Thursday, 31 March 2016

Creepy 40 + Hookland Map


40,000 words in.

I would like to say halfway, but this novel is proving a minor pain in the proverbials. None of the characters are doing quite what they're supposed to, which I suppose is to be expected in Hookland? 

Instead of being a fun 80,000 romp through ghostie town, it looks like it's going to be a longer meander through the haunted forest.

I'm not sure whether I should be worried.

I'm not bothering to include chapters this time round. I've discovered that it's easier just to write the manuscript, then try to pick evenly spaced, natural chapter breaks in the edit. Or, at least, it's a lot less to think about when you don't include chapters. Whether it will be easy to find evenly spaced, natural breaks in the edit, remains to be seen.

I'm enjoying myself, but things have been hampered slightly. David's had some internet issues, and I'm awaiting a neatly wrapped bundle of information on a couple of locations in Hookland that aren't in the Writer's Bible. Starting to understand the problems associated with collaborative works. Still popping in a few [place holders] for scenes I'll have to write in the edit, once all the facts are in. If I can't get those details, I think I'll just have to invent them, being careful not to unbalance the natural order of the county.

It's been tweeted now, so I think it's safe to share. Below is a picture of the first map of Hookland. My story is set in Barrowcross, in the south-west of the county, including a couple of characters from Hook and Ashcourt.

It's been going well this week. Aided by a couple of creepy encounters and one sassy scene - always gets the fingers tapping. I'd like to share some of it, but the manuscript is in such a mess at the moment. I've done no as-you-go editing so far and I'm not in the mood to start. But I will try to have something to show in a week or two.

Don't forget, you can follow along with Hookland on Twitter: @HooklandGuide 

(click to enlarge)

Monday, 28 March 2016

Writing 101: First Person v. Third Person


The first novel I ever wrote, Lucid, was written in third person. I think the reason for this was that pretty much every novel I remember reading as a kid was written in third person. I just assumed that's how you did it. 

Lucid was the first written, but the third published. Angorichina became my debut novel. It was a story I had long wanted to tell, about a TB sanatorium in 1930s South Australia. Somewhere I had passed through, and whose ghosts still haunted me.

I tried several times to write that novel, but it just wouldn't come. Not until I switched to first person one night, and suddenly it was as though all of the characters had turned up to tell me their stories. 

This started a trend: Georg[i]e, Splintered DoorThose Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, The Children of Lir and my nemesis novel (the one in a draw, that will never see the light of day), were all written as first person, and it's only with my most recent endeavour, The Secret Order of the Literati, that I've switched back to third. 

Before I go any further, let me just clarify these terms so that we're all on the same page:

First Person: I

Example 1: I saw him approaching across the room.
Example 2: Those were mine and I wanted them.


Third Person: She/He

Example 1: She watched him approaching across the room. 
Or: Sarah watched him approaching across the room
Example 2: She looked at him as though she didn't know him.
Or: James's wife looked at him as though she didn't know him.


So, what happened to second person?


Second Person: You

Example: You are walking down the street when you are approached by a strange man. You look at him, but you do not recognise him.

This doesn't sit so comfortably in fiction, so we ignore it unless we're writing Fighting Fantasy or Choose Yours Own Adventure books.


Whether you're going to tell your story from first or third person is one of those important details you really ought to figure out before you start writing - even if you're not a planner. 

You should know by the end of the first page which perspective you're going to use, because - like tense - it's a total bugger to change later on. Every single line on every page reinforces the perspective you've chosen, so to switch from one to another is going to require editing every single line on every single page. A problem best avoided with a few moments' forethought.

A quick test is to think of a scene in your novel. Even if you haven't thought out the entire thing yet, there must be a small idea, a scene, a character rattling around at the back of your mind - something that typifies the tale you wish to tell.

Write it down - just a couple of paragraphs.

Have you written it in first or third person?

You have probably already gravitated towards one or the other. If it reads well, and you're happy with it, that's probably the perspective to stick with. If you're uncertain, then just try rewriting that paragraph from the other perspective and see if it reads any better.

Here's an example from Rosy Hours, which was written in first person:

Dignitaries from around the world had gathered at the Rose Palace that night. I heard accents from Turkey, Russia, England, and many more that Eirik had to whisper the history of. The costumes were like nothing I had seen: charmeuse satin, shot silk, ciselé velvet and chiffon. The women wore dresses much like mine, their bosoms prominent, their backsides angled like the billowing sails of a ship, which gave them the impression of gliding across the floor. I came to see that I was an anomaly. A dark-skinned, dark-haired woman in a sea of milk and honey.

