Thursday, 14 June 2018

News!!

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...



Yup. 

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

Longlisted!




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. 

Squeeee!

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, storytelling...it 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.