Thursday, 30 December 2010

Ho Ho...Nooooo!

Does the pic look familiar? Yep, Northern Ireland is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time it's thankfully nothing to do with bombs but the fact we have no water in places! People are having to queue at standpipes.

We just got back this afternoon to find that we DO have water and we DO have heating (sort of) but there's a crack in the oil filter and it's dripping oil into the grass. At least it was - it's now dripping into the mop bucket.

The weather here was just shockingly ferocious by our standards and it makes you realise how much it affects everything. We weren't really very well-prepared for it.

When the boiler broke just before Christmas it made me think a lot about Evie's situation in The Watchers. Her life is pretty tough and there's never much money for things like heating. It's easy to write about it but actually sitting in the house with no heating has given it a whole new dimension. If I was writing those scenes now they would probably be a lot more miserable...!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

We are hitting the road shortly, back to my home town of Carrickfergus. Not sure if we'll even have heating there, never mind internet so thought I would pass on my Christmas wishes to you and yours now!

The cats will have to be loaded into the car. The picture was taken 2 years ago of our cat Charlie. She's a great wee character but she didn't like the costume much! She absolutely hates the car so as soon as we put her in she will start yowling. She will then yowl every 30 seconds for the hour and a half it takes us to get back. Yeah. Ho ho ho...

Hope you have a fantastic, peaceful, festive season wherever you are!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Good deeds!

We have a robin in our garden and today I had the great pleasure of feeding him. This lovely pic came from here. For the video I took today, click HERE!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The latest twist...

The rather cool pic comes from a website that seems to offer puzzles. As if I need any more internet distractions...!!!

I got another thousand and something words done today, after skiving a bit the last couple of days. I'm really enjoying writing Book 2 when I actually sit down and get on with it. I feel like I know the characters well and know how they will act as I'm writing them into scenes.

Today I finished chapter 4 and started into chapter 5. I loved finishing chapter 4 as one of my favourite characters came clean with a big revelation. He's absolutely gorgeous and he's one of Evie's best friends. In chapter 5 he's going to have a lot of explaining to do and he's desperately hoping Evie won't walk out the door and never come back! It's a big fork in the book that changes a lot of things - hence the picture.

I feel like I have loads of ideas for books just simmering away in the background. In the past I would stop writing one thing, getting distracted by the new idea. Now I'm being ruthless. I don't mind a bit of subconscious stewing but I've learned now that the book only gets finished if you actually sit down and finish it! So write, Debbie, write!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Lazy winter day

This gorgeous pic isn't totally unlike the view nearby today! We are pretty much snowbound - Northern Ireland is at a standstill after heavy falls last night. Thankfully today it stayed sunny and beautiful.

We went for a walk this morning and came home for hot sausage and egg toasties. Very glad we have our Christmas shopping done. The advice is to stay off the roads so aside from one foray to the garage for milk and biscuits we stayed tucked up at home. It was the perfect excuse to spend an afternoon on the sofa watching Christmas films, while the cats snoozed and the Murph read his way through the newspapers.

We were prepared this time and had plenty of food in so I spent this evening cooking roast chicken and parsnips and making chilli for tomorrow night. Also made a big pot of soup. Don't be fooled - I'm no domestic goddess...

I feel a little guilty not writing today but the Murph has told me I need a break and I didn't need much persuasion... So going to heat some mulled wine and watch Bridget Jones's Diary on TV at 9pm. Incidentally, Aitken Alexander (my new agency) represents Helen Fielding who wrote the Bridget Jones books. Was almost more impressed by that than the fact they represent Germaine Greer!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

I love it when a plot twist comes together...

Okay, I'm misquoting the great man here - and showing my age to boot! The original A-Team was on when I was a kid and boy did I love it! For my eight birthday I asked my parents for an A-Team playset instead of Cindy / Barbie etc. You got the four plastic figures, complete with a tent, grenade launcher and assorted other weaponry. They humoured me...

Anyway, I digress. The reason Hannibal sprung to mind was because a plot twist came together today, a big one, which has not only brought the end of Book 2 into sharper focus but Book 3 too! I was able to write the last few lines of Book 3 at lunchtime and have a vague sense of the last chapter.