This is how it would have read in third person:

Dignitaries from around the world had gathered at the Rose Palace that night. Afsar heard accents from Turkey, Russia, England, and many more that Eirik had to whisper the history of. The costumes were like nothing she had seen: charmeuse satin, shot silk, ciselé velvet and chiffon. The women wore dresses much like her own, their bosoms prominent, their backsides angled like the billowing sails of a ship, which gave them the impression of gliding across the floor. She came to see that she was an anomaly. A dark-skinned, dark-haired woman in a sea of milk and honey.

It's a subtle change, but it can make a big difference to your story.

To understand why, it's worth exploring some of the pros and cons of each perspective:

First Person

Pros:

  • It is very immediate. This will engage your readers quickly.
  • The reader feels as though they are living the story through the eyes of the character.
  • It allows you to explore a character's thoughts and feelings in depth.
  • It's easy to mislead a reader, or direct their attention, when they only receive the story from one perspective.
  • It's easy to show a situation from two completely different angles if you use multiple first person. For example, two characters witnessing a car crash - one by the side of the road, another from the passenger seat. The reader thinks they understand what happened, until they get the other side of the story.


Cons

  • If the reader doesn't like the character, they may disengage sooner.
  • You can't explore the thoughts and feelings of other characters with such intimacy. You can only observe their expressions or speculate on their inner thoughts based on what your main character can see and hear.
  • You are tied to the location of your main character, unless they're having an out of body experience. 
  • The reader can't easily know something the character does not, unless they've pieced together clues the character appears blind to.
  • If you have multiple first person characters, they can start to sound like the same person unless you give them very distinct voices.


Third Person

Pros

  • The reader can view the story from an observational stance, like looking through a window. They pick up pieces of the story from many different locations and characters, rather than just what they're told by the narrating character.
  • You can flit between characters easily because you're not tied to the location, observations and emotions of one character. The narrator is omnipresent.
  • It's easier to fool about with time frames and chronology when you're not rooted to one character's experiences.
  • The narrator can comment freely on what is going on without having to maintain character at all times. Something can happen, and the author can make a quip or a judgement in the text without it having to be spoken or felt by a specific character.


Cons

  • It is less intimate than first person, so may take a little longer for people to get into the story. The author acts as a middle wo/man between the reader and the characters.
  • You may have to work harder at building an emotional attachment between reader and character, and readers may forget minor characters quicker, or become more easily confused, because of that lack of first person emotional anchor, and the increased speed of plot that omnipresence affords.



Everybody will have their own opinions on this, but a general rule of thumb might be:


First Person When:

  • You are telling a story that is strongly rooted in emotions and emotional reactions.
  • Your story centres on one main character or a small number of main characters.
  • Your story relies on the difference of perspective between characters (i.e. what really happened that night at the party).
  • You want the reader to see the storythrough your characters' eyes.


Third Person When:

  • You are telling a story that is strongly rooted in action.
  • You have multiple characters.
  • Your story relies strongly on the interaction of those characters, and the consequences of those actions, across multiple locations.
  • You want your reader to journey with the narrator, and see the big picture.

Most writers have an instinctive feel for the perspective of their story at the outset, but it really is worth playing before you commit.

If I've missed anything out, do drop a comment below.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Creepy 30



Argh.

What a week. 

I wasn't expecting to do much on Creeper's Cottage this week. I had a guest blog and a short story to write. But I managed to whizz through them. I'll post about the blog article when it goes live - might not be for a couple of weeks. There's a competition giveaway too, for a signed copy of Rosy Hours and an audiobook. That should be fun.

I'm not going to say anything more about the short story because I don't know if it's been accepted yet. Waiting to see how that goes.

But I have also managed to add another 10k to Creeper's this week. 

It's fought me every step of the way. Really been struggling with it and I'm not entirely sure why. The plot makes sense, the characters are fine. It's a slow build, as thrillers and mysteries often are. You can't keep people in a perpetual state of wonder, so you have to pick your moments and build it up piece by piece. 

