Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Criminal Intent


Aw, shucks. Absolutely chuffed to be the very first guest blogger on crime writer Adrian Magson's site.

Was a real honour to be asked. 

It was tough thinking what to write about, so I decided to dive in with an exploration of why some writers like the dark side.

“Where does all the darkness come from?”
“It’s funny your books are so dark, you’re actually a really happy person.”
...When posed by loved ones, these are questions that get under your skin. We’ve all got demons to draw on for inspiration, but what causes some writers to go looking for that inspiration in the first place? Why don’t we all just write Mills & Boon or happy-ever-afters? - full article

Hope you enjoy it. If so, please leave a comment on Adrian's blog. You can also read his guest post on Deckle-Edged about writing from a female perspective, and follow him on Twitter.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Hackneyed


Just spent an extremely pleasant afternoon in Hackney at a house party with the lovely Will Davis. Will and I met several years back at a book festival in Northampton, where we were both speaking. He's written a lot of good stuff, but my personal favourite is The Trapeze Artist. Deliciously presented - and rather lovely because he is a professional aerialist. 

We've kept in touch since the festival, and it's thanks to drinking with him in Public House that I ended up winning a £100 bar tab, which we promptly spent on cocktails. Fond, fuzzy, memories.

It was such a pleasure to meet up. His friend and aerial partner, Sophie, was throwing a gathering at her house, serving the most amazing plantain lasagna with pomegranate salad. It was something quite special. 

Drank plenty of prosecco and got swept away by the stories of life in London's arts community - tales of circus performers, tassels, sequins, society weddings, eking a living, getting by, walking the boards, writing books, doing what you love. 

It was refreshing. Haven't been a part of something like that for a long time. London is a vibrant city, though it bothers me that you always have to look up to see the sky.

Anyway, a very pleasant few hours spent. 

Had a bit of a bus fiasco on the way home and ended up making friends with the guy I was sitting next to. Had a good chat about politics, life, and the immediate lack of buses whilst we stood on a street corner for half an hour. I love social media. We both knew we'd made a friend, and once upon a time it would have been two strangers passing, our friendship ended with our bus journey. But, thanks to Facebook and the like, you're never left wondering 'what happened to that person I once met...' 

Probably won't see Will again for another year, but we'll keep in contact, reading each other's work.

Oh - and the picture at the top. Saw it painted on the wall beside Crofton Park station, near where I'm staying. All a little bit Children of Lir, don'tcha think?

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Tea for Two



As old friends pass, new arrive.

Had a scrumptious day yesterday with fellow author Remittance Girl. She's usually based in Vietnam, but was in London visiting family. We met up for afternoon tea at the Stafford in St.  James's.

It was a double first for me.

The first first was meeting RG, whose work I have admired ever since stumbling upon a short story in Red Phone Box last March. She's an erotica writer. You can find her online, on Twitter, and listen to her talk at Eroticon last month. We've been corresponding online for a while - I love her style, and she loved Rosy Hours, so lots to talk about.

My second first was afternoon tea. I'd never done it before, and certainly not somewhere so posh. I felt a little intimidated, but RG put me at ease. It was lovely to talk to another ex-pat who understands how difficult it can be to adjust - especially to London. 

After that sumptuous spread and a lake of Earl Grey and English Breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll through Mayfair and sat in a park until it got dark and they threw us out. Wandered to the tube along Oxford Street. An afternoon over far too soon. 

Thrilled to have finally met her, and sure we shall meet again at some point, somewhere on the globe. 


Thursday, 24 September 2015

For Christiane


Lost a very special friend yesterday. 

I have written more about my personal feelings elsewhere. It was very sudden, and I'm still taking it in.

But I wanted to mention Christiane here, on Deckle-Edged, because some of my strongest memories of her involve books.

About a year ago she moved from the capital out to the Western Province of Rwanda. There aren't many bookshops out that way, so whenever she came to Kigali, she stayed with me and borrowed books from my coffee table library.

We'd compare notes when she returned them. When she went into hospital the first thing I thought to pack was a book. It was a mystery novel someone had given me a few days before, though I don't recall the title. She just hated to be stuck anywhere without something good to read.

It was through this shared interest in books that she started reading mine. She's read all of them, I think. I worry that the last one she might have read was Children of Lir. It seems possible, as I sent it to her on 8 August, and she was already restricted to her bed by then. I don't know if she ever read it. Part of me hopes not. It is a gentle story, but it is a legend dealing entirely with the passage of time, with mortality, and with death. 

