Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Dark Goddess

Came across this picture and had to put it up. I've hit the 47,000 word mark on Book 2, and it's going to be wild.

As you may know, it's got werewolves aplenty I'm slowly looking into Shamanism as part of the religious backdrop of the story. Devil's Kiss is very Judeo-Christian so I wanted the setting to be as different as possible.

I'm working through the proofs of Devil's Kiss and it's amazing to see the words in the format and size they'll be as a finished book. All the sepearte components are coming together and the book as an object will soon be real. Cannot wait.

Beyond that it's just trying to maintain a good rate of story, keeping The Dark Goddess vital and bloody. Treachery, double-crosses, murder and mutilation are the keywords to the tale but it's one of redemption and finding heart in a cold world.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

SCBWI Conference

Just back from a weekend at Winchester where I met up with loads of other writers and we did writerly things (bitch about the other writers and drink and eat too much, basically).
It was great, and reinforced why I'm so lucky to be where I am.

Met up with my glamorous Greenhouse brother from another mother, Jon Mayhew (who is much taller in real life than I'd expected) and we hung out a lot, which was both charming and a bit like the first day at a new school.

I signed my first autograph, which was strange, but (lets be honest) pretty cool.

The teachers there were brilliant. Lee Weatherley has helped make me the writer I am (so it's her fault if it all goes pear-shaped) with extraordinary advice from Cornerstones and this w/e. Tim Bowler was a total inspiration and Alison gave me a chance to practise what it might be like delivering a talk at a school visit. Quite terrifying.

And Candy, I've bought it, as advised. Thanks.

Saturday evening's entertainment was Barry Cunningham, the man who published Harry Potter and (more importantly) was Fat Puffin (for those who remember Puffin Club from the 1970's, which, incidently, is being relaunched).

Met lots of great people and read some amazing work which kinda gave me the willies. There's a lot of excellent writing out there and all of it deserves to be published. Why it's not is a mystery to be solved by wiser men than me.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

It's the Writing, Stupid

Feel I'm CRAWLING through Book 2. Once I could turn out 1,000 words, no problem. 700 of them may have been crap, but there was a sense of movement. Now 500 words per day are a struggle, bizzare since I'm now actually free to spend my days doing it. I thought I'd be doing 2,000 easily.

What's going on?

There's an interesting phenomena called homeostatis, which is about maintaining equilibrium of a system.

So, I'm upsetting the system that is ME. That's the day job, the usual grind, the urgency to write and use it to break the monotony. It's burgers for lunch, its fighting for a seat, its the daydreaming in the office and the scribbling on notes at meetings and ALL THAT CRAP. But it's what makes me, well, me.

Take all that away, even in a good way, and the system thinks WTF? It doesn't get the change, and there's a lot of resistance.

Basically what I'm saying is that it's hard going, even when it's all going your way. Strange, but true.

It's also that this is my first book where I've been paid for before I've written it. There's an expectation (and hope) that this will BLOW PEOPLE AWAY, that's what I'm aiming for anyway. Maybe having seen the height of the mountain I've suddenly got the willies, forgetting that you climb it one step and one word at a time.

I am very aware that actually (maybe) I've had a few big breaks very quickly, and maybe this is part of the 'not having earned it' with years and years of slogging. Can't be sure. There is no sitting pretty, not with the agents, not with the publishers, not with the front covers.

Maybe I've finally realised this profession is not the easy option.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Nature of Heroes

Re-reading the Iliad recently and I was struck with a bit of an epiphany (okay, not a huge one, but enough to feel it worth sharing) and given the current state of affairs with a new president, a new F1 world champion and new Bond film out I thought I'd raise this.

What is it about heroes?

Given the Iliad was written around 800BC, the tale of Gilgamesh way before that, we've always wanted heroes, we always will.

But why?

The Iliad is perhaps the GREATEST story of ALL TIME, and concerns a few days at the end of the Trojan War. Now if you haven't read it, but think you know the story, you're wrong. The Iliad DOESN'T include the Tojan Horse, the death of Achilles, or the sacking of the city. It ends with the funeral of Hector, prince of Troy and first son of Priam.

Is Achilles the real hero of the tale? He's beautiful, the best of the best, an iconic figure who's rage drives the story. But...

He has no humanity. He is not us. He has passion, but it is all tumultuous humors, there is little that he FEELS except the urge for violence. Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a psychopath. Charming, appealing and deadly, he's like Hannibal Lector, a beautiful monster. Our eyes are always on him because of what he's capable of, in a way an erupting volcano is amazing to watch, but there's no way you want to get close.

Hector is the true hero of the tale, and that's why it ends with him, "Such was their burial of Hector, breaker of horses'".

I know that there were other tales lost in history, only the Iliad and the Odessey survive (and that raises the question WHY just those two?), so maybe some story lies lost that turns this on its head, but think about Homer and his audience. Think how in some ancient dark night around a campfire a king and his warriors listened to a blind old man recount the story. Did they identify with Achilles, the Greek superman? Did they imagine them in his armour, with his shield and long-shadowed spear? Or did they think of Hector, the man, who visits his baby son and wife, is full of fear and doubt, who finally faced with death, runs, who asks that he be honoured in death, a death he knows now is inevitable as he stands before the godlike son of Peleus?

Shakespeare picked this up in Troilus and Cressidia, we are left in no doubt regarding Hector's greatest.

I like to imagine that the Greek king shifted uncomfortably on his stone throne when he heard Homer. Had he a small son, who cried when he saw his father dressed for war in a horse-tail helm? Did he stand in battle, not imagining himself as Achilles, because no-one can, but as Hector, noble, brave, but a man open to doubt and fear. A man who'll do his duty, but one who loves, feels loss, knows that he is falible, but does it nevertheless.

I think the greatest of heroes are the ones who's humanity shines out. It is their capacity for sacrifice that marks them.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Just thought I'd try this as an experiment. This little clip is from this year's Battle of Hastings re-enactment a few weeks ago. I don't know, but this sort of thing really intrigues me. Part of me would love to have a go at the dressing up but it all looks like too much hard work. Plus I bet the mail really chaffs.


The Dark Goddess continues. I've got it more or less plotted, so I know where I think I'm going, but of course if something better comes up, so be it. Reckon I'm half-ish through.

Started Twilight and, inspite of myself, am really enjoying it! Will try and grab the film, which is in a few weeks, I think. Vampires, I never tire of them. Also grabbed a copy of Dark Alchemies to dip in and out of. The first story, Neil Gaiman's, is good. Strangely while his Sandman series was, IMHO, the most marvellous thing EVER, I've never really got into his novels. I've tried Neverwhere twice, and still given up p100. Oh, just finished Un Lun Dun. It was fantastic!