Thursday, 26 July 2018

Getting reaquainted

I've been having some issues with the plot of my WIP - working title Black Diamond - recently. Even given that it's been too hot to really think, and I know I'm more of a pantser than a planner, all the threads just weren't coming together.

I blogged about it on the Word Cloud, and received some really helpful suggestions. (You can read about them here, in Plotting Panic)

As you'll see if you read the blog, I finally recognised that I'd had a similar problem before; I caught myself writing 'I know what happens...I know what my characters will do.' The important bit there is 'I' knew. I wasn't giving my characters enough room to breathe and do their own thing, tell their own story. I was trying to force my version of the story upon them.

Once I'd realised that, I apologized to my MC, Tilda, and decided to reaquaint myself with her by doing something really simple.

I read the book I'd already written about her.

Now, Mage of Merjan isn't polished. In fact, I saw lots of things that still need to be addressed before it's published. But I forced myself to read it without a pen in my hand - vital to do, I've found, if you want to read as a reader rather than as a writer. It's all too easy to take your focus from the story to how you've used the words that tell it, if you see what I mean?

Anyway. I re-read Tilda's first adventure. And it was like connecting with an old friend. I reminded myself of her courage, of her questioning mind, of how in all things she is seeking to be and do the best she can, while learning about the Power that her homeland relies on.

I picked up Black Diamond and re-read what I'd written so far. I added comments in capitals in places where I knew I'd have to address issues Tilda's way - not mine - and then I carried on writing from where I'd left off.

Yesterday, I added another 5000 words, and revealed a major plot point - all because I allowed Tilda to tell it from her point of view.

So. If you're stuck in your writing, whether it's a series or a standalone, perhaps you need to ask yourself if you're forgetting whose story it really is...

Friday, 20 July 2018

When life gives you lemons...

There's a saying 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade', but sometimes it's difficult to focus on the lemonade rather than the lemons...especially as this heatwave continues.

My lawn is scorched to a crisp. I'm inside more than out as it's (marginally) cooler in the house. I've a line of plastic milk bottles by the kitchen sink to save all the run-off water (we have to wait for the combi boiler to heat up) for my few flower pots, as my water butts are almost run dry.

And yes, I do remember the stand pipes of summer 1976...

(There have also been some health issues chez Squidge recently which have taken up some time and caused a fair bit of worry, but fingers crossed we're coming out of the other side of that. And with my New Churchwarden's hat on, I've been rather busy with all things interregnum. (We are in the process of looking for a new priest, and it's not necessarily an easy, quick, or smooth process).)

So it feels like there are lots of lemons around at the moment.

Mind you, I do have four gallons of pic-your-own gooseberry wine 'blooping' away in the kitchen; two litres of rhubarb gin settling in a demi john; huge juicy blackberries just beginning to appear on the bramble that always takes over my garden; and when we finally do go on holiday, I won't blind everyone on the beach with my limpet-pale flesh.

Oh, and there's an interview with me, over on Everybody's Reviewing. The interviewer, Evie, (who wants to be an author and was on work experience with the blog) asked some really good questions about the inspiration behind Kingstone. 

Perhaps the lemons aren't as sour as I thought. Maybe there's a chance of lemonade after all...

Saturday, 30 June 2018

A day out and other doings...

Boy, has it been hot recently! We're struggling to keep ourselves from wilting - let alone the pot plants and lawn. (Especially since the kitchen was done - we discovered that the outside tap has stuck 'off' and we can't access the connection in the kitchen because the fitter fitted a cupboard in front of it. *sigh* Negotiations are with the small claims court. But that's another story.)

It's been awful to see the huge moor fires around Saddleworth - and even worse to think that some of them were started deliberately. And yet it doesn't look as though we're in for rain any time soon to help the firefighters...

It's been quiet on the Scribbles, but you know me. I'm beavering away behind the scenes, up to all sorts of things, so here's a catch up for you.

Gin Trip!
For my 50th and Squidgeling J's 18th last year, we were bought an Experience; an open top London bus pass, and gin and cakes at Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour. Now, have to say I'm not a huge fan of gin per se. It's far too dry on its own for me. But I don't mind the odd one when it's flavoured with something other than gin, if you see what I mean?

