, and other exciting, stressful and dismal things (respectively).

This is where I am! In the heart of that maze!
I've always been a compulsive bookworm, but there was a time when I never let a Wednesday go by without going to the Carleton, a cheesy but weirdly fun club that Lancaster University students love (or hate). 

Having out-Carletoned myself in my second year, though, I've spent this year behaving steadily more non-student-like as the months have gone by, which includes sometimes staying in and trying to sort things out/treating myself with a new book.

In fact, last night I did a most un-student-y thing: I went to an art exhibition. Okay, so the exhibition was meant to showcase the third-year art students' work, one of whom happens to be my friend Katy. But you should have seen it: it didn't feel like a student gallery at all. With free wine, stunning clothes and that kind of pure bright light you only ever find in shiny art galleries, I felt like a Sophisticated Woman of Culture.

Oh, yes. My friend Lindsey and I even managed to look thoughtfully at certain pieces of art and say things like well, what do you think this empty space represents, darling? in voices borrowed straight off Jennifer Saunders.

Flippancy aside, it was a really lovely gallery with some amazing stuff in there. Katy's was my favourite. Obviously.

But forget the nights! What about the days?

Today is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't been outside yet, but it looks spectacular from my window. Sunny, bright, possibly even - gasp, dare I say it? - warm

To those of you who live in the UK, you'll know what a rare treat this is!

Now I don't want to start counting my chickens and all that, but could this be - could it possibly, maybe, really be - the start of summer? Should I be decking myself out in a floaty little dress and my favourite new sandals and breeze down the campus path with the wind in my hair and my sunglasses firmly in place? Should I be dragging my flatmates down to the green with ice-cold drinks?

Maybe I will.

So what do you like to do on a gorgeous day?

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Character Interview Blogfest is here! Yay!

It's here! At last! The character interview blogfest, in which we, as writers of various forms of story, sit down/stand up and attempt to interview our intrepid characters. While picking a character was unbelievably hard, because I love them all so much, I eventually settled on - wouldn't you know it - the most difficult, exasperating (and almost the most beloved) one of all. 

I thought I'd post my interview now, in the wee hours, then get some sleep, tackle the mayhem of my day, and then come back and treat myself with everyone else's entries.

Before I go on, I want to thank everyone who's signed up and been so enthusiastic about this blogfest. You're all wonderful, and I hope you enjoyed doing this as much as I have!

And so, on with the show...

The other day, with the blogfest very firmly in mind, I invited one of my characters, Sir Matthew Mercer, to tea. He turned me down somewhat impolitely, which made for an inauspicious start. I asked him why, and he said he didn't 'feel like it'. Thanks, Matthew. Eventually, I think his curiosity got the better of him, because he turned up at my door at the precise hour, decked out in his usual vest of light chain mail over shirt and trousers.

To those who aren't in the know, Sir Matthew is a Weaver. He makes echoes. He wears his chain mail because, he claims, 'knife crime is a tragic thing'. I suspect the real reason is because he's afraid of being exterminated by a hunter. But I can't be sure of this. With Matthew, as my protagonist Echo will tell you, you can't be sure of anything.

SANGU(S): So, ahem, Matthew. Thank you for coming, even if you did refuse my invitation, show up unannounced, and surprise me in my pyjamas.

MATTHEW(M): They're not even very nice pyjamas, are they?

S: *blushes* Well... you're not here to talk about pyjamas, so let's -

M: Why not?

S: Excuse me?

M: Why can't we talk about pyjamas? I happen to own the most glorious pair. Silver. I gleam like a suit of armour, it's delightful.

S: A nugget of knowledge I'm most happy to add to my notes, but I'd rather talk about more important things.

M: I can't imagine there are more important things than pyjamas.

S [exasperated]: Well, I can, so please shut up about the bloody pyjamas and let me ask you a decent question. I have blog readers, you know! They expect exciting things! They don't want to hear about your stupid silver pyjamas! In fact, I'm banning the word pyjamas. Anyone who says it gets killed in the next book.

M [with a voice like a tiger on the prowl]: Just how do you envision finishing this saga of a tale without me, my dear? Where do you hope to find another Weaver as handsome, ambiguous and interesting as I? I hope you don't mean to use Elsa or Adrian. They'd be awful at playing the ambiguous, handsome and mysterious figure.

S: Handsome and mysterious? Don't make me laugh, Matthew!

