Thursday, 31 May 2012

Faerypin Bonus Entry - The Ring

The Ring

The ring weighed heavy in her palm, heavier than it should have been, all sharp edged and uncomfortable.  Picking it up, she held over the table lamp.  The face looked back at her, ghost white and unsmiling.  A solemn face.  Big eyed.  Cartoonish, almost.

Other people inherited houses.  Cars.  Money.  Solid, tangible, useful things, things you could build a future on.  Not an ugly ring with a round faced spectre leering from it.


Odd word to pick.  It was just the way its painted eyes seemed to follow her around the room.  Stupid.  Just her imagination playing tricks. 

It was the house probably; she’d never liked it here.  It smelt the same now as it did when she was a kid.  Musty, disused, like no one lived there.  And it was cold, so cold.  She’d always had to wear an extra sweater, the real wool kind, thick and scratchy.   

Mum insisted though.  Said family was family and someone had to keep an eye on Aunt Mal.  Always seemed more like Mal kept an eye on them, thin pale eyes to match her thin pale smile. Witchy.

She’d always thought Mum was in it for the inheritance.  Mustn’t have known there wasn’t one, just the stupid ring.  Turns out the house never belonged to Aunt Mal.  Belonged to a friend of hers, but no one had seen her, not for years. 

That was weird too.  The lease had been tucked in a bookshelf.  Aunt Mal got the house and her friend, she got a bed of gold.  A bed of gold?  Who did that?

She looked again at the ring.  Carefully rubbing the dirty metal, she smiled.  Yellow.  It was gold.  That at least ought to be worth something. 

She didn’t see the tear roll down the painted face. 

299 words

This story was inspired by an image on Anna Meade's Faerytaleish Pinterest Board and written as part of the #Faerypin writing contest  (300 words, fairy tale based on one of Anna's pins).  Both my stories  (see Lady of the Lamp) feature an enchanted artefact.  This one plays on the way things can go wrong when you make a deal with a fairy or a witch.  The devil is always in the detail.


Be Inspired! Blog Hop

The gorgeous Stacy Bennett-Hoyt and the paganly perfect Cameron Lawton (half woman, half otter) tagged me in a blog hop organised by writer Vicky Orians. Vicky's cunning plan to to have writers share their inspirations ergo the blog hop is called...

Before I go any further, I recommend you click through and read Stacy's answers!  My task is simple:
1. I answer the ten questions
2. I tag five writers and ask them to do the same

1. What is the name of your book?

The working title is Boundless as the Sea - taken from this Romeo and Juliet quote:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

Boundless sprang practically fully formed from its predecessor Merely Players.  Sal, the heroine and Richard, the hero, were secondary characters but their story threatened to overtake the book and lots of my beta readers wanted to know what happened to them.  Following received wisdom, I gave them a story of their own.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?

It's most definitely a historical romance!

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

Aha! I'm ahead of you there.  I've already picked my cast and you can take a look at them on Pinterest.   Christian Bael has the honour of playing my hero, Richard Warwick:

And Michelle Pfeiffer would play my icy beauty, Sal Stornaway:

My villain, the Comte de Therbonne would be played by the world's prettiest vampire, Alexander Skarsgard:

5. Give us a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Scandalous actress Sal Stornaway once humiliated the respectable Richard Warwick, Earl of Cranbourne: now she wants him back, but Richard wants the one thing Sal is not prepared to sacrifice - her heart.

6. Is your book already published/represented?

Not anywhere near! I've completed one draft...  many more re-drafts to come!

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

I started at the end of October 2011 and I completed the first draft at the end of April 2012, so roughly six months.  However, as it was a sequel much of the back story was in place.

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to?  Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?

I would place myself in a similar space to Joanna Bourne.  It isn't a light hearted frothy ballroom romance, it has slightly darker themes.  Sal has a patchwork past and a troubled childhood, Richard has demons of his own.  My writing style is fairly loose too, I use choppy sentences at times and broken phrases, particular in action scenes.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

I fell in love with historical romance through the novels of Georgette Heyer, but my work definitely owes its influences to writers who deal with more in depth, emotional characters - wonderful authors like Jo Bourne, Laura Kinsale and Meredith Duran. There's also a strong theatrical theme in both this book and its predecessor which offers a nod to films like Shakespeare in Love.