It's a tricky balance to get right. On the one hand I don't want to know too much at this stage - I've written before that it starts to feel like a 'join-the-dots' exercise when I do that. On the other hand, you have to lay down ground rules for a trilogy, especially when it's fantasy. It's making me look again at Book 1 because there may be a line here and a line there that needs changed for something to happen later.

Anyway for today, I shall just enjoy the moment... "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Monday, 13 December 2010

Just Dance!

Heh heh! Very appropriate picture for this evening. My neck has been acting the maggot recently because of driving and computing so I have been going to the chiropractor. He recommended some fun exercise to strengthen my back and shoulders. He also stuck needles in my neck - but don't worry, he does acupuncture.

So tonight, in my quest for 'fun' exercise, I purchased 'Just Dance 2' for the Wii. Stuck it on when I got home - and it was groovy! I was amazed how quickly I got out of breath messing about on it. Not sure I'm holding the controller right as it sometimes doesn't seem to register my (flailing) arm - obviously it's nothing to do with my dancing...

On a serious note I need to sort out my wretched desk posture. Any tips? Anybody tried yoga / pilates etc?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Writing and the Seasons

This picture is so cute. Just looking at it makes me feel like I'm about five years old and full of wonder at everything!

I've been thinking about weather recently and how it affects writing. I've realised that I have a tendency to start books set in Autumn, putting the characters through the trials and tribulations of Winter, finally resolving the story in Spring / Summer. I'm wondering is this a universal thing or something peculiar to me. Obviously Spring and Summer are much more hopeful and optimistic times so it makes sense to end on a high. Maybe I'm just a sadist to my characters - throwing bad weather at them as well as everything else they have to endure!

For example The Watchers has a very short timeline in its current form - the whole book occurs in a ten day period in October. Book Two begins around 6 weeks later, just a few weeks before Christmas, with the threat of the weather changing and the temperature plunging.

This probably wouldn't seem like a big deal to a reader in Canada or Switzerland or anywhere else the entire country doesn't go to hell whenever there's a bit of snowfall. Here though, it's all people are talking about. The snow and ice are bringing real misery to some areas - the novelty has long since worn off. A reader from the UK / Ireland will see a potential menace here. It's interesting that readers from other places might think, "What's the big deal lady? So it's snowing. And...?"

I'm trying to think about books I've read where the weather almost becomes a character in itself. Any ideas?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Music to write to...

I love this picture. I've been thinking about music over the last couple of days as sometimes it's really good for getting you into the mood of a scene, especially the angsty type scenes.

When I was writing The Watchers I had two basic playlists I used:

'EMO' - music purists look away now! I wasn't specifically listening to Emo bands but generally anything a bit dark, edgy, angsty or reckless. I found this good for writing the love scenes, especially where love seems to be thwarted and Evie is getting angry and frustrated.

'DANCE' - this is self-explanatory really. I can't say it helped create scenes as much as help focus me and get me in the zone. I've always found dance music helps me concentrate, especially trancey, uplifting stuff. It gives me energy and makes me feel alert and relaxed - the perfect writing state!

My EMO playlist is long but includes: Aqualung, Bjork, The Smiths, Evanescence, The Charlatans, Auf Der Maur, Pearl Jam, Portishead, Massive Attack and Moby.

DANCE list is eclectic but very chartsy and accessible, including: Chicane, Orbital, Moby, Paul Van Dyke, Future Sound of London and Jakatta, as well as just upbeat stuff from The Avalanches, Ne-Yo, Beyonce, Primal Scream and Justin Timberlake 'Sexy Back' - which I love - don't ask me why!!!

Anyone else got a writing soundtrack, or a great 'mood' song suggestion?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Happy disbelief.

Ha! This image represents ME!

Today I got an email from my agent, saying how much she is looking forward to working together. I feel like writing 'my agent' again. 'My agent'. Ha! :-D

The point here is that I am still kindof in disbelief. Back in June I started writing a story. I sweated over it during the summer, occasionally doubting my own sanity and shedding tears over my own stubborn stupidity. After all, I could have been lying about chilling, dammit!

Now I am getting emails that use phrases like 'strategy' and 'submissions' and 'visits to publishing houses'. It's like a vindication of my hours as a hermit and the unfailing support of the (angel) Murph and the fabulous Bernie McGill (not to mention her daughter Mary).