M: Sir Matthew.

S: I gave you your stupid title, I can take it away too!

M: Oh, tut, do resist the urge to exercise your authorial powers. It would make for a very poor story if you were in charge of everything.

[SANGU takes a deep breath and counts to ten]

M: Have you got any biscuits?

S: In the cupboard.

M: They're not the right kind.

S: Well, you can **** right off then.

M: Egad! My ears have been positively scorched. Come, come, let's not go into a sulk. Ask me anything you like. I shall answer them. I won't promise to answer them well, but I'll offer a response. Or two.

S: One's more than enough, thanks. Could you stop spilling crumbs all over the carpet? I thought you didn't like those biscuits. Anyway, on to the first question: what first put you on to the idea of Weaving? 

M: It was Adrian who first put us on to it. You may have noticed that he has a slight desire to cheat death.

S: Ah, yes. A slight desire. Hmm. But echoes don't really cheat death...

M: But they were supposed to, my dear. Haven't you worked that out yet? They were supposed to cheat death. And I can't imagine why they won't, in a few years' time, once we've worked out the kinks in the system. Soon, we'll solve death.

S: You seem very sure.

M: I know everything.

S: Well, you don't, actually -

M: I think you'll find I do. 

S [sighs]: So that was the idea all along, then? To fix these 'kinks', as you call them, so that echoes are more... complete. So that they're more than just echoes? You're giving me that look, so I'll take that as a yes. Is that what you really want?

M: I have whims. They change so often, as is the nature of whims. How can one ever be certain of what one wants?

S: Matthew...

M: Oh, do refrain from scowling. Why wouldn't I want to fix the kinks?

S: You'd rather have Amarra instead of Echo? You'd rather have the girl who died instead of the one you stitched into being?

M: Oh, look! A sparrow! Isn't it just darling?


As you can see, I suffer enormously. 

Do scroll down the list in the sidebar to check out everyone else's entries! And once again, thanks for reading and for participating!

Flip a Coin

Chance. Luck. Destiny. Whatever you want to call it. Whether or not you believe in fate, I don't think most of us can deny that chance plays an enormous role in our lives. Sometimes, the element of chance is downright ridiculous.

For instance, Steve and me. We're together because that's who we are, it's how we wanted it, we made moves, etc etc. But we wouldn't even have met if it hadn't been for a ridiculously long and convoluted string of coincidences and twists of fate. For instance, what if either of us had decided not to go to Lancaster University? What if we had ended up in different colleges/flats? I only met Steve, properly, because he and I ended up, coincidentally, living together in my second year of university. And this only happened because he happened to be friends with Lindsey, who was my friend too.

What if, gasp, Lindsey had gone somewhere else? Picked a different college to live in? Not happened to meet me at someone else's party? Not happened to end up living, coincidentally, in a flat where several of Steve's friends lived (which is how she met him in our first year, leading to us living together in our second)?

It's a mess, isn't it? And it's also slightly unnerving to think of how easily we could have missed one another.

I think the same holds true for writing. Sure, it's about hard work and talent. But the element of luck is so strong in writing. What if you didn't happen to see that bird that sparked off the idea behind your bestseller? What if you didn't bump into that woman with the hooked nose who inspired your award-winning villain? I always feel that almost all ideas and stories are inspired by luck, by circumstances. Even ones that are retold.

And on the publishing front, what if you catch an agent on a really bad day, and a query that he/she would otherwise have loved, simply goes rejected?

It makes me reel ever so slightly, thinking about luck.

So how has the random, pure, ridiculous element of chance irrevocably changed your life or writing?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Next Top Title Blogfest

I'm back in the blogger world!

Wow, this was so easy to do, but so much fun! An enormous thank you to Angela, a.k.a. Slushpile Slut, for hosting this blogfest. Do head over here and check out the other entries!

So I thought I'd post a few titles for my completed, out-on-submission novel, ECHOES, because the title's been bothering me.

The possibilities:

1. Echoes 

2. Where She Lingers 

3. These Who Linger

Anyone feel strongly about any? Any help would be lovely!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Techie Woes

Internet difficulties abounds at the moment, so there's a good chance I'm not going to be able to blog until I'm back in Lancaster (tomorrow night, maybe Saturday). Just a heads up for any of my much-loved readers who might burst into tears when they discover I have *gasp* nothing new for them to read! (Yeah, right. I should be so lucky!)