10. Tell us anything which might pique our interest in this book?

This book steps away from Almack's and Hyde Park into different strata of 19th century society.  The reader will be whisked from the Paris underworld to the opera, via duels, deceptions and diplomacy.  The heroine is not a wilting Regency debutante, but a celebrated actress and courtesan, who has to peel away her tough exterior and learn to risk herself again.  The hero is not an bristling alpha, but a strong and honourable man, who loves with deep loyalty and dedication.  It's not just a story about love, it's a story about redemption, self acceptance and truth.

Now...  you're tagged:

Katherine L Bone

Andrea Walpole / Jessica Baker

J. Whitworth Hazzard

Mike Manz

Sophie Moss

Faerypin Contest Entry

The Lady of the Lamp - Awarded an Honourable Mention in the #FaeryPin Contest

Come closer, Oh Beloved.  Hear my… Oh sod it. 
It’s not as though I have an audience in here.  It’s tight.  Cosy.  Space just for one. Me.
People would ask if I'm lonely if there were any people.  There aren't.   Haven't been for five hundred years.  Maybe millennia.  Hard to know after the first few decades.
I shift slightly, rub my neck.  Sinuous, that's what the sultans called me.  Don't much feel sinuous now.  I feel... dusty.  Mustn't think like that. Mustn't get philosophical.  All that "If a tree falls in the forest" nonsense.  I can see the trees.  Hastate leaves, bristling like daggers.  Rough bark, mottled with shadow.  I can smell them.  Damp, mossy. 
They have to be real.  If the trees aren't real then maybe I'm not real.  No one can see me.  No one can smell me.  No one can hear me, cooped up in here.
Maybe I don't exist.

I open my eyes and my reflection stares back at me bulbous, distorted by the lamp’s curve.  The metal is still bright, smudged a little by my toes.  I draw pictures with them sometimes.  Rub the shining gold, smudge it up a bit.  Toe drawings.  Stick men warriors and fat princesses.
And I dream.  That's what I do most of all, dream. 
When I dream hands curve around my home, warming the cold metal.  Calloused and warm, the hands of a worker or a warrior, not a King.  I smell olives and lemon rind, sweat and dirt from the marketplace.  It's the dirt that brings him back to me, vivid and sharp-scented.  Face streaked with sand, hair tangled by the desert wind.
I stutter into wakefulness and my skin feels hot, tight. 
I gave him three wishes but he didn’t wish for me.


This was written for the delightful Anna Meade's #Faerypin Contest (closing midnight 1 June) and inspired by her wondrous and bountiful Faerytaleish Pinterst Board

Friday, 25 May 2012

Kickass Kindred Kreativ Kreatures

Half elf queen - half writer
Anna Meade.

Oh yes. Say that name and strange things happen. Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of something. A fleeting impish smile. The tinkle of laughter that sounds somehow more than human.

Next thing you know baby dragons are chewing your toes off, Galactus is about to eat your planet and you've been turned into a pearl. Or a pig. You're living in a coral cave beneath the ocean playing chess with Selkies.

Yeah THAT Anna Meade. The one who can get a hundred people writing about fairies. The one who rules Twitter with a gem encrusted magical gauntlet.

The one who gave me more followers that Kim Kardashian. Well nearly.

Fair Anna, mistress of whimsy and the magical arts has done me the great honour of presenting me with the Kreativ blogger award (*sweeps curtsey, tips hat*).

Pretty isn't it?

Even better, what I didn't realise is that the inkily fabulous Ruth Long had also tagged me.  One of my beloved Fictionistas (eyes right to link list), Ruth has a heart as big as five oceans.  She champions her writerly friends like Spartacus facing down a lion.  Damn, she'd hurl a cupcake no FIVE cupcakes into the ravening maw of rampaging bilge dragon to help out a Fictionista pal.

