The Silence

It’s been a long week. To differing degrees we’ve all been ill (even the pup,) and we’re shattered. Hubby has gone to bed early, taking the pup with him and the toddler passed out, still clutching her favourite book, hours ago. I’ve just finished watching a silly horror movie and should be working on the review, but as I turned off the TV it hit me: The silence. 

It’s not totally silent, the heating is doing that low hum, the clock next door which hasn’t told the right time in months is ticking and I can hear people and cars outside but I close my eyes and it’s so quiet.

Silent.

And yet…..

A new set of voices has been nagging me recently, demanding I tell their tale. There’s been muttering, waking me in the night with a snippet of dialogue, a name or an action scene, a delicate whisper whilst making tea or a shout as I prepare our bags for the day.

And tonight, in the silence, their voices are a roar. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll be able to make sense of the assorted post it notes I’ve written on, that half-formed ideas will percolate and be brewed overnight and things will be a little more cohesive. They’re whispering their names, shyly letting me know their preferences, twirling their costumes and sharing their voices. They’re coalescing, becoming more real (or as real as the Lamb’s assorted imaginary friends). I’m learning their wants, desires and mostly their challenges. This band of beaten women who want me to tell their story, now have an enemy to face and it will be a hell of a battle!

100Days of Happiness: Day Eleven 

Day eleven of our 100 Days of Happiness say the Lamb and I head to one of our favourite places, Killerton House. We met her bestie and I got to catch up with her mum (and my dear friend) which always lifts the spirits. The girls had a lot of fun belting around the gardens, I shared a delicious Victoria Sponge with the Lamb, then we all went on a ‘mouse hunt’ around the house. As always, we left very impressed at the volunteers who help run these National Trust houses and the assorted activities they have to keep little people entertained.

Here’s a bonus shot of one of the flowers still in bloom. So pretty, even on a rather cold, damp day!


As always, once the Lamb was in bed, it was time for me to get to work. I’m prepping a new novel, with elements of fantasy, horror, supernatural and adventure. It’s my first ‘big’ writing project since having the Lamb so I’m hoping to get back into it, and make a start on it during National Novel Writing Month in November. There’s lots to prepare for it, with character bios, locations and multiple fantasy worlds to create. I’ve been struggling to get back into writing for a while so I’m hoping this preparation will help and I’ll be blogging more about my experience so pop back to find out more.

What made you happy today?

Writer Wednesday: The Battle In the Blue I Didn’t Win…..

I’ve been pouring over my assorted writings in an attempt to get organised and I came across this piece, written but never submitted for a competition/anthology (it was written a long time ago so I can’t remember which). For assorted reasons I never finished it and have never returned to it until now.

Sometimes a story comes to you and it’s easy, a joy, simplicity itself to write. The characters are chatting and responsive to your guidance, the landscapes pour onto the page and as always the villain gets their comeuppance after a suitably exciting battle. And then there are the stories which, frankly don’t work. There’s no one reason why: could be that the characters aren’t fully formed in your mind, or your plans just aren’t fusing. Could be that you’ve only seen one ‘scene’ and there’s not enough for a complete story.

And that’s the case with ‘The Battle of the Deep (or The Battle of Ineray)’. I remember the submission asking for a short story set under the sea. I immediately saw a battle brewing between different sea creatures, with two ambassadors trying to stop the battle. I think I was partially influenced by the Gungans undersea home from Star Wars: Episode One, the Phantom Menace (say what you like about the movie, some of the concept art for the sets was impressive) and ‘The Blue Planet’ BBC show, narrated by David Attenborough. The characters are fairly ‘flat’ by which I mean, I didn’t hear their individual voices, style of speaking but most importantly I didn’t hear what they wanted and needed to say to get the story moving. Whilst my ideas for the characters were only half-formed (I could visualise them and my description didn’t ‘fit’ or do them justice) I wanted a really bright, vibrant and critter-filled underwater world which again didn’t really work out. However, the main issue was that whilst my ideas were vivid, I had no realy story. All stories start with an event, then some action followed by a resolution and with many of my stories I may not have a full map but there’s more than a vague idea but here, nothing. And frankly, all these issues show. It was a struggle to write and while I have no plans to extend this piece at the moment, never say never! Perhaps a rewatch of ‘The Blue Planet’ will help.

