Tag Archives: howIwrite

FantasyCon 2018: I did the thing!

I was at FantasyCon 2018 in Chester over this last weekend, and it was alternately fabulous, tiring, wonderful, weird and overall pretty exhausting!

First, huge props to the organisers (Allen and Karen) and all the redcloaks – they did a hugely fabulous job with panels, organising, events, answering questions, herding cats… and it was marvellous.

I was on two panels. The first was blogging in genre fiction (which Alexandra Peel did a lovely review of)  – it was great fun as I just got to chat to Alasdair and Kit, and then Micah when he arrived! They’re all always interesting so it definitely felt more like a natter than an actual panel. I did manage to dodge out of my panel on punk on Saturday evening, although I went along anyway – and I’m actually very glad that I did, as my views were very different to everyone else’s! I appreciate that it probably would have made for a good panel, but I also would have got flattened by the combined coilsprings of cheerful rage from Ren Warom and Kit Power, so… selfishly, I’m very glad I didn’t have to talk! (I do want to write a blog post on the subject though). And the second panel was fandom on Sunday, which felt like another natter – we got to talk Marvel, shared worlds and Star Wars!

I also got to see several panels; Writing on a Contract on Friday, which was really interesting; one session of readings from the wonderful Steven Poore, GV Anderson, Allen Stroud and Hal Duncan; a panel on publishing on Saturday afternoon, and one on editing anthologies on Saturday evening; and then a panel on starting out in genre fiction on Sunday morning, followed by underrepresented voices. All the panels were really interesting, and it was great to see so many subjects and voices talking about things they were passionate about – and I learned so much! Plus my reading pile and research list have grown exponentially, as usual… I didn’t haul many books; I picked up Steven Poore’s Heir to the North and Pete Sutton’s Seven Deadly Swords and promptly gave them away to someone who NEEDS TO READ THEM, but I did pick up Margaret Helgadottir’s The Stars Seem So Far Away for myself. I did, however, get a stack of suggestions – as if my reading pile wasn’t bad enough…

In between, I got to talk to people, talk to more people, eat stuff, talk to even more people, get a brief walk around Chester’s wall in the sunshine (absolutely beautiful!) and then keep talking…I spent most of my time with Rebellion’s lovely PR person, Remy, but managed to catch up with a whole bunch of Grimbold Books people, Fox Spirits, some old faces, some people I’d only met so far over t’interwebs, and some new introductions!

I did feel pretty weird throughout the con; I’ve gone from indie author and writer to editor for a mid-list publisher, and I felt I couldn’t win with how I spent my time – I loved seeing everyone I did, but I didn’t feel I spent enough time with anyone! It was very strange meeting so many people as well, having gone from someone who didn’t matter (not in a bad way, just…frankly, I didn’t, two years ago) to someone who might be a good recipient for writing, stories, agent subs, anthology ideas…

So…yeah. I’m still feeling pretty unsettled from that. I was definitely feeling both imposter syndrome and that I was supposed to be filling more of a role that I’m not sure how to work yet; I should have talked to more people, done more deals, found out more about what could be coming our way – but I’m also still the person who was looking at everyone else with wide eyes two years ago, and I still don’t feel I have anything to say. I don’t yet know how to combine those two roles, or how to fill shoes I’ve only been in for six months; I don’t know enough people, don’t know enough about how this world works, don’t know what I can do. I don’t know what my role is meant to be, yet, and every time I stretch I’m wondering when I’m going to hit a boundary or look like someone I’m not.

But. BUT. I’m still the writer, author, editor, the person who loves chatting to anyone and everyone about what they’re writing and hearing about amazing stories. That was my sanity when I was feeling lost, and I think – I hope! – I held on to that well enough to be able to talk coherently to everyone that I did get to speak to! It was amazing to meet so many writers and professionals and enthusiasts; everyone who talked to me was absolutely lovely, and the con has such good energy. Despite feeling unbalanced, I loved meeting everyone.

I’m going to do another post in a sec with some thoughts I had, partly about the above mix of emotions and partly some advice, so keep an eye out for that.

But overall: a fabulous weekend, even if I did manage to miss the karaoke – oh noes! (Apparently it was epic, so I’m half sad to have missed the amusement…but not sad to have missed the chance to demonstrate my awful singing!)

Writing: Snippets and Snatches

A mix of odd bits of writing from the last few months, including a draft of Home and some of the scribbles I’ve been doing for Badger

“You are making that face,” the Knight said with a hint of weariness to the visitor stood in front of his chair. “Why have you brought that face to my Court?”

