Wednesday, 15 January 2014

New Openings

Hey readers,

So, since last you heard from me regarding the novel, I've done what is suggested and let it sit, undisturbed, while I try and focus on other things. The goal was to distance myself from it so I can return fresh, and for the most part it's worked. Granted, nobody told me how difficult it is to stop thinking about a story you've been obsessed with and engrossed by for so long, nor how difficult it is to write something new.

I failed in writing something new, I'm afraid. The closest I've come is a few short paragraphs in what could be a new short story, but further details remain largely elusive. It's a story about childhood, though, and childhood fears coming back fresh and less imaginary as one would hope. It's about what remains hidden beyond the mundane monotony of adult life. Who knows, maybe it'll turn into something!

Onto bigger news, though. I recently had a chat with my friend Helen, the fantastic friend who so graciously is editing Lucian. She should be done within the next few weeks, at which point it'll be time to begin the long-awaited edit at last. I go once more onto the breach, dear friends, with some degree of excitement. It's finally time to return to that world of cobblestones and clockwork, and I feel a bit like Harry returning to Hogwarts after the summer holidays. It's time to go home.

What surprised me about this conversation with Helen was her suggestion to write a new opening to Lucian. I've always had problems with the opening, it's true, though could never pinpoint exactly what my issue was. This is why Helen is so great at editing - she can see what is missing from the story, see the wood for the trees as it were. Within half an hour, we had hashed out a brand new opening, several chapters worth of story I had previously overlooked.

Planning the new additions

I can't tell you just how excited I am about this. I've long said, half-jokingly, that stories are found objects (other writers agree - in the foreword to The Color Purple, Alice Walker describes herself as a medium for the pre-existing characters, while in On Writing Stephen King describes stories as fossils, waiting to be excavated). This new opening feels like it has always existed, unknown to me, but fitting perfectly in with the story as it exists now. It better represents my main character, David, as sympathetic, and grounds his reality prior to his run-in with Lucian and the surreal in such a manner that, I think, it will lead to a greater understanding of just who David is and why he makes the choices he does.

I've been researching this new opening for the past few days, as there's some factual details to iron out, but I think it's going well. With any luck I'll be ready to begin writing it in a few days, at which point I'll be able to move on with the editing as planned.

So here's to exciting times ahead. I'll do my best to keep this blog up to date with my progress with both this new opening and the edits as well. Hopefully you'll find the process interesting. Meanwhile, if there's anything you'd like to know about the process, or about my writing in general, just let me know in the comments below or through the usual channels. I'm happy to take any suggestions, as always!

Until next time, readers.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey - Book of the Year 2013

Hey readers,

So, as something a little different, I thought I'd write a short, spoiler-free review of my favourite book of 2013. There were a few which came close to taking the crown (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman's first adult book in years, was a strong contender), there was one in particular that left me hungry for more, and unable to read anything else.

My favourite book of 2013 has to be The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey.

It begins with an EMP - an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out the world's electrical grid and communications, isolating and dividing humanity. This is only the first wave, however, in a coordinated attack by alien invaders that, while remaining terrifying and completely plausible, is done entirely from a distance. This is a Cold Invasion, the freshest story of its type I have seen in years, in a market saturated with unimaginative or tired tropes. Soon they launch tsunamis along every coastline, killing three billion and driving humanity inland. Next is a deadly virus, killing four billion, the virus spreading quickly due to mankind's desire to stay close, stay together. In the fourth wave, it's kill or be killed - rumours spread that the aliens are among us, have been all along, and you don't know who to trust.

Such is the way the world ends. We follow 16-year-old Cassie Sullivan, an ordinary teenage girl who lost everything in the initial waves. Now, her little brother is missing, and she has to find him. She's headstrong and courageous, full of quips. The novel is told through a first person perspective, and Rick Yancey expertly commands character voice to rival even George R. R. Martin. I grew to love Cassie almost instantly, as she comments on what's left of humanity with a world-weary sarcasm well beyond her years. Soon into the novel, the perspective switches to the enigmatic 'Zombie', a boy around Cassie's age whose true identity I'd rather leave for the readers to discover. He's different to Cassie - he's confident, charismatic, has never wanted for anything in life. The apocalypse changes all that, of course, but his story takes a different route to Cassie's as the narrative twists and turns, perspective switching until the final act.

I must admit, however, I didn't care so much for Zombie's story until farther in. Perhaps it was the character voice, which didn't work quite as instantly as Cassie's, which kept Zombie at a distance. Maybe it was the fact that I didn't know quite who this character was, his identity mask acting as a detriment to his character. Whatever it was, it took me a long time to warm to Zombie, always wishing I was back with Cassie, finding out what was happening to her.