Moreover, she is a Person of Influence.  Within days of connecting with Ruth on Fairy Anna's blog contest, I was watching Hellboy 2 merely to catch a glimpse of her beloved Nuada, I was avidly rifling through Laurie Hutzler's blog, writing fantasy and damn well changing half my lazy writing ways.  She's a Life Changer, short and simple - I'm delighted she asked me to join her writers' group. 

Now that Ruth and Anna have nominated me, I had better play.  Them's the rules.  No, here's the rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person that nominated you.
2. Answer the ten questions.
3. Share ten random thoughts/facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 7 worthy bloggers for the award. 

The Questions:

1. What is your favourite song?

Obviously this depends on mood, which way the wind is blowing and what side of bed I got out of.  I'm a Manchester girl and love Manchester music.  The Stone Roses (I have tickets - YEAY!), New Order... but the song I chose for my ring tone is Evangeline by the Icicle Works.  I liked it so much, I chose it as my confirmation name. 

2. What is your favourite dessert?

In the winter, sticky toffee pudding, in the summer, raspberry pavlova.  All year round I have an uncontrollable addiction to the Scottish delicacy known as a snowball

3. What ticks you off?

Unfairness. That covers a multitude of sins, from racism through to favouritism.  Unfairness sucks.

4. What do you do when you get upset?

Like the Fair Anna, I submerge myself in scalding water and soak my troubles away.  Baths cure the world's evils, period. And they also cure evil periods.

5. Which is your favourite pet?

The only pet I currently have is a long lived sucky cat fish thing which survives utter neglect, murky water and erratic feeding.  Our relationship is not built on love but on wary respect.  It will outlive me.  I grew up with cats. I loved them, I thought they were mystical guardians of our home.  But my favourite pet of all time was Sovvie, my dim, beautifully mannered Shetland Sheepdog. She had the loveliest doggie eyeliner. 

6. Which do you prefer, black or white?

Depends on whether you're talking about teeth, magic or chocolate.  

7. What is your biggest fear?

Anything bad happening to my child. 

8. What is your attitude mostly?

Make it so! I'm an optimist by nature.  I like to dream big dreams and even better, I like to turn them into reality.  I'm the habit of saying... "In the next five years I will..."  I'm great at starting.  I'm dreadful at finishing. 

9. What is perfection?

Anna Meade ;-)

10. What is your guilty pleasure?

CSI.  I don't watch TV (particularly now the remote control is broken and the TV permanently fixed to Cbeebies) but I find an episode of CSI irresistible.  CSI plus a curry plus a sofa blanket is a fine way to chill.  Just as long as I've been able to fit in a bath. 

Now the facts: 10 Obscure Meg Facts

  • My first crush was David Bowie in Labyrinth.  It was the start of a long love affair with men in breeches particularly those with malevolent goblin powers.
  • I make the world's finest triple chocolate cookies.  So chocolatey they will blow your head off and your mind.
  • I think parma violets are disgusting but like violet creams. One of life's mysteries.
  • My first album was Hallelujah by the Happy Mondays.  It was the last cool thing I ever did.
  • At different points in my childhood I was Taras Bulba, a Viking and a Silver Brumby.  Like the man said, Allah loves great variety (and so do I). 
  • I met my husband showing him a database.  He'd travelled with the Zapatistas, exhumed bodies in Guatemala and run club nights in Glasgow and he fell in love over a database.  Who knew?
  • I hate dry paint like the fires of hell. It makes my fingernails want to fall off.
  • I once knew how to read Ancient Greek.  Now I don't even know the alphabet. :-(
  • I get book anxiety.  If I'm travelling somewhere I need my kindle, my iphone (with kindle app) and a hard copy something.  Just in case my kindle runs out of charge, my iphone falls down the toilet and...  GOD FORBID I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO READ.  Though if I have a notepad, I can write my own stories.
  • I'm not superstitious but at 33 years old I still salute at magpies. You just never know...