The Battle of the Deep (The Battle of Ineray)

*Translated from ancient slan-garr

Viceroy Glimpt looked around him, taking in the encrusted walls, the high scalloped archways and the large open windows. By now he knew every crack, every piece of peeling paint like the back of his hand by heart. He cast a furtive look at the two guards at the end of the corridor and tried not to let his agitation show: his every movement would be reported back to those in charge and he could not afford to cause an incident. Looking at the guards they watched him impassively.

A slight noise to his left altered him to the arrival of the Clerk to the Council. The Viceroy forced his face into neutral.

‘They are ready for you, Viceroy,’ the clerks bulbous eyes stated calmly as he gestured with one of his many arms.

The Viceroy uncurled his long tail. He was long, even for a merman, and his chest was broad, his gills on his neck undulated, fins spreading out from under his arms, silver tail ending in a whip snap, covered in scales, ‘And in what mood is the Council today?’ asked the Viceroy, a snap of his tail bringing him alongside the Clerk.

‘Grey, sir,’ replied the clerk,

‘As bad as that? It does not bode well for our meeting.’ The clerk did not respond to the Viceroy as they reached the large doors which signified they had arrived at the Council Chamber.

The slan-garr were perched around a large table, shaped like a toadstool a single root going down into the ground with the domed top in shades of red. The slan-garr were similarly shaped, with a large dome shell of interlocking plates currently flaring different shades of grey.  Pin-like legs protruded from under the shell, continually moving and filtering tiny food particles from the water and easing them up and into their beaks.

‘The dragons are angered, Viceroy.’

‘What do the dragons care? They are creatures of neither sea nor land, but of the air.’

The king nodded his head solemnly, ‘Aye, but their spawning grounds cover both our lands. We have agreed to adhere to the old ways, honour agreements made by our forefathers. You cannot say the same.’

The Viceroy struggled to maintain his calm composure, but the knowledge that the dragons would fight on the side of the slan-garr turned his water cold.

He thought for a moment, then his predator grin slashed across his face.

***
If you’d like to read some of my completed work (with characters I really liked), why not check out my other works, including my novels ‘Akane: The Last of the Orions’, ‘Weird Wild‘ and my children’s book ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard’.

The Big Interview: KT Davies

Karen Davies

I met Karen at my first FantasyCon. I was just starting out as a writer, as was Karen so we shared ideas and suggestions before meeting the following year. Shared work on The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse and other projects shored up our friendship. She makes amazing masks, has worked in theatre, lived in China, rides horses and enjoys LARPing and swordplay (she’s even started teaching the Lamb how to swing a sword!). She has two novels out, my favourite The Red Knight and the award nominated Breed and her website. So lets find out more about this fantastic story-teller.

The Red Knight promo pic.jpg

GCH: If you could edit your past, what would you change?

KTD: Nothing. I’ve thought about this on many occasions as I’m sure everyone does (you and I at least;) I’ve come to a conclusion that I’m happy with in that good or ill, everything that’s happened to me has brought me to the place I am today and I rather like that.

GCH: Do you have any superstitions/quirks/unique qualities others would call odd?

KTD: Gosh, hundreds, I should think, I just hide them reasonably well.

GCH: What would you consider your greatest achievement?

KTD: Making two human beings.

GCH: You’ve worked as set and costume designer. How did you become involved in this? Can you share some of the creative process, how you approach these projects, some of your triumphs and, well, not so triumphant creations?

KTD: I’m more of a prop maker than a set designer. I fell sideways into making props when I was working as an actor in various, small theatre companies.

GCH: I’m in awe of the masks you’ve made. How do you create them?

KTD: Aw, shucks, thanks!:) If it’s not to a brief from a client I let my imagination off the leash and, when I’ve got an idea I draw it and then make a pattern keeping in mind what it will look like in 3D…you still awake? When I’m happy with the pattern, I cut it out of leather or make a mould to cast from in whatever material I’m using. Simples!

GCH: What keeps you awake at night?