I think it's just been one of those slow writing weeks. They happen sometimes. A run of days where you're just going through the motions rather than living the story. As I've mentioned in interviews before, whether the writing is easy or hard often has little bearing on whether the writing is good or not. Something can flow easily but turn out to be disappointing, and something can feel like wringing blood from a stone but turn out to be rather entertaining. You really never know until it's all over and you can step back to admire the full picture.

Still, line by line, scene by scene, it's appearing on the paper.

Also having plenty of fun meeting with publishers and writers in Rwanda. I'll blog more about that next week.

Right now, I'm looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Crumbs


I wasn't kidding about that science fiction film set in Ethiopia. There's a really nice article about it here: Miguel Llansó On Directing Ethiopia’s Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi Film, ‘Crumbs

When I came [to Africa] for the first time, I only knew about runners and about famine. So I was really upset with this image because I knew that something different should happen there, no? And I wanted to discover it because I have this spirit of adventure. I wanted to discover what was going on there and I discovered nice music like Alemayehu Eshete Mahmoud, all the music from the sixties. And also, I started discovering landscapes and the people. I started to discover that the people, everywhere in the world, have to dream a little bit. So you’re not only going to portray what you see. You are going to make the people, and yourself, dream. Sometimes people ask, “If you go to Africa, don’t you have to portray what you see?” No, you can also dream, you can also play with the reality.

I'm going to start tweeting @rwandaff and @RwandaFilmFest to see if we can get it at Rwanda Film Fest (Hillywood) this year. I would love to see it.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Shakespeare Lives


I was recently looking for things to get involved with in a writing-related capacity.

There's a scheme the British Council run called Shakespeare Lives.





The total core funding of the project for 2015/16 is £1million from British Council reserves, backed up by £1million match funding from the GREAT Britain Campaign. The program runs from January to December 2016, awaiting funding confirmation from the GREAT Britain Campaign for 2017.

This funding primarily supports the production of central design, project and social media campaign assets as well as licences and opportunities for showcasing film and other creative content internationally.

The priority 'market' countries for the scheme are:

  • China
  • India
  • USA
  • Brazil
  • Mexico
  • South Korea
  • Indonesia
  • Turkey
  • Poland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan

Not a bad reach for two million quid.

Though I first heard about it through the British Council in Kigali.

There's an interesting article titled: Should Shakespeare be Taught in Africa?

Although it doesn't come to any particular cut-and-dried conclusion, it does raise some important points, such as ''Making something compulsory usually has the effect of making it resented." Not that Shakespeare Lives is compulsory, it's more of a celebration, but it brought back memories of many a school English lesson.

Often, when you say you're not that fussed about Shakespeare, you're met with the condescending reproach: 'Oh, you just don't understand Shakespeare,' or 'You haven't had the right teacher.'

Believe me, I do and I have.

I studied Shakespeare during English at high school. Then again at performing arts school, aged 16-18. During my BA in Theatre Arts, I not only studied Shakespeare, I translated and annotated scenes from Antony & Cleopatra into British Sign Language and back. There's actually a signed performance of The Tempest, featuring one of my tutors. I've been to The Globe a couple of times, even stood on its stage for a behind the scenes look.

Third from left, back row.


I've studied Shakespeare in some depth. To the extent that I know what a faux pas it is to admit that my favourite play is probably Titus Andronicus

People pie, what's not to like?

And I do admire him, whoever he was. I love what he did with the English language.

But, in total and complete honesty, I wouldn't say he blows my bollocks off. He may be 'the world's favourite playwright,' but I'd rather watch Philip Ridley any day.

Yes, Shakespeare was the originator of many an original plot. But there's a risk that by perpetually reincarnating old work, we miss out on some splendid new stuff. 

And no, it doesn't have to be an either or situation. You can enjoy old stuff and still have new stuff, but when it comes down to: what would you rather do with two million pounds?

Well, I'd rather invest it in supporting publishers of contemporary work in places that probably don't desperately need Shakespeare right now.

I did an MA in Language & Communication Research. I sometimes find Shakespeare hard going. It's so much of a challenge for native English speakers that it's regularly re-imagined using modern language and interpretive dance.

When we're talking about ways in which to get second-language English speakers enthusiastic about reading and writing English, a 400-year dead bard probably isn't the best route forward.

Recently, I've been reading some incredible African writers: Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Nnedi Okorafor. There's even a science fiction movie called Crumbs set in Ethiopia.