I don't want to spoil much more of the plot than what I've said already, but make no mistake, this is a Young Adult novel at heart, sometimes to its detriment. The love story elements don't always work, somewhat detracting from Cassie's character. Whilst I understand that Cassie is a teenage girl, with the maelstrom of hormones that brings, I felt that Yancey needed to develop that part of Cassie's personality more to explain some of her decisions, especially when its obvious to us as readers that she may not be making entirely the right choice. It didn't work quite as well for me.

Still, the plot develops at breakneck pace, and as we learn more about the alien invaders, we fear them more and more. The novel's conclusion had me breathless, hungry for more, eager for the next in the series. The Fifth Wave is the first in a planned trilogy, with the second book, The Endless Sea, due later this year. Not only that, but The Fifth Wave has already been optioned for a movie under Columbia Pictures. With comparisons being drawn to The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and The Passage, look out for this to be the next big thing folks.

All in all I loved The Fifth Wave, and can forgive its shortcomings. I'd highly recommend this novel to anyone, and have done so with good feedback. Even if you don't like YA fiction, this might be a good place to start.

4.5/5 Stars
The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey
Reviewed by Matt Sloan on January 5 2014
Rating: 4.5

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Apologies and Celebrations

Dear Readers,

On 13th August, sitting in a Starbucks in Belfast with the half-finished dregs of a coffee by my side, I finished the first draft of my novel. For those who know me, you'll know this has been a long time coming.
The Finished Product - First Draft
(Please ignore the cat - she insisted on being present)

First of, I apologise for being away for so long. Back in February I got a job which ate up far too much of my time and, worse still, killed my creativity. I won't go into that here; a writing blog isn't the place for such things, and I wouldn't like to bore you with the details. Thankfully that job is now behind me, and its absence allowed me to finally finish my first draft.

Finishing was odd, to say the least. I've finished stories before, of course, but not ones that occupied so much of my life. The conception of the story occurred around six years ago, as I have said before, and although it changed somewhat in that time before it came to be what it is today, the core story always remained the same. I have known for a long time how the story would end.

As such, writing that ending was a surreal experience. As I wrote the final thousand words, knowing my time with those characters was coming to an end, I actually began to feel quite dizzy. This was it; this was the moment I had been waiting for, the scene my characters had been plummeting towards for a hundred thousand words. This was their destinies. I wrote the final chapter, wrote the epilogue ... then wrote 'THE END'. And that was it.

It ended up being far longer than I had originally anticipated, too. My original estimate was 90,000 words, an average for Young Adult fiction, particularly debut novels. As I approached 90,000, I realised how much I still had to go. Each 10,000 words I climbed, so did the final estimate, until the final word count reached just over 130,000 words and I was left with the monstrosity you see above.

I've included a photo comparison of the thickness of the manuscript, and a British 50 Pence coin. Sadly, it's not to scale, but it should give you an idea of the size. For my American readers, I believe you can use this link to compare.

So, what's next for me? A writer and editor friend, the wonderful Helen Falls, will be reading the manuscript over the next few weeks and months and, hopefully, tearing it to pieces. She's a great editor, able to view the narrative arc as a whole and thus assist in weaving the various story threads together. In the meantime, as suggested by many, I will try to distance myself from the story so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes, ready to begin the second draft. Helen is the only person who may read it in this time; in fact, she is one of the only people who knows the story in full. Only when I finish the second draft will I begin looking for beta readers.

I'm not sure how I'm going to distance myself from it, to be honest. I feel so close to it, and only by working on something else do I think I can sufficiently forget about my characters, and that world, and try to focus on something new. There are a few short stories I need to go back to but I'm having trouble picking which one to go for. There's a novella, 'The Shadow of Death', which I may have mentioned before and which will require a substantial amount of research before I can continue writing it. There's a short story, 'The Coins Upon The Rocks', which I wrote for my Master's Degree and would like to rework, since my style and skills have evolved since then. There's an untold number of stories I have only considered but not worked on. Spoilt for choice, a 'first world problem' to say the least, and yet unable to pick any of them. Hopefully that'll change soon.

If you've made it this far, then I have a bit of a treat. A while ago I posted a blurb for the novel, which I've now reworked with the help of a friend. It's a lot better, I think, at conveying exactly what the novel is about. It's not professional in any way, though may one day be again reworked as a hook for a query letter. I hope you enjoy.

There are horrors that lurk beyond the veil between worlds, and seventeen-year-old David Gardener can see every one of them.

They haunt his every waking moment; now, those things are tearing his life apart. He has no family, has nowhere to turn, until a chance meeting with the enigmatic Lucian Ducant turns his world upside down. Lucian knows why David can see beyond the veil. Lucian, he learns, is from a parallel reality; he’s come to take David home.