KTD: Everything. Not everything every night, that would be exhausting, Everything is on rotation. I have a noisy, childish brain that constantly clamours for attention and refuses to shut up unless it’s really, really tired.

GCH: If you could be a character in any movie, book or TV show, who would it be and why?

KTD: Dr Who, fo sho. I can relate to the eccentric outsider and I have a time machine…okay, I don’t have a time machine but I’d still be really good.

GCH: Favourite food? Restaurant or take away?

My favourite food is seafood, although, like Wallace, I’m quite partial to cheese.

GCH: What made you travel to China?

KTD: Escaping the law after a bank job went wrong /jk. I’m quite partial to the occasional BIG adventure and went to Taiwan on a bit of a whim and ended up teaching English out there.

GCH: What was the craziest thing you did while there?

KTD: I got caught in a landslide and fell down Yushan also known as Jade Mountain while out hiking. Not one to do anything by halves, I made sure I fell down the biggest mountain on the island. Whilst lost in the jungle I was lucky enough to come across a couple of tribesmen who showed me the way back to town.

GCH: Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? 

KTD: 1000 year egg. They’re not really a thousand years old, but even so, I can’t recommend them.

GCH: What music do you write to? 

KTD: It depends on what I’m writing. When I’m editing a final draft, I quite often don’t listen to anything other than the voices in my head. Rock, goth and techno feature heavily during first drafts depending on the mood I’m after, but it varies widely.

GCH: How do you go about writing a novel/short story/poem?

KTD: If it’s not to a brief/prompt from an editor then it starts as most stories do with a random idea, quite often of the ‘what if?’ variety. It’s then a case of putting one word after another until the story is done. This can take a while and many, many drafts as I’m a bit of a fiddler; I never feel anything I write is ever finished and quite often have my fingers peeled off the keyboard by my wise and patient partner when I’ve revised the same sentence for the twentieth time.

GCH: Tell us about your latest project.

KTD: My latest project is Breed 2, the follow up to my fabulous, award shortlisted novel, Breed. I’m also going to be working on Breed 3 and a spin off novel. (GCH: um, what about the sequel to Red Knight??)

 

GCH: Tell us a secret.

I could, but then I’d have to kill you.

Book-irthday for Weird Wild!

Yay, it’s my book-irthday for Weird Wild! To celebrate my publication anniversary for Weird Wild, I’m doing a quick throwback to when I was interviewed by Margret Helgadottir on her blog about the inspiration for Weird Wild, how I get writing and other musings. You can read the interview here. If you’d like to contact me about my writing, reviews or anything else, please comment below 😊

Throwback Thursday: I was Interrogated!

Way back in 2012 I was still starting out as a writer. I was involved with the Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse, a fun group of online women discussing all things apocalyptic with tongue firmly in cheek. One of the women involved was Cat Connor, a New Zealand based writer who runs ‘Interrogations’ on her blog. On 9 April 2012 I was taken into her Interrogation Room to answer some very challenging questions about my writing. You can read the original interview here.

It’s funny re-reading this interview. I remember doing it and all the assorted work I was doing at the time (as well as some of the crumby temp jobs I was working!). I discuss the short stories what would eventually become ‘Weird Wild‘ and mention The Vampire’s Bodyguard. The dystopian sci fi I mention is still gestating if I’m honest. I wrote a few chapters but the characters weren’t ‘meshing’, their story wasn’t coming through clearly so I’ve set that on the back burner until I have a clearer idea of where I want that tale to go. What struck me re-reading this is the sheer length of time it takes me to write some of my projects and the various stages they go through. It’s been five years and I’ve hardly worked on the dystopian sci fi as other voices started shouting more loudly, toddlers and dogs came along and life moved on, but those stories are still there, untold. I think it’s high time I dug them out and let them be free!

The Big Interview: Carol Rifka Brunt

A re-run of my interview with Carol Rifka Brunt, author of ‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’.

Carol RifkaBrunt color photo

GCH: I heard this novel started as a short story but then the voices (sorry characters) kept talking to you. How did you develop a short story into a full novel?