Now, who to nominate?  Well, rules are made to be broken so I'm nominating my lucky number... the power of THREE:

Afsaneh (@afsaneh_dreams)
Jessica Baker aka Andrea (@AndreaWalpole) 
Timony Souler (@timonysouler)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Avengers - Doing it Right

If you follow this blog.  Or my Twitter account.  Or even pass me in the street you will probably have picked up on the fact I was the teeniest bit disappointed in 2011's Captain America (5 Ways to Kill Conflict and Bore the Hell out of People).

You might therefore imagine that it was with some mild trepidation that I took myself along to see the Avengers.  I'd heard good things, but then I'd heard good things about the Cap.  The potential for it all to go horribly wrong was high.

It didn't.

It went right, in as much as a big ensemble superhero movie CGId up to its multimillion dollar eyeballs can go right.  Why did it go right?

It had conflict.

Having just read the utterly fabulous Laurie Hutzler's (hat tip to writers' champion Ruth Long for introducing me to Hutzler) blog post on the Avengers I knew to expect some decent characterisation.  I knew that Loki was a "Power of Idealism character" whilst the Hulk was "Power of Will."

But I didn't understand before seeing it was just how beautifully each individual relationship played off against each other.  Cap's overweening conscience ran slapbang up against Iron Man's wise cracking irresponsibility.  Nick Fury's cunning found its opposite number in Thor's transparent honesty and open heart.  Fast paced external events drove these disparate characters together and once together their innate characters, drivers and emotional baggage nearly tore them apart. 

They nearly - nearly - failed.

Until they got their shit together.  To get their shit together required what Hutzler describes as an "exchange of gifts" - a technique which belongs most naturally in romance.  In a good romance the protagonists are at odds with other.  The more at odds they are, the greater the tension.  The greater the sacrifice, the more satisfying the conclusion.

So when Captain America and Tony Stark (Iron Man) spat...

Steve Rogers: Yeah. Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you? 

Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.

Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you. 

Tony Stark: I think I would just cut the wire. 

Steve Rogers: Always a way out. You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero. know that to achieve fulfilment it has to be Tony Stark who is the one to be a traditional hero.  He's creative.  He's clever.  But in the end, it has to be raw bravery he exercises - Captain America's stock in trade.  And the Captain, he has to rely on Tony's cleverness and his creativity.  

An exchange. 

At the end of the Avengers each character has experienced something of a journey, in as much as can happen to a gang of people in the space of a couple of hours.  The plot's twists and turns have forced each to their limits: learned to love, or to trust, or to have faith in themselves, or to value something different.

Thank God for that.

*roll credits* 

Pssst..... Thanos is coming! 

Monday, 21 May 2012

In which I discover a new sense....

I read an article once by a writer talking about the senses.  Not just the usual five but a whole array of other ways of perceiving that some people argue to be senses in their own right.  You can find a list of them on wikipedia - they include things like thermoception (sensitivity to temperature), proprioception (kinesthetic sense), sense of time and nociception (pain) etc.

The writer I was reading was arguing that for a scene to be truly sensual it should employ not just the five, but the rest.  Heat, movement, pain...  whatever.

I can get behind that.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.  I'm writing about a new sense.  Sensitivity to books.

That's right.  Let's call it biblioception.

I stumbled across a treasure trove today, disguised as a humble charity shop in a town on the edge of Edinburgh.  Alright, I'll share it with you.  Afterall, I have left a dragon guarding the treasure.  It's called the Hearing Dogs and it's on Musselburgh High Street.

[small digression: This treasure trove was discovered by my sister Helen whose ability to seek out and identify quality charity shops is unparalleled.  Being half elf her magical powers are not to be underestimated. Being half book-obsessive they have concentrated themselves in this rather niche field of expertise, with some small flickers of enchantment devoted to sorting embroidery threads into pleasing colour combinations]

Enter the Hearing Dogs and you are in a long, dank corridor lined with higgledy piggledy shelves cluttered with books.  There's a chill in the air and a musty smell that clings to everything. Brush through the double doors and you're in another book lined corridor.  It leads to a book lined chamber.  Books are everywhere. New books, old books, two deep on the shelves and stacked high on tables.  In cardboard boxes littering the floor.  Half of them are in disorder, the Ts jostling with the Js, high fantasy rubbing shoulders with biography.  It's literary chaos.