Desperate to discover where he comes from, clinging to the promise of answers, he joins Lucian in a world of cobblestone streets and clockwork, where history took an entirely different turn and magic is fact. But something evil is stirring beyond the veil, and Lucian is not being entirely truthful with David. What of the strange dreams he is having, of the war-torn trenches and the dying, and the wall of fog so dense that it blocks out the sun? What of the strange disappearances in Lucian’s world, and the troubling sightings outside of town?

A terrible destiny awaits David, centuries in the making; a destiny he will have to meet head on if he is to survive. Should he fail, he threatens not only the fate of the world he comes to think of as home, but also the fate of every person in every world.
I'll leave it there for now, but I hope to come back to you again soon with updates on how the redraft is going, what I'm working on next, plus a few fun interviews in store. In the meantime, you can catch me on twitter @falcon_feathers, or leave a comment with any thoughts, suggestions, or concerns. Here's to brighter pastures, new stories, and the readying old ones for print!

As always, thanks for reading!


Friday, 11 January 2013

Sex in Young Adult Fiction

'Romeo + Juliet' (1996)

In the next few days, I will be writing a scene for Lucian which has been on my mind for quite a while. It's one of those pivotal, milestone scenes, the ones that feel like a long time coming and, when they do, you're left feeling like a little part of you has washed away with them. If the title didn't already give it away, let me spell it out for you. I'll be writing a sex scene.

I write chiefly for the Young Adult market, and Lucian is aimed at the mid to upper bracket - those late teens who have already experienced sex, or are about to. I recently found a 2009 article in the New York Times which said that 47.8 percent of High School students have had sex, and while this number is down from previous years, it's still higher than I would have expected. Teenagers know sex. Sex is a huge part of the life of any teenager, and if writing is truly about honesty, then sex isn't something that can be avoided.

I'm not saying that every Young Adult novel should have a sex scene, far from it. However as with fiction of any genre, if a sex scene is important to the plot, whether the natural progression of a relationship or the one night fling of a distraught character, then sex can find a place. I've read plenty of terrible sex scenes in my time - ones which have absolutely no place in the story other than to sell a few more copies. Horror writer James Herbert immediately springs to mind, it seems his characters are constantly having sex. I remember one novel in which a succubus fellates the main character in his sleep. After much thought, I think the sex scene in Lucian is crucial.

Why is so crucial? Because it comes from a moment of fear and desperation, at the cusp of the day everything in the novel has been leading up to. David, my main character, is afraid. He's afraid he won't be able to do what is required of him, what he is destined to do, to save the day from an enemy which knows no reason. In fact, he doesn't even know what is required of him, having to rely on faith and fate and the ambiguous riddles of more powerful beings than he.

David's always had self-esteem issues, so having this destiny thrust upon him, and having to appear to be strong and confident, takes its toll. There comes a moment, on the eve of his destiny, that he cannot pretend anymore. He cannot act like a saviour anymore. He finds comfort in his girlfriend, Aurora, who he has fallen for over the course of the novel. There's a touch of fate in their relationship too -- she has a part of play in the coming events, as do they all.

Afraid that he won't be able to protect the ones he loves, David breaks down, and Aurora is there to pick up the pieces. In her effort to comfort him they kiss, and it goes from there. It's a break in the tension, not only for David's worries but for his relationship with Aurora. They both need this catharsis, need the consummation of their relationship. It's entirely unexpected, as sex often is, and it's their first time. It's awkward, and he feels like he cannot stop shaking, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the emotions that pass between them, the taste of tears, the need for each other.

The scene won't be graphic, of course -- no Fifty Shades of Grey here. That isn't what the scene is about. The scene is about the emotions, the catharsis, and most of all the honesty. Aurora and David love each other, they trust each other, and that is what counts. If I didn't feel the scene was necessary I wouldn't write it, and if I don't feel it works when I'm redrafting, I'll cut it.

Literary Agent Sara Crowe wrote an interesting article on sex in Young Adult literature, and lists a few great examples. This is one of my favourites. Although I've never read it, the following is an extract from Jenny Downham's novel Before I Die, in which the terminally ill main character Tessa puts sex on her 'bucket list'. This is her first time, a one night stand with a boy she met at a club.

