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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Procrastinisation and even my writers' block is running late...

Well.  Yesterday was my birthday, during which I attempted to double my bodyweight with a judicious application of lemon cheesecake, preceded by a Friday takeaway of proportions so massive that several people had to be carried out in shock.  Today things are back to normal. So, if there is a redolence about this blog, it may be due to broccoli.  Pretend not to have noticed.

Anyway.  The whole thing was a giant excuse not to do any writing, which is an art I have been perfecting lately.  I even moved all the furniture and hoovered underneath! I've been saying that it's writers' block, but it really isn't...

The fact is that it's cold in the house and my brain doesn't work well in the cold; it's hard typing when your mouse hand is numb.  Also, I have reached a point in my WIP (Living in the Past, otherwise known as the Bronze Age Time Slip one) where I'm three quarters done, I know how the story goes from here to the end and yet...somehow...I just can't squeeze those words out.  You know toothpaste, right?  When you leave a tube so the end gets all crusty and then one day you give it a really good squirt and you get this little plug of dried toothpaste before the proper stuff comes out? 

That's my brain, that is.

But in fact, I know what the problem is. There's a little bit, right at the end of what I've done so far that I need to change.  It's written from the wrong POV.
So, all I need to do is go back in and change the last little bit. Easy, right?  Yeah, that's what I thought. Turns out, it doesn't matter how easy it is to change, if your brain just can't get around changing it, you had better resign yourself to really clean carpets for a while...  But I know I will get there, because I go through exactly the same thing with every single book.  Usually it strikes earlier, of course, at the 'Pile of Stinking Pooh' stage, but this time it's late.

Or maybe my brain is slow...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Prickliness and how to handle my hero to not say 'I don't believe it...'

No, not like that...

I'm talking about prickly heroes.  Now, I'm a huge fan (along with a majority of the female population) of Kate Johnson's hero, Harker, from The Untied Kingdom.  He is probably best described as 'a little prickly'.  Jack, my male lead in Star Struck, is another one. 

I got to thinking about this, because in my Work In Progress (provisionally entitled, at the moment, 'Living in the Past'), my hero, Duncan, a Scots archaeologist (he's from Dundee, he doesn't deal solely with fossilised kilts, if you see what I mean), is prickly.  In fact, at the beginning, he is downright rude, and it got me thinking...

At what point do our characters cross the line?  I am well known for my dislike of the Alpha Hero (oy, mate, nobody tells me what's best for me...), but at what point does the person trying to get you out of the way of danger become a bossy, overbearing idiot?  Likewise, at what point does the prickly, touchy hero (Duncan is under permanent suspicion by the police for something he may (or may not, I'm not giving away my plot here) have done.  It makes him a little bit...tetchy, shall we say), become obviously rude and unpleasant?  At what point does a character lose our sympathy and gain a smack around the face (and/or laxatives in the coffee, if one is a non-directly confrontational person)?

At first I thought it might be down to how the heroine handles him.  If she seems to sweep away his remarks and dismiss his bossiness, can we overlook it and see if for what (presumably) the author intended?  But then I thought about all those books I've read where I have wanted to seize the heroine by both shoulders and shake her until she wees herself, whilst shouting 'run! Run far, run fast, this man wants you compliant as soon as possible!' while she is simpering at the hero and going along with his, usually quite frankly scary, suggestions.
No, love, it's not erotic. It just means you can't run away very fast...

So, come on everyone, tell me.  Is it your own prejudices and experience that makes a hero cross the line?  Or is it the writing?  When does that attractively irritable hero become an abusive, angry man?  When does the protectively commanding behaviour become bossy oppression?

And you'd better let me know fast, before Duncan degenerates into Victor Meldrew...

Sunday, 15 November 2015

I mention the C word.

Go carefully.  You may want to look away from this blog. I am going to talk about a subject that might have you wincing, shouting 'NO!', running away with your head under a blanket or vowing that now and forever more you are going to live up a bare mountain with only a small goat for company.  And, bear in mind, this is coming from a woman who showed you pictures of slugs WITH NO WARNING AT ALL...

Are you ready?

Here it comes...

Those of a sensitive nature - look away now....

I've been Christmas shopping.

I know! I know!  There's x amount of days left (depending on whether you count up until last posting day, last possible delivery day or Christmas Eve), the weather is unseasonably warm and I haven't even had my birthday yet.  But, even so.  With so many family members (and that number is increasing day by day), I need to get a head start on buying things, so as to avoid that last minute panic, where I dash into a shop and sweep things from the shelves with little or no regard for who might receive said gifts and end up with nine spare socks (I know, I can't work it out either) and people outside the family get things like snow shovels and blankets embroidered with the name of NOBODY THEY KNOW.

So, this year - no more.  Controlled, contained panic instead.
This screenshot is for illustrative purposes only and does not mean that anyone is getting anything from any of the indicated sites. Or...maybe they are...?