The book isn't sold yet - in fact it will be a couple of months before I will even get an inkling in that direction - but the fact is I am Joe Bloggs the writer and for anyone out there who dreams of writing a book I am the living proof that you CAN still get an agent and POSSIBLY even get your story published. Even as a brand new, non-celebrity newbie on the block!

'My Agent'. HA!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

I have an agent!

Ha ha! I like this pic!

So I can hardly believe I am writing this but I now have a literary agent! I spoke to Gillie Russell (Aitken Alexander, London / New York - might actually pass out writing that!!!) on the phone tonight and she sent a contract (agreement letter) through by email. So now I just have to sign on the dotted line and send it back - and hey presto!

It hasn't really sunk in yet but I do feel really happy. Of course the book now has to be sold but I feel like I'm another step along the long, long road to getting The Watchers published.

Just looked back at some of my first blog posts in the summer and grinned, remembering the days when I really wondered if my head was cut spending my precious holiday writing a book. But, as they say, no pain no gain. There were lots of times when writing the book was great fun but there were other days when it was like having teeth pulled without anaesthetic. I think that's the bit you don't realise when you read books. You assume it was effortless. I now know better...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Where do characters come from?

I'm always interested in where characters come from. Sometimes you read a book and a character stays with you for a long time afterwards - from Lyra to Lizzie Bennet, Frodo to the father in The Road.

There's a kind of magic when a character arrives in your head with flesh already clinging to the bones. J.K. Rowling famously said that Harry Potter arrived on a train she was travelling on. She had to rush and write things down before she forgot any details.

Certainly I've had this experience of someone appearing in my head fully-formed. It's like a kind of magic or a gift from a strange little corner of your mind. One of them was Evie in The Watchers. She arrived, complete with troubled background, one night in February and I scribbled some notes in a book. She caught my imagination but I didn't get a chance to write about her until June. There was a sort of urgency about her that helped drive me through writing the book. Interestingly the few people who have read The Watchers in draft have all cared about her and found her likeable and believable. Gillie said that she has a kind of integrity that makes her compelling. Maybe this is because she felt so real when I was writing about her.

I can think of two other characters I've written about in half-finished books who 'arrived' fairly randomly. One appeared in a 'picture' in my head - a man sitting in the woods around a fire, with a teenage boy and girl beside him. The other arrived as a name and a sense of who she was and who her opponents were. They're both characters I want to come back to in time.

Of course the problem, as ever, is time. So no more blogging tonight! Time to do some storytelling!

And if anyone is feeling bored... who is the girl in the picture? What's her story?

Candlelight - The Maccabeats - Hanukkah

Cutest video ever - how much do I love this?!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Reading to an audience = scary!

First things first. Fab picture came from here. I only found this site when I googled looking for a cool image but actually wish I had read through it earlier!

Tonight the Murph and I risked life and limb driving along the icy roads to Flowerfield Arts Centre for a special evening. "Say the Word" was a gathering of writers from all over the area, including local writing groups. The standard was intimidatingly high.

It's hard to know what to read in public sometimes - something short is usually good! That's easy to say but when you're picking an extract from a full-length novel it can be tricky finding a scene that is complete in itself, especially when it's 'fantasy'. After all, the audience haven't had a chance to read the book - they don't know the 'rules' of the world you've created.

I kept it as simple as I could and read from the Prologue to Book 2. It's a nice scene with Javan as the central character. He plays a much bigger role in this book than in The Watchers so I wanted to start things off with a bang. It got a fairly good reaction as it has a scary twist and got some "Oooooooh's" at the end - always a great sign! Job done and back home in one piece - all is well!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Plot Thickens...

I've reached about 8,500 words of the new book, sequel to The Watchers and it's going pretty well. It's amazing how quickly you can get out of the way of writing when you don't do it every single day!

At the minute I'm plotting a bit and figuring things out as I go - the fun bit! I don't want to get to far ahead of myself though. I have a fairly clear idea of the first 6-7 chapters, the big moment in the middle and the ultimate end point of the book. I don't want to nail it down any more than that just yet, as it starts to feel like homework or joining the dots. Basically I wish I could write faster so *I* can find out what's going to happen next!

Pic came from here.
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