Tag Archives: workinprogress

Random Music: Autumn 2018

I’m listening to a bunch of new stuff at the moment – a lot of it from a friend’s mixtape – and I’m bouncing my way through things like Iron & Wine’s Flightless Bird, American Mouth and Roddy Woomble, My Secret Is My Silence. I’m also enjoying Dan Auerbach’s Shine On Me and my current bop-along song is Matthew Mole Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine.

Bears Den are my latest album purchase, along with Frank Turner’s Be More Kind (of which Blackout is my favourite!)

I’ve also – on the urging of a friend – resurrected my singing playlist again, so I can learn things, and added some new and some new-to-the-list things to it! Currently I’m learning Take Me Home, Country Road (yes, I know, but it’s a good one to walk down the track with) and Son of a Preacher Man, reminding myself of Lazarus by Porcupine Tree, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2 and Even If It Breaks Your Heart (Will Hoge’s version), and I’ve got Bastille’s Oblivion for when I’m feeling braver! – I can hit the high notes, just. It was a good test of my lung and courage capacity last time I was learning to sing, so I’m up for giving it a go this time…

And the final one I’m loving this autumn:

Post-FantasyCon 2018: thoughts and advice

So I was at FantasyCon 2018 this last weekend in Chester, and honestly…it was a bit weird.

I’ve gone from fangirl and small indie author when I last went to the con in 2016, to a senior editor at an indie publisher and junior editor at a mid-list publisher… and that has very much changed the conversations that I’m now involved in. I’ve gone from, “I’ve written a book and I edit stuff” to “what have you written, because I could be interested in it…” alongside “I write and I edit stuff!” – alongside, of course, the always-interested, “So what are you working on at the moment?”

But it did also give me a chance to think about what those conversations were, and how they’ve changed. Being a relative newcomer to the publishing side of things, and having been a writer and editor a very short time ago…actually, what would I have wanted to know two years ago when I was at the con as an author? What could have helped the people I was meeting to get the best of me as an author and writer?

So, some bits of random advice:

Know your elevator pitch

Give me an idea of genre, length, and a very brief idea (as in one sentence) of what your story is, and then another sentence on what makes it stand out (pick one or two themes, characters, settings…) Bluntly, what I need to know is;

a) is this something I can even be interested in as a publisher? (eg. if it’s the wrong genre or style, then I may be interested personally, but I’ll mentally cross it off the list of possibles for my job), and

b) if it is, I want a very brief overview! Catch my interest, make me want to ask you more. And, frankly, this applies to anyone asking about your book, not just publishers – what you’re trying to do is very briefly answer the question, “why do I want to read this?” Because that’s where I’m coming from as a publisher – I want to read it myself first!

And then practise your pitch. Learn it, and trot it out whenever anyone asks – you can always expand on it! But if you start with a long-winded explanation of the background themes…unless I’ve specifically asked about those or we’ve come from a conversation that was relevant to that background, it’s not what I want to start with.

Have your online persona visible

I was guilty of this myself until I put my Grimbold badge on, which has my Twitter handle on it! I recognise names and Twitter handles more than I recognise faces, or I don’t match the two until I see someone – so have it visible!

Mentioning your affiliation is also helpful; if you’re with a particular publisher, or you’ve got a book out that I may have heard of… have a badge, a lanyard, a t-shirt. Give me some hook to go “Oh yes, that thing! You’re part of that/wrote that/know X?”

Or, failing all of that, have something I can ask about! I’m as introverted as the next person – give me something to approach you with, because I suck at approaching people cold.

Your book does not matter until you’ve finished it

Blunt, I know, and it sucks. But I can’t use a half-finished novel, and honestly – as a publisher – I can’t really spend time being interested in it until you’ve proved you can finish it. As a writer and generally Dreadfully Enthusiastic Person, I will likely be cheerleading you on to finish it – but professionally, I can’t do much with something that’s not yet ready!

That said…you can always pitch us! But that’s a bit of a different skill and set of circumstances, and I’d need to see that you have a solid background in actually finishing things before I was interested in a pitch for a not-yet-written novel…which still argues for the “finish something” thing.

Also, if you’re getting caught up with re-writing…please don’t. Get words on the page, finish your first draft, THEN worry about all the problems. Seriously. Just finish the damn thing! (This is apparently a bugbear I didn’t know I had…but man, I got frustrated!)

Write what you want

Do it! Absolutely do it. Yes, you have to write with one eye to the market, and so much of publishing is watching what’s commerical and selling and how the genres are working and…but half the stuff I end up reading is mashups, and I think that’s where the fun of the genre comes from. It might not be as easy a sell, but definitely keep going.

Write, write, write

Don’t pin your hopes on one project. If you want to make a career of writing, you’ve got to keep going – and if you’ve shopped something around and it’s not sold, then shelve it, write something else. If I (or an agent, or a submissions editor) likes your writing and says, “Well, this project doesn’t quite work because it’s the wrong genre/length/style/I can’t sell it at the moment, but what else do you have?” then what else have you got to show off?

 

So, there you go…those are my random thoughts!

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

Writing: Home

This was from a prompt I was given for Amsterdam – my fingers are twitching to amend it, so it may change a little…but I think it’s ok for a draft.

Home is turning a city over and over in your heart, jigsawing the pieces, wondering if you turn it the right way maybe it will somehow fit-

-and home is wondering what one piece you’re missing, what shape you’re meant to be, because nowhere feels quite right.

Home is a fragment of every place I’ve loved, swapped with a shard of memory, and welded with broken longing for something that won’t ever exist again, not like that, not like it was.

Maybe home should be a place where I look across rooftops and know every spire, every shortcut; have a heartache for every corner, a laugh for every golden hour, a secret for every drink.

Maybe home should be the way the wind ripples the water, the sunlight on tarmac and paving, the step around the crowd on a corner. The one cracked tile in the grand facade, the tiny alley leading to the best pub, the glare of orange lights as I turn into my street.

Maybe home should be the warmth shared over a meal; the one loaned book on a shelf of loved pages; the music that fills a silent room.

Maybe home should be the way you smile at me.