  • Steve and I have picked a house, and hopefully things should get properly under way today. 
  • No news from any agents about my book yet, but I'm hoping it won't be much longer. 
  • I have 55 blog followers! I absolutely love all of you, thank you so much!
  • And I'm kinda keen to see Letters to Juliet, so if anyone else has seen it already, do let me know if it's worth going to see!

Finally, at the risk of repeating myself (which of course I am), don't forget to sign up for the Character Interview Blogfest if it's the kind of thing you fancy! Pretty please? I'll give out blog-cakes! And truffles! And horrible cheap wine!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Word Cloud!

Yesterday, I read this fabulous post by Angela, also known as the Slushpile Slut. Inspired by the brilliance and fun of these word clouds, I decided to try my own on Wordle

I did this purely for the fun, but it might also be useful to anyone who wants to see if they're overusing certain words in their stories. That said, believe me, if you're just looking for a fun, silly few minutes (or longer, if you want to keep throwing sections of text in), this is absolutely delightful!

My word cloud for the first five pages of ECHOES-

For a largely dialogue-free scene halfway through the book-

And for a scene near the end of the book, a scene that, by the way, just about broke my heart to write-

Useful things I've learned? Well, for one thing, I think I use the word 'just' too often. Might run a word search through the document and cut out a fair few. Not all of them, though, because I think the word fits naturally into Echo's speech and narrative pattern.

What really fascinates me about these, though, is how so many of the key words and themes in the story come through here. Words like weavers, soul, love, sculpture, never, imagine, waiting.

Conclusion? I love word clouds.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Pick a book, any book

Today, I'm trying a little exercise and I'd love to hear from anyone else who tries it too!

I'm going to pick a book I love, and then try to figure out what it is, exactly, that I love about it - and, as such, try to see if I apply those things to my own work. As I see it, people aren't anomalies; so what one of us loves, many other people are likely to love too. So what better way to become a better writer than to find out what it is about our favourite books we love, and use that in our work?

(Yep, I'm sure there are better ways. But I'm dramatic at heart and so I'm sticking by my claim. Sticking by it, I tell you!)

I've picked Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek, and I've picked it apart. So what do I love so much about it?

Beautiful writing

Any fellow du Maurier fans will know that her writing is beautiful; but never more so, I think, than in Frenchman's Creek, a story about a discontented woman, a pirate, and a bittersweet love story. (Gosh, I am a sucker for my bittersweet love stories, aren't I?)

I'll admit freely that if it wasn't for the beauty of her writing, I wouldn't enjoy her books half as much. Without the poignant descriptions, the imagery, the flawless rendering of complex, indefinable emotions onto paper, Frenchman's Creek would not be the book it is.

Largely because of this, and the first time I read this novel, I try to make my writing beautiful. I don't have even half of Daphne du Maurier's skill, but I do try and it always makes me feel like my story comes alive about a thousand times more than it would otherwise. When I write in first person, I always make sure to stay in my character's voice, but beautiful writing can take different forms and I try to take care with my words, whether I succeed at achieving what I'd hoped or not.


I don't really need to go into this in detail, because I'm sure most of you will feel the same way. If the characters don't grab me - if they don't feel real, or wonderful, or make me laugh or cry - then I can't quite love a book as much, or even half as much. Frenchman's Creek has a host of brilliant characters, from the hilarious William to headstrong Dona to the complicated and decidedly not stereotypical Frenchman pirate.

I don't think I ever consciously applied this love to my writing, though. For me, characters either come naturally - which means they're worth writing about to me - or they feel stilted and wooden, in which case I can't write about them. Characters are so important to me that, unconsciously, they're the thing I always love most about writing.

Sense of place

Again, all du Maurier fans will know how instrinsic and essential Cornwall is to her novels. She makes it feel like such a living, breathing place: from the moors, to the cliffs, to the sea, to - above all - the houses and homes and spectres of old ghosts and shadows. I never read one of her novels without coming away with a strong sense of place, and Frenchman's Creek is the book that first made me long to see Cornwall (still haven't).

I took a leaf out of her book ages ago and I try, too, to make my places real. I never force it, and I certainly don't try to mimic her style, but I always keep a sense of place in my mind and in the story. Sometimes it comes naturally, and then I let it flow the way it wants to. If I'm struggling and a sense of place is called for, I work harder at it. It always depends on the story.

