Writing, Waiting & Wondering

This blog will be reporting me for neglect before too long but I assure you I’ve not flown off on my broomstick to pastures new and green.

witch

However, I do feel like I’m in limbo land at the moment. After the build up to launching  The Siren and Other Strange Tales;  – all the editing, formatting, checking and double checking – once it was over I felt rather flat and a bit lost.

feeling flat

Then the reality of marketing and promoting set in. There were sites where I needed to upload/update the book’s details; social media to manage, guest blogs to write. I understand that I need a fan base, a platform from which to launch my wares but I struggle to find creative, diverse and subtle ways of saying ‘just buy the bloody book will ya?’

Somehow through it all this Blog got put to one side.

Following on from The Siren’s launch I drafted a plan for loosing my first novel ‘The Weave’  into the world. I had approached a few agents, more in hope than expectation, all of whom said thanks but no thanks. Then I had one more try and the synopsis and first three chapters duly landed on the agent’s desk. I forgot about it until I got an email asking to see the whole mss. I sat looking at the email, my mouth so far agape I began to drool on the keyboard. Now this might not seem like much but for me who has never had a foot over the threshold of trad. publishing, it seemed like a huge step forward.

But then the spanner hit the works. Do I go ahead with my own publishing plan anyway? Do I commission the cover? Do I send review copies out? What if (wild imagining here) the agent wants to represent me, everything will change, won’t it? And at that point, just as my ancient PC does when I give it too much to consider and organise, I froze; hung up; went into stasis and will not unfreeze I suspect until I have a reply from the agent.

In an effort to  break loose I began book number 2 set in the 13th century. I got about a quarter way through the first draft and then lost the plot…literally. I am back to my old nemesis – I know what the beginning and the ending are going to be like but what happens in between…??? I may have mentioned it in earlier posts I have a disc full of novel sandwiches without their filling. I am determined that this one will not join them and have decided to take a break from it for a wee while. Instead I am researching and pitching some magazine articles just for a change of scene.

So there’s a quick update for those of you wondering whether I’m away travelling on my time machine. I would say watch this space but I won’t because it may only be a blank screen.

Oh and did I mention that I’ve quit smoking, the cartilage in my right knee has gone awol  so I need a new knee and I’ve acquired a gorgeous seven-month old Alsatian/Husky dog called Petra?

The Story So Far

I’m about to disappear for a week in the wilds of the west of Ireland so I thought I’d take the opportunity to recap on where I am with The Novel. I ‘m about three-quarters of the way through –   60,000 plus hand-written words – (I just cannot write direct to my PC…too many distractions) – building up to what I hope will be a thrilling climax.

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60,000+ hand-written words so far

It has been truly hard labour these past weeks. I have a track record of starting to write a novel and then throwing in the towel at about the mid-point as I always seem to lose my way. This time I have been determined to get past the mid-point. Now I think I know what the ending is going to be so I truly believe I’ll get to the finishing line. (sorry about the mixed metaphors!)

My “baddies” the vengeful Madame Ombrine and the inscrutable Oskar have ridden through the centuries, thanks to…oops no, can’t tell you that (but it’s not a time machine), lying, cheating, robbing and killing to arrive in France in 2013.  As a last throw of the dice in the game they have been playing they open the Nonesuch Club – a club for struggling writers.

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Are these the doors to the Nonesuch Club?

 

 

There they draw in my neurotic protagonist, Richard a writer of ghost stories who is broke, blocked and bedevilled by his past.

In the club’s writing room Richard finds he can shake off his writer’s block and, at the same time, lay some of the ghosts of his past to rest. But all is not as it seems and Richard becomes suspicious as other club members begin to disappear and ….That’s all for now folks.

So, a week exploring the Emerald Isle seems like a fair reward and I feel quite sure I’ll come across a heap of spooky stories to provide new material.

Short Story, Novella or Novel?

That was the week that was. Last Tuesday the editor’s report on my spooky stories came in, threw me a complete curve and left me in a tizzy – my poor synapses working overtime.

It started well –
“Like your style and what you’ve done with the stories”
“Very good writer, stories have real merit.”

Oh goodness I was having a warm fuzzy glow moment (actually a bit tearful) of pride.

I read on. She took each story in turn, made some very helpful suggestions and complimentary comments and the fuzzy glow began to turn into a flush to rival any of those crappy menopausal ones.

I arrived at the last few paragraphs. Here’s where the kicker came in. She suggested in effect that I turn the collection into a novella or even a novel.

“What” I shrieked at the computer screen. I’m writing short stories. I can’t do novels not even short ones. I have the evidence to prove it – three half written very dead ones mouldering away in a drawer somewhere.