I mean, this stuff is kick-ass good. Not some long-dead British dude imagining Bohemia with a coastline, but people with strong geographical knowledge of lesser travelled places, inventing the future and the present in language that astounds.

Recently, someone interested in creative writing sent me a manuscript. She's a writer from East Africa, writing in a fantasy style that was slightly off key. She considers herself a fan of romance, and when asked for her favourite author, cited Danielle Steel. Yet in writing exercises she opted to describe the landscape of outer space, rather than the bench beneath the cherry blossom.

Let's put aside the question of whether her reading tastes would be different if she'd had access to science fiction, not just the books benevolent expats felt they could throw out of their long haul luggage. 

I've spoken about the problems lack of access brings for artists in developing economic countries. Countries where you can't sell anything you write, and you can't read anything anyone else has written. Yay for technology in the twenty-first century.

Many of this writer's characters were blue-eyed, living in LA or Australia, yet they spoke about relationships and desires in a distinctly rural African tone. 

If you've ever watched Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk on The Danger of a Single Story, you'll understand what might have happened:

I was also an early writer, and when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. 
Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn't have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to. 
My characters also drank a lot of ginger beer, because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer. Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was... 
Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are.

It's natural for all writers to emulate other writers and the type of writing they admire when they're first setting out. All of us, whatever nationality, play with pastiche. It's how we learn.

But at a certain point, in most of our cultures, we're encouraged to stop emulating others and find our own voice. We're told that we have a voice, and that this voice is something other people would like to hear.

Whereas in many countries - those where you have no national examples of internationally selling authors, you can't sell your own work online, and your publishing industry is in its infancy - you might never receive that message. You can end up thinking that in order to get read, in order to be a good writer, you need to be like other writers. When the other writers you have access to are Shakespeare, Enid Blyton and Danielle Steel, that can become a little limiting. Pastiche no longer acts as a learning tool, but a template.

That is why people like Nii Parkes, Okorafor and Adichie are so bloody important.

And why, if we're going to talk about what to do with two million pounds, I'd rather see it invested not in exporting Shakespeare to Africa, but in exporting Africa to the rest of the world. Developing African literature courses - including playwrights - capacity building publishers, campaigning for fair online payment systems that provide access to the international market.

If you were doing that and Shakespeare, great. 

But if you had to choose one?

Sure, college courses and university degrees in Shakespeare are great, introductory drama workshops and interactive online modules. Wonderful. Keep heritage alive, by all means, and let those who want to take it further, take it further. But Shakespeare is not as accessible, engaging or culturally relevant as many other, living, contemporary, multifaceted working authors. He certainly doesn't need the money as much.

The few times he has been globally magnetic in the recent past have been with a Hollywood budget, an A-list cast and a pyrotechnic team behind him. With that, you could make Poetics of Aristotle chair-gripping stuff.

We have very limited resources. Cuts to the arts are chronic. What is the very best, most useful approach we can take with limited finances available? What will have a lasting impact on aspiring writers in Africa, and what's likely to breed a fresh generation of readers?

Maybe four hundred years down the line, it's time to let go, just a little bit, and embrace the living.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Hummingbird’s Tear


Every now and then a book cover goes past on Twitter and I can't help myself.

I really fell for this one.

Most of the books I pick from Twitter belong to new authors who are advertising a release promotion of some sort, or they're self-published authors trying to get the word out. They're not books I go out looking for and they haven't been recommended to me by friends. They're simply pot luck.

Sadly, in the past, great covers have proven to be a poor indicator of content. I don't tend to review them because I never manage to finish them.

This is a little different.

The Hummingbird's Tear by CM Kerley is published by Calumet Editions. Incidentally, the same publishers to bring you How to Be a Christian Psychic and Our Jewish Robot Future.

“There once was a time when the world did not exist.“ Here comes CM Kerley with the first breathtaking volume of the Barclan series. This amazing new author transports us to a unique, mythic time, and entwines us in magic and prophecy wherein sorcerers and kings, princes and trolls, move toward a disastrous war between ambiguous good and seriously nasty evil…but sometimes the lines aren’t so clear, and the fate of the kingdom depends on the wisdom and powers of two boys, who have a date with destiny. Kerley demolishes the old clichés about intrigue and treachery so that you become lost within the first page, and when you stop reading, you're surprised to be back in your own humdrum world.