A relationship that comes at a price, and with sacrifice, and which you find yourself rooting for from the moment you see the characters together

I don't really need to explain this, do I? Except maybe to say that I love fictional relationships with conflict, and drama, but also natural chemistry. I hate relationships that feel forced, or unrealistic, or just plain irritate me because I can't understand how they could possibly work at all. I talk a lot about fictional relationships in my themed week, so I'm going to stop here.

There are other things I've loved and learned from Frenchman's Creek, but these are the most significant of them, the ones that have impacted on my writing the most.

Do you learn from the books and stories you love? Do you do it consciously or is it an unconscious thing that filters into your writing or, for the non-writers out there, into your other passions?

PS. The Character Interview Blogfest is exactly one week away! Do sign up! 

Monday, 7 June 2010

A series of (unfortunate?) events linked very loosely together

Well, after a long and exhausting weekend involving house-hunting, I've returned to the blogger-world. House-hunting is so much fun, but also very stressful because there's so much you have to think about, you have to face the possibility of loving a house but not being able to get it, you have to face that all-important fear of what if I can't find a job? and so on. 

Conclusion? Being a Real Adult in the Real World is scary. Personally, if an agent would get back to me, say he/she loves my novel, wants to represent it, and somehow wrangles me into a situation where I can be a Real Author Who Lives in Fictional Worlds, I'd be very happy.

Fingers crossed. Still haven't heard back from anyone who has my manuscript. When does it become okay to write in and say 'just making sure you received it...'? After eight weeks? I'm not quite there yet!

I bought another load of books last night, and am so excited to get to them! Well, actually, Steve bought them for me, which made me very very happy. Ah, he knows me too well. Among them were two books I've already read before, but don't own: Agatha Christie's The Labours of Hercules and Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract. If anyone likes mysteries and a nice dose of humour (Christie), or historical novels and a sweet and also bittersweet love stories (Heyer), I'd highly recommend these!

Lately I've been doing more revisions on ECHOES and writing bits and pieces of HALF and TEA WITH DEATH, DESIRE AND RAGE. In an earlier post, I mentioned my dilemma about going back to ECHOES when I'd already worked it to the bone and it was out on submission. In the end, I decided to make the small revisions that were keeping me up at night, just because if I felt that made the story tighter and better, it had to be the right thing. I've resisted the urge to pick at things too much, though, so as not to lose the book entirely.

I guess that means that while I haven't quite achieved the frenzied writing state I usually work best in, I'm not living in my totally dry spell anymore either. So, woo!

Monday seems a strange day to reflect back on things that have been happening of late, but apparently it's what I've done. Ah, well.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Beach Scene Blogfest

I'm a day early to Rachel Bateman's Beach Scene Blogfest. But, as my weekend is going to be cray-zee (house-hunting, no Internet), I thought it best to post this now and come back and read everyone else's entries as soon as I get a chance this weekend.

Anyway, here's my entry below, and do go to Rachel's signup page and check out the other posts tomorrow! 

I was originally going to post something from my completed ECHOES, but as I don't actually have any beaches anywhere in there, I decided to use a rough piece from my work-in-progress, HALF, instead. To the curious or confused, the titles will take you to a page about my projects, which will explain plot and background better!


I watched Mrs. Warren carefully. She fiddled with her cup of tea. Her eyes drifted to mine and then away again. I tried to decide if she was preparing herself to lie to me - or if she was just torn.

"There was a day," she said at last, "At the beach, like. I took them because they told me they'd never seen the sea, bless them, the poor little things. Never seen the sea, can you imagine? Growing up on this island, never seen the sea!"

Given the way they had grown up, I could easily imagine it. "What happened at the beach?"

"There was a woman there," Mrs. Warren remembered, her face smoothing into that blank, faraway look people always seem to wear when they're remembering something. I decided she wasn't lying. "Lovely thing. Not quite so young, like, but not old. She was watching them, the two of them. Kenneth, mostly. She was watching them with this look. It didn't take long for little Seira to notice. Always the sharp eye, she had."

"And then?"

"That woman," said Mrs. Warren, dreamily, "Could of sworn I'd seen her before, somewhere. Such a familiar face. She stood by the edge of the waves, with the water at her feet and her dress drifting back, like one of those sea-creatures you read about."

"Mrs. Warren," I said, clutching my teacup, "Tell me about Seira and Kenneth Cross."

"Why don't you ask me yourself, Mr. Wade?" came a voice from the doorway.

