Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Editing Mode: On

So after finishing the first draft of Banshee v.2, my plan is to edit it and have it finished to send to agents in May 2013. Since finishing on Nov 30th, I’ve read the draft through again on my Kindle and thought it was pretty good (if I do say so myself). The end needs work, partly because an incident at the end needs to occur earlier in the novel, and partly due to pacing. Once that is done, I need to do a little work on my male love interest. And voila! One finished novel, and then on to Book 2. Sounds easy, right? (I can hear Future-Me’s patronising laugh from here).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lovely, Lovely Wales

My trip to Wales was simply lovely. I spent 3 days in Cardiff and 4 in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. Both areas lovely. Driving to Cardiff first of all, we made a bit of a diversion to visit Puzzlewood (see picture) – a completely amazing place. It’s like stepping back in time, standing amongst the ancient trees and stones. It would have been even more magical however if it hadn’t have chucked it down about 15 mins into our visit. At least I got to try out my new rain coat.
In Cardiff, naturally went to the new Dr Who Experience, which was extremely fun and not just aimed at kids – which was what I was afraid of. If you’re in Cardiff at any time in the near future, definitely go. Well worth a visit. The Beacons national park is very beautiful, especially our walk through “Waterfall Country” (see pic).
The best part of the holiday though was spent underground – we went to the National Showcaves, which is a weird mix of geological wonders and plastic dinosaurs, and down a former coal mine at The Big Pit Museum. Again, totally recommend a visit to both, especially the latter, as it was quite emotional learning about how the coal industry affected the surrounding communities. Proper oral history. Honorary mention to the Penderyn Distillery, and especially for Brecon Gin. If you haven’t tried it, you are missing out! It’s so good you can drink it neat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Banshee Second Draft

Last weekend I finished the outline for draft 2 of Banshee. If you remember, I wrote the first draft a few years ago as part of NANOWRIMO. Back then it was written from the perspective of Tom, as he discovers and falls in love with a banshee. This was where most of my problems lay in the first draft, as I just couldn't relate to Tom as a character (he was quite egotistical) and I realised that if I couldn't relate to him as a lead character then my readers wouldn't. So I've changed the focus and now the story is told from the pov of a young banshee . This opened up lots more story possibilities and I've even been able to think about ideas for the sequel. I'm looking forward to writing my second draft, and hope to have something to show you all soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mythical, Magical and Monstrous Women

Today I attend a symposium on "Mythical, Magical and Monstrous Women in Contemporary Women's Writing". It was a very interesting event.
The main themes of the symposium were those of the nature of a "She-Monster" in literary terms, examining archetypes and subversions of this trope using feminist theory. We were treated to panels as far-ranging as "The Wicked Anti-Mother: Bellatrix Lestrange" to "Angela Carter and the Sadeian Gothic" to "Addressing Female Sexuality and Identity in Japanese Comics".
As well as increase my desire to study a Masters, the symposium was also useful when considering my own writing. I'm currently creating my own "she-monster" in Matti, and I do not want her to succumb to typical patriarchal stereotypes of powerful women, and I do not want my story to reaffirm the Mother/Madonna/Whore doctrine found in so much classic literature.
Matti is coming together piece by piece, and I am glad I am taking my time with it, as I hope that the finished product will be something amazing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Hunger Games and E-Books

*Contains minor spoilers for The Hunger Games trilogy*

I've just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and must say I really enjoyed it. I became completely immersed in this dystopian society, and as the traumatic events continued, I too became slightly traumatised. This is why I liked the ending, and was very pleased with how it was written. I felt that Katniss had the happiest ending she could have hoped for, given everything she experienced and that showed great skill (and restraint) on the part of the writer. 

I read the series on my Kindle, and whilst it was convenient and has helped me overcome my problem with storing paper books, the one negative I can identify with ebooks is that I am unable to share it with my friends or pass these stories on to my own children one day. So yes, "sentiment" and "community". Ebooks just can't compete.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Alt.Fiction Day Two

Howdy all,
Finally, here are my notes from Day Two of Alt.Fiction, Leicester's premier SF convention.

