Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to do a post today to honour one of my favourite festivals, as between a dentist appointment and visiting my parents I don't think I'll get a chance to throw a spooky tale together (some would say that the dentist and parents is scary enough). So instead I thought I'd express my love for Halloween in the best way possible; with the Snoopy gang. As some of you know I am a huge Snoopy fan, and Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin is one of the most vivid recollections I have from childhood. If you missed it there's a clip of it below. And, the funny Charlie Brown comment "I got a rock". They don't make cartoons like this anymore.

Happy Halloween and don't let the blood sucking, non-sparkling, ferocious vampires bite.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Top 10 Things I Learned Writing a First Draft

I've been busy plotting out the second draft of "Where Wolves Run Free", and a big part of the process is reading over what I covered in the first draft (Draft 0) and seeing where improvements can be made. The plot has undergone some extreme revisions, though funnily enough the core events still happen, just in a different way. I also thought about the things I've learned for the next time I do a first draft of a novel (or any story really) and thought I'd share my top ten lessons from completing my first draft ever;

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Wire; A Retrospective

Okay, I know - it came out ages ago. But I only recently had the pleasure of watching all five seasons of The Wire so I thought I'd talk about it. If you too have not got on the Wire train yet, then do it. Do it NOW! You will not regret it. Somehow I managed to entirely miss it when it was TV here in Britain, and then never got around to renting the series. But, with the insistence of my boyfriend, we both sat down to watch it from beginning to end over the last few months; me to see what the fuss is about, and him to watch my reactions. What I saw was a prime example of fine storytelling and excellent character development, from beginning to end.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Draft Zero is Complete - Now Onto Draft 2

Exciting news - I have finished the first draft of my novel. At a whopping 98,000 words or so, it was a trek to get there, but get there I did. I'm calling this a Draft Zero as it is very, very rough, but it's all there and now just needs to be sifted through a careful refining process to create something intelligible and, I hope, enjoyable. The first stage of that has already started as I have plenty of ideas on how to improve the original.

For those interested in what I know I've got wrong, this is what I know I need to fix already:

Sunday, 16 October 2011

City Living

Living in a city like London can sometimes be a test of patience. The public transport lets you down when you need it most (especially at weekends, during "maintenance" work) and when you do get on a train or bus no one looks at each other, or acknowledges your existence. People are short tempered, particularly in rush hour, and it's easy to get a bit depressed about city life. Now and again though something comes along that renews my love for the place, and this weekend was one of those times.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Fruitfulness and Cake Whores

It occurred to me today that it's been nearly a year since I started up this blog, and then I thought about how far I've come since then. Starting out I had vague dreams of having a writing schedule, getting a first draft finished and learning more about this self-flogging thing called writing. I haven't quite got the draft done yet but I think I'm only a few thousand words away now (it's going to be shorter than I thought, likely about 90,000 words rather than 100,000). I have a definite schedule (most of the time) and am definitely conscious of getting words down every day. But the main difference I've felt is in my confidence. I don't think I'd have been up to submitting stories for flash fiction competitions, like on Chuck Wendig's blog, or chatting to people on twitter about writing a year ago. It's amazing how much we change without us really realising it.

Progress on the novel has been slow but good. I have the beginnings of an outline for the second draft so can make a start on that as soon as the first draft is finished. As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, yesterday I had a bit of a revelation when I finally realised what the theme of the novel is. I must admit I was beginning to have concerns about that. Here I am, I thought, at the end of the draft and I still have no idea what this damn story is really about, you know, under all the drama, gore and magic. What its essence is. I don't even know what it was specifically that triggered the realisation, but I was working on the final chapter of the draft, while writing bits of an outline for Draft 2 when suddenly, out of nowhere, I said to myself,

"Control. Trying to control things beyond your abilities, and the dire consequences of that on yourself and those around you."

Bang! Whizz! Pop! It was like a mini firework show in my head, amid frantic scribbling in my note pad. And then the feeling of pressure being released, pressure I hadn't even realised was there until it was gone. Ahhh.

So although I haven't been getting huge word counts in (only a few hundred each day) I feel like I've moved on leaps and bounds this week. With the theme firmly planted I can see now how to weave that into the main plot and the sub-plots. I can see what it will mean to the characters caught up in its vortex, how it's going to make them do things they shouldn't do, and make decisions that are hard but need to be made. Essentially, my story has gone from being 2D to being a full 4D experience. And I can't even begin to explain how relieved that makes me feel.

One last thing before I go: The aforementioned Mr. Wendig linked to this story today on Twitter and I thought it was one of the best short SF tales I've read in some time. The kind of story that makes me slightly envious but encouraged to try to do something as good. It also has a fantastic title. Ladies and Germs, I give you, "Cake Whores of Mars".

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: Brand New Monster

As some of you may know I follow Chuck Wendig's blog over on I love Chuck's writing style, and his advice is at once punishing, truthful, and always from his heart. I also love the challenges he comes up with every week, and I liked this one so much I wanted to give it a go. So, here we are, in 1000 words, a story about a monster that no one has ever seen before. Vampires, zombies and werewolves - get lost. Your kind aren't wanted 'round here.