He lies down, moves my legs apart with his, presses closer, his weight on top of me. Soon I’ll feel him inside me and I’ll know what all the fuss is about. This was my idea.
I notice lots of things while the red neon numbers on his radio alarm move from 3:15 to 3:19. I notice that his shoes are on their side by the door…
He supports himself with his arms, moving slowly above me, his face turned to one side, his eyes tight shut. This is it. It’s really happening. I’m living it now. Sex. (25)
Notice how, in this scene, the most important thing about Tessa's experience is her disassociation with what is happening. This isn't romance, this isn't erotica; this is sex for the sake of it, another thing on the bucket list. What I love here is the focus on everything but the sex -- the numbers on the alarm clock, the seconds ticking away; the boy's face turned away from her's. It's really happening, she's living it, but Tessa's mind couldn't be further away from it if she tried.

Later, now close to dying, Tessa has sex a final time, and this time she's in love.

His hand slides to my waist to my belly to the top of my thigh. His kisses follow his hand, work their way down until his head is between my legs and then he looks at me, asking permission with his eyes.
It spills me, the thought of him kissing me there.
His head is in shadow, his arms scooped under my legs. His breath is warm on my thighs. He very slowly begins.
If I could buck, I would. If I could howl at the moon, then I would. To feel this, when I’d thought it was over, when my body’s closing down and I thought I’d have no pleasure from it again.
I am blessed.
This time the emotions are what is important, and Tessa is really living it. Every moment counts. This is the kind of scene I plan to write, focused on the moment.

I've written one line of my scene, quite a while ago -- perhaps the end of it, before we fade to black. This is what I've written, and it could change.

They rose and fell with each other, letting themselves become lost to the pain, and the fear, and the sadness of it all, until nothing existed but them, in that moment, alone.
Here's hoping I do the scene justice.

If you are a fellow writer, have you written a sex scene before? If so, was it graphic, or more tame? Why was it necessary? I'm interested to hear about your experiences with writing, so sound off in the comments below. As usual, thank you for reading! Until next time.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Words of Encouragement

Well, what do you know, another delayed update.

I didn't make my self-imposed deadline, unfortunately. It's a shame, but for a very good reason - after months of unemployment (and thus being able to sit and write full-time), I got a full time Christmas job working at Head - a local record, CD and DVD store. I simply haven't had the time to dedicate myself to the novel. I have, I'm pleased to say, been writing on most of my lunchbreaks lately and I'm currently sitting on 95,525 words.

It's tough to say how close I am to the end. The duration of the final 'battle' is a little uncertain, and it's supposed to take place over the course of a night, so how long the scene itself will be is unclear. I won't know until I start writing it, in other words. I'm so close though, so it could be 110,000 as planned, or 120,000. When it's done, it's done.

It's going pretty well though. There's one or two scenes I'm looking forward to writing in particular. I'm nervous about the love scene I have to write (not erotic, focused on the emotions), but I ran part of it past a very good friend of mine, and she seemed to like it. So, that's something!

My main reason for this entry was to reblog a video from Neil Gaiman (who, many of you will know, is my writer hero). In it, a fan tells Neil how she has been told there are 'too many artists in the world', and she shouldn't pursue her dream of becoming a director. I'll type Neil's response here directly.

'Saying that we have enough artists is like saying we have enough scientists, we have enough designers, we have enough politicians ... but, you know, nobody gets to be you except you, nobody has your point of view except you; nobody gets to bring to the world the things that you get to bring to the world uniquely ... except you. So saying there are enough writers out there, enough directors out there, enough people with points of view, well yeah there are, but, none of them are you. And none of ... those people is [sic] going to make the art that you will make, none of them will change people, and change the world, in the way that you could change it. So ... if you believe some who says 'No, no, we've got enough of those, then all it means is you're giving up your chance to change the world in the way that only you could change it.'
This might just be my love of Neil Gaiman and his work talking, but, this is one of the most inspiring things I've heard in a while. Yes, Mr Gaiman. You're right.

I have a few ideas for upcoming entries, but for now, thanks for reading everyone.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Contest Results, and One Month To Go

Hey readers,

So, let's start with the bad news, shall we? Unfortunately I didn't make the shortlist for the Fantasy Faction Anthology competition, which I spoke about here. It's okay, really. I was up against around 1700 entries, only 30 of which were picked for the shortlist (which will now be whittled down to a final six). 
The good thing is I chose the 'entry plus' option, which nets me a full critique of my story and writing style in general. So, onwards and upwards! When the critique arrives towards the end of this year, I can use it to redraft 'The Keeper of Tales' once again and start hunting for a market to submit it to. All part of being a writer.

Meanwhile, it's now around a month until my self-imposed deadline, by which I should have the first draft of 'Lucian' finished. I have around 25,000 words to go bringing me up to a total of around 110,000. This is a little on the long side for a Young Adult bracket debut novel, but that's what the redraft is for. I actually have a lot to talk about with regards to what's left to do, and how I'll go about doing it. For now, Angela Goff requested a little more information with regards to the plot, so let's start to that.

