I am now offering a critique and manuscript assessment service. For further details, please e mail me at

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Send help, my head is empty.

I have a bit of a problem here.

I'm blogging a bit later than usual because I've been writing.  Like a loon, actually, although I have to confess I'm not sure how a loon would write, or, indeed what a loon is.  Some sort of animal, I'm presuming, which would mean trying to type with paws... Or is a bird?  Because that only complicates matters; birds don't have much at their disposal to make typing easy, or even possible, although I suppose they could use their beaks and sort of peck at the keyboard, but this would be slow and frustrating, always supposing birds are capable of frustration.  Anyway.  That's how I've been writing.

And I've run out of words.  Yep, completely.  Just poured them all down on the paper, splurge splurge splurge, with a sound like a walrus attempting to get out of a jelly bath.  That was the noise the ideas made as they hit the page, I hasten to add, I wasn't sitting here doing impersonations or anything. And, in consequence, I only have three words left sitting in my head, unrequired by my current work in progress.  These are, in no particular order, mast, rhinoceros, and Englebert Humperdink.  I know that Englebert Humperdink is two words, but since they are a name, which is the name of one person, I'm counting them as one.

This leaves me at a bit of a loss.  How on earth am I supposed to construct a blog around those three words (or four, if you're being pedantic or don't know who Englebert Humperdink is)?  Even if it were possible, what kind of blog post would it be?  I mean, I ask you, I don't sail, I'm not a big game hunter, and I have no interest in whatever it is that Englebert Humperdink might be up to these days! So these are the three (four) most useless words to have left in my vocabulary, added to which I still have to finish the book on which all my other words have been used...

So, in a year or so's time, if you pick up a book by me and read through its lovingly handcrafted pages (all the time wondering what that squelching sound could be), and then, upon reaching the denouement, you find that the final page contains only the words mast rhinoceros and Englebert Humperdink, please feel free to flip back to this blog post and pity me.

Even kittens aren't going to get me out of this one.

Well, it was worth a try....

Sunday, 21 July 2013

FINALLY - a blog post with some writing stuff in it! A piece of Advice! Writing is just kittens, all the way down...

Last week I was v v busy, in a 'totally non-busy' kind of way, going to the pictures to watch The Cornetto Trilogy being top of the list, driving support for my lovely workmates who were running in The Race for Life, visiting my gorgeous grandson and his equally lovely parents - that sort of thing. You know, where you're not actually doing useful stuff, but are having a great time anyway.

And, as part of that, I found myself offering Advice on Writing. And it struck me, I haven't done an Advice post on writing things for ages! I think the last one I did mostly offered 'eat biscuits' as a valuable tip, with a possible sideline of 'stroke kittens'.
Well, who wouldn't?

So, since I find myself once more desperately short of anything much to blog about (other than - I feel contractually obligated to mention, the fact that my short story 'The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Night Time is in this month's Your Cat magazine...
And an interview with me is this month's 'Autograph' feature in the High Summer edition of Living North. Yep, I made it into a Lifestyle Magazine!  Me! I don't even know what a 'lifestyle' is! And I'm not sure I could afford one anyway! But there I am.) you're getting A Piece of Writing Advice. So there.

Okay, so you've written A Thing. You think it might be a novel, probably romance, because that's all I'm at all qualified to talk about, what do you do next?  Good question...

 Put it away. Honestly, somewhere you can't see it, or think about it. I recommend a drawer in a public room (ie not your bedroom, unless that is a public space, I'm not judging you here, just saying...). If it's somewhere other people are, it will prevent you from doing the 'I'll just take a sneaky peak..' thing. Because they will shout at you, and possibly throw things, but that might just be my house.  Leave it there for - and I cannot stress this too much - at least six weeks.  I know, I know, you're desperate to just check whether that phrase you thought was so brilliant is still brilliant, but trust me on this. At least six weeks. You need this long to get some objectivity.  During the six weeks, write something else.

No, honestly, just keep trusting me. Something else. Short story, or start another novel.

Right, the six weeks is up.  Carefully remove your manuscript from the Public Drawer. Take it somewhere private, and read it, with a pencil in your hand. You can clamp it between your teeth if some of your phrases make you want to scream, if you must, but generally use the pencil to make notes.  Immediately. If something strikes you as you read, note it down.  Read as though you were reading a book you'd just taken out of the library (only, obviously, you wouldn't make notes on that, even in pencil, would you?  WOULD YOU?). Then, you can go back to the computer/typewriter/block of stone and make your changes. And, because you've started something else and, in those six weeks you are probably quite a long way in to your 'new thing', you'll find that you can read your 'old thing' with half your mind saying "well, it's not bad. Not terrible, anyway, but the new thing, ah, that's so much better..." and hence get a bit of perspective. the new kitten is always so cute, and so sweet, and the old cat, yes, he's lovely too, and cuddly and adorable and everything but...the new one is just...really really adorable.

Yes, it all comes down to kittens, in the end.  Writing - it's just kittens, all the way down...

Oh, and by the way... you might find this useful.  It's a link to the American site Dear Author. Every Saturday they do something called 'First Page', where people send in the first page of their manuscripts for critique by the community. I'm not so much suggesting you do this (they do have an immense number of things to read and you might have to wait until your book is actually published before they 'do' you), but read the comments. Read what other people have to say about style, about format and content. You may be able to relate some of it to your own writing. Or, alternatively, you may be able to indulge in some pleasant Schadenfreude... 

