The Other End of the Year Post

Castle

Well, essentially 2012 was the year of The Copper Promise. As you might remember, it was around this time last year that I released the very first part onto the wild plains of Amazon; The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel was supposed to be the first in a series of short sword and sorcery novellas. They were supposed to be fast, written and released one after the other, and they were supposed to be short.

 

And then while I was writing part two, at the beginning of this year, several things happened at once to change that. Firstly, I realised that releasing each part after I’d written it just wasn’t going to work – maybe if it was a silly thing that didn’t really matter, I could get away with that, but TCP was growing more complicated, and if I wanted it to be good, I would need to be able to go back and polish. And that was the other major thing: The Copper Promise was growing. I loved the characters, who felt frighteningly real to me, and I loved the story, which had accidentally grown into some sort of weird epic/pulp hybrid.

 

So I threw out the idea of instant gratification and wrote parts 2, 3 and 4 in 2012. And then I redrafted, and edited, and then edited some more, and ended up with a book nearly twice as long as anything else I’d written (it’s still too long). And what happens to it now? Well, that is the question.

 

Thanks to some quirks of fate and a writing buddy who always seems to know what’s going on before I do (I’m looking at you, Adam) The Copper Promise ended up on the desk of the fabulous Juliet Mushens of the Agency Group, and in a sudden twist of awesomeness that I’m still getting my head around, I got an agent. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of my year was meeting Juliet for the first time (who is every bit as sharp and hilarious in real life) and hearing her quote bits of my book back at me. I mean, you wouldn’t think that would be weird, but it is. In a brilliant way. Next year proves to be very interesting indeed.

 

There were other things happening in 2012, of course. After ignoring it for a year I finally summoned up the courage to read and edit my Urban Fantasy book The Snake House, and much to my huge surprise I didn’t totally hate it. I also started work on a YA Fantasy book called London-Under-Sea (all weird religion, sea monsters and fishpunk) although that is on hold for the moment while I revise The Copper Promise. In non-book stuff Mass Effect 3 came out and proved that it is indeed the greatest video game series of all time, if not the greatest SF trilogy of all time, and I sobbed and cheered my way through it in an epically messy fashion. I finally watched Avatar: The Last Airbender and utterly fell in love with it.

 

Other, more random moments of 2012: I saw two sets of friends get married and danced at their weddings, I wore a corset for the first time and didn’t die, I oversaw new episodes of Dark Fiction Magazine, and I attended Bristolcon, which was brilliant. I got hugged by a wookie in Wales, saw my name in the acknowledgements of a real, live book (twice, technically) and partially helped nag my lovely boyfriend into taking up writing regularly again.

 

And that’s all I can really remember at the moment – no doubt I’ll have left something significant off the list, but all in all, I reckon I can chalk 2012 up as a goodun’. Wishing you all a fantastic new year full of excellence and joy!

 

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Snake

I got tagged in a blog thing by the marvellous and handy-with-a-sword Fran Terminiello, so witness my rambling answers…

What is the working title of your 
The Snake House

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
Originally I wanted to write a story about someone who has to make a journey into hell; in the end, Felia doesn’t quite go to hell, but she goes somewhere pretty close. I also had an urge to write a book set in London, something I’d tried before and utterly failed at.

What genre does your book fall under?
To my own surprise, I suppose it’s Urban Fantasy with strong elements of horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
I never really picture actors as my characters while writing a book, but if a fabulously wealthy Hollywood producer gave me a fat wad of cash to film The Snake House, these are the people I’d suggest (I will never reveal how long I spent agonizing over this):

Zawe Ashton as Felia Jones (tremendous actress, always the most watchable person on screen)

Zawe-ashton-as-vod-in-fre-010

Ellen Thomas as Wilhelmina Sunbow (although she’d have to be aged up rather a lot)

Maggie Smith as Katya Orbison

Miriam Margoyles as Mavis Bickerstaff

Damien Maloney as the adult Stanley Cubb (easy on the eye, as they say, but there’s a sense of danger to him that’s perfect for Stanley)

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Robert Sheehan as Hob (Hob is pixie-like, mischievous, slightly other-worldly… Sheehan is pretty much spot on)

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What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
I’m cheating slightly here, but:

Felia Jones is less than pleased to be moving to a run-down council estate with her mother and half-brother – she is even less interested in the ravings of three old ladies who claim she has the “sight”. But they know a darkness is growing at Cornwall House, a shadow of a past so terrible it has been forcibly forgotten, and if Felia Jones can’t face it down they may all be lost.