The opening of this book blew my socks off. It was an extremely poetic, beautifully described creation myth which saw the gods birth, and then abandon, the world. A very impressive piece of writing.

Equally, the first couple of chapters were very inviting. The story of a village burning, two brothers setting out into the unknown, and a young boy hell-bent on obtaining magical power at any cost. Captivating stuff.

The rest of the book calms down substantially, evening out into a fairly solidly told piece of high fantasy. The brothers become part of a quest to gather up elemental gems scattered by the gods when they left. There is some nice descriptive:

The moon garden was named such because every flower that grew there had white petals that only bloomed at night and reflected the light of the moon. Butterflies and moths with transparent wings fluttered through the air, resting on one flower, then another, intent on visiting every bloom. A few dragonflies zinged through the air, and from far away a lonely cricket sang a forlorn night song.

It would have been nice to see the lyrical excellence of the opening chapter continue throughout the rest of the book. But if you enjoy fantasy set in a recognisable world of traders, seafarers and royal court intrigue, this may be a series to watch.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Creepy 20



Stepping back for a bit.

Creeper's Cottage seemed like such a straightforward concept when I started out. It's not just the Hookland details that have been burning my grey cells, it's a whole heap of stuff. Polish swear words were just the tip of the iceberg. A building relocation project seemed like a good idea, but then I realised I'd never built anything in my life.

I've been face-first into a report from the Black County Museum titled A Pit-pulled Cottage from Gornalwood, all about the real life relocation of one of their exhibits. I've had to research types of mortar, brick and solvents, alongside caravan models, electric generators and antique teddy bears.

Today has mostly been devoted to 3D laser imaging equipment. Thanks ever so much to Mark Russell at FARO, for patiently answering questions. It's amazing how many minutes of YouTube video you need to watch and re-watch just to get one paragraph of convincing text.

I need a break.

I have a blog post promised to someone, and I'd like to see whether I can approach Hookland from a different angle. There's a funerary theme in the Hookland Writers' Bible that I'd like to explore. I'm not sure if it'll be fit for the anthology, but I won't know until I write it. Even if it falls short, there'll be space for it in the wider Hookland mythos. 

I think it'd do me good to take a crack at a short story. 

Come back refreshed to this one.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Avocado Chocolate Mousse


Just a totally random non-writing related post.

#avocadochocolatemousse has been on my mind a lot recently.

So easy to make. 

  • 3-4 large avocados 
  • 1 lady finger banana, or half a big one
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder per avocado
  • Sugar or honey to sweeten (add as you go)


Blend it all together and pop in the fridge for 30 mins.

#nomnomnom


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Hookland Hootenanny


Had such a lovely day yesterday.

My questions about Hookland finally started to get out of control, so arranged to have a Skype chat with David to fill in the blanks. 

What was going to be a quick Q&A turned into a four hour discussion on folklore! So enjoyable.

You can follow along with Hookland at @HooklandGuide and David at @cultauthor

Also, every Thursday, Twitter goes wild for #FolkloreThursday/@FolkloreThurs

I think David's writing something for their website. You can also catch him at the Spirits of Place Symposium in Liverpool next month. If you get the chance, go - he's endlessly fascinating on all things mythological. 

Hookland is starting to feel like something really special. I know there are other authors and artists starting to develop projects around it. It feels like a centre point for creative collaboration.

There's an anthology in the pipeline. Once Creeper's Cottage hits 20,000 I think I'm going to step back for a week to see whether I can develop something suitable for that and catch up on a couple of blog articles I owe.

In the meantime, you can keep up to date with Creeper's progress via this tab.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Creepy 15


Just taken Creeper's Cottage to 15,000 words.

Now we're getting somewhere.

I'm having to put a few placeholders in. Hookland is highly complex. David's written a writer's guide akin to something like Titan. There's a lot of detail in there, down to the newspapers printed across Hookland, the parliamentary breakdown, and local cuisine.

On the one hand, that's tough because you have to stop and fact check a lot of stuff. I mentioned before, it's a bit like Historical Fiction in the amount of research it requires. That can be quite time consuming, and some things even David maybe doesn't know yet, so I need to pop a [descriptive] or [name] holder in there until he can clarify. One of my main questions at the moment is whether the Hookland Messenger is a broadsheet or a tabloid.

That's really the level of detail I'm aiming for.