It's heaven.

A treasure chamber never looked so good.

And it costs £1 for 3 books.  THREE BOOKS.  Okay, that's not unusual in charity shop land.  But in most charity shops you're looking at Mills & Boon and mass market paper backs.  In the specialist bookshops - Oxfam or Amnesty - you might find more variety, but anything half decent will be priced accordingly.  Commercial second hand booksellers who find anything really good will auction or flog them on AB Books or Amazon.

Not here.

Here an egalitarian culture thrives.  That impossible to find Barbara Willard book will cost you 49p.  So will Jackie Cooper.  There are old books and new books, science fiction and romance, literary fiction and mass market paperbacks.  And they are all - all - three for £1.

Be still my beating heart.

So back to biblioception: the sense which allows an organism to detect quality fiction using an as yet undiscovered set of physical receptors.  It's a little known fact that biblioception is the most evocative of all the senses.  Move over smell, there's a new sense in town.  How else to explain the rapid beating of my heart when I discover an early edition paperback copy of the Wizard of Earthsea?

And let's not stop there.  I stumble across a Willard Price and suddenly I'm 10 years old again, getting stuck to hot tarmac because I was insistent on walking barefoot so as not to be caught by trackers due to my pinched together shoe-wearing toes (Safari Adventure).

My hand touches Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger and I'm riding the back of a copper dragon and sitting, hunched up in my bunk bed propping my eyelids open with matchsticks.

I see Alan Garner's Moon of Gomrath and I know it already sits on my shelves.  But damn, this one has a different cover, the original cover.  Onto the pile it goes.

Barbara Willard, M.M. Kaye, Eleanor Farjeon... the pile grows higher and higher.  In the end I stagger to the counter with no less than fifteen shabby, beloved paperbacks, count out a fiver in change and leave with a bag full of memories and a happy heart.

Give me that book sugar, baby

So you?

What activates your sense of biblioception?  What gets your heart beating faster, stimulates your memories, makes your eyes prickle?  Which bedraggled, dog-eared paperbacks would have you selling your granny into indentured service to possess?  Which takes you to your happy place?

(I am so wanting to spend a week organising my bookshelves now).

(But I don't have enough bookshelves).

(Someone give me a library, please).

Mermaid Treasures at Seacliff Beach

Just outside of North Berwick and down a humble farm track lies the hidden treasure of Seacliff Beach.  For the princely sum of two quid you can get access to one of Scotland's prettiest and romantic secret locations.  This is imagination stirring fodder for the fairytale aficionado... here are some of the treasures I found.

Just to remind us who lives out there....

The toes of a stone giant.  His torso lies buried under the sand, ready to rise again.

A merman's discarded shield, washed ashore after a major sea battle.

A merman's spear, honed to a fine point. 

A shelter built for a Selkie Queen for the purposes of giving audiences.

The head of a stone King, seaweed strewn he looks out to sea.

The ruins of Tantallon Castle brood over the coastline.

One of the world's smallest fishing harbours... or a smuggler's cove, hidden deep in the rocks.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A plea for Character Development

I watched Iron Man this week.  I also watched the Fantastic Four.

Let's me be clear here.  I love Marvel.  I love the Marvel Universe.  I have Marvel Top Trumps and Marvel Guess Who and 100 Classic Covers Marvel postcards.  I grew up reading mildewed and damp boxes of Marvel comics from the 70s and 80s - a legacy of having six big brothers.

I love Marvel.

But I don't love Marvel films.  Not all of them.  Let's take Captain America, or no.  Let's not.  I've ranted about Captain America before (5 Ways to Kill Conflict and Bore the Hell out of Your Audience).  Let's take Iron Man and the Fantastic Four.

