Thursday, 29 August 2013

Audiobook and ravens

Today I was told the book is coming out as an audiobook. They even sent me samples of four actors they were considering - two men to read the Kelley strand and two women to read the historical strand. I had a clear favourite so I let them know my preference, I think we're all in agreement! There's this machine that is taking my book and turning it into products - the type I like, stories. Great stuff.

It's forty-two days today until publication. Who doesn't love the number 42? Tomorrow we go off to take some pictures of a raven, a real live raven who, with his handler, will be helping us create some more publicity pictures. The raven's name is Brann, and he is beautiful. They have a sixteen year old crow, too, but I don't know if I'll get to meet him. This a video of him and a peregrine falcon flying to their handler - on a moving truck, filmed in slow motion. The raven flying upside down is awesome.

So it's all pootling on, I'm celebrating on the Island with my friends and family on the 22nd October, and the book will be away, hopefully making new friends. Who knows. If not, I had a great time and I still have two books to go. I am very, very lucky.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Pick yourself up, dust yourself down

OK, I'm back. Two weeks off and ready to run again. I've managed to work on the ending a bit more, I have about 16k words of what will be the big final battle. It will round off plot threads from all three books (hopefully) while leaving the way open for book 4 and 5. I'm over halfway with the book, but as usual, I have a strong beginning, a new ending and little idea about the middle. Each book seems to have less middle, and more beginning and end. Eventually I'll just write the two ends and join them up.

I've been networking, and have met a talented local writer who is a long way down the journey to publication. In fact, I've met several strong writers recently and am hopeful that I may be able to put a group together than will help me keep learning and push forward. Opportunities for learning have become more difficult to find. Part of me would love to do A215 again, this time with more attention. I'm still writing and reading, of course, but it's nice to have someone look at your words and point out what they've noticed.

I'm in a bit of a dilemma with the books. Last year, when I didn't know if I would get a book deal, I wrote A Baby's Bones, a bit of a prequel to The Secrets of Life and Death. My agent, Charlotte, threw that in the mix in case they doubted I could do other books. The problem for me is, they bought book 1, book 2 and the prequel. I have since realised that I would much rather publish the whole trilogy with Del Rey UK. I love being in the same stable as Django Wexler, EJ Swift, Liesel Schwarz, Kameron Hurley and Mark Hodder. Big names! 

Book 4 is writing itself in the back of my head as well. George Pierce, the 'rat-man' of book 1, was just so much fun to write I'm working on a short story about him, and getting ideas for book 4 along with it. Not to mention that I get to spend a bit of time researching Moretonhampstead, which plays a large part in his history. I also get to go back to my archaeologist, Sage, as she investigates an irregular burial for the Home Office. The burial of a child outside a churchyard's walls... 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

All the colours in the emotional paintbox

I often wonder if being prone to depression has invaluable payoffs for a writer, musician or artist. I know people who are bubbly optimists, and who minimise emotional pain obsessively. They are the ones, when someone dies, who tell you 'he had a good innings' or 'at least she didn't suffer'. But when something does go wrong they don't adjust as well to illness or change. This is no help at all when I'm actually gloomily wading in the muddy swamp of grief I find myself in every August but when I come to does kind of help. One of my characters grew up isolated and sick. her life has been defined by her struggle just to live, it has affected her personality. When she rises above that, fighting for her family and who knows, even love, she is sort of heroic. That's the way I would like to see fighting out of depression, heroic. But people who have never been depressed really don't understand it.

I've heard all the 'why don't you go for a walk' and 'just ignore it and do something nice' comments I can presently cope with. Depression affects the way you interpret the world. It's like saying to someone who's temporarily blind, 'why don't you go and see some art? That will make your eyes work again.' Hm. No. Depression makes it exhausting just doing the things you have to do, let alone stretching yourself to do more. It's like having the flu. You're exhausted, you ache, you feel weak. And you are sad, painfully sad. It's easier to do nothing because whatever you do do hurts.