I have already dedicated Children of Lir. I thought about re-dedicating it, but that's not her story. The one I'm writing now is: adventure, mystery, kookie characters and crazy plots. She'd like that far more, I think.

The final memory I'll share is a night we spent at her favourite Chinese restaurant in Kigali. She was drinking Gatanu, her favourite beer, and we were scoffing crispy fried beef. 

She had just finished reading one of my novels, and she was trying to pay me a compliment without making it awkward - I'm not very good at accepting compliments about writing. Writers are always very aware that when friends pay compliments, they are friends, and they're supposed to be supportive. Christiane was making it very clear that she was a wide reader and it wasn't because we were friends that she thought I had talent. I squirmingly smiled and said 'thank you'. 

Then she told me:

If you get the chance to write - you must.

Maybe that doesn't sound like much on paper, but the way she said it was important. Christiane had thrown in a good job at an insurance company after surviving breast cancer. She threw it in because she didn't want to spend the rest of her life in a 9-5 office job. She wanted to go to Africa. She wanted to build an ecolodge. She wanted to have a life, life, not just a life.

We talked a lot, and she knew how lukewarm I felt about my own vocation. I was toying with the idea of leaving development to set up writing retreats. Try to see whether I could turn a passion into a profession. We had it planned out. I'd take writers to her ecolodge on the shore of Lake Kivu - the perfect retreat.

That isn't going to happen now. Even if the lodge opens to the public in the future, I think I would find it difficult being there without Christiane. Macheo is her life and soul.

But what she was telling me is that we always find a way, and we shouldn't give in to life, let it dictate what we do at the expense of what we want to do. 

Time is short. Christiane just proved that. So when I get back in the New Year, I'm going to set up a second business - a writing business - and see whether I can make it fly. If it fails, I have lost nothing. If it succeeds, I may have gained a lot. Either way, I'll keep writing. After all, I've got a book to finish.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Cloud Atlas


I have been looking forward to blogging about this for ages

I truly believe Cloud Atlas to be one of the greatest films ever made. 

For that reason, I had to read the book.

I've been reading it since April. Not because it's bad, but because I've been working so hard that the only thing I'm capable of when I get home is sleeping. Made very slow progress, and it's not the sort of book you can offer only part of your attention.

Let's begin with how much this book spooked me:

  1. I read Gilgamesh whilst researching a novel. The same night, the chapter began by mentioning Gilgamesh.
  2. My great grandfather joined the War Graves Commission after the First World War and died tending graves at a Belgian cemetery he helped found, called Poelkapelle. Not a place oft mentioned. One of the characters in Cloud Atlas goes to the War Graves Commission at Zonnebeke and drives back past Poelkapelle. 
  3. Finally, snuggled up to finish the book in the early hours. A character randomly mentions staying in Gloucester, which is where I happen to be.

Yes, reading too much into it, I know - but how can you not with a book like that?

For those who don't know Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, it's really, really hard to explain.

The official blurb:

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies...
Six interlocking lives - one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity's will to power, and where it will lead us.

It sort of ricochets through time, starting in the days of the slave trade with the journal of a seafaring notary, moving on to a young composer in the 30s, an investigative reporter in the 70s, a publisher in the present day, a genetically engineered 'fabricant' in the future, and a tribesman in the far, far future, after 'the fall'.

Then it moves backwards through each of those characters to the beginning again.

It is very complex and very clever.

But the book and the film have some major differences. I love them both, but for completely different reasons.

I will admit, sheepishly (because it feels like a crime against literature), that I think I prefer the film. Each story set gets tied up a bit neater in it, leaving you with a slightly more satisfied glow that things are as they should be - especially for Cavendish and Zachry.

The film is also very good at pulling out the poignant lines from the book and giving them pride of place. It slices out a few of the characters, to better effect. I did not mourn the loss of Eva. The relationship between Sixsmith and Frobisher reduces me to tears every time. Beautifully done.

It's a breathtakingly shot film. Bit like Life of Pi in scope.

I honestly think the collaboration of writers and cinematographers improved upon the original work. But then, I'm one of those weirdos who thought the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice told it better than the book. And for that, I am sort of sorry.

I was a little surprised at just how wide the divergence was. With things like Game of Thrones or Dexter the changes (at least in the first series or so) are extremely minor. Cloud Atlas had a bit of a serious makeover.