A glum little gremlin sat at the bottom of Sheryl’s bag. Technically he was a wingless fairy, but none of the gremlin’s would ever admit that they were related to those annoying fluttery creatures. Always so full of themselves and, worst of all, smiling all the time. Even while they tangled up peoples hair as they slept, and pushed coins and pens down the side of the sofa, they always smiled and laughed. Bag gremlins rarely smiled, or at least not in front of anyone. This particular gremlin hadn’t smiled for a long time. You see, he was bored.
Dan (his parents liked human names so inflicted him with the dullest they could find) had not had anything to do in a long time. Day after day he sat at the bottom of his human’s handbag, waiting for something to be put in there that he could work with. When he’d been a youngling, and appointed as Sheryl’s personal bag gremlin, everything had gone fine. More than fine in fact. If Sheryl was on her way to school he got the chance to fold up all the corners of her books, and rubbed the spine until he was sure the pages would fall out. He punched the front covers so they dented, and lost their shine. And it was even better when she covered her books in paper and pictures; so much to rip apart! Not to mention the assortment of pens he got to open so they’d leak everywhere. When she got a bit older she got a “walkman”, some strange human device that played hideous sounds. But oh, the delight of tangling up the string attached to it, with the semi circle of plastic attached at the end. Then he’d discovered that on either end of that crescent were two soft and removable coverings. The joy of pulling them off every time she stuffed those “headphones” (what odd creatures humans were) into her bag, so that the next time she took them out he got to hear her grumbling and watch her hand rummaging around the bag to find them. He didn’t know why they were so important, but he knew it was a big deal if they came off, so he made sure to do it at every opportunity. Actually, that wasn’t entirely true; he sometimes left them on, and other times didn’t tangle up the attached cord. It meant the next time he got a much better result from Sheryl, who would swear and sometimes even tip her whole bag out! He could laugh on that for weeks. Only to himself of course.
Now, things were not the same. Where before there had been books a plenty to scrabble and scrape, now there was some hard and resistant thing, which even had a cover over it made of leather to stop him getting at it. But it wasn’t like normal leather, all soft and animally tasting. It was hard and nasty to bite on, so Dan quickly gave up on that. He didn’t know what it was called, but it seemed to have replaced the books. There weren’t even any pens to push into the lining of her bag, or a notepad to scrunch paper up. The only thing left was a piece of cord, though this one only had round things at it’s end, without the removable bits. Though he made the most of it, tying it up into the trickiest knots he could manage, it wasn’t the same.
The life of a gremlin wasn’t what it used to be. He’d heard that others were having this problem too, in the few times he poked his head out the top and chatted to another clan member from their own bag.
Maybe I should take up vacuums, he thought, that gives you the chance to use dirt and hair to block it up, even make it spew all the filth back onto the floor. But it wasn’t the same. There wasn’t the daily amusement in it, and was more for gremlins wanting to retire than those only in their first half century.
Suddenly a thought occurred to him. Why should the fairies get the chance to tangle up hair, and move things around while human’s sleep, when he could easily do it too. Yes, he couldn’t fly, but he could climb and he was always in the house anyway. Just think of it, all that stuff in the bathroom, in the bedroom, all those pens left lying around, all waiting to be hidden in the most inconvenient places. Dan covered his wide mouth with his taloned hands, holding in a giggle. He mustn’t lose it, he had to stay focused on the plan. The fairies were not going to like this, but he was bigger than them. Anyway, he’d tear their wings off if they tried to stop him.
Later that night Dan crept out of the bag that had been his home these past five years (the bag before had been far more comfortable - until he ripped the lining apart) and he scurried to the bedroom down the hall. Sheryl was asleep, and didn’t stir as he pulled himself up the bedding covering her. He sat on the pillow next to her head and set about tying her hair together. And he suddenly realised he was grinning. A fairy spotted him before long, flitting in unannounced as was their habit. He threw it the finger and it sped away. Nothing was going to distract him from the sheer joy of doing something again. He actually let out a high pitched (and far to fairy like) laugh. Once he was done he moved the hair pins from the side table onto the floor and began to search for other things to work on.
In this way the great war between fairies and gremlins began. Dan had no idea it would come to that when he started, but when it did, he couldn’t help himself. He smiled. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Creativity and Unseasonal Sunshine

As some of you may know the UK has been experiencing some extraordinary weather the last week or so. Here in London at this time of year it's normally all gales, and cold, and falling leaves. But for the last seven days we've had hot sunshine, so it's felt more like July than September/October.

Making the most of it I got out the flat on Saturday and went for a wander around Romford, and ended up outside the church, pad in hand, and did a forty minute sketch of the church tower. I haven't sketched like that in years and it felt wonderful to let my old instincts take over for a while. Even if I did get a few funny looks from people. As anyone who's ever done sketches or paintings in the street knows, you learn to ignore the stares and after a while don't even notice them. So below are some pictures I took of the church, as well as the sketch itself. Enjoy!

This would have been a perfect picture if it hadn't been for
the bald bloke walking into my shot...

I liked the details on the front of the tower so focused on that for the sketch.

The sketch: It's a bit wonky, but I like the window details I got.
I plan to go back and do a better drawing in the future. Weather  permitting.