Anyway, we headed off to London on the Megabus - we arrived around lunchtime (neither of us could face the 6.30am pick up, so opted for a later one) and found a rather good picnic spot;

The bus tour was great - we sat up top (well, you have to, don't you?) and listened to Dave tell us all about the London landmarks. The only problem was that the traffic was really heavy, so our initial plan to go all the way to Tower Hill, get the boat back down the Thames and THEN go on to Mr Fogg's didn't happen...we had to get off much sooner to make our designated Gin Time. Think we'll have to go back another day, do the whole bus route. The highlight was seeing Big Ben. Well, not really 'seeing' it;

We had a mooch around Covent Garden, found the gin parlour and - oh my! It was literally the upstairs room of a pub, decked out like a Victorian lady's parlour, and we were waited on by girls in saloon-style outfits and gents in waistcoats and top hats. There was a very steampunk vibe about the outfits, which I loved. We had two hours to enjoy ourselves - which we did!

Cakes, with Showtime and Chorus Line cocktails

Oh, and a couple more complimentary Showtimes,
because we were both celebrating birthdays!

Only slightly tipsy, we had a wander through Chinatown, Leicester Square - and there we found The Lego Shop! And finally saw Big Ben.

It's not a very big shop at all, but it's got some fabulous models built into it - you could've had your photo taken in a life-size red telephone box, but the queue was so long, we didn't bother. The mural on the stairs was amazing - the London landscape, built in 3D.

And on a staircase - difficult to take without any random tourists!

We had a leisurely walk down to Trafalgar Square, along the mall and through Hyde Park, taking in the sights and watching the teeniest ducklings on the lake on the way. 

We got the Megabus back home - eventually. Who knew that Victoria Bus Station departures was in a totally different building to Victoria Bus Station arrivals? Not us...we had to ask the mechanics at the arrivals depot where the outgoing buses were...

Got back late and tired, but it was a lovely day.

We helped to do the flowers for a wedding at church - I knew the bride when she used to come to the church mums and toddlers group I helped to run some years ago, so it was lovely to be able to help out for her big day. The look was country-casual, and we had the most wonderful flowers to work with, courtesy of Fleurs en Fleur. The church smelt gorgeous on the Saturday morning, when - as a new church warden - I went up to see what had to be done specifically for a wedding as opposed to a normal Sunday service. The bride was radiant, and the flowers weren't bad either!

The peonies had the most delicious scent...

The lovely Jody Klaire recently posted a picture of a cross that her partner had made for her, and I commented how lovely I thought it was. Em offered to make me one too, and earlier this week, a parcel arrived... Inside was my own beautiful cross, made by hand 'with joy, love and focus'. I was moved to tears.

My gorgeous cross, alongside my Anne Lamott 'bird by bird' reminder

Things have been very busy and a little difficult at this end faithwise recently, and this particular cross reminds me that the way of faith isn't smooth - it has its winding ways, but ultimately, it's still the way of the cross. And you know what, I think I can see the word 'love' written into the loops and swirls when I look at the cross sideways on - the absolute core of my belief.

Review and Interview.
Kingstone has recently been reviewed on Everybody's Reviewing, a blog site run in conjunction with Leicester's Everybody's Reading Festival. Of course I'm biased about my own book (though I try to be objective!) but I thought it was an excellent review, written by Evie who I know wants to be an author herself and was managing the blog as part of her work experience. Evie was also prepping an interview with me for the blog - lots of questions about Kingstone that really made me think about why I'd written certain things into the novel. I'll post a link to that, too, when it appears.

And finally...Writing.
The WIP's progressing - slow but sure. The hot weather isn't really conducive to lots of brain powery stuff, but I've been taking myself off to the garden room where I'm shaded and getting a few more hundred words down every time. It's been lovely to discover a blackbird's nest in a bush beside the garden room, so I keep nipping over to watch the babies through the branches whenever I hear the chirping that means mum or dad blackbird has returned. Those babies grow fast!

And that's probably caught you up with everything... I'm off to enjoy a bit more sun, and I hope you are too - but do take care of yourselves and those around you. 

Bye for now!

Thursday, 14 June 2018


Well, unfortunately Kingstone didn't make the shortlist for the Leicester Book Prize; I always knew it would be a tough call when I saw the other books longlisted with it!

Congratulations to Rod Duncan, whose novel Queen of All Crows, was crowned Leicester Book of the Year 2018.

However, I do have a little bit of good news to share...


I'm going to be publishing a third novel with Bink under their Dragonfeather imprint. 

The Mage of Merjan is the first in a series of - hopefully - five novels about Tilda and her adventures on the island of Issraya. (I'm already half way through drafting the second...) 

So I can't be too sad about the Book Prize, can I?

Looking forward very much to introducing you to Tilda sometime in the future. 

Monday, 4 June 2018


Delighted to say that Kingstone has been longlisted for the Leicester Book Prize. 