All that said, here's why I loved the book.

From a writer's perspective - it is ingenious.

They talk about an actor's director, well, Mitchell is a writer's author.

The founding concept is brilliant. Tell six stories, split them up so you're telling the beginning of each, then the end of each, with one whole story in the middle. Throw it through time from the far past to the far future and back again, so that it resembles a collection of short stories tied together with overlapping threads.

Then - the really clever bit - don't just switch genres, but method.

Write in:

  • Diary entries
  • Letters
  • A mystery novel
  • Memoirs
  • An interview
  • Narration


And speak thickly in the voice of each character, inventing linguistic quirks such as - in the future - dropping the e from ex words: exit/xit, extinct/xtinct, excited/xcited. Or further in the future, after the fall, reverting to something reminiscent of creole, with its own slang. 

Why words slink n' slide off a tongue, when we need them most? If my tongue'd been more bold, could I have stopped all that diresomes about to happen?

Even inventing new rules for apostrophes. Now that's craftsmanship. There's even a little phrase guide. Curio's in there,  which I like, but it misses out my favourite, whoahsome. 

Seriously - what a feat of writing.

Really glad I read it. Gave me a lot to think about regarding choices of literary style and character development. Not entirely sure what I'm going to read next, but it's unlikely to be as extraordinary.



Sunday, 20 September 2015

Life of Pi


I read Life of Pi shortly after it first came out in 2001. I was living in Reading back then, and we were meeting my partner's workmate down the pub. When we arrived, he was reading this and told us it was good, so we followed suit.

He was right, it was very good. I wanted to see the film when it came out, but life got in the way. This week was Marilyn's birthday. Dad bought her a copy, so I finally got to watch it last night.

It was absolutely beautiful. Must have been quite something in 3D. Also impressed with the CGI. A very, very pretty film. I felt it did justice to the book.

Sadly, there are some things that can never really translate. Although it covered Pi's interest in world religions, it didn't manage to shoehorn in my favourite curse, which I still use sometimes: "Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu!"

There was also a particular part from the book that always stuck with me about eating with your hands, and how quickly pleasure in simple things can be crushed by a throwaway comment.

The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada I used my fingers. The waiter looked at me critically and said, "Fresh off the boat, are you?" I blanched. My fingers, which a second before had been taste buds savouring the food a little ahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze. They froze like criminals in the act. I didn't dare lick them. I wiped them guiltily on my napkin. He had no idea how deeply those words wounded me. They were like nails being driven into my flesh. I picked up the knife and fork. I had hardly ever used such implements. My hands trembled. My sambar lost its taste. 

One of those passages it's harder to express in pictures than words.

Still, powerfully told through film. I must admit the overall riddle of the story was clearer once condensed. I came away more certain of the answer to 'what happened' than I had been after the book, but perhaps that's because I'm a little older now and I've read many more books, some equally as puzzling.

I was especially interested to see how they were going to handle the island of meerkats. Sadly, a long-running British advertising campaign meant that the moment the meerkats appeared, I expected them to try to sell him car insurance. Slightly spoilt the moment. But I was deeply impressed by the rendering. Almost as deeply impressed as I was with Yann Martel for coming up with such an imaginative concept as that island in the first place.

Top-notch adaptation, but would still recommend reading the book.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Mimi



My dad and Marilyn often pop over to France to see their friends Dave and Sue. This year, they returned with a borrowed book: Mimi by Irish author John Newman.

Couldn't resist picking it up. I think they know the author, as it was signed. 

Life without Mum is just not the same. 
Everyone's given up. Dad is burning pizzas and he doesn't smile anymore. Sally's new look is black and so are her moods. Conor's all-night drumming is keeping the neighbours awake. And Sparkler hasn't been walked for months. 
But Mimi isn't about to give up on anything. Or anyone. This is her story.

What a brilliant read. It's at the young end of Young Adult, but deals with some really complex stuff. A family of three kids, Mimi, Sally and Conor, trying to survive with the help of extended family after their mother is killed in a traffic accident and their dad loses the will to live.

On top of all that, Mimi appears to have been adopted, and gets no end of racial abuse from the school bully.

Must admit to getting a bit tearful towards the end. A quick read, but one that leaves a lasting impression. 

