Thursday, 18 July 2013

Danger Ahead

After some considerably faffing about I am beginning work on Lonely Emily again, and hoping to finish it (well, first draft, anyway) within the next four weeks. But, there's a problem.
I've always been of the opinion that, as much as possible, my readers should basically have no idea what happens next. You can tackle this in a number of way - but over plotting isn't one of them. If you sit down and carefully plot out a storyline it will, by the nature of the process, be a logical plot - a progression from one action to another leading to an inevitable final conclusion; predictable, in other words. But life isn't like this, and books shouldn't be either. If an agent/publisher wants a synopsis, they'll have to wait until I finish writing the book - because, in a very real way, books plot themselves - I just take notes.
One key thing I do when writing is to create little pools of quicksand in the narrative. So, just when the plot is rattling along nicely I drop in something completely out of the blue that throws everything off track. In Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys this very large patch of quicksand was a character by the name of Trevor Smethurst - a completely unpredictable super-intelligent T-Rex, who, suddenly, and entirely unexpectedly (even for me) joined forces with Maxwell's nemesis, Titus Mamble.
What will come of this relationship? I've really got no idea, but it will be interesting finding out!
I've done something similar with Lonely Emily - the last few lines in the narrative I wrote before moving on to something new (and a about a third of the way through the book) follow:
‘What do these words mean, Frank?’ Mrs Smythe’s words stirred Sarah out of her thoughts, and she found they were at the gate to her home, Mrs Smythe’s strong fingers pointed at the undecipherable scrawl beneath the carving of the bear.  ‘I know they’re not Russian.’

‘No, not Russian, no no,’ Mr Frank pushed open the gate.  ‘Come through please, is very late, yes?’

‘But what—‘

‘Is very old, Mrs Smythe, very, very old words, yes?’  The old man stared at her, his face unreadable in the darkness, his eyes glittered as if they themselves were filled with their own stars.  ‘Miss Sarah she is tired, and her cat it must be fed, yes?’

'But of course,’ Mrs Smythe smiled apologetically at Sarah.  ‘Come along, Sarah, I have a nice spare room—‘

'What do the words mean, Mr Frank?’ Sarah asked suddenly.

 ‘I do not think this is the time, Miss Sarah, I think, yes, quite soon yes, that soon it will snowing be—‘

 ‘What do they mean?’ Sarah insisted.

The old man sighed, and turning placed his fingers on the stick letters that looked like no letters that Sarah had ever seen.

‘Theses words they have been here for time before time,’ Mr Frank replied, his voice low, seeming to move from the darkness like it was the shadows themselves speaking.  ‘Have always been here at Bear House, your see?’  Mr Frank sighed.

‘These words,’ he said ‘They say ‘Sarah Gray’.’

Quicksand. This one patch is very deep - and (without giving too much away) I only have a very vague idea why Sarah's name is on a gate that is so old it is virtually petrified, in a language older than Russian ... and there is the adventure and the thrill of writing. There's danger ahead, and I can't wait to wade through the quicksand...

...and hopefully come out of the other side!


Monday, 11 February 2013

Resurrecting an old friend

The good news is, I've started writing again ... But not quite what I expected to.
I have started writing The Resurrection Bureau again - this is one of the many projects - along with Lonely Emily, The Tell Tale Boy and Mabel Maybe - which I started writing and then kind of ran out of steam. I'm sure a lot of writers have projects like this, but The Resurrection Bureau was always an idea which kept nagging at me to get in finished. It is also (rarely for me!) a stand alone story. Beginning, middle, end, no sequel - so that's very appealing, considering the hundreds of characters and plot lines that are involved in writing the next Super Maxwell book, The Crimson King. So, between now and July 1st I am going to try my damnedest to get The Resurrection Bureau finished - even though (at the time of writing) I don't actually have an end for it!
I've also entered it into the 2013 Northern Writers Awards. And they expecting you to finish things (!), so hopefully that will compel me to pick up my pen and start writing on a cold Monday morning - rather than pick up a book and start reading (currently reading A Clash of Kings, by the way, highly recommended).
This could be a disaster of course, but this is a blog about writing, no necessarily about being a successful writer, so it should at least be interesting disaster.
More news soon, keep the faith!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Destination Mars

