Sunday, July 27, 2008

Very sad news

My mother passed away rather suddenly yesterday afternoon. She'd been ill for a long time, but with a sort of long steady decline so it still came as rather a shock.

I'm going to be tied up with arrangements for the funeral and so on for the next couple of weeks, so please bear with me if I don't post much here during that time. Like Arnie, I'll be back. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The way forward for e-books?

The hype for the new Sony e-Reader has just caught my eye. On the face of it, this looks like a really good product. Not only will it store up to 160 books at once, but you can read a whole page at a time, just as you would with a real book, rather than having to scroll madly back and forth and up and down just to finish a sentence. (I once tried to read an e-book on my husband's palm-pc and nearly blinded myself.) And, apparently, one battery charge gives you enough juice for over 6,000 'page turns', which is (they say) enough to read War & Peace five times, assuming you would want to. LOL.

If this is as good as it sounds, it could be a real breakthrough in e-books and e-readers. Other products I've seen have been clunky, the screen has been small and hard to read, and you can often only store a handful of books at a time.

I do have a few concerns, though. One is the cost. This thing is currently retailing at £199 - that's around $400 - which is an almighty amount given that you have to pay for the books to put on it as well. I'm also baffled as to when it's going to be available. According to The London Paper, it's available in the UK today. But according to the official website, it's not available till September. Hmmm. And I'd need to actually see one in action before I splashed out the cash. Is the screen as clear as it looks in the promotional pictures? Is it easy to operate? Does it take ordinary batteries or do you have to pay for something that only Sony make/supply, at greater cost? How heavy is it to lug about? And does it handle any file type, or do you have to buy one specific type of e-book that only one bookstore chain or distributor actually sells?

Until some of those questions are answered, and until the cost comes down a bit, I won't be paying out for one. But it's the first e-reader I've seen that's even got close to tempting me...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are you right for writing?

This is a fun little quiz by writer-and-guru Holly Lisle. It's short (10 questions) and only takes a minute or two to complete, but the results can be fascinating as well as fun.

I already knew that my easily-distracted mind is one of my biggest downfalls in sticking to writing and sure enough, those were the questions I scored lowest on. I also knew that I have a vivid imagination (too vivid?!) and I scored much higher on that.

There's a serious message behind the fun, too. Anyone who's in this for a fast buck, or for any other reason than the sheer love of writing, is probably in the wrong job!

You can find the 'Are you right for writing quiz' at Holly Lisle's site. I scored 60. How did you get on?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shuddering halt

I knew it was too good to last. I raced through three chapters of edits on 'Gleams', only to discover that I'd said a certain event would happen at a certain time - and it doesn't! It's because I shoe-horned an extra chapter in and forgot to check the back timeline as well as the future one. Sigh.

I had two choices - either move the missing scene back to where it had been, or write an additional scene that explains why it doesn't happen when it's supposed to! In the end, I opted for the latter. Not only does it give me the chance to add another thousand words or so, but the current timeline helps to explain some tension between the main characters which wouldn't happen if I moved the scene again.

I'm about half way through the new linking piece (a wake, would you believe!) and hoping to finish that today.

But it's a good job I picked up on it before I sent the thing off to any publishers... ::headdesk::

Friday, July 18, 2008

Flying along

No, not me personally *g* but the edits on the Irish novel. I've been working at it steadily for the last three days and progress is surprisingly good. I crawled through one absolute pig of a chapter, where the wrong people did the wrong things at the wrong times and the whole thing needed re-working from the ground up. But once I'd cleared that hurdle I've been chugging along, polishing, tweaking, and adding explanations as I go, and have finished a total of three and a half chapters since Wednesday. I've got another tricky bit coming up now (the direct results of rewriting that earlier chapter - it's like pushing over a stack of dominoes) but even so I'm really pleased with the way it's going.

The novel was inspired by the wild rocky scenery of the Galway coast, and in particular by Gorumna, a small island linked to the mainland by a causeway, which brought a whole new meaning to the word 'wild'. The views were magnificent, the villages remarkably quiet and unspoiled, and there was a ruined church overlooking the sea. I can't find any decent pictures of the church, but you might like to see this brief YouTube video of the scenery to give you some idea of the place. It left a lasting impression on me and I decided it was the perfect spot to set a ghost story! Seven years later, 'Gleams of a Remoter World' is not far off being born.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not good, professor

Chest infections and creativity do not mix. I've had one for the last week and haven't been able to do any writing whatsoever - I think my brain just switched off! I'm feeling a little more human today though, and determined to get on with something constructive. On the grounds that edits might be less taxing than out-and-out composing, I'm tempted to go back to my Irish novel. I'd love to have something else to offer a publisher if 'Roses' ever makes it to print, especially something in a similar genre. That way, if they like 'Roses' and it's selling well and they say 'Have you got anything else like this?' I can cheerfully say yes and hand over another manuscript.

Of course, reality is never as straightforward as that, and 'Gleams' needs a lot of work before it's ready to unleash on any publisher. It doesn't help that I wrote it in fits and starts over a period of seven years! During that time my writing style changed, my idea of good structure changed, and my plans for the characters themselves changed. The result, I'm afraid to say, is a dog's breakfast. One major character swapped gender half way through and although I used search and replace I'm still finding places where 'she' is actually 'he'. And as usual, I've under-written the early parts badly, so they sound hopelessly rushed.