As I said in a previous entry, Lucian is about a seventeen year old boy called David Gardener living in the west of Ireland, who has since birth been able to see 'beyond the veil'. Any recently dead, any denizens of the other worlds, seem to flock to him like a beacon in the darkness. They haunt David no matter where he goes, and when he sees them they cause him pain so excruciating that he often collapses just from their presence. They are, in his belief, responsible for his life falling apart, the loss of any friends or jobs. As an orphan he has nobody to turn to, so David turns to suicide.

But he's pulled from the brink of suicide by the enigmatic Lucian Ducant, who seems to know all about what Lucian calls his gift. Not only that, but Lucian says that he knows where David comes from - a parallel Earth. Initially mistrustful of Lucian, David eventually gives the man the benefit of the doubt. If he follows Lucian he'll have answers - he'll know where he comes from, know why he was born with the ability to see the dead, perhaps even find his family. He might finally be accepted for what, for who, he is.

But what are Lucian's motives? Is he really helping David selflessly? Lucian is hiding something from him, this much he is certain of. The truth soon becomes apparent that Lucian was always meant to bring David back to that world; that David has a purpose, a destiny that is revealed to him over the course of the novel. Something dark just lurks beyond the veil, 'its hour come round at last'. David must learn to trust Lucian if he is to survive a destiny as cruel as it is hidden from him, against an enemy that cannot be easily defeated.

I'm unwilling to give much more of the plot away, so chew into that. There's more to it, of course; just what the enemy is, and its link to the history of that world and the changes that brought it so far from what is familiar to us; David's love interest, whose destiny is intrinsically linked with his. The novel was initially supposed to take place over the course of October, leading up to Samhain (the Pagan holiday, the origins of Halloween, when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest and the dead, and other things, can more easily pass through), but over the course of writing it I've come to believe that a span of two weeks would be better. So, the final two weeks of October. Tis' the time of the year, after all...funny how things work out, isn't it?

This entry has probably gone on long enough. I have a lot more to talk about; next couple of entries will be about my trip to England (and how inspiring a certain city turned out to be) and, closer to November, 'NaNoWriMo' - National Novel Writing Month. Until then, thanks for reading folks. Let me know what you think of Lucian in the comments below, share on Facebook and Twitter if you have enjoyed, and keep reading. I honestly can't wait to finish - I've known the ending for a long time, so getting it down on paper will be an incredible feeling to say the least.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Five Years Ago

Dear readers,

So, it's been a while since I updated. I've been focused on writing, among other things, and as such not really had a lot to blog. There's only so many times you can update how things are going, after all, before this blog starts to become a little stale and repetitive ;)

However, I couldn't let today pass without noting something. As you may well know from my last entry, it was five years ago today that I wrote the first words of my novel, 'Lucian', when two ideas coalesced. These were;

1) A world where the so-called Occult Renaissance actually discovered some hidden knowledge
2) A vision of my main antagonists and the Yeats poem 'The Second Coming'.

Little did I know it would become be my first novel, or be this huge in scope.

In my last entry I hoped I would be finished by now. Sadly, I'm not. However, as of today I have 81,949 words; I originally estimated that the novel would be 90,000 at the end of its first draft, though now I'm thinking it'll be closer to 110,000. I'm finally getting closer to the denouement and the ending I have had in mind since the beginning. I'm over the writers block for the most part, and am just eager to get it finished!

Likewise, I spoke about Aurora (my FMC) and her insistence to have another scene, when she wasn't supposed to be in it for a little while. This actually turned out well - it's led to a whole storyline I didn't anticipate but has enriched the story to no end, and solved a few of the issues I was having with portraying certain changes to the world as everything approaches endgame.

My new deadline is mid-November. I plan to finish the first draft as part of National Novel Writing Month (I'll write an entry about this soon), then perhaps use the remaining time to begin my next novel (which I already have partly planned).

I promise I'll try to update again soon. I have a few ideas in mind, at least!

Thanks for reading, and happy writing.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Seed of the Story