Absolutely worth it.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Guest Post: Laine Cunningham

Laine Cunningham wrote a memoir and then a novel, Message Stick, blending memories with her time alone in the Australian outback. Since then, she has gone on to write more novels and a collection of short stories, winning multiple awards, including the Hackney Literary Award and the James Jones Literary Society fellowship. She has also received fellowships and residency slots from the Jerome Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Mills Cultural Center, Wildacres and the Cornucopia Arts Center. 

You can find Laine on her websiteTwitter and her Writer's Resource blog.



MGW: Very happy to welcome Laine Cunningham as my guest blogger today. Laine and I first met when she interviewed me and reviewed Rosy Hours for her blog Writer's Resource. I've since become extremely interested in her work to highlight sexism, racism and discrimination in the publishing world. For more on that, check here.

Laine has lived an extremely interesting life, and used her craft to address social issues as well as to explore a rich diversity of culture. 

Growing up in a military family meant moving every two to three years. I learned early on that crossing boundaries of race, culture and religion is an important skill; it is becoming an increasingly important skill as our world shrinks. Since leaving my corporate job in 1994, I have used fiction and nonfiction to address social issues like poverty, violence against disadvantaged groups, and women’s issues... that is, I help readers cross boundaries. 
- Laine Cunningham

I recently read Laine's novel He Drinks Poison, and I finished the final page with a smile on my face. I am not a squeamish person, but there was one particular point in that book - involving jam jars - that left me cringing. Bravo!

It has a beautiful cover, too.

In her guest post today, Laine gives us a little glimpse down the rabbit hole of literary awards. 






Down the Rabbit Hole: The Weird World of Literary Awards
Laine Cunningham 

The lifestyle of an author has peaks and valleys particular to this pathway we have chosen. Certain experiences along the way ought to be grand events accompanied by trumpets and elephants or at least a little confetti and cake served up by your bestie. Like the beginning of your career. Or winning an award or some other recognition.

Not always true.

My career as an author kicked off with a two-week-long depressive episode spent curled up beneath my dining room table. That two weeks had been preceded by nearly ten months struggling in a new position my company had offered me 3,000 miles away from where I’d spent the previous ten years. The job ended when I dropped a resignation letter on the department head’s desk and was rapidly escorted out by human resources. Two weeks to hit the rest button after that kind of experience wasn’t, I think, too terribly long.

So, a less than illustrious beginning. But once I rose from that dusty space beneath the table, I really threw myself into this writing thing. Creating books and stories and following alongside other lives was what I had always wanted to do, after all. After everything else in the employment realm turned to crap, why not cash in that retirement account and work fourteen-hour days on this forever dream?

Things started looking up about a year later when my first manuscript, a memoir of the six months I’d spent camping alone in the Australian outback, won a minor award. I know, I know, writing a memoir as a first effort is so very cliché. But it won…well, something—a certificate, a few accolades—which certainly wasn’t a discouraging kind of thing. This time also should have been one of joy but what happened next sent me down a very strange rabbit hole.

There was this writer’s group I was in. I was actually in four at the time, which indicates the level of abuse I was willing to inflict on myself in order to learn everything I could about craft. In one of these groups was a guy who had, for nearly a year, never spoken to me. On this day, however, the day the award was announced to the group, he suddenly seemed overbearingly eager to speak with me. He said he wanted to join the critique group I was in and asked when and where our next meeting would be. Which was a bit presumptive, perhaps, but I wrote it off to authorial passion.

It turns out this guy was the Mad Hatter.

The critique group I was in, one of many operating in this club, had recently closed to new members. Makes sense, right? Enough warm bodies, enough inquiring minds and all that. We’d be busy for years.

When Monsieur Hatter heard that, he practically exploded. He took me apart for being elitist. He mentioned the award and accused me of being part of the “literati” (his term), and of trying to keep other writers down to reduce competition.

Hey, buddy, the award didn’t bestow cash. No trophy, dig? Just a piece of paper and a sweaty handshake at the podium. But for him, that looked like fame.

Fast-forward a few years. By that point I’d applied to a ton of contests, residencies and awards, watched the judging process for my own and other artists’ grants, and sat on administrative and review boards for writing contests and residency programs. I’d won a few small awards, received two prestigious fellowships, been selected for one small grant, and attended two residency programs.

Then came the big one, a national award with a substantial cash payout. OK, so $6,000 wasn’t going to fund a significant amount of time for writing, nor would it pay off the debt that had accrued while I had paid my living expenses with credit cards so I could write the award-winning novel. But it was significantly more than most other cash awards.

