Sunday 30 November 2014

Saturday 29 November 2014

Feather Art

How beautiful are these? Paintings on Swan Feathers by Ian Davie. So delicate.

I am slowly resuming my swan obsession, having been on a two week bender. I didn't want to drink, smoke and party, I'll have you know, but friends came - what can you do?

Anyway, I'm just about human again and stuck indoors due to the rain. I hate coming back to writing after an unplanned pause. I feel a little dislocated, as though I don't know my own characters. It's like walking into a party and everyone turning to stare at you.

I'm finding refuge in a character that's surprised me. I thought I'd better write him in, but I wasn't expecting to find him so interesting. He's become a conduit for my inner 'wise child' - the one that gets overlooked by all the adults but silently understands exactly what's going on.

Hoping to break the 20k mark by the end of the day, which puts this firmly in the 'going to be a novel' category of my golden numbers. After the recent mayhem, I'm too weak and feeble to leave the desk, so I should really attempt something more constructive than Twitter for the next couple of hours.

Also quit smoking and coffee a couple of days ago. Trying to detox. Weirdly, after almost a 20-a-day habit for the past month, I don't feel any cravings when I go cold turkey. Though I did get a parcel from Blighty the other day and I'm substituting chocolate for cigarettes, so should probably also attempt some exercise when my strength returns. Or maybe I'll try writing standing up again, which lasted all of about four hours.

I fluctuate between caffeine-drenched slob and jogging-on-the-spot maniac quite often. I seem to be fairly happy in either state, like water as a liquid or a solid. There's someone I've got my eye on at the moment, so trying to lose my pudding pouch before introducing myself. I'm a little out of practise and need the body confidence to say 'hi'.

I am being pushed by my publisher to be a little more personal on this blog and on social media. Fairly sure they're going to regret that request. I used to have a tell-all blog (The Pineal Void - anyone remember that?), just like I used to have piercings, before I started pretending to be an adult. What the hay, perhaps not-so-tightly-censored honesty is the best policy? I suppose I am the CEO of my company, I can always reprimand myself.

Enough waffle, back to picking over the pages of my work-in-progress, in the hopes it might progress a little further.

Friday 28 November 2014

Farewell PD James

Sad to hear about the passing of a true prolific, Conservative peer or otherwise. 94 is a grand old age for a grand dame of literature. 

Storytelling Shoes

Want! Though not so good if it rains.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Colour Blind

An interesting article, all be it from a dodgy source, on the way the language we use to describe colours may affect how many colours we register: How the language you speak affects what you see.

On the left, you can see the number of English names for colour hues, and the right shows how there are much fewer names for colours in Chinese. In English, the most popular base colours are blue, pink and green, while in China red, blue and green are more prominent.

The concept of Linguistic relativity concerns the relationship between language and thought, specifically whether language influences thought, and, if so, how. This question has led to research in multiple disciplines—especially anthropology, cognitive science, linguistics, and philosophy. Among the most popular and controversial theories in this area of scholarly work is the theory of linguistic relativity (also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis). An often-cited "strong version" of the claim, first given by Lenneberg in 1953, proposes that language structure determines how we perceive the world. A "weaker version" of this claim posits that language structure influences the world view of speakers of a given language but does not determine it.

Saturday 22 November 2014

The Militant Recommender

Got our first blog review for Rosy Hours on The Militant Recommender (AKA cartoonist Stephanie Piro):

Ms. Woolley wholly succeeds in bringing this mysterious world of the Phantom's past to vivid, magical life... Don't miss this fascinating trip into his past and that of a minor character in Leroux's classic who finally has her starring role.

Comment below:

It is very evocative.The author has created a beautifully realized world. As you read the past unfolds and you go from reader to silent witness.

How lovely that Stephanie has taken the time to blog about this and has enjoyed it so much. And what an excellent blog for booklovers. 

I completely love the fact she's picked some music she feels evokes the mood of the book. I'm rocking out to that at the moment.

Don't forget you can enter to win a signed copy of Rosy Hours on Goodreads, and read more about me in December's issue of Writing Magazine (out now!).

How cool is this!?

Saturday 15 November 2014

Writing Courses

Lazing in bed reading Guardian articles and this one on So You Want to be a Writer... made me chuckle:

A bad creative writing class will look like this. A student has submitted some work with the words: "I don't think it's very good." The class has (mostly) read it. After a long silence, one of the student's best friends, primed, says: "I really like the way you … " The student says: 'Thank you." Another one says: "I didn't quite understand about the bit where …" The student explains. Half the class stay silent; the student leaves with ego intact and work unimproved... 
Personally, I like to irritate as well as inspire a class, sometimes by saying sagely: "A short story consists of an introduction, five OR seven episodes, and a coda in which the weather changes." (Worked for Chekhov, anyway.) Or: "If you're going to have an animal in a story, have a dog and not a cat." (Dogs are easier structural principles, running up to strangers in parks, and so on.)

Writers, nature or nurture? One does wonder sometimes.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

15,000 Feathers - The Fast Draft

I've been talking a lot recently about my forthcoming release, Those Rory Hours at Mazanadaran, mostly because we're entering an exciting pre-release period, getting the text set, getting the word out and getting ready for launch in February.