Last week, at long last, I made some progress with my novel Lucian (or The Shadows at Sunrise, whichever I decide to call it). It had been on standstill for almost two years, a combination of plot trouble and a writer's block caused largely by my father's death.
When I sat down to write, I realised that sinking back into that world, of cobblestones and clockwork, to be easier than I had anticipated. Sure, the writing is a little haphazard through lack of practice, and I feel like I'm floundering to find my footing once again, but the world was still there, like nothing had happened. My characters were still waiting for me, still willing to say 'okay, here is what happens next', and all I had to do was put my fingers to the keys and let myself write.
Part of this is silencing my inner critic, that constant nagging voice that everything I write is terrible and that nobody will ever want to read it. This is, however, a first draft, and as Hemingway once said 'the first draft of everything is shit'. So, I have to let myself be shit, don't I? I have to allow for bad writing, for less than fully three dimensional characters, and just focus on the story.
Some of it came easier than other bits. One of my characters, having left the story only a chapter previously and who I had not planned on returning for a while, decided she wanted a viewpoint scene. This was fine by me, to a degree - I realised half way through my current draft that I needed more scenes from her point of view and that I would need to work on that in the second draft. So, I gave her a scene. She contemplated the events of the chapter previous and, as is in her nature to be strong-willed and stubborn, she told me that she wouldn't be kept out of the loop. She wanted back, she said, she had a part to play in the coming events and she wouldn't sit and let the other characters have all the fun.
For those fellow novelists reading this, you'll know how this feels. Those of you who don't write, this will sound strange to you. 'Has Matt gone crazy?' you may ask. 'Does he think his characters are real?'
Well, yes and no. I went crazy a long time ago. It's strange when a character does something unexpected, something unplanned, but they really do take on a life of their own sometimes. Aurora's decision to come back has thrown the next few chapters into a dark place which I have not considered. It adds a certain degree of conflict to the plot which is, of course, always good - she left following a fight with my MMC, David, when he told her that she was slowing him down in an effort to protect her. But what part will she play in the events that follow? What effect will her presence have?
This is entirely unplanned, but while it is worrying it's also exciting. I want to see what she does. I want to see what she's made of. So, I'll let her have her moment. I'll let her confront David and see what she says to him.
While I didn't write at the weekend (due to being away on a small holiday and not wanting to pack my laptop), I hope to launch back into things now. I set myself a 1st of October deadline, during which I need to get from 66,000 words to roughly 100,000. This is an immensely doable task. Even if I only write 400 words a day, I will reach my deadline with time to spare. On average, on a good day, I can write upwards of 1500-2000 words, so I might even reach my deadline long before then.

I hadn't planned for this entry to be so long, so if you're still reading, thank you. I have a bit of a treat for you, so please, go a little further. Late last night, a friend of mine said she was clearing out an old hard drive and found something I might be interested in. This was, it transpired, the very first thing I wrote of my novel.
A few entries ago I talked about how the story came to me - how a character appeared in my mind's eye and, as all good characters do, began to tell me their story. I had to listen. From that I began to write, just a few hundred words, which over the next few years morphed into something entirely different to how it began. My writing style here is, at the very least, nowhere near as strong as my writing is now. But this is what I wrote.
The flame flickered over the end of the cigarette, illuminating the man’s face for just a second, before he was plunged into near-darkness once more. The smoke rose and swirled about his darkened features, causing him to appear like a mirage across the dank and grimy table. He stared down the stick into the embers, twirling the cigarette around his fingers in an absent minded way. Then he began to speak.
‘What I am about to tell you is the truth. You can choose to believe me, or walk back out of that door.’ he said, pointing through the crowds of the pub to the heavy door at its entrance. ‘I don’t care either way.’
The man waited for an answer, but the solitary figure before him did not speak. He merely watched inquisitively, wondering if this stranger could be trusted. It seemed he chose to believe him, for he did not speak a word, nor did he leave. He simply took a swig of the pint in his hand, and let him continue. Almost instinctively, the smoking man continued.

‘It is said that many worlds exist outside this one; that we cannot see the boundaries and doorways that lead between and cross into ours. From time to time, however, we catch a momentary glimpse - a spectre of something that resides where we may not wander.’

His voice was calm, as though talking about the ordinary and the mundane. As he folded his arms and savoured another drag, he closed his heavy eyes for a moment longer than a blink.

‘Most live their lives without ever glimpsing this world, while some…’ he said, pausing to choose the words, ‘…some have to live with it all their lives. I am one of those people - the ones lucky enough to have to fight.’

As the light changed in the bar, the listening man caught a glimpse of his storyteller’s features. He was in his mid thirties, with ragged short hair and an unshaven mask of stubble. He seemed like he had been through battle, he thought, as darkness closed in once more.

‘The world outside ours isn’t like the fairytales’ he continued, ‘isn’t so peaceful and idyllic. Things reside in the Otherworld more terrible than your most terrible nightmares.’

For the first time, the second man spoke. He was younger than the first - clean shaven and with ashy blonde hair. When he spoke, he sounded inquisitive - almost childlike in his simplicity.

‘So they exist then? Faeries?’

The smoking man laughed. ‘Not in the way you think.’ he answered plainly, ‘Not in your storybook world. The beings that reside in that world - some are peaceful. Most are not. Most would not hesitate in devouring you alive, taking everything you own and then taking your very soul.’

