Monday, 24 February 2014

Finally! Book 3 is in a proper draft.

After struggling to write with all the distractions of cancer in the family and trying to get the house ready to sell, book 3 is finally all in one place. It's also an unholy mess, as the longer I take to write a book the more room for mistakes there is, changes of heart, plot lines that peter out into nothing, characters that just wander off and I forget to explain or, you know, massacre. It's finally all in one place along with a few blank pages with 'Jack chapter - how does she get to Dartmoor???' at the top. So far, it's 87k of vaguely coherent story, but I'm worried that I've been accumulating characters as the story goes on in the series and now there's way too many. Time for a serious prune or even, when I rewrite book 2 next week, the necessary movement of some stuff into book 2 to take the pressure off book 3.  

Life is strange without a phone, and very intermittent internet. In some ways it's more manageable and it's helped with the distraction of 'Oh My God It's Cancer' which still has the odd echo rippling through the family. I miss speaking to family, mostly, as the mobile option is a bit poor in our convoluted geography.

Next week I shall be ready to blitz book 2 into shape (hopefully) with possibly the odd addition from book 3. But my mind has already turned to the sequel to A Baby's Bones, an archaeological mystery. The sequel is set in Moretonhampstead and I'm looking into maybe sneaking away for a couple of days to go and see the site of a strange ghost sighting at Lustleigh Cleave. A servant girl, walking back over the moor to see her parents some miles away, saw a group of Neolithic hunters, and the description by Theo Brown, a folklorist, caught my interest. Great area for atmospheric locations for stories! After a sunny morning, it's started raining again. A half-drowned buzzard has just landed on the conservatory roof. Maybe he'll hold it down, because all the storms have played havoc with our roof!

For light relief I'm reading 'Longbourn', a charming retelling of the over-told Pride and Prejudice story - but from the servants' point of view. Loving it. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

A week in the Dark Ages

Now, I shouldn't have a problem with the complete absence of internet or phone. I was born in the sixties, and we didn't have a phone then, and the internet only existed in inventors' heads. So when a huge lightning flash and bang knocked out the power and the phone line, you'd think we would cope fine, wouldn't you?

A week later we had gone through withdrawal from the internet, and come out the other side. I must have picked up my tablet a thousand times, just going to look something up, check Facebook or emails, blog... it was a strange experience! I didn't realise how connected I was by the internet. This last week we have packed a thousand boxes (OK, probably 30 but they're really heavy), moved four bookcases into storage, kept husband company on his targeting CT scan for radiotherapy (which starts in March), thrown away oodles of clothes and other things to the dump, tidied and sorted and cleaned - Oh My. And I couldn't tell anyone. I couldn't even phone (I still can't and BT have dug up the road to work on it) and our mobiles have very limited reception here in the valley. 

I was reduced to writing without access to the internet for research. How would an Arab mathematician address an English mathematician? Would that be different if he had just bought him at auction? How far is Alexandria from Brindisi by sea (oh, I so wished I hadn't packed the atlas at this point!). I did do some words, and I'm coming into the very last stretch of book 3 - or I would be if I hadn't separated out the two strands and now have to reunite them as some point!

I'm also editing book 2 which came to a complete halt when I realised I couldn't access the notes my editor had painstakingly made for me to work from... I hate missing a deadline but it's never going to get done by the 28th. Crazy days. I'm going to enjoy the internet while I still have it though - I doubt I would have attempted a historical novel otherwise! 

I'm also going to have a go at the Liebster award Teresa Stenson nominated me for - I loved her responses, check them out! Thanks, Teresa!

Monday, 3 February 2014

February already

I had a bright idea: that I would be finished with book 3 at the end of January. Good idea but a bit unrealistic because I forgot how many things I had to do in January. I went down to Winchester to talk to some students on creative writing courses, and some other writers, and had a fantastic time. Looking over the seated people (a fellow student from my year in the front seat) it was lovely to be telling my story and encouraging fellow writers to push on, finish that book, get on with the next one. It's not a pipe dream, it's still very hard to get published, of course, but those writers who have stories they just have to write down would probably find readers just as enthralled by their characters. I followed that by a talk to creative writing students at Brockenhurst college. If my personal philosophy wasn't 'give back, give forward' I still would have got loads from addressing these different groups. Questions make you look at what you do and why. Sometimes it is the younger students at the beginning of their writing journey who make the biggest challenges, and gave me a chance to reflect on aspects of writing I hadn't considered consciously before. So, thank you for making me welcome and thank you for making me look at my writing practice and understand the process better.

Anyway, back to work. Book 3 is in its last stages of development then I can put it aside for a couple of months to work on book 2. Book 1 is in its paperback incarnation (which will, hopefully, sell well) and looking rather eye-catching, I think. It's embossed like the hardback, very glossy white writing, very smart. 

Meanwhile, cancer-cat seems unbothered by her probable fate, despite being a bit lumpy around the neck. It has made me wonder what it would be like to be animal and child free at some point. Free to travel, maybe. I can't imagine writing without her, though. She sleeps in the study when I'm working, curled up on a  blanket  on a sling on the radiator, occasionally sitting on my lap and the keyboard for attention.

I am wrestling with the vagaries of sixteenth-century travel. Countries that we think of as Greek were under Venetian control but they must have had their own ideas about their identity. Venice wasn't part of 'Italy', which wouldn't exist for centuries. My characters are aliens, lost in a conflicted world of the Ottoman empire.