It therefore stands a chance (a slim one, maybe, as the other books on the list are awesome; I've read half of them!) of making the shortlist and, ultimately, coming away with the title of 
Leicester Book of the Year 2018. 


Sunday, 3 June 2018

This is what drafting a novel REALLY looks like...

I've been working on the second book of a series - working title The Black Diamond - and I suddenly realised how much I'm editing myself now as I write.

Perhaps it's just something that comes with experience, but I thought I would take the opportunity, before I get too deep into the editing, to show you the actual versions of what I recognise as my s****y first hand draft, my slightly less s****y first computer draft, and my first polish draft.

It might also serve to remind myself at some point in the future, when I'm writing book 3, that great writing doesn't just appear on the first go, especially when you begin a new project. I found myself getting really disheartened when I began this novel, because it had been a long time since I started anything genuinely new. (The first book in the series is a rework of an old story, so it needed less work than a real first draft...) It's hard to remember, when you're polishing and editing and making something read well, that it started life as something very, very different.

So to anyone who thinks they aren't writing well at the moment, take a look at this little section and the stages it's gone through - and tell yourself that there IS hope! Just stick at it.

Of course, other authors approach their draft stages very differently to me. I am not showing you my drafting because I'm saying it's how it SHOULD be done. I'm trying to demonstrate how a draft can be improved. 

Here goes. Don't expect to follow the story - I've selected a scene at random.

1. Hand drafted, in a notebook. 
Lots of scribbles, but the bones of the scene are there. No proper formatting, though strangely, there's more than is evident in the first computer draft; I've at least got paragraphs...

2. First write up on the computer.
There's no formatting, as I tend to just get the stuff down. I'm surprised I've even got a few speech marks... There's still some editing going on at this point, so it doesn't sound bad, but it doesn't read well. Yet.

 “It’ll be me first in the tub, Sparkles!” someone shouted, running past.
Startled, Tilda spun round, right into the middle of the walkway. 
“Watch out!”
Before she could move, someone else crashed into Tilda and she went sprawling.
She lay where she’d fallen, too choked on red dust to move, as a filthy young miner jumped quickly to his feet.
Dammit, Yan, he yelled. It was my turn tonight!
A whoop of triumph came from further down the road. Tilda rolled onto all fours and got shakily to her feet. I’m fine. Thanks for asking.
The miner rounded on her with a frown. You should look where you’re going. He snatched up a bag which must’ve fallen to the floor with him.
Anger heated Tilda’s cheeks. And you should walk on the pavement, she snapped, glaring at him.
You’d run too, believe me, he snarled. And set off at a jog after the disappearing Yan.  
Tilda, are you alright? I saw what happened. Duska hurried out of the shop.
Yes. Just dusty. Tilda tried to brush the owrst of it off. He barged straight into me, and all for some hot water.
Ah… To Tilda’s surprise, Duska laughed. You don’t want to get between a miner and his after shift bath. I’ve seen grown men fight over who’s next into the tub. They have races, you know, see who can get down and cleaned up the quickest.
I’ll make sure I’m out of the way for that, then. To Tilda’s horror, she felt her bottom lip tremble.
Duska must’ve noticed; she put a hand on Tilda’s shoulder. I think it might be best if we leave finding Feliks until tomorrow. Shall we go back? See if Sasha’s finished that floor yet?

Tilda nodded gratefully. Yes, please. She glanced down the road. She could still see the miner who’d crashed into her. I hope your bath water’s cold when you get in it, she muttered under her breath.

3. My first attempt at a polish up... 
It's formatted, I've played around with it a bit, but I won't do a proper edit on it until I've got to the end of the novel and all of it is to this standard.

            “It’ll be me first in the tub, Sparkles!” someone shouted, running past.

          Startled, Tilda spun round, right into the middle of the walkway. 
          “Watch out!”
          Before she could move, someone crashed into her and she went sprawling. She lay where she’d fallen, too choked on red dust to move, while a filthy young miner jumped quickly to his feet.
          “Dammit, Yan,” he yelled. “It was my turn tonight!”
          A whoop of triumph came from further down the road. Tilda rolled onto all fours and got shakily to her feet. “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”
          The miner rounded on her with a frown. “You should look where you’re going.” He snatched up a bag which must’ve fallen to the floor with him.
          Anger heated Tilda’s cheeks. “And you should walk on the pavement, not run,” she snapped, glaring at him.
          “You’d run too, if you were me,” he snarled back, before jogging after the disappearing Yan.  
          “Tilda, are you alright? I saw what happened.” Duska hurried out of the shop.
          “Yes.” Tilda tried to brush the worst of the dust off. “He barged straight into me, and all for some hot water.”
          “Ah…” To Tilda’s surprise, Duska laughed. “You don’t want to get between a miner and his after shift bath. I’ve seen grown men fight over who’s next into the tub. They have races, you know, see who can get down and cleaned up the quickest.”
          “I’ll make sure I’m out of their way next time.” To Tilda’s horror, she felt her bottom lip tremble.
          Duska must’ve noticed; she put a hand on Tilda’s shoulder. “I think it might be best if we leave finding Feliks until tomorrow. Shall we go back? See if Sasha’s finished washing that floor yet?”
          Tilda nodded gratefully. “Yes, please.” She looked down the road; the miner who’d crashed into her was just turning a corner. “I hope your bath water’s cold when you get in it,” she told him, under her breath.