One of the first places I shared the news with was inside my family. That seems normal and well-adjusted, right? Who wouldn’t want their parents and siblings to partake of this wondrous news, to celebrate with them in this singular achievement? Particularly if your parents don’t really read (discounting, of course, the Washington Post newspaper, which my father apparently finds too liberal even though he subscribes) and your brother primarily reads a genre that does not match that of your own novels. Because there, at last, was a noteworthy award. It was something everyone could recognize as valid, as valuable (exactly $6,000 worth of value), as an achievement in a career choice that had been viewed quite narrowly as “not a real job” because how in the world were you supposed to make money writing fiction?

The first thing my mother asked about this terrific, cash-granting award was, “Are you sure it’s not a scam?”

There. The Red Queen decapitated joy.

Let us skim past my attempts to sew the bloody head back onto the ragged neck with convoluted efforts to convince them of the validity of the award, the reams of paper I printed off the internet (technology my parents still considered a shadowy, untrustworthy realm full of scammers and pornographers and pedophiles), and repeated explanations that the money would be paid with no strings, no “prepayment” required, and no bank account information passing hands.

Instead, let us zip forward to the moment when I signed with my first literary agent. Huzzah! Sound the angelic trumpets! Sing, the crystalline choir! For what other moment except the offer of a first publishing contract can match this in a writer’s life?

This moment, at least, I knew to enjoy first and foremost with fellow authors, those who understood the depth of its meaning and who would celebrate with me. Then, after a bit, I shared it with my parents.

“Oh, good!” my mother said. “Your dad and I were talking about hiring an agent for you. How much will it cost?”

I had steeled myself before sharing this news but still felt a pang of frustration at the utter lack of understanding for how these things work. Especially because, out of the goodness of their hearts, they had offered to “pay for an agent” numerous times before.

“Nothing,” I said. “Authors don’t pay agents until the book is sold.”

Blank look. “Then how do you know this one is real?”

Long explanation—again—of how agents work. Blank look persists but is now tinged with worry. Long discourse on the literary histories of my agent’s other clients, which included Norman Mailer, Raymond Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke but, seeing as how my parents didn’t read fiction, the blank look continued and the anxiety compounded.

“Remember that movie 2001?” I asked out of sheer desperation because of course they went to the movies now and then but of course mostly to watch Nicolas Sparks-type flicks so of course that didn’t work.

The mention of a movie, in fact, was bad. Very bad. Now she really thought I was being suckered (Casting couches! Naked models! Sex for empty promises of fame!), and her expression bordered on panic.  

“Is this guy even in New York?” she asked, which should have been a moment of personal vindication because something I’d shared over the years had sunk in and she was at least aware that New York City was the center of the literary universe but which instead marked the pinnacle of my frustration.

“Yes!” I threw up my hands and, unable to wipe away the dripping sarcasm (bad daughter), said, “He’s on Park Avenue!”

“Oh! Then he’s a real agent! Congratulations, honey!”

She beamed happily. I, however, was in danger of joining Alice in “going out altogether.”

Then there were the times when I was applying for grants and needed letters of recommendation from fellow professionals. Stay in the arts business long enough and you’ll become very familiar with how to garner favors from others and repay them in kind. Not always to the same person but into the same pool of fellow authors. Pay it forward, as they say.

So begging for letters is a common enough occurrence. I try to spread out my requests among various individuals. I also take care to match the background of each reference to the mission of the grant. One year I approached an associate I’d known for over a decade, a person I’d helped in various ways and with whom I’d celebrated when she had won prestigious awards.

“I’ll write the letter for you,” she said slowly, “but Laine, how many awards do you really need?”

My turn to stare blankly.

More the fool I for believing my associate’s assurance that she would submit the letter. She didn’t, and the application was never considered because her letter was missing. Worse, a second individual who had submitted a letter of reference had their time wasted, too. Tweedeldee had decided to do battle without telling me I was to play Tweedledum.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson. You would think that when I later applied for a very large grant, a fellowship that would have given me an entire year of time to write, that I would have read the signals from a different person I asked for a recommendation. The fellowship required five letters and, while I could have used other people for that final reference, this woman’s background provided better support.