So, DD1 and I sat ourselves down at the table, armed with laptops, and opened loads of sites, and then spent about an hour staring at one another and saying things like 'Does Blank like Coal Mining? There's a really nice Coal Mining present on Amazon...' (name and present likewise for illustrative purposes only, I don't know anyone called Blank, let alone anyone who might be sufficiently interested in Coal Mining to welcome a thusly themed present, which I am not certain that even Amazon could supply).

Some One Clicking resulted.  Largely motivated, I have to say, by panic.  But I have hopefully, and with my pathetic and meagre budget, managed to choose things that I hope people will like.  And, of course, shopping early enables me to have many more 'panic' days, when I clutch my heart in the middle of a York shopping street, convinced that I have forgotten someone, dash into a shop and do the 'shelf sweep'.

If you get nine, non-matching socks this year, you'll know it was you I forgot.  Sorry.


Whoops.  Still, if I have to suffer, so do you.

Sunday, 8 November 2015, that's not the size of my brain...

I've never done NaNo before.  Guess what, I'm not doing it again...

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (to give it its full name) is National Novel Writing Month (to give it its even fuller name).  During the month of November, anybody can sign up (it's not an 'offical' sign up, they don't give you numbers and a sponsorship form - it's more of a declaration of intent and a way of measuring your achievement) and write.  It is, apparently, a great way of forcing your bum to the seat - and there's a lot of mutual encouragement that goes on, it's all very friendly, you're only competing against yourself, etc.

So why don't I join in?

Deep breath.

Because I would sabotage myself.  I know I would, I do it already.  And I can't bear the thought of doing it whilst being watched.  Although, saying this, I did, informally, 'attach' myself to NaNo a few years ago, so many people were posting their word counts that I was inspired to try to beat them (or at least keep up), and I ended up writing the book now known as 'How I Wonder What You Are' in six weeks.  But that was cheating slightly, as I'd already got the idea, the characters and most of the storyline worked out in my head, NaNo was just my excuse for actually sitting down and writing the bloody thing.

 For some reason, as soon as I hear the phrase 'NaNoWriMo' I discover that the inside of my wardrobe MUST... MUST and I cannot stress that too heavily, be cleared out.  Or, whilst I may have started, full of good intentions, there is a SOMETHING UNAVOIDABLE that simply cannot be put off any longer and must be attended to.  It's like procrastination taken to the nth degree, in that, not only do I have to clean the bath, but I have to clean the bath and spend all month doing it.
Just one of the ways I arrange to sabotage my writing
So.  Whilst it is NaNo month, and whilst I am writing as fast as I can in order to try to finish this novel by the end of November, I want to stress that I am not doing NaNo, and any appearance to the contrary is merely an illusion.

And good luck to everyone out there who is NaNoing. DO NOT CLEAN THE BATH!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Some Interesting Things about my book, I Don't Want to Talk About It, that you probably didn't know.

As you may or may not know, depending on how relentlessly you stalk me, 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' is shortlisted in the e-book category of the 2015 Love Stories Awards.  This is all the provocation I need to tell you some Interesting Things about the book.  You may or may not know some of them already, because I am well known for my inability to shut up about my books, but anyway.  Here goes:

The churchyard setting was inspired by the view from the side of my house.
It's the shadow of a post and rail fence, not an enormous ladder propped against my house. In case you were wondering.
The church has a Saxon sundial, you know.  I'm not quite sure why, perhaps they consider that time was more accurate back then and just refuse to come into the 21st century.  But anyway. I have spent a lot of time walking through that churchyard (which is actually tiny, and you can't really walk through it, there's only one way in.  So more...around). A lot of the names on the graves are local (as are the graves themselves, we tend not to import dead people round here. There's no call for it, you see), and the whole place is what set me off thinking about Winter - the girl writing a book about gravestones.

The setting of Great Leys is based on Stokesley, about 30 miles north of where I live.
As far as I am concerned it is a positive metropolis - having a supermarket, two schools (primary and secondary), a whole host of shops and lots of houses.  Which is why I am baffled when the book is reviewed and the reviewer starts with 'Winter Gregory has moved to the remote little Yorkshire village of Great Leys'.  Because Stokesley is neither remote, little nor a village. It is, however, in Yorkshire, so...points for that.

There is a strong theme of sibling affection running through the book.  Winter is an identical twin, separated from her sister Daisy by a lot of miles. Daisy, you see, lives in Australia, and Winter struggles with the distance between them.  I, too, have a sibling, however we are not twins, nor are we identical, on account of him being nearly bald.
This is he. His name is David, and we are separated by a lot of miles, which is probably for the best because I smell.  He lives in Exeter, and is, as far as brothers go, pretty wonderful.

In the book, Scarlet gets a guinea pig called Bobso. We had, during the children's growing up years, many many guinea pigs.  My eldest daughter was quite a dab hand at sexing them, but even she would occasionally get it wrong and we ended up with about twenty at one point.  But, on the plus side, I didn't need a lawn mower.  Or a burglar alarm, because if anyone approached within twenty feet of their enormous run, they would all set to squeaking like tiny little cars being broken into.
So. There you have it. Some Things you Probably Never Knew about I Don't Want to Talk About It. Ironically titled, since I just did...