Oh look, it's been way too long since we had a picture of kittens...

There. Do you feel advised?  If not, I'd just go back and look at the pictures of kittens again...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A little thing we like to call RNAConf13...

So, I'm going to make this brief. It's about 3,000 degrees outside and I've just driven back up the M1, so you're going to have to cut me some slack here.

I'm back from Conference!  Which is yippee in one way, because it means I didn't kill myself with liver failure (although not for want of trying - sorry anyone who looked for me on Saturday, I was either..err...poorly, or trying to make my head work) and boo because it means another year before I can see my lovely writer-people again.  I've had a flick through the pictures I took, and some are indecent on account of gussets, so here is a selection of the clean photos in which everyone is dressed, more or less.

The Edge. Bono not featured.

Me and Katie Fforde. Katie is the attractive one, I'm the one that looks as though someone stuck a melon on a frock and painted a face on it.

Jan and Roger, organisers of the whole shebang, and those with whom I shared a table during the glam event.

Ruth Long. I should like to point out that not all the bottles or crisps in front of her were actually consumed by Ruth and that statement will cost her a fiver next time we meet...
And finally, before we all melt... the Gala Event. Frocks and all!

As ever, I had THE most wonderful time it is possible to have, which contained Writerly Chats, Meetings with Old Friends (not that Sarah Callejo is old, but ...) and Occasions for Celebration, when the lovely Kate Johnson won the Elizabeth Goudge Cup for her Opening Chapter submission. She actually drank champagne from it later in the evening, but I can't show you a photo of that, because of gussets.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I need a bit of a lie down. A week should do it...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sun; does it influence your reading habits?

Over the last couple of days, it's actually been moderately warm up here in Yorkshire.  Well, I say 'moderately warm' because this is something of a consensus opinion - most people think it's delightfully warm, TMMQ says it's 'bloody hot', the dogs won't move from the side of the pond, and I've just taken my cardigan off. So, as I said, consensus is that it's warm. Ish.

And, as you may have gathered from my previous, unexpectedly 'midweek' post, I've just signed for my newest book with Choc Lit, which, all things being true to form, will be released next June, ie, the month of warm(ish) sun (hopefully), ice-creams and picnics. It's a book about vampires.  Look, I'll do the cover thing again for you, just in case you can't be bothered to flick back...
That's Whitby Abbey, that is. No, not the face, the building.  The book contains a big denouement (and don't think that I can't see you sniggering there at the back), which takes place at Whitby, so the Abbey isn't just there to look all Gothic and foreboding, it's actually in the book...

And this, together with the current pleasantly mild spell, during which I may even consider changing out of my long-johns and into something slightly more...well, breatheable, got me thinking.  I've been sitting out in the sunshine reading books, and I've been drawn towards the lighter end of the market, as though something in the ability to sit in the garden (at least, I think it's the garden. It's all overgrown and there are big rocks in it, so there is the slight possibility that a) I'm lost and b) Highgate Cemetery has really let itself go) has drawn forth the desire to read books that can be dipped into with a sense of pleasure, rather than the 'Journal of Psychology Today' and the incisive 'Dances with Frogs - a searing indictment of the state of amphibious life in the modern world'.

Is this a 'thing'? Is it something that happens to everyone - sun comes out and we flock to read books that reflect our ability to cast off seven layers of clothing and bask? Is this why some books are labelled 'Beach Read'?  Although I have to say that I've never seen the converse, books labelled 'Books to be read with all the lights on'.. And if it is a 'thing', then where does that leave my Summer Vampires?  Do people want to read about blood and zombies (yep, there are quite a lot of zombies in Falling Apart. Hence the title, do you see?) when outside it's 25 degrees in the shade and the cat just melted?  Or is there a nice juxtaposition in reading vampires on the beach?  Are we all now imagining a cross between Twilight and Baywatch?  We could call it 'Baylight'....Or is that a Yankee candle fragrance?

So, what do you think? Do you have 'sunshine' books and 'winter' books? I have a friend who reads 'Anna Karenina' every Christmas, because of the snow, and 'Emma' every summer, because of the picnic at Box Hill.  Is everyone's reading influenced by the season?  Although, I have to say that Vampire State of Mind came out in the summer, which doesn't seem to have put anyone off; but then, it was last summer, which was less of a summer and more of a winter-lite.. Can you read ghosties and ghoulies and dark doings when the sun is illuminating the unwashed state of your windows and that thing the cat did behind the sofa in January that you forgot about? Or, when it comes down to it, does it really matter?

Less frightening when looked at whilst watching Wimbledon with the other eye and holding strawberries?

Friday, 5 July 2013

Being revealing

Now I know this is a couple of days early and everything, but I feel that you should know about this.

I've just signed the contract for the sequel to Vampire State of Mind, for the second book in the trilogy. It's called Falling Apart, which is quite apt, because it's about zombies. Not just zombies, but the zoms feature quite largely.  It's also apt because our heroine, Jess, the put-upon council employee and all-round Queen of the Filing Cabinet, is not having a good time. Sil has gone awol and she's having to share a house with Zan, the Vampire King of Geek (and completely unreasonable when it comes to mess, untidiness and just putting things down on the floor).

And, your bonus for being nice... the cover!

You may stroke it gently.  I have...