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End of NaNoWriMo Rebel month

Well, today is the last day of the NaNoWriMo fest and although I haven't completed the type-up/ write-up of Dark Carnival I have progressed so I'm counting that as a partial win. My goal is to have the whole thing done by the last day of December, put it away for a couple of months while I work on something new and then come back to it with fresh eyes and try to implement some of the suggestions that the reader for the RNA's NWS scheme put to me. It will mean re-writing about the first third of the novel but I think it will improve it and make it stronger so that will be a good thing!

I'm still waiting to hear back about 3 submissions I made in October; the deadline's passed now so hopefully I'll hear one way or the other in then next few weeks. I've got a short story to write now, and when that's done I'll pick up DC again.

NaNoWriMo Rebel

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything here - well over a year. What can I say? Work's been busy and there's been death, death, death in the family so Twitter was all I could cope with really. But now I've decided that I'll do NaNo again but as a rebel - I've got 60,000 words of a WIP written out longhand; 38,000 words of that 60K typed up and I need to get the rest typed up and then the rest of the novel written so I can engage in the horror that is editing. Go me!

So that's what I'm (mostly) doing this month. I am going to have a go at the Monster prose/poetry call out from Mslexia but although I love the idea of short stories I can never seem to write them! We shall see.

How's it going with you guys?

And Spring is in the rain

Spring has sprung, the rain falls and it is warm outside - thunder in the offing perhaps?

Huge hiatus in posting due to life, the universe and everything but here we are again.

My Martian Odyssey haibun has gone through, not a first draft, but a first phase that I want to build on and flesh out so that's on the list of things to do. Also on the list is the ongoing novel which needs to be completed by the end of July at the latest. So far I'm on track - long may it continue.

And there's the short story to re-work. I'm not quite ready to give up on it yet. I'll give it maybe two more attempts before I concede defeat for now and put it to one side.

So, jobs to do!

How are you?

And Autumn has arrived

The sun is still shining and it's still fairly warm but the little bite of Autumn is in the air making it feel lovely outside and demanding we go out for a walk. I wish I'd brought my camera but the phone will have to do.

Creativity is a bit low as a stinking cold is sucking most thinking capability out of my brain but we will persevere with liberal applications of cold remedies!

Hope you're all healthy and well.

It's July already? How did that happen?

Wow. Where did May and June go?
I have, finally, through lots of dithering and procrastination got the start of the urban-rural fantasy sorted out. I've lost count of how many times I've restarted because it not only didn't work, it didn't make sense and mucked things up further down the line even in just the outline. But, sorted. So July and August will be me knuckling down and knocking as much of this book on the head before work picks up again in September and there's barely time to breathe.

Fang had a stroke in May but is recovering nicely although she'll be on pills now for the rest of her life and rattles a little when she walks. She's also developed an extremely wide turning circle which means you have to watch your knees or you'll end up being head-butted by a rock-hard collie skull.

Other than that all is joy joy feelings.

How art thou?

Hello April my old friend...

No snow in April so I'm counting this as a bonus especially as we haven't had the fire lit for the past three weeks which means that the weather has definitely turned! Soon we will stop using hot water bottles as well and I may consider taking a layer of bedding off the bed too! (That could be a step too far, mind. I might wait until mid-May. Just to be sure. ::grinning:: You think I'm joking but I'm not! Four layers at the moment, plus separate dog and cat blankets on top. Cocoon! (Coccoon?)

My mint--courtesy of mor-far--is coming back up again now that I've chopped down all the dead stalks from last year so it won't be long before we get to have it in our Greek-style pesto fresh from the garden! nom nom nom. I've also done lots of weeding but the weather-bods are predicting rain this weekend which means that not only will the mint go, 'Yay! GROW!', so will the weeds and I will have to grub around getting them out while middle collie tries to help. HINT: when tossing garden detritus to one side, LET GO really quickly. Otherwise over-excited collie will grab your hand as well as the weeds. ::bad bad beans::

Anyway, just a quick catch-up to prove that I still exist and haven't fallen down a hole/ been beamed up by aliens etc.

Hello Spring! Have you sprung?

The sun is out and shining but I am indoors...boo! Ah, well. With any luck the rain scheduled for the middle of the week will have jogged on elsewhere by the weekend as, among other things, I have some tidying up in the garden to do. (And laundry - there is always laundry.)

Short story update: Red Doors is almost done. Had to do two re-writes of the beginning because I didn't like where I'd started it (my perennial problem) but I'm pretty sure this is it and will get the first draft done in the next couple of days. Then edit; read aloud & revise, followed by getting Chum #1 to have a read and see if I've missed out anything important.