So there you go. That's my drafting process. I am finding too, that as I'm working on the first computer draft of this book, I get so far, then go back to do a section of polishing - but never so much that I haven't got a fair bit of the really naff, unformatted version to pick up from when I move the story forwards again. I suppose it's my built-in reminder of how I'm allowed to write 'badly' in the first pass...

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Like a Bat out of Hell...

Squidgeling J bought Squidgeling T and me tickets to see the musical Bat out of Hell as early birthday presents. Mr Squidge got himself a ticket, too - and we went to see it yesterday.

I was introduced to Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell album on a dodgy pirate tape that my dad brought back from a trip working abroad in the Oman. We used to write and ask him to bring back tapes of some of the best albums of the time - I have all sorts still in my tape drawer. And back then, in the late 80's, there wasn't such a big thing about piracy. In fact, I don't think I even thought about the legality of it. Dad was just pleased to be able to enjoy lots of his favourite music while he was working away from home for extended periods, and bring us home some of ours...

I digress.

Bat out of Hell. I loved the album - dramatic, sing-along, had a bit of everything, and I felt like a bit of a rebel for having it in my record (tape!) collection when I usually listened to the Eurythmics or Duran Duran or Soft Cell...

We drove down to Watford Junction in the afternoon, parked at the station, and got the train into London. We literally came out of Tottenham Court Road and there it was - The Dominion Theatre, with BOOH all over it.

We wandered down Oxford Street to get a bite to eat (BRGR Co - lovely food, and not too pricey considering we were in central London.) and then sauntered back through Soho Gardens to find the Phoenix Theatre so Squidgeling T could take a pic. (His 'house' for the theatre club he belongs to is Phoenix, so it had to be done)

Back to the Dominion. A quick photo opportunity..

..and we took our seats.

We sat somewhere up the top, out of shot, on the RHS

I'll try to give you a flavour of the show, but without too many spoilers!

The set is amazing - built to come right out into the theatre. This is obviously not a show that going to be moving on fast! There's a solidity to it, a play on perspective, that directs the eye into the centre of the stage. It makes the most of the space, too, with retracting walls and raised stages and a video screen for the live action footage being filmed during the performance. At times, you didn't know quite where to look, because the performers were acting there, but the video was showing THERE. There are some real 'oooh!' clever moments in set manipulation too, and we were trying to work out how they were done.

As you'd expect from a West End show, the performers were incredible. The energy that goes into it all... I didn't recognise all of the songs, because apparently some are taken from the follow-up album Bat out of Hell; Back into Hell, which I don't have. But the ones I did know...I sang, much to the amusement of Squidgeling T. (I did apologise to the lady on my other side in advance for any singing, but I simply couldn't not join in. Quietly, of course.)

I hadn't realised that the story of this musical - conceived so many years ago - is based around Barrie's Peter Pan, and when you know that, you can see references to it all the way through. Let's just say the 'Captain Hook' character was probably my favourite...

Can I just give a shout out too, to the crew who came out in the interval to clean the stage? There were folks with hoovers and a chap with a fishing net to get all the silver glitter off the stage and out of the pond, and kudos to the fake blood clearer-upper. That splatter got everywhere...

The cast and orchestra got a deserved standing ovation at the end, and once again Squidgeling T had a laugh at his mum because I was punching the air and singing along...

I was buzzing when we came out. Even the fact that we ended up on a slow train back to Watford, sitting opposite a young lady who was speaking very loudly and frankly to a friend in less than complimentary terms about her work colleagues (she was so rude, Mr Squidge got up and moved two carriages down so he didn't have to hear her) and we didn't get home until about 1.30am, couldn't take the shine off.

Best. Birthday. Present. EVER!! Thank you, Squidgeling J!

And don't take my word for it - go, see it yourself, even if it's not your birthday! You won't be disappointed.