The visitor in front did not fit the room at all. Tight trousers clung to his calves and thighs; a flowing shirt was open to reveal a loose vest underneath, and his hands were covered in spiralling green tattoos. His light eyes and wide lips were outlined in more lines, which spiralled across his cheeks and forehead and up into his intricately-knotted hair. He had his hands on his hips, displaying the multitude of bangles on his wrists; and he was pouting.

“I am not making any face. You are not doing your duty.” The younger man waved one hand, punctuating the sentence with jangles. “Anyway, I am an envoy. You can’t insult my face.” It was thrown out as an afterthought.

The Knight waved his hand with a sigh that said he didn’t want to get into the argument about what he could and could not insult in his own Court. “Which duty are you accusing me of neglecting?”

“You know what you are doing!” The young man actually stamped his foot. “They’ve been fighting for months. Why are you doing this?”


It was definitely an Evil Castle. There was a black stonework, with cobwebs dripping.  Guttering green torches. Gloomy shadows. Spiders.

“This is going to sound very strange,” a voice said, sounding somewhere between embarrassed, apologetic and annoyed. “But I need your help.”


My reaction obviously isn’t the sympathetic one that is wanted. I listen to the rant until he’s used the same swear words that I usually do and has descended into repeating bluster, and then interrupt. “Yeah, you’re going to find him and give him a piece of your mind, I get it. It’s not going to work. He’s someplace in Winter, and even then, he won’t give a damn.”

He grumpily turns on me. “Oh? You sleep with him enough to know-”

I laugh. “Yeah, actually. I’m his other half.”

His eyes widen. “He cheated on-”

“No.” I drop the word in with a steady, amused tone. “I’m literally his other half. He’s Winter. I’m Summer. Polar opposites.” And then I grin. “Believe me, if you want to punch him, then there’s a very long line…and I’m right at the front.”


Leave a fragment of yourself in every place you make a bed, and pick one up every place you stop for a breath; every heart a patchwork of shards that all say ‘home’.


“Oh, by the way, are you seeing Miss Goody-Two-Shoes ‘Saviour Of The World’ soon?”

“What’s it to you?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Can you deliver something to her?” He snapped his fingers, and a servant hurried over with a basket.

I looked at it. “A kitten? Aren’t you supposed to be Mister Evil?”

He grinned at me. “It’s been taught to pounce on big red buttons.”


Three scars on her arm. Had they known she was left-handed, or was it always on the left? She couldn’t see any scars on the man’s red jumper, although there were three neatly-stitched lines on his shoulder.

But he was moving again now, stepping closer to her; and she wondered if this was it. If the red-tipped knife in his hand would score across her throat, and she’d die in the golden forests, left amongst the splendour of the smooth trunks, sightless eyes staring up at the ever-falling leaves.

But he instead met her eyes, his expression unchanging; did it ever change, she wondered? Was there ever a flicker of amusement in the nut-brown, leaf-brown eyes?


And, finally, a teaser from the start of the new No Man’s Land

The really satisfying days start with a punch to the face.

Not usually my face – although there have been exceptions – but there is something very satisfying about kicking someone else’s butt. Sometimes literally.

Nat twirls with an easy grace and hurls a knife, then follows it up with a swift butt-kick that turns the monster attacking us head-over-heels into the nearest tree-trunk. It’s quick, effectively, and she looks exceptionally hot while doing it. I have to take a moment to admire her in her practical work trousers and t-shirt riding up at the hip; I’m ridiculously lucky. We’re two gorgeous girls who unfortunately prefer each other, as Luk said sourly when he found out we were dating. He’s always had a soft spot for Nat, ever since she pinned him to a wall with a knife at his throat.

And of course I’m his soft spot, or more likely his weak point, much as he likes to pretend otherwise.

But I can’t spend too much time admiring my girlfriend or thinking about my ex. I’ve got faces to punch.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite: No Man’s Land

Nothing to writing - sit down and bleed. Hemingway

I had some really good feedback recently for No Man’s Land that basically boiled down to, “love the characters and the setting, but the action starts too late. Integrate the two plotlines better.”

Thirty seconds of internal wailing later because my book is perfect and they just don’t get iiiiiit and you know, ok. They’re right.

And when I started thinking about it, ideas started bubbling. Start with Ghost and Nat. Start with them fighting something. Bring the vampires in. Keep the outline of the story, but integrate more. It would be a full rewrite but would leave the core of the story intact, I’d be able to re-use most of what I currently have, and I could do it for NaNoWriMo!

And then reality sunk in.

It’s going to really hurt.