Still, I was making good progress on it earlier in the year and it would be good to get my teeth into something longer again. I'm dragging the file towards me as I type!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All in a flap *g*

I had some good news the other day as Aspen Mountain have accepted our 'pitch' for a follow-up to Shifting Perspectives, with sequels to some of the stories including a brand new outing (pun not intended *g*) for my shape-shifting pigeon. It's early days yet but I'm hoping Steal The Sky will be available in Shifting Perspectives 2 in the autumn (fall), and will also include a sequel from Emily Veinglory, and a brand new story from Sharon Maria Bidwell.

I'm really pleased because this is pretty much the first time I've ever written a sequel to one of my stories. Usually I write with such a twist in the tail that a sequel wouldn't really work because the element of surprise would have gone, but when I looked at Feathered Friend, my story in the original volume, I realised that I'd left it open enough for further adventures. So, a further adventure is what I wrote, about a pigeon race that goes horribly wrong.

I'll post more details as soon as I know myself, but just wanted to share the news first.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Changed my mind

I've pretty much decided not to work on the old historical for Lace & Blade. Not so much because of the payment issues (after all, it might only be $10 but it would also be a print credit on my resume) but more because of lack of time. The deadline is 1 August, which is rapidly approaching (too rapidly!) and on a second read-through I realised the story needed a LOT more work than I thought it did. I don't think I could get it finished in time. Never mind, there'll be other places to send it if/when I do pummel it into shape.

The current issue of Mslexia has some tips from journalist & novelist Aminatta Forna. They're all good advice, but I particularly liked this one:

When you get stuck, it can be quite useful to go back and work on what you've already written. Perhaps the story has slightly changed since you wrote that chapter? 'Housekeeping' work - revisiting, editing - keeps you going with the flow.

This isn't advice you see very often. More usually, you're told as a writer that going back and editing something stops the flow and is therefore a Bad Thing. But this sounds very sensible, and I've done it myself a few times and found it worked. I just have to be careful not to get so bogged down in the minutiae of whether it should be 'and' or 'but' that I lose track of the story entirely!

Friday, July 04, 2008


I had a sudden Eureka moment yesterday, in the bath of all places! A brand new idea for a novel popped fully formed into my head, leaving me splashing around because I had no paper or pen to hand to make notes. I remembered what I could, got out, got dry and scurried off to jot things down. That sort of lightning strike doesn't happen very often and it can be rather frustrating when it does; it's as though an entire novel has suddenly been downloaded into my brain - plot, structure, characters, even chunks of narrative and dialogue. If only I could find some way of hooking myself up to a computer and re-downloading it onto disk, it would save an enormous amount of hard work and trouble. It never works like that, though, does it? That would just be *too* easy. LOL. Instead I have to hoick it out bit by bit over months or even years, and by the time my typing has caught up with my brain I've forgotten most of the original inspiration. Sigh. Who'd be a writer? ;)

So, where does inspiration strike you? Bath? Bed? While you're asleep? Half way round the supermarket so you start babbling about elves or monsters in the middle of the home baking aisle? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Slow progress

The historical for Lace & Blade won after all, but I'm not making much progress. It doesn't help that I'm having to retype it from scratch because the only electronic copy I had was on a cd that got corrupted. Luckily I had a printed version but retyping nearly 5,000 words takes longer than you might think, especially when you keep wanting to change stuff while you're typing. And I do seem to want to change a lot. This is an old story, and it shows. Far too much 'tell not show', far too much waffle, not nearly enough direct dialogue or action. It's going to need a lot of work even when I've finished the retyping. For the moment, I still think it's worth it. There's a good story in there somewhere, I just have to find it and drag it, kicking and screaming, out into the world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another story off

Formatting? Check. Extended blurb? Check. Cover letter? Check.

I duly sent off the ghost story to Cobblestone Press for their halloween anthology, and had an auto response back. This is something I wish more publishers would do. It takes away all that horrible uncertainty about whether your book or story ever turned up, and saves a lot of wasted time of the 'wait six months, query, and find they never got it in the first place' variety. It must save time for overworked editors too, because they don't have to bother with all those endless 'did you ever get my story?' emails. And it's so easy to set up. I managed it in about five minutes flat with Forbidden Fruit and I'm certainly not a tech-head. So why don't more publishers do it? After all, it's the modern email equivalent of including a stamped addressed postcard with your submission so the concept is hardly new. Baffling. I feel a campaign coming on. :)

I've been working on 'Got Ghosts?', one way or another, for so long that now it's done and sent I'm slightly stuck for what to work on next. I could dust off a historical for Lace and Blade, which Erastes mentioned the other day, but to be honest 2c a word on a short story doesn't amount to very much. Or I could go back to the edits on my Irish novel, which I was making quite good progress on, or perhaps the new contemporary set in Birmingham, or a short story I've just discovered in my wip file that I'd forgotten about, or.... Oh dear. I think I'll have to flip a coin.