Because what happened on the third floor left a scar that won’t heal, and the Snake House is hungry again.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
I would love for it to be published in a way that means I don’t have to make the cover…By which I mean I’ll be subbing it around. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the first draft in two months, thanks to the slightly unhinged process of Nanowrimo.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch has a similar feel (London, magic, weirdness) as well as Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift sequence.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
I really wanted to write a horror novel, or, in a way I felt it was expected of me; I’ve written lots of short horror stories, but all my books are fantasy. Let’s see, I thought, if I can maintain the creepiness. I’d also done a lot of reading on serial killers (cheery stuff) and I really wanted to explore the nature of evil and what lies behind a monster.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There are three brilliant old ladies in this. And there’s a sequence that genuinely still freaks me out big time, despite having written it myself and having read it several times now. Oh, and the last couple of chapters make me cry. It’s very dark, but also funny and hopefully ultimately uplifting. 

What stage is your book at now?
It’s been read by my lovely beta team, and it’s been redrafted a number of times, so now it is winging its way out into the wider world, hopefully to find a home somewhere.

Here we go! Tag, you’re it:

Andrew Reid

Adam Christopher

Emma Newman

K.T Davies

 

NaNoWriMo – A November of Novel Adventuring

Note

Yes, it’s that time of the year again.

 

And I do appear to have signed up, partly because I can’t bear not to, and partly because I do have a new book project waiting and raring to go. It’s exciting to browse the forums again, reading about everyone prepping for the long month of madcap novel writing to come. It may not work out this year – things are a touch up in the air for me, in several ways – but I think I’m going to be there at the start line at least, fingerless gloves and cheap Halloween sweets in hand.

 

I’ve participated in Nano for the last four years. In my first (2008, I think) I wrote a short children’s book called Bird and Tower. Next up came Ink for Thieves, a book I still love and hope to find a home for, followed by Dead Zoo Shuffle, a book I’m not that massively keen on these days but isn’t entirely hopeless. Last year I did the Beta month of Camp Nanowrimo, and followed that up by doing the official month too, managing to write the entirety of The Snake House in two months, which was something of a record for me.

 

And as everyone starts to get excited, there’s usually a wave of cynicism about Nano too, and I’ve seen the first trickles of this. All those amateurs, moan the weary cynics, thinking they can write. 50,000 words isn’t even really a book, and they’ve never even heard of editing…

 

Sod that, I say. Yes, a lot of young people take part in Nanowrimo, and yes, lots of them might be writing some rather familiar re-hashes of boy wizards, angsty vampires, and demon-hunting hotties, but so what? It’s very easy to sneer at these things (and at fanfiction, although perhaps that is unwise – fanfic led to the biggest publishing hoo-ha of this year, after all) but I’d much rather see people (particularly young people) getting excited and making things, than, say, the umpteenth wannabe farting Wannabe by the Spice Girls on Britain’s Got Talent. Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Besides which, Nano teaches you all sorts of important stuff if writing is where your soul rests. So the first book you harass into life via Nano might not be that great – it might even suck the big one – 50,000 words will still show you all sorts of wonders you’d never even have guessed at on November the 1st. Plus, Nano shows you (albeit in a slightly extreme way) that it is entirely possible to fit writing into your life, and that is often a wonderful and life changing thing to learn. It certainly changed mine.

 

So come, mighty Nano Vikings, with your cups of coffee and writing mascots, let’s go kick November up the plot bunny!

(and while you’re here, tell me how you prepare for Nano)

 

The Copper Promise: Some Post Publication Thoughts

Cpminidragon1

The Copper Promise started, in my mind at least, as My Small Self Publishing Experiment. The idea was to produce something longer than a short story that I could pop up on Amazon as an ebook – it would be written, edited, re-drafted, edited, edited some more, and then it would go out into the world and I would see how it would do. Originally this was going to be a horror novella, but that idea became The Snake House instead and was much too long in the end.

 

Well, in my usual tradition of making everything more complicated than it needs to be, My Small Self Publishing Experiment turned into a serial, and then a series of novellas, and then a series of fantasy novellas that will be, once they are all finished, as long as your average fantasy book. So the project wasn’t so Small anymore; in fact, it had become The Self Publishing Experiment That’s Going to Take Up About Six Months of my Life, Crikey, How Did That Happen?

 

And so, the first part has been out in the world for about a month, and part 2 is busy being poked into readiness for a release date hopefully at the end of February. And so far, it has been an almost entirely positive experience. Mostly the people who have read it seemed to have enjoyed Ghosts of the Citadel, and I’ve had some overwhelmingly lovely feedback, including blog posts and reviews that have made me very happy indeed. I’ve also received a tremendous amount of support from people (through buying it, spreading the word and general encouragement) which has been genuinely touching and confirms that the writing/reading community online is one of the best around.

 

One of my favourite parts of having a novella length work out there to read rather than a short story has been watching how people react to my characters – what sticks in their minds about them, which ones are popular with readers and why, and what they hope happens to Wydrin, Sebastian and Frith in the future. It’s exciting, and scary too, because beforehand these characters only really existed in my head and on tattered bits of paper, and now they exist in other people’s heads too, which is a strange and marvellous thing. And it is nice to know that I am no longer the only one who cares what happens to them.

 

Yeah, it’s been good. So thank you everyone. J And I’m looking forward to sending part two out into the world very soon.