Books read and recommended:
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - this is a fantastic book about zombies who rediscover what it is to live (and the humans who learn to live and let live). I originally picked up the book because I was going to see the film and wanted to read the story beforehand, and although there are obviously differences between film and book the core of the text did come through in the movie. I read it pretty much in one sitting because I didn't want to put it down, had to find out what happened next, did they survive etc? And when I got to the end I put the book down with that lovely sense of readerly satisfaction; the reading equivalent of having had a tasty, varied, fulfilling meal. I'm not one for zombie books generally but I definitely recommend this one.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates - this is a supernatural mystery set in the present day on the Great Plains with a briliiant protagonist - Hallie - on home leave to attend her sister's funeral whose death is being put forward as an accident. The presence of Hallie's sister as a ghost tells a different story, however. Again this is a book that I wanted to keep reading without interruptions. Hallie's a great character, flawed and argumentative with a trigger temper but with a huge heart that wants to see justice done (even if that justice is outside the law). I'm really looking forward to book two - Deep Down (and annoyed that it isn't out until April in the UK and there's no mention of e-versions at all) and I can already tell that this is a book I'll be re-reading over the years. The Plains are a character in and of themselves and I have to say that I'm not sure how I'd cope living somewhere that flat as I'm far too used to hills and mountains breaking up the sky, but that works in the story's favour as it adds to the air of menace when it seems that even the landscape can work against you.

18th December 2012

I know that Yule is traditionally the time of giving to others (and I will and I do) but, when I saw a plug for the illustrated book Where's My Shoggoth? I had to treat myself (I did get two copies so that when the nevvies and nieces are a bit older they can have a copy too. And their parents can explain the niceties of tentacular entities from prior epochs) and I'm so glad I did! It's a brilliant picture book with great illustrations and if you like Lovecraft and his ilk then I'd recommend a look. (Amazon will let you look inside before you buy so you can get a taste of it.)

Apologies for the proliferation of parantheses. We loves them we do.


Zombie Dog Flu

Well, the head cold that I had last week managed to morph into a chest infection over the weekend so I had an upper and lower respiratory tract infection, managed one day back at work before going back home to bed. The antibiotics do seem to be working though and hot lemon drinks seem to be taking care of the rest which is a relief. I managed to make it through all of yesterday without nodding off during the day which has to count for something!

Anyway, nearly back to normal and hopefully, getting Zombie Dog Flu now means I won't be the one who's ill over the Christmas break and also means it won't be long before the dogs start keeping me company again. I swear, one hacking cough and they run for the hills in fear of infection. ::sigh::

Anyway, I hope all is going well with you guys; that those of you in the US in the path of Sandy are all safe and sound and that the ZDF hasn't struck you down.


16th October 2012

Well, it's been a good few months since I've posted anything. Part of that has been the doldrums with writing new material and editing completed stuff - I think I'm coming out of it now; certainly had ideas nibbling at the old brain box so that's a good sign. Part of it has also been the day job which has been crazy busy. No change for the next few weeks at least but it should begin to ease off in another month.

Sorry I've not been looking at your posts/ replying; hope you've all been well, and hale, and hearty!



Two more days to go and the #TOPcrime2012 will kick off in Harrogate. Hopefully there won't be any roaming cows like the ones I saw on the news this morning marching across Harrogate surburban gardens!

Books read recently:
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness - fantastic. I couldn't wait for the paperback so I splashed out and got the hardback from Waterstones (thanks ladies) and I want to re-read it again now. It's book 2 in a trilogy so if you haven't read book 1 'A Discovery of Witches' I recommend it. It has vampires, witches, and daemons in it but there's a nice twist on the mythology there and (unlike some people who reviewed it on Amazon) I found the historical bits interesting rather than dry. Your mileage may vary.

The Apocalypse Codex - the latest in the Laundry series by Charles Stross. Very good; looking at magic with computers and defending the world from the Old Ones and idiots intent on helping them pass through from one universe to another. Reading this reminded me how much I'd enjoyed the others so now I'm going back and re-reading them from the beginning.

And in other news:
After a delay, chapter 2 is under way and ticking along nicely. I'm still in the early stages of a work rosy glow at the moment. It will no doubt wear off shortly.


The final version of the first draft of chapter one is done. (I make no comment on the potential number of revisions, mind.) Finding the starting point has been a nightmare to the extent that at one point I did wonder if there was a story there/ it was ready at all. But, thanks to the interventive reading of Chum #1 I rewrote it at the weekend and I'm fairly happy with it as a first draft. Woo! Go me. Now for chapter two...
Less than a month to go before the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival (supported by Theakston's so I imagine there will be plenty of beer!) and I'm looking forward to going. I've got the weekend pass which means that everything apart from the Thursday workshops and the Come Die With Me dinner is included. I do have a lot of reading to do between now and then though so my TBR pile is going to increase horrendously! Special guests include Jo Nesbo, Kate Mosse, Ian Rankin, Peter James et al. so have a look if crime's your thing.