Here I am, I'm a fan.  I'm not an obsessive detailed fan.  I don't have every back copy of every comic and know the history of every character, the various artists and writers.  Really I don't.  I didn't even know the Scarlet Witch and Vision were a couple until recently (he's like a robot right?).  So I'm a warm, cuddly easily pleased sort of fan.  The sort of fan that will go to the cinema and buy the DVD and eat it up with low expectations and a bucket of popcorn.

But still I say to you:  DON'T CHEAT ME.

You can spend multiple millions on a film.

You can cast spectacular looking actors.  They might even be able to act.

You can give me the best special effects money can buy.

So don't bloody well scrimp on the story.

Films can look pretty. They can cast big names.  But unless there is character development they are forgettable. 

Captain America.  Nice nerdy kid gets super powers, takes on arch enemy and his best mate is murdered.The impact of this on him is... nil.

Fantastic Four.  Scientist piloty types get sent into space have cosmic ray accident, develop super powers and... nothing.  Well, Reed Richards and Susie Storm get back together.  That's nice.  But do they change?Is there impact?  Well, no.


Is this because these films are aimed at kids or something?  Don't insult me!  Aladdin is aimed at kids.  Shrek is aimed at kids.  They've got more character development in one still than Captain America or the Fantastic Four.

Jeez Louise.

These isn't a feature of the superhero genre.  Iron Man changes.  He learns to be less self centred.  He learns to understand the impact of his actions, to care about others. Thor learns humility.  Wolverine to trust.

There is no excuse.

And of course, this isn't limited to film.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.  I love Greek Myth.  I love fantasy.  I love young adult literature.  I wanted to love this book.  But friend Percy loses his mum, finds out he's the son of a god, experiences any number of adventures and does he change?  No.


So, for the record Your Honour, if you give me a story without character development I will be disappointed.  It doesn't matter if it's prettily packaged, if you have a twisty turny plot and an unguessable ending.  It doesn't matter if your prose is pretty or your special effects stupendous.  If there is no character development I will regret spending £10 on a cinema ticket.  I will want to hurl your book at the wall.

Please, please, please whatever you are writing, have your characters change as a consequence of what they put you through, or your work will be utterly pointless.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Happy National Flash Fiction Day!

I'm ridiculously excited about National Flash Fiction Day.  Why?  Because I OWE flash fiction.  I owe it big time.

Some time, many moons ago I stumbled across a twitter chat between @AMhairiSimpson and @TimonySouler talking about a contest lovely Timony was launching.  That contest was the Divine Hell blog challenge and it turned out to be my first ever attempt at flash fiction.

Now, several months and more than 80 flash fiction stories later I'm a flash fiction aficionado.  More than that it has transformed my writing life.  Here's why:

1. It hones your writing.  In the last couple of years I haven't just written flash. I've written two novels.  But the improvement in my writing between novel 1 and novel 2 has been vast.  Why?  Because of flash.  Because flash focuses you on a snippet.  No word is wasted.  Everything counts.  In just a few words you need to do it all: vivid language, exciting sentence structures, impactful metaphors, alliteration, structure, characterisation etc etc.  You learn.  There is no quicker to liberate your voice.

2. It gives you friends.  The flash fiction community is one of the most supportive, interactive and engaging communities in the Twitterverse.  Clever, inventive, fun people all playing with words and helping each other out.  I have met SO MANY great people through flash fiction.  And I'm looking at YOU Anna Meade, Ruth Long, Stacy Bennett-Hoyt, Jenn, Kern Windwraith, Timony Souler, David A Ludwig, Mike Manz, Stevie McCoy, Lena Corazon, Rebecca Clare Smith, Lisa Hollar, Cara Michaels, Siobhan Muir, Jeffrey Hollar... the list goes on.  Bloody brilliant writers, helping other writers to be better writers.  Flash fictioneers, I salute you!

3. It gets you out there.  With a contest for every day of the week, there's no excuse not to be putting up your work for public scrutiny.  You get used to risking your babies in the public domain.  You get used to offering and receiving critique.  You climb down from your ivory tower and get sociable.  YEAH.

So I am pleased and proud to be participating in National Flash Fiction Day, run in part by Once Upon an Unexpected Fairytale's very own Susi Holliday.