But, if I can drag myself to the computer, something else happens. I write less, that's true, and my concentration is pants so I can't organise my thoughts as well. But the writing is richer, more emotional, more true somehow, as if it comes from a deeper place. I suspect it's less guarded or filtered, and it certainly uses all the colours in the emotional paint box. My character is fighting for her self, as she feels she's losing the battle. But she keeps going and it's easier for me to understand her feelings.

For me, this is grief. Years ago I spent ten exhausting days watching my child die, and those days have left a mark. Every year I relive the agony of not pushing food and drink on an eight year old who's decided not to eat and drink. Watching her pain escalate and her morphine with it, until she slept through the last day. Feelings ran up and down the emotional scale from the very top to the depths, every day, all day for those last ten. I seem to run that emotional memory through the background of my life these years, and it's exhausting. Where I didn't sleep in the past, now I have insomnia or nightmares. Where I was anxious then, I get sudden panic attacks. I know it will be over on the 22nd August, the day after her death, but in the meantime, I'm trying to keep writing, and keep remembering until it's over. It will be over soon.

Monday, 12 August 2013

59 days before publication and having nightmares

I've started counting, like a kid counting down to Christmas. Even though I've been warned - publication day might be the quietest day in the calendar. So I'm planning something small, maybe a meal out with the kids or something. I feel like I ought to celebrate somehow!

Meanwhile, I've hit the argghh moment with book 3. It happens later and later, but basically I run out of plotting to write. Everyone's in a bit of a tangle, basically, and I can't think how to get them out of it. My strategy (which might be rubbish) is to start on the ending. It's what I've done on the previous books, and at some point I expect to realise there's a really big beginning and a big ending - and I can just join them up. Hopefully. I wish I had a bit more control over the process.

I've been meeting other writers as well. It's interesting. Even when you meet people who are just taking up writing again, or even for the first time, you learn something. Most writers are very experienced readers, and they just have an eye and ear for weak spots in a story, clunky prose etc. But there are some rather good writers in the mix, some pushing forward towards publication, as well as a more experienced published novelist than me. It's nice to be in a group of writers again, worrying about the use of a word or fussing over the pace of a scene. 

Meanwhile, as it does every year, my inner skies turn grey and nightmares sneak in. My daughter's death haunts me every year for ten days - the same ten days we nursed her at home through what we realised was her final illness. I don't know why, but the nightmares are often about corpses, often floating or on ships. I have no idea, but last night's one was particularly bad. I ended up sleeping a few hours with the light on. Is it any wonder I tend to gravitate towards horror and crime? 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Writing one book - or a series?

It's true that publishers like series. If readers invest in characters, they like to know more. I wonder if it's easier to get a book deal with a potential series than a collection of one-off books with unique characters.

I was in a writing group the other day listening to a rather good historical writer read out an extract from a book he was writing. He had been unable to form all his ideas into his first novel, and had already planned two sequels. This wasn't cynical, he isn't yet looking at publishers, but for him the appeal of a series of books about well developed characters was as much the writer's as the reader's. It occurred to me that it's so easy to write a book when you already know the people, the relationships, and have had time to consider the longer story arcs.

But. In writing the first book, you set some things in stone, and it's difficult to go back and change them. I also find it hard to keep tabs on everyone and all the back story. I should keep records, obviously, but I don't because I always think I'll remember it. Now, writing book 2 and 3 and planning books 4 and 5...I'm running into continuity errors. Big ones.

The only thing that's helping is having to edit the older books while I'm writing the new books, that has saved me from a few serious slip ups. There's a lot of going backwards and forwards, checking, checking.

A friend of mine is just hoping to sell her book, but looking at creating a series possibility to make it more saleable. That's probably good advice for anyone wanting to sell a book in this market. At least if they make good sales the publishers will encourage more in the same vein, so it helps to have outlines planned even if just in your head. Even if you never write them. But, who knows? You might fall in love with your characters and want to take them on more adventures.

Oh, and in case you missed it, I'm blogging for Mslexia at the moment!