She was very encouraging and bubbly and bright whenever we discussed the letter. She emailed me updates to say she hadn’t written it yet but she was aware of the deadline and would submit. Then another update and another, all saying, Not yet but soon. And then, the day after the deadline had passed, she emailed a final time. So sorry, so sorry, said the Gryphon, who was not a bit sorry.

Beware awards, my friends. Therein might lurk the Jabberwocky.


***





Reparation, a supernatural cult thriller, is Laine's most recent work. Aidan Little Boy, a Lakota Sioux man, must stop the leader of a Native American-style peyote church before he enacts the largest mass murder ever to take place on US soil. Reparation has been compared to Terence Malick’s The New World

Monday, 14 September 2015

Children of Lir Chocolates

Lir Chocolates

Well, I didn't win anything in the competition, but I'm happy to be a loser.

The Children of Lir has gone to Ghostwoods Books, who published Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran. They did such a fabulous job, and run such a fair income split, that I am over the moon to be working with them again.

Keep your eyes on the Swan Song tab for more news on this book's progression to the shelf.

In celebration of this decision, we cracked open a box of chocolates that Dad found.

Can hardly believe it - Lir Chocolates!

Fabulous!

Nonomnomnomnom.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

String of Dreams



Blown away by this. Just landed in Gloucester and Dad presented me with a beautiful bracelet made by Stephanie Piro (in collusion with my editor, Salomé), inspired by Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran.

From right to left, there's the evil eye, the Arg, or Rose Garden Palace, or perhaps the Palace at Sari, the Punjab lasso, a simple mask, a scroll, a scimitar, an elaborate mask, a black heart, a rose, a cat, a coin (daric, perhaps?), a man in a karakul hat (must be the Daroga), the Hand of Fatima, and the shooting star of Shahab. The scroll includes a passage from chapter eight:

I believe I wept as sleep returned to swallow me. I wept for my sad situation, to be born of mountain blood, and a girl at that. I wept for the loss of a mother I barely remembered, and a father more distant than the Russian Empire. I wept for the loss of Shusha and the knowledge he took with him, for all the things I did not understand and had never been taught. I wept for the poems I no longer wrote, and the brothers and sisters I had despised, yet in losing had lost parts of myself. 
At one point the song rose to such delicate pathos that I felt as though a cord had been pulled from my privates to the crown of my head. The very fabric of my being burned with flames of grief; the blistering pain of mortality, blissfully contrasting oblivion. 
I breathed in the dragon of the dawn, and it ate my soul.

Truly overwhelmed. It's beautiful.

You can check out Stephanie's cartoons online, plus book reviews. If you'd like to see more of her jewelry, she also has a shop on Etsy with a full Phantom's Lair collection.


(click to enlarge)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Story is Dead, Long Live the Story!


It's been a gruelling few days at the keyboard. Finished editing 308 pages of The Children of Lir. Knocked about 5,000 words off, down from 123k to a little over 118k. Tidied, polished, sprinkled a little glitter.

The earlier manuscript has already gone out to readers, and so far the feedback has apparently been positive. I read my editor's e-mails through my fingers. Taking on characters like the Morrígan is as intimidating as taking on the Opera Ghost, in that they have an established cult following of people with strong expectations of how that character should look and behave. 

You have to be quite mindful of that.

Anyway. That's that for now. I'm not at liberty to sign it away until later in the month. I decided to enter the manuscript in a competition, just for kicks. I'm not holding my breath, but one of the stipulations of the competition is that it can't have been accepted for publication before the results are announced. This seems a little odd, as they're not offering to publish the winning manuscript. But, their rules, and I don't want to jinx it by signing when there's only a couple of weeks to wait.

Meanwhile, I opened up Secret Order of the Literati the other day. This is a a manuscript I started at the beginning of July. I had to put it aside because work was manic at the time. Opening the file, I was expecting about 15,000 words. I was quite surprised to see I'd written over 23,000 - 85 pages. I think it's long on pages because there's a lot more dialogue in this than in most of what I write, and it's really fast-paced. Fast-paced dialogue equals a lot of line breaks. 

Just started reading back through now, and feeling excited by it. After Rosy Hours and Children of Lir, it's really refreshing to write something entirely from my own imagination again. It's far less literary than the stuff I've written before, with the exception, perhaps, of Georg[i]e - it's got that bounce. 

As I've mentioned, I'm looking for my first trilogy in this. Writing shorter books, but more of them. Hopefully something people could get hooked on. Characters you could cling to. I have no idea if it's going to work, but at the moment I'm feeling confident.