You can find my submission, Ever After, appearing on the "Flash Flood Journal" National Flash Fiction Day blog at 11pm on 16 May along with a steady stream of great, bite size stories.  Stop by and enjoy.

Flash Fictioneers - ASSEMBLE!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fiery Fantasy - the Lucky 7 Strikes Again

It's an honour and a privilege to be tagged once more for the Lucky Seven Meme - this time by the lovely Angela over at Ang Writes.  This isn't my first whirl around the Lucky Seven (you can see my last attempt here) but as it happens, I'm on a new WIP so am very excited to have another shot at sharing.

How does it work? 
  1. Go to page 7 or 77 of your current MS/WIP 
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences or paragraphs and post them as they are written.
  4. Tag 7 authors and let them know. 
So without further ado, here are seven lines from my current work in progress nominally titled Talking About the Weather - 7 paragraphs from page 7.

No powers to command the wind.  No powers to call down the rain to swell the river.  Not that they had helped Grandmama.  Not when faced with a mage of Torringe's strength.
"Septima."  He gripped her wrists, holding her still.  She had not realised he had come so close, close enough for her to feel the odd, scorching heat of his skin, to smell his smoky scent.  She stared up at him, trembling.   "My release was conditional.   Quod munus dabis mihi?  It means 'what gift will you give to me?'  Unless the gift is made I am not truly free.  What would you ask of me?"
Think.  "What are you... a demon?" 
"I am of the daoine sìdhe."
"The what?"
"I am Fae."

So who to tag next?  I'd like to nominate fairytale authors (#ouatwriting and beyond): 

Mike Manz - @MisterManz
Sophie Moss - @SMossWrites
Diane J Reed - @TWIXTbook

And fab #storycraft aficionados :

fireflyfly - @fireflyfly 
K.Andrew Turner -  @KAndrewTurner
Moonduster - @moonduster
Andrea Hunter - @andreahunter313

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Is craft more important than structure?

Here's a question I've been musing on.

Is story craft more important than story structure?

I recently started reading the First Five pages by Noah Lukeman (thanks to Stacy for the recommendation) and it argues just that (well, kind of).  A plot can be as tight, well paced and original as you like but a book will fail if the writing is dull.  A slightly rubbish plot can be forgiven if the craftsmanship is kick ass.

No, not THAT kind of plotting

Frankly my friends, this is music to my ears.  As one whose outlining is scant at best and often involved scribbled diagrams, random notes and a vague sign post as the way to go it makes me happy to think that if I get the fun stuff right, I can Get Away With It.

Is it true though?

Hmm I'm not so sure.

But it got me thinking.  I love writing flash fiction.  I love working with prompts - the harder the better - because I'm at my most creative when I'm at my most constrained.

What if plotting was taken out of the occasion?

What if several writers were given the exact same plot and the exact same word count and asked to come up with a story?

What if... Damn.   Enough with the what ifs.  Let's just try it and find out.

A smell the sweet scent of a blog hop coming to some Fictionista blogs near you, *waves at Ruth, Stacy, Jenn and Kern*

Besides Christopher Booker says that everything ever written boils down to seven plots.  Is he right?  Shall we find out?

Just for fun - a random plot generator (really, I don't use this for my actual writing).

Sunday, 6 May 2012

#SatSunTails: A Vampire Story

This week's #SatSunTails had two prompts.  The image below and this phrase:

“underneath the inconsequential”

150 words

A Vampire Story 

“A tattoo?  You got a freakin’ tattoo?” Eyes bulging, face stiff as plaster.  Ma gave up expressions along with aging gracefully.  “It’s the goddamn pageant tomorrow.  Jesus God! Look at that thing!”

I finger the dressing on my neck. It’s not what you’d call unobtrusive, this tatt.  Half butterfly, half bloody corpse.  Symbolic, I like to think.

She drags a comb through platinum hair, nails gleaming like hellfire.  “After all I’ve done for you!  You freakin’ ingrate.”