On the other hand, it can be a blessing. Imagining stuff takes a lot of time. Yes, there are the odd moments when things just happen spontaneously, flowing from your noggin like it was placed there by some mad musey genius. But, most of the time, it's work. As you may know from my tweets:


Every time you try to come up with a fictional place, character name, publication, you need to take a moment to Google whether it's been done before, and consider whether it's dramatic enough, realistic enough, too cheesy, room for more cheese...

Having a manual that cuts ninety per cent of that out can be a real advantage. I think some writers dislike working within other people's worlds, because they really enjoy inventing their own. I do too, but when you're on novel number eight, you kind of welcome a breather.

So, things are going well. I'm enjoying it. I have a fairly good sense of where this story is headed, though I mysteriously stumbled upon a Polish girl about five thousand words back, and she's quickly becoming a mainstay of the plot. In the words of Jamie Lawson: I wasn't expecting that.

It's not just Polish swear words I've been mining Google for. They say writers exist to confound the NSA. Some things I've looked up in the past twenty-four hours include:


  • Cool motorcycles from 2012
  • Can you pull a snail out of its shell?
  • Stately homes near Manchester
  • Stately homes near Birmingham
  • Breaching (boys) - (that was a thing)
  • Removing grouting
  • Lime-ash mortar
  • Mechanical winches
  • Hydrochloric/muriatic acid 
  • Hairstyles of the 1600s/1700s/1800s
  • 3D/laser measuring equipment
  • Kriegsmarine U-boat
  • German/Polish navy of WWII
  • Hardy bedding shrubs
  • Latin mottoes
  • Baby names


Relating to that second one, I don't really want to go into why I needed to now whether you can pull a snail out of its shell, but in the process of researching this, I stumbled across this story, and it had me in tears. Better (or worse, from the snail's perspective) than any work of fiction. I think I'm traumatised for life.

I've also been raiding Google Image, as I sometimes do, for character ideas. Writing is simply painting with words. Most of the time I can paint by imagination, but sometimes it helps to have a proverbial fruit bowl. 

Main characters usually need something that makes them stand out. I'm basing Lord Evermore around this image of Arnauld de Beaufort. He was born quite-a-little-lot later than my character needs to be, but I like his style. Especially his hair. So I'm nicking it.



Thursday, 10 March 2016

Hookland & Creeper's Cottage


Well, here we go again.

The Children of Lir is tucked up safe and sound with Ghostwoods, in the queue for edits. 

Secret Order of the Literati is out with beta readers.

So, next up I'm working on Creeper's Cottage.

You may notice, on the back of Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, there's a glowing endorsement from a writer named David Southwell.

David's someone I've been in touch with through my publisher.

I often rave about #FolkloreThursday, which is an absolutely fantastic Twitter trend every, err, Thursday (doh!). They've even got a Folklore Thursday website up.

David's got a project called Hookland, which feeds into that.

In its own words, Hookland is:

[T]he psychogeography of a place that doesn’t exist built around the real myth circuits, Albionic shadows and actual places of a 1970s childhood. Stories told in the form of the sort of travel that used to be given away at petrol stations, a cultural artifact from when the TV news carried UFO sightings and ghosts on their nightly bulletins along with reports of IRA bombs.

It's a lost county in England where all the folklore you've ever heard of finds its home. 

I'm really excited by David's project, because it's a sort of creative commons playground for artists. He's busy working on The Phoenix Guide to Strange England, which is the accompanying guidebook to Hookland, and there's already a Wirter's Bible for those participating in an upcoming anthology.

Creeper's Cottage is a story I've had rattling about in my brain since visiting The Black Country Museum last October.

Creeper, in this instance, doesn't relate to a climbing vine or a feathered fowl, but to a creeper thief, the kind that steals into your bedroom at night whilst you sleep. So, I suppose Thief's Cottage would work as well, though perhaps less... well, creepy.

Anyway. 

It was going to be a novel in its own right, but the idea happened to coincide with learning about all of David's stuff, and it just seemed to fit together that the whole thing should be set in Hookland.

The manuscript is at a piddling 8,000 words at the moment, hardly even born. I started, then had to put it on hold whilst Secret Order took off. Now that's out of the way, I'm really excited to be returning to it. Even though it's a work of complete fantasy, the research for it is almost as heavy as historical fiction, as half of the places and characters already exist in David's world. Although Hookland is all about collaboration, it's important that the stuff I'm writing isn't directly contravening anything he's already conjured up. The beauty of any story set in Hookland is that it needs to fit seamlessly into that psychosphere. 