CRB: I started out with just a tiny snippet of an idea. I had the image of a dying uncle painting a final portrait of his niece as a way of leaving a last connection behind in the world. That turned into a 700-word short story, which was very similar to the first chapter as it stands now. In fact, the first paragraph remains virtually the same to this day, which is quite unusual.

The characters continued to interest me, so I followed them. As I wrote I discovered that the disease the uncle was dying from was AIDS. That led me to create Toby, his partner, and it led me to the setting of New York in the late 80s. And on and on. It was a very organic process. It was only after writing about 100 pages that I really started asking myself questions about the bigger story and focusing the book to tell that story. Having only written short stories up to that point, I was very concerned with making sure the reader had a reason to turn 400 pages. I really had to up the narrative drive and keep in mind the sense of telling a larger story.

GCH: And what will be your next project?

CRB: The process that I just described–the organic, feeling my way along way of doing things–is how I tend to work. So, I’m working on several short stories at the moment, with one or two starting to grow into bigger things. A novel-length project really needs to hold my interest on a pretty deep level to warrant the years it will take to bring it to fruition. By working on a few shorter pieces I’m able to find the ones that strike that deeper chord.

GCH: What’s your favourite writing music?

CRB: I don’t like to listen to anything while I’m actually writing. I am so very easily distracted and I love music, so if I have music playing I find all I’m doing is listening or singing along and no writing is getting done at all. I do use music to get in the right mood and frame of mind to write. For this novel there was a lot of quite beautiful melancholy stuff. I just did a Book Notes piece for Largehearted Boy.

GCH: Tell me about your writing process. Do you plan out your novel or let the characters loose?

CRB: I talked about the organic side of the process above and I think this is critical. There has to be a playful period when you just let your subconscious fall onto the page. For me, this usually isn’t a big spilling out of pages. My first drafts tend to be very spare. I’m feeling for the bones of the story. Who the players are and why they’re there. I’m feeling for morally complex situations. There’s a quote by somebody (I wish I knew who) that says ‘the first draft is the writer telling herself the story. The second draft is the writer telling the reader the story.’ This is so true for me. The editing process is where so much of the best stuff comes out. I’ve started to really understand the story I want to tell, both thematically and plot-wise, which means I write scenes and work with the material to make the whole piece sing the same song.

GCH: You’re originally from the US. What do you think about the food in the UK and do the Brits talk about the weather as much as they are portrayed?

CRB: I think the food here has gotten so good. There’s still a bit more individuality in restaurants in the US, but I have no complaints over quality and availability of the very best ingredients here.

GCH: If you could be a character in any movie or TV show, who would it be and why?

CRB: I just wrote a piece for Electric Sheep magazine on this very topic:
http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2012/06/19/carol-rifka-brunt-is-haroldand-maude/

GCH: Favourite food?

CRB: Depends on the day. Very dense moist chocolate cake would always be up there, though.

GCH: Who’s the most important person in your life and why?

CRB: My family

GCH: I’ve heard writers are a funny bunch. Do you have any superstitions or rituals to help you write?

CRB: Not really. I do find it easiest to write at home. The less distractions, the better. And deadlines. They always help!

GCH: If you could edit your past, what would you change?

CRB: I suppose I might have chosen to become a doctor or a chef or something that would have given me a specific useful skill.

GCH: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

CRB: ‘just’ and ‘basically’

GCH: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

CRB: A box set of some fabulous slow-evolving HBO series

GCH: I’ve heard your a member of four different writers groups. What do you think makes a good writers group?

CRB: That makes me sound like a bit of a writing group whore! Let me explain. I’m only really in three at the moment and they’re each very different and fill a different role. One is a women’s salon type group, which is more discussion than actual writing. One is an intense online critique group with three American writers. We met via an online short story writing workshop and admired each others’ work and wanted to stay in touch., They are excellent readers and I always pass my work by them. The third is Resident Writers, which is great for getting words down on the page during the group session. Unfortunately, due to timing I can only attend occasionally.

I think writing can be such an isolating thing and getting together with other writers is one way to alleviate that a bit. Plus, who else but other writers will understand the joys of scribbled encouragement at the bottom of a rejection letter!

GCH: Tell us a secret.

CRB: No!

UK cover