But the damage was done. Stealthily at first, my brain woke up; then gathering speed it zigged and zagged through a zillion different scenarios. Ideas came; ideas went. What if? What if? Oh yes I could do this or that or even this and that. After a week of serious brooding I felt like one of those stupid chickens trying to hatch a pot egg. I used up a ream of paper drawing out scenes, new chapters, the mechanisms I could use, the new characters I could develop.

Hatching a pot egg

In the end I took last weekend off and painted a lambris clad (tongue and groove) ceiling a fetching chalky white. There was method in my madness because to paint lambris well you need to pay attention – all those little grooves that a roller misses have to be painted in by hand. It’s a boring job but takes my mind off more meaningful things and I’m working on the principle that my brain will be free to rove around on its own, unfettered by my attempts to coax and corral it.

For two days, whilst I played Michaelangelo and lay on my back painting the ceiling (sadly with no Sistine Chapel effects) I left Richard, my possible protagonist festering in the Nonesuch Club – a very unusual and select establishment. Will he emerge shoe-horned into a short story? Shall I give him more air time and expand him into a novella or shall I go for the big time novel?

I haven’t the faintest idea – the pot egg hasn’t hatched yet. I think I’ll go find another ceiling to paint.

Confessions of an Indie Author

With the, no doubt temporary, spirit of New Year zeal slugging its way through my hardening arteries I thought I’d review my writing progress over the past year. One book published and another on its way – not bad perhaps except for the niggling thought that if I managed my time better I could do more. Now, in an earlier incarnation, I wrote a book called Time for Your Life – all about how to make time to do the things you want to do as well as the things you have to do. It contains pearls of wisdom about how to deal with procrastination and displacement activities (P&D/A)- Time Thieves I called them. Here I’ll let you into a secret it’s a book on the lines ‘do as I say not as I do’. When it comes to the process of writing all my pearls about P&D/A scatter before the swine.

However, one things I am good it is making lists so I thought I’d share with you my top P&D/A activities.

1. Wandering down to the kitchen to make coffee and fossick for a snack. I drink so much coffee that I need to pee regularly hence creating two D/As at once. Smart eh?
2. Read the social media and snarl at all those peppy people who always have something to say for themselves
3. Play on-line solitaire in the belief it will at least keep one part of my brain working whilst the rest is AWOL
4. Check sales figures for my book Close to the Edge hoping that any change will motivate me. When these haven’t changed I resort to 1 above.
5. Do some housework which also helps to work off the few calories added by indulging in 1 above.
6. Look up rude words in my French dictionary so I can swear fluently at the be-pimpled adolescent who cut me up on the bend the other day.
7. Sit in the garden and pretend to think – my favourite when the weather is good.
8. Re-read (it’s called editing I think) for the zillioneth time the hundred words I have written and agonise over commas, full-stops, semi-colons.
9. Light up an illicit cigarette with my head hanging out of the window hoping the shutter won’t fall down and guillotine my outstretched neck.
10. The very last resort – do some unnecessary ironing – like the hems on towels that curl up after I’ve washed and dried them.

So there you have it – confessions of an indie author – all perfectly rational of course. How many of them do you share with me? Even better have you any to add that I could adopt?

Happy New Year everyone.

It’s a Wrap!

Just typed THE END on the last page of (working title) “Between Heaven and Earth” – seven strange tales of the supernatural – ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night…well actually no, I’ve not got a bump in the night tale – well not of a supernatural kind anyway. I’m one day behind schedule and if hadn’t been for a raucous party last night I’d have been right on time which is a rare thing for me.

I don’t know why I suddenly found myself writing spooky stories – they just jostled for space in my head like a litter of unruly puppies waiting to make a dash for freedom . But it’s been fun even though, from time to time, I found myself thinking ‘lady you have a seriously bizarre imagination’… which is probably true.

It’s taken me nine months to complete them – just over 30000 words in all. I don’t know (or care really) whether that’s good going but given a summer filled with close encounters of the social kind and a fair bit of decorating and renovation, I’m satisfied.

Now there’s a decision to be made – self-publish or seek the elusive holy grail of “trad” publishing. Haven’t decided yet – I’ll wait until my editor gets back to me. However,just in case I go for the indie route can anyone out there recommend a good cover designer? Please e-mail me if so.

So that’s it for this year. Let the festivities begin and all of you who have taken the trouble to follow me over the past year have a happy and peaceful holiday time with your families and friends.

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Where to go in search of a New Idea?

Where do ideas for stories come from? Probably a stupid question for a writer to ask but I plead insanity. I suppose the answer is everywhere-imagination, experience, observation, music, books, films and the eternal question”what if?”