The past few months have been great fun. I've always wanted to rewrite The Children of Lir - check. I've always wanted to take a shot at a trilogy - check. I've always wanted to try collaborating on a decent project - underway.

I'm really enjoying the creativity I'm feeling at the moment. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Gábor Csigás

I'd just like to take a moment to pay homage to a member of the Ghostwoods team who just spreads joy wherever he points his cursor. Gábor Csigás is the graphic designer at Ghostwoods Books in charge of cover art, and he's an absolute genius. Below are some of his works, including my novel Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran. There's an article showing how he created that cover on the Ghostwoods website. If you're interested in commissioning him, he can be reached via Twitter and his website.





Monday, 7 March 2016

Sharing Secrets


It is done.

Eight days of edits, 1,087 words and almost three pages added. So that's pushed it up over the 80,000 mark, which is satisfying.

I think I'm happy with it.

The Secret Order of the Literati, Book I is about ready to meet its first friendly beta readers. Little nervous, as it's not what I usually write. I've been heavily into literary historical fiction lately, what with Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran and the forthcoming Children of Lir

This is a total departure from poetics. Fast-paced and fantastical. Hugely influenced by people like Borges (The Library of Babel, The Book of Sand), Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind) and Sloan (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore) in terms of magical realism, though I may just have stepped over into full-blown crazy town. 

Really, I just wanted to have some fun.

Try something new.

I've always wanted to attempt a trilogy. This is me taking a shot at an opener. If it flies, it flies. If it doesn't, well, back to the drawing board.

I'll be dedicating this one to Christiane. I get the sense she really would have enjoyed it. So, even if it doesn't get picked up, I think I've created something worthwhile. 

Nothing left to do but see if it can swim.

Taking a couple of days off to catch up on some other stuff, but then it's back to the keyboard to crack on with Creeper's Cottage, a creepy ghostie story I'm planning to set in David Southwell's Hookland. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

World Book Day 2016



Well, this year World Book Day isn't 23rd April, or 5th March - it's 3rd of March. They love to keep you guessing! The most regional world event ever. World Book Day, World Book and Copyright Day,  International Day of the Book - whichever name you know it by, it's a day to celebrate that seductive tangle of forest, glue and ink that is the book.

Follow along on #WorldBookDay

As with last year, I thought I'd mention a few of my favourite reads and paperback romps. 

Not to mention, all this week, Ghostwoods Books have my novel Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran on special offer for Kindle, and a fun photo competition to enter before 15 March. All details here.


The book  I have just finished reading:

Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Living in Africa, I realised that I really haven't read much African-authored fiction. I decided to change that, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the results. This is a fantastic whodunnit based in Ghana. I'd also recommend Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.





The book I am currently reading:

The Hummingbird's Tear by CM Kerley


Every now and then a cover design floats past on Twitter and I can't help myself. Sadly, the content doesn't always match the quality of the artwork. This one does, however. A solidly written fantasy series. Beautifully poetic opening and imaginative, detailed world.



Author crush of the year:

Kate Evans


My aunt bought me this for Christmas. It's a graphic novel of the life of revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. It's absolutely fab, and Kate Evans brings her story to life brilliantly.



Top of my TBR pile:


The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Translated from German, this book just looks enticingly dark and kookie. Really looking forward to cracking the spine.







Poetry:


Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames by Luis d'Antin van Rooten


Discovered in a charity shop with a friend, this is perhaps the maddest poetry book ever invented. Traditional English nursery rhymes phonetically read in a thick French accent, then back-translated to find meaning. Has to be read to be believed.




Reading lists:



Samhain Horror 

If you like your fiction dark and bloody, here's a fun reading list to keep you awake at night.







Mother's Day 

Three sumptuous, complex novels to enchant any mother on Mothering Sunday.







Charity Shop List (AKA The Blue List)

A set of highly diverse books I picked up on a whim in a charity shop in Scotland. By coincidence, they are mostly blue.




Aleister Crowley

Slightly mental reading list pertaining to the occult icon Aleister Crowley, from biography to fiction.







And, finally, a shout out to my publishers: Ghostwoods Books, Green Sunset Books and Netherworld Books.