I'm a poet, after all, so I have been known to be fanciful. But I had never been less fanciful than I was in that moment - and my nerve endings had never come so violently alive. The sound of her voice trickled ice shards down the back of my neck. I turned. I remember being afraid, though for the life of me I couldn't tell you what I was afraid of, or for.

I looked into the eyes of the woman I had set out to understand, the girl I had become addicted to, discovering the truth of her past and her story a quest burned into my soul.

Seira Cross looked back at me, and then she did something I didn't expect.

She laughed.

"Go on, Mrs. Warren," she said, her eyes as bright as jewels, "Tell the poet and spy what happened that day at the beach. I'd love to see what he makes of it."


While we're on the subject of blogfests, please do sign up for my Character Interview Blogfest (see the sidebar for the signup sheet)!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Phantom of Our Operas

In my first year of university, my English lit tutor told us that every text is shadowed by all the texts that came before it. Every writer is haunted by other writers, other stories, other books.

So, to my fellow writers out there: what are you haunted by?

(Ironically, I'm listening to a song from Love Never Dies as I write this. It's probably what got me thinking about the actual Phantom of the opera in the first place.)

In the spirit of hauntings and phantoms, in whatever context, I thought I'd offer up a scene from ECHOES.


(Text from the novel removed. Sorry!)


Any thoughts would be great!

Finally, as ever, a reminder about the Character Interview Blogfest! Do sign up!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Pretty things!

I like pretty things. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I like things that look lovely, or interesting, or gorgeous, or just plain pretty - largely because of the way things like that, beautiful and interesting things, inspire me to write, inspire stories, and just offer me some neat eye candy.

For instance, I love this dress. And I love beautiful cities:


And I love the countryside. Steve lives in East Anglia, and I'm here visiting for a while. Let me just say, the countryside's gorgeous. I mean, I love the Lancashire countryside too, with its craggy hills and low stone hedges, but this is different: flat land, soft fields, sunsets.

Do beautiful things inspire you?

On the subject of blog awards, Bridge Marie gave me this one. Yay, thank you! 

So, of course, I'm passing it on to a couple of people - to Steve, to Alesa, and to India - all of whom have been brilliant at supporting the blog and critiquing my writing. There are loads of others who have been brilliant too, and I hope you all know how much I appreciate your comments on the blog and how wonderful I think you all are!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Time Heals All... Flaws?

I've been thinking about revisions lately. A couple of months ago, while working on my final-year portfolio, I asked my creative writing tutor (the brilliant Jo Baker) how long it took her to make her novels exactly what she wanted them to be. 

Her answer?

"Well, I still haven't managed to do that," she said, laughing. 

I asked her why, of course. I mean, was it because no book is ever going to be as perfect as you hoped it would be in your head? Is it because characters can rebel and refuse to be exactly what you want them to be (but there, after all, is where the story's life is, don't you think?)

Jo told me that it's partly not being able to get things the way they are in your head, which I could understand. But she also mentioned that it's because, over time, what you want from your story changes. Not a lot, maybe, but enough to make you feel oddly discontented with what you were so pleased about last month.

This is so true for me now. In my current, edited manuscript of ECHOES (the full manuscript that's still out with agents, being considered), I have a scene in which two characters on the run, in an attempt to forget they're being hunted for a little while, go wandering around London. While this felt right and in character at the time, and even after several rounds of revisions, I now feel irritated by this. Yes, it still kind of works, but it's also not appropriate to that chapter and that part of the story, and I think it diminishes the impact of the tension and conflict in those pages.

Maybe it can be re-written to work better? Maybe it should be scrapped altogether? Either way, it's not the only small thing niggling at me, and I now feel like my book needs another round of revisions.

Question is, does time away from a project give you necessary perspective, and how much of this perspective should you trust? Should you revise a book every single time you feel a little discontented with it, or should you just let it be sometimes and put your discontent down to restlessness? Does waiting to hear from agents/editors/readers contribute to this feeling of discontent with your story?

Is a book ever really complete? Or can it always stand more editing, even if that editing at some point stops being helpful and becomes something that takes away from your original story?

Do you ever struggle with this kind of thing? Does time reveal flaws in your project you never saw before, or does it just make you restless and start picking at tiny things that aren't really a problem?

On an unrelated note, do join my Character Interview Blogfest! Sign-up sheet is in the sidebar, and I can't wait to read all your entries!