There's so much going on, and Ghostwoods have proved truly superb at guiding me through it and putting together a marketing plan. That's why I've been talking about it a lot, because a lot is happening.

The encouragement of others has always driven me forward. From my very first novel Lucid, which was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009, through to the truly incredible blurbs that have been rolling in from other authors about my latest work. Each time I feel as though I am progressing a little further, becoming better at honouring the art of storytelling.

Now it is time to mention that today I have passed the 15,000 mark on my next novel. The retelling of an old legend which is stretching my abilities in terms of research and imagination.

I've posted a couple of excerpts already, but I'm taking a new approach this time round. I didn't know there was a word for it until I saw it on Twitter today and thought 'yes, that's what I'm doing.' It's called fast drafting.

In the past I have always been fairly meticulous, making sure each chapter feels right before moving on to the next and looking up things on the spot that I need to know in order to give the story a sense of authenticity.

This one is a little different. Firstly, because I feel a need to have another manuscript close to completion by the time Rosy Hours hits the shelves. I feel spurred on by my good experiences with that novel and I'd like to ride that wave. Secondly, because, unlike any other story I've written, this story is already known. There's a beginning, middle, and end all mapped out in previous versions, most of the characters are formed and it's just left to me to take a few detours. Finally, because I loved this story so much in the past that I once wrote an entire film script for it. There were a lot of holes to that script, a lot of inaccuracies (as I'm now learning), but I've always known where I'd like to take it and I have a blueprint mapping the way.

All of this makes the process far more straightforward than previous stories, where I've had to dream up just about everything. This time, it's more about taking the raw material and polishing it until it sparkles; letting its colours show.

So, fast drafting it is. Getting the plot down, working out who does what when, sketching in additional characters and leaving a question mark in place of words or events that need more research. Rosy Hours was the first novel I've written where I implemented the policy of 'edit at the end'. Usually I edit as I go. This time, I'm trying really hard not to look back at anything except the last few paragraphs where I left off the day before.

I feel slightly dislocated from it, but in the interests of making swift progress I think it's a good approach. I'm also attempting to write a little every day, which is something I've tried in the past with varying degrees of, usually, short-term success. This time I'm not imposing a word count on myself, I just want to see the manuscript grow day by day, however slowly.

For this reason, I'm unlikely to post many more extracts. Although I don't mind posting rough snippets of unedited material, this time I'd rather not. I'd rather slap down the words in a jumble of typos than comb through each section reminding myself what I've written.

This might change at some point in the future, but I'm willing to give this fast drafting lark a shot.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Text Set

Received the pre-proofed print layout of the text yesterday. Very excited indeed. For the first time ever, I have section divides: a little black and white leaf in the space within chapters where there's a scene shift larger than a paragraph break. It's what you get in them classy books from decent publishers - like Ghostwoods. Every day I am more impressed by them.

I need to go through everything and check that each of the divides has been picked up, and check the general layout. Plus, I've been asked to help compile a pronunciation guide to all the foreign words I've used... I shall explain why shortly. 

Monday 10 November 2014

Editors' Choice

Amazon Editors' Favourite Books of 2014
(click to enlarge)

Oooh, US Amazon, prophetic? ;)

Lovely e-mail from Dad yesterday. Apparently, through Writing Magazine, I'm now on sale in Tesco. He scanned me over a copy of the article. Made my folks proud.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Writing Magazine Feature

Wrap your eyes around a copy of Writing Magazine this December. It's out now and I'm in it! There's an interview by the lovely crime writer Adrian Magson, in which I talk about my forthcoming novel Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, what it takes to write one, and my top writing tips.

Friday 7 November 2014

Goodreads Giveaway

Fancy winning a signed copy of my forthcoming novel? Ghostwoods Books have two copies to give away on Goodreads for the US, Canada and UK. Head on over and enter the draw.

Tuesday 4 November 2014


It's been a strange few days since the cover reveal. So many very lovely comments and well wishes. Sometimes I am amazed at how something I dreamt up, staring into the screen like a scrying bowl, can go on to affect others in such a way. It is like releasing a slingshot. When it hits its mark you feel both amazement and wonder.

Today I wrote the hardest part of any novel: the dedication and acknowledgements.

I always feel a little sad at this point, because it is truly The End. 

There is nothing more to write after that, only the waiting period between now and release, with all the promotion that goes with it.

There is a lot of hope hanging on this story. It is a nervous time, waiting to see what reviewers will say. I try not to take anything too much to heart, even the good stuff, as there is always that fear that in accepting the praise you will find criticism harder to take. Better to keep your story as a private pleasure and then let it go. 

Rosy Hours has been an important book for me, as I finally feel that I have found my voice as a writer. Everything written before seems like practise now, and I'm not ashamed of admitting that writers are created not born - it does take practise, trial and error.

Anyway. Those to be thanked have been thanked, I have placed my heart between the pages and closed them again. 

I am in the early stages of my next novel and it seems that this new voice I have found grows stronger. I am pleased with what I have written so far, and this takes my mind off all that is to come in the months before Rosy Hours blooms (or withers) in the public eye. 

Characters are as real as any friend, as one group leaves another arrives. 

Saturday 1 November 2014

Intore Dancing

Went to an event on Friday where there was some first-class traditional Rwandan Intore dancing. Thought I'd share.