The day started off for me with a panel by Graham Joyce and Kate Laity about fairy tales and folklore. Like most members of the audience, I was a little hungover, but what I took away from this session was:
  • Myth and fairy tale actually have very little to do with one another; there is more elasticity in folklore, whereas myth was deemed as more "fixed".
  • Fairy tales exist in every culture, the same stories recur over and over again.
  • The image of fairies from the Victorian age (delicate wings, white dresses, etc) was a way to make fairies "safe".
  • The idea that fairies are linked to a sense of the uncanny, of uncertainty, menace, and creativity as a destructive force.
  • Graham's new book sounds awesome!
Next up was a session on Diversity in Fantasy. I was pleased that they covered diversity in most senses of the word - sex, race, sexuality, even touching on religion. If they had included disability as well, then they'd have had to call bingo. The panel discussed secondary worlds, and how it is a writer's responsibility to consider diversity when creating their own universes. If there can be dwarves and dragons, why not minority ethnic characters? They touched on whether as readers, are we still conservative when it comes to homosexuality, male homosexuality in particular, and pointed at recent criticism of gay characters as evidence. The session made me reflect on my own writing, and I was pleased to discover that most of my stories contain characters from non-white backgrounds in (hopefully) non-stereotypical roles. Perhaps though the fact that I live in Leicester in a multi-cultural society, it is very hard for me to imagine even in a secondary world a place where "white male" is all there is.
I missed the last sessions because my stomach was rumbling something chronic and so I had to get something to eat before hunger turned me into the Hulk. Therefore I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Phoenix cafe, chatting to people, eating chunky chips with mayonnaise and improving my laughter lines.
I'm already looking forward to next year's event. So thanks to Adele and all who organised it. See you in 2013!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alt.Fiction Day One

Last weekend was Leicester's turn to host Alt.Fiction, the sci-fi/fantasy convention run by Writing East Midlands. I had a pleasant time overall, meeting new people as well as hanging out with the Speculators. I took notes, and rather than let them fester in my notebook, I thought I'd share them here for you. This is a collection of my thoughts and notes from day one. Day two will be in a separate post.

The first panel I went to was about Science Fiction and Non-Fiction. It was a little disorganised at the beginning (I believe one of the panelists had been delayed) but got off to a good start. I was still waking up however, so didn't take a great deal of notes in this one. I think it can be boiled down to science fiction and non-fiction have a bit of a symbiotic relationship, and also fiction writers should be careful not to put all of their research into their fiction (a la the Da Vinci Code).

Next, I headed off to a workshop on The Business of Writing, with Mark Chadbourn. Quite interesting, although full of scary advice like "quit your day job". Mark was putting forward that you should treat being a writer in the same way as you would if you were setting up your own business. I totally agree with that, but for me, quitting my job now would be like starting my own plumbing service before I'd even qualified. Anyway, Mark gave loads of ideas as to how and where we could make money writing, and the key idea is to diversify, try a bit of everything if it pays, and use the crap jobs you do to buy you time to work on your ideal project.

The next panel was based around Dragon's Den, where writers role-played pitches to agents to show us what not to do. Basically:
  • Tell the agent the end of the story in your pitch letter.
  • Compare yourself with authors who are similar, but only if they have been successful in the last 5 years.
  • Show you are passionate about your work.
  • Consider series potential.
  • Finish writing the novel before you pitch anything.
  • Consider where your book would be placed in the bookshop.
  • Pay attention to details such as the agent's name, as well as spelling & grammar.
  • Keep the pitch short - ideally 3 paragraphs.
  • Read the guidelines on the agent's/publisher's website and follow them.
  • Write in the pitch letter that "my mum loves it".
  • Be closed off to feedback and criticism from agents, as they are there to help.
I think that's everything!

Onwards to Online Marketing, with Tom Hunter. Interesting session, especially as I work in Marketing for my day job. Condensing this session down to a few words of advice, I would say it boiled down to "don't be a git on the internet" and "be open to new opportunities". The other thing that was interesting was to learn that imprints are themselves trying to create more brand recognition, trying to be more personable. As a reader, I think this is a great idea.