I walk to fridge, fling open the door and stare.  Rows of cartons.  Tomato juice, she says.  De-tox.  Bending down, I pick up the bag I brought back from Cancun.  It’s narrow, heavy.  

“I’m sorry ma, I really am.” 

After the last show, girls started disappearing. Rivals. I touch the cartons. They’re red, blood-red. Look underneath the inconsequential and you’ll always find something.  Folks will do anything to stay young. 

Opening the zipper, I reach for the stake.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Building is Building is Building

A while ago I listed 10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die.  On that list I wrote:

Learn to Draw Like Wot They Do In The Comics.
Now, I am nothing if not a woman of my word.  In a dull moment on a training course I flicked onto Amazon on my iphone.  Of the dangers of Amazon One Click I shall not speak.  They are self evident, because within three days I was in proud possession of...

Within hours I was sitting in the garden sketching stick men.  WHO KNEW that sketching stick men was so hard.  The Marvel team advise us budding Marvelites not to run before we can walk.  Spend time on the stick men, they tell us.  Spend days, weeks, months on the stick men.  Draw stick men until they are coming out of your ears, dancing off the page, bending, flying, crouching and sitting. 


Then you can move onto the drawing. 

Of course, like Captain Barbarossa I like to think of the rules more as guidelines. 

Am I going to wait for mastery of the form before plunging in?

Have I ever?

Of course not.  

I ploughed right on with my stick man.  I added flesh and contours.  I gave him a cloak and a helmet.  My stick man turned into a Spartan warrior with slightly odd proportions.  Here he is:

Pencil sketch

Rudimentary inked version, with sharpie

What does this process tell me about myself?

1. I'm impatient.  I plunge in before I really know what I'm doing.  I blast onwards with an excess of enthusiasm and then get bloody frustrated when I'm not producing work like Stan Lee.

2. I'm not good at following the rules.  I want to do the fun stuff.

All of this is perfectly in keeping with the preferences revealed by my Myers Briggs questionnaire.  I'm an ENTP.  The typelogic website tells me:

"ENTPs can be prone to "sharp practice" – especially cutting corners without regard to the rules if it's expedient – or, their juggling acts may simply be so over-ambitious they collapse."

Is this something I should address?

The answer to that is... yes.  Whilst it's easier to work in ways that suit my preferences, often my best work comes when I push myself to persist, graft and work away at developing my skill.  If I slow down.  If I force myself to look at detail.  If I plan.  It might not be comfortable but it makes both me and my work more well rounded.

What else did it tell me?

It tells me that world building is the same no matter what medium you use.  If I'm writing, I start with a few sketchy ideas, loosely linked.  My stick man.   Slowly I build up.  I flesh out characters, I put them into action.  I add colour, background, setting.

And half the time I leap ahead and write a full scene without having done all this.

But it's better when I do take time.  When I capture the essence of the world and the character, before I plunge into detail.

So what's next?

Next stop: a graphic novel.

Only kidding. 

I think. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

World Building. How the hell....?

Roses or bugel weed? You decide.
Ok.  So I'm sitting down with Stacy's fantasy writing challenge before me.

To inspire me, I've asked for prompts from the fabulous fictionistas and in true cupcake loving, strawberry soda drinking fashion, Stacy, Jenn and Ruth have risen to the challenge.  I have prompts:  two matching tattoos, an airship, a cat.

My imagination is motoring.  I'm conceiving of a story, a little linked back to sidhe who pop up in Serendipity.  I have two protagonists in mind, one side character.

I have a dragon.

I have a cat.

I am SO CLOSE to getting there but.....


Here's my problem.  I can paint a historical setting, no worries.  I love history.  I love bringing it alive.  Damn it I can walk through those streets.  But a fantasy setting?


Do you have roses or bugel weed?  If I choose (imaginary) bugel weed, does that preclude me from referring to poison ivy?

I like writing in a historical setting but I want it to be a fantasy historical setting.  And I'm struggling with blending the two.  Is what I'm writing a brand of alternate history?

Damn it, I just don't know.

I need a guide through this quagmire of fantasy writing.  I've read plenty...  but I just don't know where to start.