As I put the finishing touches to a collection of spooky short stories (to be launched on the world ere long) I began to notice how many of these factors had crept in sometimes almost uninvited.

There are two local legends that form the basis of “The Siren” and “The Shoemaker”. Snippets from newspapers added to the former and gave me the plot for “No Ordinary Cat”.

Places where I have lived or visited in the UK and in France have provided the settings, and imagination allowed me to demolish a house here and there and move a church up a hill.

My own life experiences and people I have met snuck into “Toussaint” and “Sukie”. A recent experience of being blocked as a writer – not able to string two…er…two…um…thingys, you know, words, like, together – gave me the theme for “The Nonesuch Club” as did the words of the song ‘Hotel California’.

I’ve played Frankenstein and used a few traits or characteristics of people I know or have met to populate the stories with my very own monsters. No! Really, I didn’t mean that everyone I know/have met is a monster…well not all of them perhaps.

Of all the stories in the collection the hardest to write was “Boy with Harmonica”. That was the one that blocked me. Whilst the story is set in a village almost on my doorstep which I’ve come to know well (the village not the doorstep…well that too I suppose) I could not create the characters – a small band of Maquis (French resistance fighters during WWII) and a troop of Germans.The story was there but the characters were hiding in the shadows. So I read first-hand accounts of the German Occupation of this part of France; I walked the woods around the village where I wanted the story to unfold and criss-crossed the village streets and alleyways until I was sure I’d get arrested for loitering with intent. But they came, those characters, they slipped out of the shadows and onto the page. It was the hardest story of the collection to write yet, in spite of that (or perhaps because of it) it is one of my favourites.

Add to all these factors a large dollop of my weird and just occasionally wonderful imagination and a bunch of stories are born.

Simple eh?

Labour Pains

Prolonged birthday celebrations mean I’ve been somewhat tardy in attending to this blog nevertheless I’ve not been entirely lost in jollity. I’ve started on what I hope will be the last twiddle phase of my book Close to the Edge.

I finally came to a decision about professional editing and have entrusted the book to a pro. How much she will slice and dice is yet to be seen but I confess, I await her verdict with some trepidation. In coming to this decision – to edit or not to edit – I read up on others’ experiences and talked to a few trusted friends and even to a “proper” author who lives here in the village. Opinion was divided but there was one area where agreement was reached –the number of poorly presented, formatted and copy-edited e-book offerings that are out there and that’s before the quality of the writing is put to the test. Even I, a late-comer to reading ebooks , have noticed this. I would say about 10-12% of those I’ve downloaded fall into the category of poor presentation with typos, photos that move from one page to another, confusion over homonymic words and so on.

I don’t want to fall into this category and even though I’ve combed my mss umpteen times I still pick up the odd error or the desire to tweak a paragraph here and there so perhaps professional copy-editing is essential. However, I’ve gone for the Full Monty to include textual/structural editing. It’s a more subjective element and I wonder how and how well I’ll manage the feedback.
Already I’m picking over the one piece of feedback I’ve had so far – and that is only based on a read through of the first and last chapters so that the poor lady could give me an idea of cost.

“You write with fluency and authority” she observed. Like a cat on a mouse I pounced on the words. Is that good? Or does she really mean I waffle on and sound like a bossy know-it-all? I’ve turned her words inside out and upside down to understand her “true” meaning. Why can’t I take them at face value? Shades of my schooldays when Miss Grey, my teacher, returned the obligatory weekly essay, garnished with red ink, with the comment – “Sheila you have let your imagination overrule the necessity for neat hand-writing and attention to punctuation.”
Have I spent the better part of a year only to turn out a pile of goose-poo? Would I be better taking up underwater-knitting? What do I do if I receive negative feedback or suggestions for changing parts of the book? Do I change them?

The obvious answer is…it’s my book therefore it’s my choice…and yet.

I’ve paid a lump out of a limited budget to someone who is well-established in her field with a list of credits a mile long, particularly for non-fiction. How confident would I feel about ignoring her opinions? Answer – I don’t know. In most areas of my life I’m a pretty confident cookie, but with my writing – it’s the opposite. Generally I shrink from exposing the waffling of an over-taxed brain to anyone – it is a miracle akin to the wine and water trick that I’ve had anything published at all. I’m guessing it’s the same for many writers.

So over the next few weeks this blog will be less about adventures in France. Instead, I shall be sharing the pains, the labour pains if you will, of the editing process and hopefully you’ll be in on The Birth of this masterpiece around Easter next year.

Close to the Edge

Close to the Edge