No Man’s Land isn’t an easy story to carry. It came out of Dresden, and carries a large piece of my heart anyway; the characters came from somewhere tangled, and seem to have so much woven into them that it’s going to be hard (and emotional) to pick them up again. In terms of actually writing, I’m kind of screwed as well: my original circle of support for the book got trashed as one of my beta readers isn’t particularly in favour of me, the second is dead, and the third’s about to have a baby. The person I wrote a lot of the stories for isn’t here; I shelved Ghost and No Man’s for a year because I couldn’t face the world without Ryan to read them, and even now I’m feeling pretty shaky about diving head-first back into it all. It’s not an ideal situation for ripping something to pieces and putting it back together, and on top of that, re-writing a 70k novel that’s already fairly decent and needs to be made better isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

It’s all pretty scary.

And this is the point when I either shelve it permanently, or I fight back.

via GIPHY

Fuck it. I’m fighting.

(And with any luck, that’s going to feed into Ghost. If anyone needs to be spiky and sarcastic, it’s my beloved spirit-talker; and I’m going to put every bit of fight into her.)

Ps. In-progress 4am messy scribbles for the new start!

Notebook with scribbled writing

Tresha, Relief, and Writing

 “Tresha. It was the thankful, humble, vulnerable feeling that came after someone saw a truth in you, something they had discovered just by watching, something that you did not admit often to yourself.” – Becky ChambersThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

I have tresha, but also what feels like the reverse; someone doing something that lets you release a long-held breath, helps you let out something that’s been held inside; unlocks something that I’d known would come back, but I didn’t know when. And it’s from someone doing something completely unsuspecting; as a friend said to me, just by being you.

For the first time in over a year, I’d picked up a piece of Dresden writing again – I had to travel to Lymington this weekend, and just started thinking about plot as I drove. What if I jammed two unfinished stories together? What if the solution to one problem was killing someone (well, this is me: I’m not nice to characters) and seeing where it goes? It meant throwing out some writing – but that happens – and it meant thinking about motives again…

So I was poking it on Saturday evening, got a bit written, and briefly mentioned it to a friend who then asked about the world and the factions. I explained – and they upped and ran with it! We were up until 2am talking about a spin-off idea, looking for mood images, discussing motives and character traits and how the world and politics and factions might work…

Tangled Secrets by Kate CoeAnd it felt like letting out a breath.

If you’ve seen the rest of the site or read this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I loved the Dresden world; I loved the game, the characters, the intricacy, the factions. The fact that I have about 100k of fanfic words on Wattpad (either published or not yet) and more in a folder tells you how much I loved writing it. And it got locked away when Ryan left, because I couldn’t face it on my own. I’d lost my friend and my partner for that world, and I couldn’t tell those stories any more. It’s sort of been coming back, slowly; putting the words out there has helped, even though I haven’t really been able to write anything new.

And while this isn’t that world and partnership, and never will be – it was letting out the same breath. It was loosening the bands that held it all in. It was being able to talk about something I loved, and be back in that sort of world with someone who gets it.

I cried, and I laughed, and I don’t have the words to be able to say how grateful I am even for that small loosening of the tightness. For the small relief in the knowledge that says yes, this will come back. This can happen again. This feeling isn’t gone, and isn’t it wonderful?

And then I got hit in the chest with a bagful of emotions in return.

As you may know, I tend to be enthusiastic about encouraging people to write, and don’t tend to have much sympathy for excuses – in a nice way! I just don’t hold that you need to be good enough, or have An Idea, or be writing The Right Thing, or wait for whatever it is you’re hoping will make you write…I will always have sympathy for writer’s block, though, because just not having the words does suck (as I know!) But anyway, said friend had mentioned that they used to write, and now don’t, and they wanted to start again but

Well, that got short shrift from me when they mentioned it a few months ago: short enough that I actually started a document, filled in the first line and sent it to them – and they wrote something! WIN! But what I hadn’t realised until they told me was that it wasn’t me gently prodding (ok, not-so-gently prodding) that made them write. It was me.

It was the fact that I’ve been through depression and anxiety and still live with both. It was everything I’ve done in the face of that. It was the published books and short stories and words and blog and ideas.

It was the lack of excuses that I give myself.

I have to remind myself, when I’m not doing well, that the fact I’m alive is a huge thing. The fact I’ve made it another day is everything. And anything I can do, when I’m feeling like a failure for not doing enough, is all I need to do. I hate the idea of being inspiration because I feel like a failure, and I hate someone not being able to see that I’m a mix of both. But I need to acknowledge that I have done more than I could have, and maybe more than I should have. I keep going, even if it’s one step at a time through fog. I do this. I can do this. I have done it.

Kintsugi

Having someone else tell me that, outside of my own head, took my breath away.

Tresha.