On Finishing The Snake House and the Nature of Evil

Snakesonna

With all the stuff that’s been happening lately I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about finishing The Snake House. It’s interesting for me (if no one else) to look back on a project afterwards, especially one as fast-paced as this one, and have a think about what I learned from the experience and what I’ll take with me into the next book.

            In terms of prep, this time round I wrote a big old plan over three pieces of A4 paper (I wrote most of it while on holiday in Conwy, scribbling away, huddled under a blanket- Wales is cold, yo), made some character notes, and then dived straight in at the beginning of July. In the end, I wrote the entire novel (around 100,000 words) in two months, which is definitely something of a record for me. The story wandered away from the set course a few times, and various nasty scenes I wasn’t expecting popped up here and there, which was nice (Snake House is a horror novel, after all) but mostly it went according to plan. I think what I will remember from this noveling experience – other than the faint squealing of my sanity as I raced to finish before the end of August – is how I was trying to consciously say something with this story.

Most of the time, themes and meanings grow with a book organically, and often I only notice them on the second read-through; Ink for Thieves is about change and responsibility, I realise now, and Bird and Tower is about growing up. These issues, for me, are usually bubbling under, to be brought out further in re-writes and edits, but this last book was slightly different.

            The Snake House is asking questions about the nature of evil- whether it is a real, malevolent presence in human lives, or an absence of something that leaves the human animal easy prey to horrendous appetites (blimey, that’s a bit much. It’s something like that, anyway). When doing my research for TSH I inevitably had to read a lot about serial killers, and aside from being generally depressing and wildly unpleasant, such reading leads you to a number of uncomfortable questions. What makes these people kill repeatedly? Is such behaviour always born of a childhood of abuse, or do they come in to the world that way? Where can you draw the line that divides the sane from the insane in cases like this? Jeffrey Dahmer was thought by some to be experiencing severe psychotic episodes when he was torturing his victims, and maybe it’s easier to think of Ted Bundy as a monster possessed by a demonic presence, yet this was a man willing to drive for hours in a calm and rational state to spend the night with the bodies of the women he murdered.

            Obviously I have no answers to these questions – perhaps no one does, or will – but when I started writing The Snake House those were the issues I wanted to explore; it is undoubtedly my darkest book, and in lots of ways it was the hardest to write. I grew up on Stephen King books, so you’d think I’d be fairly immune to the wibblies at this stage, yet there were times where I questioned whether I even wanted to carry on with the story. It seems that reading a book that deals with monsters, and inviting monsters to come and play in your head, are two very different things.

 

A Number of Small Updates Ultimately Signifying Nothing

Spirited-away-01

It occurred to me that I haven’t done one of those straight-forward, what’s going on at the minute sort of posts for a while, so here we go; prepare your ears for my latest escapades!

 

Ahem.

 

At the weekend I went to see Spirited Away on the big screen with my lovely friend Jenni. Spirited Away is one of my favourite movies (and I suspect one of Jenni’s too) so it was a real treat to see it in all its glory, and with an audience full of equally appreciative fans. Obviously Studio Ghibli have produced a lot of truly excellent films, but Spirited Away remains special to me for reasons that I can’t really put my finger on. Part of it, I think, is demonstrated by the picture above- the film makes me feel oddly peaceful, even in the midst of stink gods, No-faces eating everyone, and other weirdness. It’s impossible to watch this film and not feel quietly happy at the end of it.

 

Also at the weekend, I finished Camp Nanowrimo with a day to spare. Hurrah! And I appear to be doing the whole thing again this month, because I apparently want to test my sanity to the limits. This is good though, because it means I’ll have a complete first draft of The Snake House in two months, which I’m pretty certain would be something of a record for me. Dead Zoo Shuffle was almost that fast, but I wrote a Steampunk novella in the middle of it and that confused matters somewhat.

 

As for The Snake House itself, I will cautiously say it is going well. I’ve had to write about some very dark and nasty stuff, which has been more challenging than I expected, and in many ways I miss the freedom that straight-up fantasy books give you in terms of world-building and making up your own rules. However, my three old lady characters have been enormous fun to write and I’m finding out more and more about them every day, via that wonderful habit characters sometimes have of going off and doing whatever they like, or saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong moment. This seems to happen even more with old lady characters.

 

I’m re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I know, I know, I only just finished A Dance With Dragons, but after a brief break to read Full Dark, No Stars (which was pretty good) I’ve decided to throw myself straight back in. There is a certain delicious fangirl joy in knowing what will be significant later, so you can pay extra special attention to certain events, and what this character says to that character at this time. I’ve got the first four books all together on a kindle edition, so I’ve been reading for a day and a half and I’m still only 1% in. Hmm.

 

 

And that’s it for now. There is other stuff to talk about coming up on the horizon, but I shall leave it where it is for the time being, like Chihiro’s distant lights. See you on the other side of Nano!