The younger man was taken aback. He did not expect such a straight and bitter answer. Admittedly, the thought of faeries and goblins still made him think of the Brothers Grimm, of Hansel and Gretel and those cautionary children’s tales of the nineteenth century. But the idea that they could all be real? He had always passed it off as childhood fancies. These things could not exist - not in the real world, not in the rational world. But as this man insisted, they lay outside the rational world.

And yet, it was something he had always been fascinated with - something that he had researched in his spare time. He devoured book after book on the subject - accounts of meetings with the fair folk, of baby snatches and banshees. But until now - until tonight - it had only been an interest. Now, when this man had come to him, he was being forced to admit it was all true.

His attention turned back to the speaker. He was taking another drag from his cigarette, and taking the chance to speak, asked him a question that was troubling him.

‘Why are you telling me this’, knowing full well why. He pulled his bag closer to his waist, as though protecting it.

‘Because I have come to this pub every night for the past two weeks, and I have seen you in the same seat; reading the same books. “History of Folklore”, “The Court of Unseelie”, “The Revolt of the Faeries and the Elves”. All books which I, too, own.”

The younger man was taken back again. Had this man been following him? Had he been stalking him every night for the past fortnight? He was right, though - they were books which he had in his bag even now. Every night, he would come into this bar, choose a private cubicle, and read for hours. Normally, he would be left alone, but not tonight. Tonight, he had been approached.

Trying not to show his surprise, he took another sip from his pint and asked another question. ‘So what can I call you?’

The smoking man smiled, knowing he had really captured his audience’s interest now. ‘You may call me Lucian’ he said, holding out his hand to invite the same question.

‘David. David Singer’ he replied, extending a handshake but being met only with air; Lucian had already retracted his hand and laid it back on the table. David took his hand away feeling rejected, and took another swig of his pint.

‘Well, Mister Singer’ Lucian said, ‘I have more to tell you, if you wish to listen. I realise this may all come new to you, but you strike me as…interesting. The question is, are you capable to stomaching the things I will tell you?’

David blinked, uncomfortable of being put on the spot. He had only met this man, who had sat down across from him so suddenly and started telling him that faeries were real. For all he knew, he could be a raving lunatic who would take him into a dark alleyway and kill him. But yet, in that momentary glimpse he caught of the man’s features, he saw a sincerity that would only come from heartache. Heartache, and trouble. If this man was indeed mad, he certainly believed his own delusions with enthusiasm. Choosing to throw caution to the wind, he nodded.

‘Good’ Lucian said, without a hint of emotion. David wondered if he was smiling through the darkness, and hoped that if he was, it was not delight that he had found a new victim. ‘But here is not safe. We can meet somewhere more private, where I may properly tell you what I know.’

David’s heart skipped a worried beat, but as though Lucian had read his mind, he continued to speak. ‘It will not be devoid of people - you are at no personal risk, Mister Singer. Meet me in Botanic Gardens tomorrow morning at eleven. At the entrance.’

Without so much as another glance, Lucian got to his feet and edged out of the private box. His long coat billowed behind him, caught in the wind from the open door. The pub was emptying now, but the patrons left were eyeing him suspiciously. As he began to walk towards the door, though, David called after him.

‘Why me, Lucian?’

Lucian stopped in his tracks, turned around just a little, and replied. David could not properly see him, still. Just the wild ragged dark hair, the heavy eyes, and billowing coat.

‘Like I said’, he answered, ‘you interest me. Do not be late, Mister Singer, as I will not wait for you.’

With that, Lucian left the pub, leaving David alone with his books and the remainder of his pint.
Here, David is more wholly me than he would eventually become, partly because it was I that Lucian was talking to in my mind's eye, not David. Lucian also changed - he no longer smokes, and his personality here is more akin to how he will be at the end of the story. At this point in my current draft he has not suffered, not experienced the heartache I saw when I met him. He came to me from a point after the story's conclusion, a point where all had been said and done.
When I wrote this, I had no idea that I was writing the seed that would, inevitably, lead to my first novel. I had not yet studied my Yeats module at university, not yet made the link between the story's seed and the Occult Renaissance of the Late 19th Century. The filename itself shows this - 'Two Guys in a Bar - A New Thing'. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Last but not least is the time stamp on the file. I wrote this on 2nd of October 2007. My current deadline of 1st October is, unknowingly, almost 5 years from the day I first met Lucian and David, the day I first peeked into the world of cobbles and clockwork. Perhaps I should celebrate that day by, finally, reaching the end of this road I set out on so long ago.
This might just be my longest blog entry to date, so if you've come this far then, as always, thank you for reading. I hope this has been interesting for you.
Tell me, how did your novel come to you? What was the first thing you wrote? Sound off in the comments below, and I look forward to reading whatever you have to say =)

Until next time, dear readers. Keep writing.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fantasy Faction Contest

Hey everyone,

Just a short update for now. I've just submitted my short story 'The Keeper of Tales' to the Fantasy Faction Anthology Competition. I'm immensely proud of the story (though I wouldn't be a writer if I didn't hate it a little as well), so I really hope I win.