As the last line of CoL reads (at the moment, subject to editing): 

Each ending is its own beginning.

CoL - for me - is done. Here beginneth SoL

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Press Gang


My life is complete. The entire series of Press Gang online. This was my childhood. Best thing ever. Forgot how brilliantly written it was. Some of the greatest kid's telly of the late 80s, early 90s. Colin was my favourite. He comes across as so kookie, but check out Paul Reynolds in Let Him Have It with a young Christopher Eccleston. Creepy as. 

Just FYI, if you're a Peaky Blinders fan, Danny in series one grew up to be Billy Kimber!

Charlie Creed-Miles as Billy Kimber in Peaky Blinders

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Natural Reader


Today, I finally finished 308 pages of editing. 

Ugh.

Even when you love a story - ugh.

Editing is hard bloody work, but I've found a way to make the proofing easier, at least. 

I've posted before about Word's Speak Function.



(click to enlarge)

Once you've enabled it, it can cope with blocks of text up to about 700 words at a time. I find this is perfect, and rarely cover more than about 300 words at a time, as there's invariably a typo, a missing letter or a mistake that I need to correct, and I don't want the words to run away with me whilst I'm doing that.

However, once you get to the end and you want to listen to the whole document back, or if you've found a long article during your research and your eyes are getting tired, give Natural Reader a go. Same principle, only it copes with larger documents and PDFs. You can even choose the gender and accent of your reader.


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It's ridiculously helpful. The voice is still quite synthesised, but following the text whilst it's read aloud really helps you catch the slip-ups. Things like thought and though, of and or that your eyes skip over and often miss, get picked up by your ears. 

Worth giving it a whirl.

Monday, 7 September 2015

ClipDiary


Haven't posted this since the Blue Screen of Death.

Fate - you fucker.

For some unexplainable reason, I woke up at 6am this morning. Saw the most incredible sunrise through the attic window and ran for my camera. It complimented the half-dozen gorgeous shots I'd taken the day before of Cold Ashby Church from up in the rafters.

Went back to bed. When I came round again, at a sensible hour, I poured a coffee and checked my e-mails whilst plugging in my phone to transfer the pictures.

Hit ctrl+x to cut/copy everything, then got distracted and hit ctrl+c (copy) before I'd ctrl+v (pasted) the pictures to my Photos file.

Thus overwriting the data copied to the clipboard and losing everything.

It took me a moment to realise the photos weren't safely in the folder. Palpitations kicked in. Screamed, wept, rolled about on the floor a bit.

Whereas there are loads of programs (Dr. Fone, Pandora, Asoftech) that can retrieve lost data from a hard drive, USB stick or memory card, not a single bloody one can do it from a DCIM internal memory folder.

If anybody has got any ideas, please let me know. I'm toying with taking it to a shop - they were lovely photos - but I know they'll charge an arm and a leg.

Blah.

Anyway - lesson for today folks.

Grab a copy of ClipDiary. It's one of those thing you don't realise you need until you need it. If you're like me, a cut/paste fiend with no hope of changing old habits, this might just save your life, or at least your data. It keeps a record of every time you hit the ctrl+x/c shortcuts or copy to your clipboard in any other way. Then allows you to return that data to the clipboard should you need it again.

Pure. Simple. Genius.


[UPDATE: A miracle has occurred - I have the photos!]

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Alexandra Soranescu

Having just finished writing an adult retelling of The Children of Lir, I was enchanted by this recent children's retelling, and the stunningly beautiful illustrations by artist Alexandra Soranescu. The website for the book is just as beautiful.





Saturday, 5 September 2015

Therapy

I've been doing some colouring in with my nephews. Haven't done this in years. Very relaxing. There's a fun online colouring site too.



Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Guitar Man


I've posted before about M&R Guitars, run by my brother's mate Richard. They've just got a spanking new website (also on Twitter and Facebook). Popped over to his workshop the other day for a look around and ended up at an impromptu jamming session. Richard is a luthier, which means he can make and repair just about anything with strings. He's even refurbished a double base, which sounds amazing. If you're in the market for a handmade guitar, do check him out. He makes everything from 100% British wood, including 5,000 year old bog oak! He's currently working on an ethical guitar, made from materials that don't include animal products. From classical to electric, he's an artist. 

For the next few days you can listen to his interview on Radio Leicester, 1:35:30.