Next, Comics. I came away with a long list of books I want to read, and will buy when I have some money. Also, the ways to get into comic writing are:
1. Get together with an artist and self-publish your own.
2. Be successful in another literary genre (ie TV, novel writing, etc) and then comic publishers will contact you.
3. Learn to draw. I laughed at this one, when relating it to myself. Next time, I'll try to remember to upload one of my "Lucy Drawings" and you'll see what I mean.

Finally, I went to a talk by James Swallow on "Games Narrative". I'm not a gamer, aside from loving Super Mario on the NES and having a pretty strong Sims 2 addiction, and hadn't really considered writing for games before. After this session, however, I was eager to buy an X-Box and have a crack at it! Games writing is all about the discovery of the story, as opposed to the delivery of a story (as in film/novels). I never realised how much work there was for a writer on games; not just the cut scenes and main story, but also every little bit of throw away dialogue by background characters, as well as all the stuff for the different options and pathways you can go down. James also talked about "environmental narrative", which was something I'd never thought of before, the way in which the environment is shaped tells you about characters, setting, time and place, mood and tone. Converse to novels and short stories, narrators in games have to be empty vessel characters, because you want the gamer to pour themselves into the game. The one thing he didn't touch on, I think because we ran out of time, was how you actually become a games writer. Maybe I'll find out at the next convention I go to!

So that was my Saturday, minus the free goodie bag, the wine and the curry. Really informative and fun day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pitchfork Disney

I went to see The Pitchfork Disney at the Arcola in London last weekend. Philip Ridley is one of my favourite playwrights and it was great to finally see a professional production of this classic. I think this production really brought home to me Cosmo and Pitchfork's position as part of Presley's dreamscape. It's hard to feel pity though for someone so fucked up and I'm not sure you're supposed to pity him. I think that's the point of those wonderfully-written nightmare speeches, so that you feel like you are in the nightmare, so you live the nightmare with him. All great! I have tickets for Shivered at Easter and might possibly go and see Mercury Fur too - there seems to be a bit of a Ridley resurgence in London at present and I'm loving it!

There was a call for papers for this conference on the University website. I would love to write about the legacy of Angela Carter, looking at modern writers like Cat Rambo, Erzebet Yellowboy, Catherynne M. Valente and many, many others reclaiming and creating their own myths, rewriting fairytales to better understand gender and politics and the human experience, but I don't have time and haven't written anything academic for almost 10 years (yikes). Maybe after I retire and get to do a doctorate I'll revisit this idea, though by then it'll be classified as "Ancient Literature"!

Monday, February 06, 2012


Right, so I'm still trying to work on my novel about the witch/superhero sisters, which started life as a short story and developed into a first draft during NaNoWriMo 2010. I've been having problems with it because I just didn't know how to tell the story - whether to set it in the present with flashbacks or to tell it chronologically and perhaps stretch it out into a series.

I've finally decided to give the version with flashbacks a go. I had started to write a series, but the reason I got stuck, I think, is that all the good stuff that I was interested in actually happens in the present, rather than the past. So anyway, here goes version 3.

If anyone would like to recommend good novels (SF/Fantasy or not) that deal with flashbacks particularly well, I'd really appreciate it.

There's an interesting competition looking for stories to be included in an anthology at Fantasy Faction. I think I might use it as motivation to finish one of the short stories I've had lying around for months. The details are here, if any of you are interested (good luck!).

Monday, January 30, 2012


I've been in York for the past 3 days, at a conference for work. If you haven't been, it's very pretty, even when it is peeing it down with rain, but I swear there are more drunks wandering the street than pretty much anywhere else I've been.

The hotel was nice, and I basically got to stay in a room the size of my old one-bedroom flat, so that was nice. The conference signed us up to go on a ghost walk, which was fun and fine until our guide told us our hotel was haunted by a ghost AND a poltergeist, which meant I couldn't sleep for fear of being prodded by some supernatural being.

I find ghosts interesting. I'd love to say I don't believe in them, and say what a load of tosh it all is, but the irrational side of my brain is absolutely petrified that the world is really like it is in Sixth Sense, where there are dead people literally everywhere, and that I might one day be made aware of this fact. *shudder*.

(above: can you spot a ghost in this picture? If so, please don't tell me!)