The great part is, they have an 'entry plus' option. While the entry itself is free, for £7 you receive a full critique of your story by one of the judges, including what they liked, what they didn't, and what to work on as a writer. For the cost of a few cups of coffee this will be invaluable!

For those who don't know, 'The Keeper of Tales' is a fantasy/horror story taking place at the turn of the 1800s. Two brothers, both writers of children's folk tales, seek to bury the body of a woman in the haunted, snowy woods of Germany. But this is no ordinary body, and as we learn the identity of the brothers we come face to face with not only what caused them to commit this terrible crime, but what it means to be a storyteller.

Should I win, the story will be published in the upcoming Fantasy Faction Anthology, along with 5 other unknown writers and several known writers. As such there will be six winners all in all - all six winners will not only be published in the anthology but will receive a glass award to commemorate the achievement. The top three winners will also receive a cash prize.

First Place - $500
Second Place - £250
Third Place - $100

So, here's hoping. Do check out the website, feel free to enter, and as usual thanks for reading!


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Guest Blogger: Miranda Boers, 'Be Inspired' Blog Hop

Hey all,

When I wrote my answers for the 'Be Inspired' Blog Hop a few days ago, I tagged the lovely Miranda Boers (@PurpleQueenNL on twitter). Unfortunately she doesn't have a blog at the moment, so I agreed to post her answers here. Do read them, her novel sounds great! So, without further ado...

'Be Inspired' Blog Hop

First, the rules:

1. Answer the ten questions
2. Tag five other writers, link to them in your post so we can hop over and see their answers too.

The Questions:

1. What is the name of your book:

Jade (working title, not come up with anything better yet – it the name of the MC’s nightclub in the book)

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

That’s a long winded one. As an early teenage I used to dream that I was a man, and it led me to thinking what my friends would think if they met me later in life and I was a man, so I would ask them! I also always wanted to own a nightclub – I was inspired by going to the Hippodrome in Leicester Square in London when I was 16 (and old theatre transformed into a nightclub), and with both those two idea, the fantasy grew of me being in my own nightclub, as a male, and some friends who knew me as a female came in one night, and I chatted with them, and they had no clue. Thus the book was born.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?

I have been trying to categorise it, and found one called Realist Fiction, which is is in that it is set in the here and now, with what is possible today, although I tend to refer to it as a Suspense and Reveal story, which is very character based.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

Lead MC would be a Brad Pitt (in his early days) look alike maybe…but otherwise I don’t really know, and although the faces of my characters are very clear to me, and the whole thing plays like a movie in my mind, I have never actually thought of what actors today would suit them. I am not a big fan of movies from books I have read! Many Stephen King films have ruined the characters I had in my mind, so I tend not to watch them.

5. Give us a one sentence synopsis of your book:

Michael Nelson owns an exclusive nightclub in the centre of London, and is in love with his girlfriend Kate Turner, but has to tell her something that just might break them up, and ruin his business too.

6. Is your book already published/represented?

No, it’s not quite finished, and still deciding on what route.

7. How long did it take to write your book?

I started the book September 2010 – and I am hoping it will be only another month or so – so not quite 2 years.

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?

I am not sure; a friend that read it said it reminded him of Sidney Sheldon novels in terms of the setting. But really I have yet to really be able to place it. I haven’t read anything like it – well the suspense might come from my years of reading Stephen King, but that is about it.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

This book specifically – none. But inspired me to write? It has to be Stephen King, I also love James Herbert and Clive Barker, and Terry Pratchett and Raymond Fiest.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.
Michael Nelson loves his life as a nightclub owner, but loves his girlfriend more, and wants to marry her, but before he can do that he also has to tell her something about himself that might cause her to leave him, and if word gets out; destroy his reputation too.

He plans to tell her when they go to Australia together for work – he is setting up a new nightclub, while she is looking after clients.  But when he meets a work colleague of hers, who recognises him – although not completely, things get a little big difficult, and he is pushed to tell her sooner than planned. What will happen if he tells her work colleague who he really is, and that they were once lovers? And what will she do once she finds out?

And now – to tag five other bloggers (apologies if you've already been tagged):

Laura Huntly @LauraHuntley
Edward Fraser @EWFF88
Jessica Maybury @JessicaMaybury
Jonathan D Allen @crimnos
Michael Haynes @mohio73