Check out the website here: http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime/ 

So, what have I been up to (apart from day-jobbery) for the last couple of weeks? Well, the Derbyshire Literature Festival has been on with events up and down the County for people to attend. At the previous Lit Fest two years ago I didn't go to anything; this time I went to four events - 3 of which were writing related.

Event number one was a morning on the basics of Japanese Bookbinding and I came away from that session with one medium and two small books that I'd made and enough enthusiasm to immediately head for a craft shop and get paper and card supplies to make some more for presents for people. I think they'd make nice photo albums so I'm going to try it out as a Father's Day gift and see how we go from there!

Event number two was a two hour 'Plot Your Novel' session with Louise Doughty (novelist and journalist). The most helpful aspect was when she got us to encapsulate our novels (completed or planned) by having us finish the sentance "This novel is about..." But we had to do it twice - once for plot and once for theme - which gave us a blurb by the end and was handy for determining whether there was enough of a story there. In the second half, Louise spoke about the problems she had with the structure of her latest novel (Whatever you love) and how she eventually sorted things out. It took over two years and she wrote numerous drafts, and from what I overhead at the event what most people took from that was that even published, successful authors don't hit the mark first time every time. Sometimes they fumble too. It was a good event.

Event number three was a presentation 'From Finland to Bagend' by members of the Ironville & Codnor Park Myth & Magic Tolkien Reading and Language Fellowship (all school children) whose love for Tolkien's work really came through in the hard work they put in to researching the place of The Hobbit as an integral part of Tolkien's mythology. (It's not all about The Lord of the Rings). It was great to see schoolchildren so engaged with reading and I just hope that more students get involved with the Fellowship. (And that more get involved with their public libraries as well and join reading groups and such.)

Event number four was a busy day in Bakewell (why, yes, there was pudding, now that you ask!) entitled 'Reading and Writing from the Archives with Sara Sheridan' and it was split into three parts. Part one was 'Ask the Archivist' and we had staff from the County Archive telling us about the resources that were available to the public at the Archive and online. They'd also brought along a broad sample of resources for us to look at and I found the County Asylum records of female patients from the 1800s fascinating. (Most of the conditions were mania or melancholia.)

Part two was the first of two talks by Sara - and this was about narrative drive - how to keep things jogging along and avoid boring your reader/ making them put your book down. One of the things that she said was that modern culture is more visual than in the past and so one of the things that *might* help is to storyboard your short story/ book to see whether there are any areas where nothing is happening. Then, obviously, you need to think whether nothing needs to happen (there is room for introspection and reflection in novels that you don't always have time for in visual media) or, is the lack of something going on and indication that you've missed something? That you need to ramp up your narrative drive and get the ball rolling again?

I think I will try this with a short story first and see how that goes. The reason being that, Sara read four pages from one of her books and then went through each board for the action points in those four pages and it came to 15 storyboard boxes! So I'll try it with the 32 page short story before I try it on the 400 page novel!

She also recommended Robert McKee's 'Story' for some useful hints on ramping up the narrative drive and if I can find the notebook with the chapter information in I'll add it here later.

Then we broke for lunch and Chum #1 and I headed off into the town for a pasty (Lamb & Rosemary for me, and Steak for her) before swinging by one of the Original Bakewell Pudding shops and picking up a couple of individual puddings and a large one. Yumm. I had a disturbing moment when I got back to the event and took the lid off my Latte to find that not only had the server put a Latte in my cup but a tea bag as well. It wasn't an unpleasant taste initially, just unusual, but it got progressively worse so I'm putting the initial 'Hmm, not bad' down to the novelty factor rather than it actually tasting ok. (Seriously kids, don't try that at home.)

Part three, Sara did her author talk and explained how her love of history and objects came into being; how she researches for her books and the glee experienced when you come across new documents no-one's looked at before. She read from her post-WWII mystery 'Brighton Belle' which I'm looking forward to reading (it's in the TBR pile but I have moved it to the top). She reads very well but I have to say the best reading she did on that day was of another writer's poem about being a writer. It highlighted why poetry is wonderful when read aloud by someone who really engages with the words and throws themselves into it. Again, as with the chapter in Robert McKee's 'Story', when I find the reference I wrote down I'll put it on here.

And that was the last event I went to. Well worth it; I had a lovely time this year and if there are any Literature Festivals in your County/ area then it's always worth having a look at the brochure and seeing if there's anyone you want to go and see/ listen to or any workshops you want to take part in.

Next stop, Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.

Not dead yet...

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?
Easter, a conference, a death in the family, a holiday, and day-jobbery work work work have all conspired to make Merry a very dull Hobbit. :-(

But I am back, hopefully with a little more frequency, now that day-jobbery is calming down a little more (although we'll be packing up a library for the summer and then unpacking it again later so it's not all ease and grapes on the veranda! Boo!)

How goes it all with you? Busy, busy or lying in a hammock under a sweet smelling tree whilst being fanned by a housedroid waving a huge feather fan?



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