It has been - more or less exactly - a year since I finished Super Maxwell 3, The Isle of the Dead, and lost my publisher. Over the last 12 months I've struggled to write some other stuff, never really quite achieving what I'd hoped, and, to be honest, thinking about what I'd lost by no longer writing about the adventures of Maxwell, Billy, Dr Arcania, Juggernaut, and all of those characters and places I fell in love with.
Well, after a year out I've decided to once again return to Maxwell's world - no, I don't have a publisher, and yes I do have three effectively unpublished book sitting in my desk drawer, but writing is, essentially at best folly, and probably closer to madness than anything else - and in the end you've just got stand square and do what you believe in. And I believe in Maxwell Jones.
So in January I will start work on Super Maxwell 4: The Crimson King. This will be by far Maxwell's most ambitious adventure, and will see him returning to Mab (the ruined home of the ancient gods) on a rescue mission, then on to London (though a very different London from what you may know) and finally to Mars to meet at last the mysterious Crimson King.
It will take me a good two years to write The Crimson King, and in the meantime I will be working hard to get a publisher for Super Maxwell 1, 2 and 3 - so realistically it will be at least 5 years before you sit down to read the first page of Super Maxwell and the Crimson King. But one thing I can absolutely promise you - it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Another swift about turn - straight into the clouds

Yes, I have finished my new play, Dead Funny, and No, I haven't returned to writing Lonely Emily.  It's the lure of the sun, I'm afraid, but I will be starting Emily again soon, with the intention of finishing a first draft by the end of June (always full of good intentions and bad deadlines, that's me!).  But first I had an idea for a short story, which I will print in full here when complete.
In the meanwhile, here's a little snippet. The story is called "I Wish I Could Fly" and it's about - well, probably not what you think it's about...


I Wish I Could Fly

‘I wish I could fly.’
            I look up from the bright black eyes of the tiny little bird in my hands.  Granda sits on his deck chair in the tiny, cold shed, he has his favourite pigeon, King Charlie, in his hands, fat and content and white and grey, and I can’t see his eyes under the perfect white of his flat cap.
            For a minute I’m not sure he has spoken at all.  At our side through chicken wire a dozen pigeon burr and purr filling the air with the warm, dry smell that only smells of pigeons and nothing else at all in the universe.  Outside it is raining, the noise of the drumming rain as loud as if we were standing in it, but Granda’s shed is clean and cold and bone dry.
            Then Granda looks up and smiles, his cat green eyes shining from a brown face that is nothing but wrinkles and scars and teeth as brown as conkers.  He holds up King Charlie, and lets him go.  The big fat pigeon flutters across the little room and lands on its perch with a comfortable shiver.
            ‘Would you fly away, Granda?’ I ask slowly.
            Grandpa lifts his mug of Bovril Plus to his lips.  I don’t know what the Plus is, but it is an amber liquid that made my eyes water when Granda told me to sniff it.  Granda drops it in his Bovril as generously as someone putting cream in their coffee.  Before he drinks he smiles again.
            ‘Where else would I want to be?’ Granda replies.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sunshine and blisters

I have finished my new (well, new-ish, heavily rewritten "old" play) Dead Funny, despite the lure of that strange orange thing hanging in the weirdly discoloured blue sky. I'm now going to have a bit of a barbie break, have a toast to Queen Liz and then return to writing Lonely Emily on June 6th.
Who said I'm not organised?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Back to the past

I have finished the first half of Lonely Emily, and moved on to rewriting one of my old plays which I never finished, and hit a ... er ... slight snag.  I discovered the play - originally called The Man Himself and now renamed Dead Funny - was on floppy disk.  This wonderful piece of 20th Century technology is now as redundant as a pencil - more so, you don't have to download a pencil - but luckily a friend of mine had a piece of kit that saved my bacon and got my play onto that lovely piece of 21 Century tech - a memory stick.
My advice, stick with a pencil - and keep your fingers crossed that pencil sharpeners never become redundant.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

It's just an allusion

I haven't blogged for a while as I have busily writing (the curse of the writer is that you have to write stuff, sadly) but I am now at the half way point of Lonely Emily (formerly Emily Alone and Lilly Alone). I was trying to get a first draft in the bag by the end of February, but unless I suddenly discover a time machine (unlikely, but not impossible) that probably isn't going to happen now.
It's a bit odd writing a book when you don't have a publisher, but oddly liberating too. Original Emily (alone/lonely/Lilly) was aimed at the under 12s - now, it's moved more towards my usual readership, 12-15 year olds, which means I can make it very, very scary - which is fantastic!
Part of the reason it has taken me a little longer to write is that I decided, as it was aimed at older readers, to be a bit more experimental, and add a some literary allusions to Charlotte Bronte's brilliant Jane Eyre - which I haven't read in over 20 years, so I was forced to read again. Believe me, it's not a chore, buy that book and read it, you'll thank me.
While Jane Eyre had a mad woman in her attic, my character, Emily Crow, has something far, far worse lurking in her attic...