And – and – I’m writing! Despite being a sounding-board, it’s not going to be my story to write (we can have the argument about that later, Badger, because I know you’ve just grumbled at the screen) but I have images and scenery and snapshots, and I scribbled a short piece as soon as I woke up on Sunday morning to send over. I’m used to rpg writing and so the idea of pieces being used, changed, discarded; that’s not a problem for me. But being able to put the flashes of scene onto paper, being able to scribble down a conversation, being able to write a chunk of description – even if it never gets used, it’s wonderful. It’s there. It is coming back.

It’s another infill of gold; and it’s a breath, held for too long, suddenly let out.

The words are coming back.

Writing snippets – when it’s not really working

I (try to) do a little writing group on Thursday evenings – it’s just a Facebook chat with a few of us encouraging each other on. I missed the week before last due to work, so I was determined to try to write something. Problem is, I’m feeling stuck on the new No Man’s story; it’s bitty and I can’t get any sense of what I want to happen to the characters. I’ve got a vague plot but no detail, and that means no scenes.

So I picked a couple of prompts from the Wattpad #urbanfantasy, just on the offchance that they’d work; sometimes things do just fall into place for short stories, and I end up with a random one! However….neither really worked, and so I’m putting them on here to say – yes, this happens. This is my version of stop-start-stop, when the stories just won’t come, when something doesn’t fit. This is one of the stages of writing something; this is when an idea gets turned and twisted and ends up as one of the random hundreds of files I have in my writing folder, with a snippet that might end up in something else, or might not.

The first prompt was, “I would never bring my mobile to a demon hunt ever again.”

I picked my Dresden fanfic world for this, because a) snark, and b) demons. However, the specification was that the prompt had to be the last line (or paragraph), and frankly, I was struggling to work out what problems a mobile could cause on a demon hunt! Someone else trying to get in contact constantly? The mobile itself sends out signals that disrupt things somehow? I just couldn’t pin anything down as being the problem that needed to be overcome, and that meant that the story itself wouldn’t resolve.

“This is your idea of a date?”

I raise my eyes from my phone and look at the scarred, lanky, pissed-off form of the Winter Knight. From battered trainers to battered t-shirt, topped with a battered – well, scarred – face, he’s the picture of grumpiness.

“If I’d known it was going to be this romantic,” he continues, “I would have brought you roses.”

I open my mouth to say something snarky, but someone gets in ahead of me.

“This is not a date.” It’s laced with as much disapproval as a Fae Marshall can output – which is, it turns out, quite a lot.

“Dollface invited me here,” the Winter Knight points out, shoving his hands into his pockets and smirking. “And she didn’t state that she wanted to hit me. Therefore, it’s a date.”

“I can rectify that second criteria if it helps,” I say mildly.

“Your levity is out of place,” the Marshall grinds on, ignoring me. “We have a serious purpose.”

…and then I couldn’t work out what they were doing, apart from ‘fighting demons’. It may turn into a short with them fighting vampires, or just generally arguing, but the mobile phone was giving me problems.

However! That doesn’t mean that the prompt isn’t any use – and if you’re ever in this situation, my sincere advice is to go off the rails. Abandon the prompt! Write whatever comes to mind! It just so happened that I huffed, tried another prompt (see below) and then got caught up in something else…so I may come back to this one sometime.

“Couldn’t you have just broken my heart like any normal guy/girl?” I asked with tears in my eyes, leaning over him/her and his/her blood – so much blood.

I considered this, and considered how dramatic it was on the surface… so I promptly went light-hearted.

And I couldn’t hold back the laughter any longer.

[NAME] turned, her expression turning from shocked to bewildered, and then to horrified realisation.

And then she spun back to [BOY], dipped one long finger in the blood, and tasted it.

I sat down on the edge of the stage, my stomach hurting, yet unable to stop the howls of laughter that were shaking me. My cheeks were wet with tears, and I laughed and laughed.

Pippa turned and stormed out.

[BOY] started to pick himself up as I regained control of myself, and met my eyes as I pushed myself up and wandered over.

“Can’t you just break my heart like any normal guy?” I ask with tears in my eyes, leaning over him and his blood – so much blood. That should have been her clue.

He grinned up at me. “It’s more fun this way.”

“You’re a dick, [BOY].”

“And you love me for it. Here, help me up, and let’s go post the photos on the web!”

For this one, frankly, there’s no way anyone in the Dresden universe would go that light (I did play with some Kindred/Dini stories but ugh for drama and that’d be seriously depressing, and just…no) so it ended up being random. That said, I don’t necessarily like it. It doesn’t fit anything existing and it’s not a story that I want to tell in a new world.

And that’s the thing with prompts, for me. Sometimes they do lead to stories that I do want to tell, just from that one snippet – and sometimes, like these two, they just end up as scraps.

So it’s still writing progress, even if it’s somewhat dead-ended!