Friday, 10 March 2017

It happened!

Oh poor neglected blog, I've been away too long. But in the intervening time - 4 years since my last post! - a wonderful thing has happened. I signed a publishing contract with Orion and my debut novel The Companion will be published this year, in hardback and ebook on 27th July and paperback in November.

I now have a website and new blog  - it would be lovely to see you there!

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Next Big Thing

I have been tagged for this Q and A by the lovely Linda Green, bestselling author of several novels including And Then it Happened and the forthcoming Mummyfesto. She was also once my writing tutor and helped to inspire me to give this writing lark a serious go.  You can read her answers to the questions here
Meanwhile here are mine:

What is the working title of your next book?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 
Fourteen year-old Stella is in trouble, worse than that, her Trouble has got out: she’s called Eris and she’s an ancient goddess who specialises in misunderstandings, conflict and asking really awkward questions.

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
My day job is as a question writer and verifier for quiz shows.  This leads me into reading and researching a wide variety of subjects. One day it led me to Eris, and once I'd found her I just knew I had to write about her. I then had a “what if?” moment - what if Eris was the Inner Goddess of a teenage girl, and what if, one day, she got out…?

What genre does your book fall under? 
Young Adult / Teen fiction

Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
As the main characters are all between 14 and 16 I imagine they would be young, upcoming actors rather than established names, which is another way of saying I don’t know of any 14 year old actors that would fit the bill! But for Eris I’ve always imagined a young Agnes Deyn, in spikey elfin hair mode. The main character Stella is Emma Watson circa ‘Goblet of Fire’. The two main boys are Ray / Raven - a teen Richard Armitage and Davey Lord, who would be an ideal role for a Harry Styles lookeelikee.  And my daughter would never forgive me if there wasn’t a part for Tom Felton, so he could be the escapologist Slippery Steve.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve written short stories for years and have had several published in anthologies and one broadcast on Radio 4. I took part in the Gold Dust mentoring scheme with the novelist Jill Dawson which really helped me to get my head round plotting and structuring a longer piece of work. 

When it came to writing this novel the Young Adult / Teen genre seemed to come most naturally. I have a teenage daughter and she loves to share her books with me. I particularly love Jacqueline Wilson, who has made me cry, Louise Rennison, who makes me laugh and Tamsyn Murray who manages to do both.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
I’m hoping to find an agent.  I am just honing my synopsis (with the help of the highly-recommended ‘Write a Great Synopsis’ by Nicola Morgan) and then I will be submitting it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About five months for the first draft, mainly writing first thing in the morning before starting work.  Then I let it lie for a bit and worked on something else. I returned to it last October and started a substantial edit, which I finished just after New Year.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
The book is set at a small music festival, a fictional amalgamation of many I have been to.  I have always loved the magical feel of festivals and the often surreal sights and events that take place. It seemed the perfect location for Eris to make an appearance and I enjoyed combining the modern setting with a thread from Greek mythology. Eris’s story is an ancient one, but the themes of choice and loyalty are still relevant today.

I’m handing these questions over now to the extremely talented Karen Clarke.  I have always loved her short stories and now she has a novel out - and I love that too! It’s called ‘My Future Husband’ and you can find out all about it over at her website and  blog, where you will also find her answers for The Next Big Thing

Friday, 26 March 2010

Synchronised Thinking

I had one of those weird moments of synchronicity today.

My novel has a fair number of mythological references (not too surprising as one of the central characters is a Greek goddess). I was editing a scene today in which one of the (non-goddess) characters is holding a glass of wine like a bowl in her two hands and another character thinks she looks like an oracle looking for answers in a scrying cup. Shortly afterwards the glass breaks and the goddess character has a ponder about bad luck quotas, 7 years for a mirror, how much for a glass?

I decided to Google the whole 'breaking a mirror = 7 years bad luck thing' and discovered that the 7 years bit goes back to the Romans who believed we renewed ourselves completely every 7 years and therefore that's how long a damaged soul (ie one that was broken when a mirror smashed) would take to heal. BUT the superstition goes back further than that, beyond early mirrors and polished shields and slices of obsidian, back to the scrying pools of dark water that were used for divination.


Wouldn't it be satisfying though if my novel ever gets published and I get a letter saying, "Did you know....?"

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

It's Good to Talk

The edit/rewrite continues. I'm loving adding to my word count in the side bar each day. Over 14,000 words edited so far. And I'm actually really enjoying it. The lovely Anna Chilvers author of the splendid Falling Through Clouds told me I would and I should have just believed her - thanks Anna.

Had a particularly chewy scene to deal with today. On the original draft I had scrawled 'what is this scene trying to do?' across it. After reading this post on Calistro's blog and doing some big doodling with a sparkly purple pen borrowed from the daughter's pencil case I found the answer. Then I looked at the scene. It wasn't doing it. The characters were there, Id set the scene but 'it' wasn't happening.

What to do?

I was so mired in the original scene that I found it really difficult to imagine rewriting it even though I knew it had to be done. Then I remembered an exercise we did recently at my Stephen May writing class. I got a blank piece of paper and a non-sparkly pen (optional) and wrote the scene completely as dialogue. I didn't worry about style or precision. I just let the characters chat, pretty much as I thought they would do in real life. Their conversation veered off in various directions but in the end after pages and pages of chinwagging and confabulation I knew that in amongst it all I had managed to tell 'it'.

It took me the rest of the day to edit it down, getting rid of lots of the dialogue in the process, especially the 'Well yeahs' and 'What do you means?' and the bit when they started discussing house prices in York (?!). Then I put back in all the description and action bits.

The scene is now so much better. There is a point to it. The reader learns more about the characters and their desires and fears. It moves the story on. It has a beginning, a middle and an end - yay!

A sigh of relief and a new technique learned. I imagine it won't be the last time I will be using it. 66,000 words to go.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Yeuch its a bit dusty in here. Where've I been? Working mainly but also, ahem, on Facebook. Have decided however that the occasional two-liner on FB isn't doing it for me, so am planning to blog more regularly again.

Couple of things brought me back here.

One was wanting to talk about reading out loud.

I've been told many times that reading your writing out loud is a useful part of the editing process but I've never really taken it on board. Then last week my writing class (taught by the splendid Stephen May) had a reading session in the cocktail bar of a local pub. It was a brilliant night, with some fantastic stories (and the cocktails weren't bad either).

Earlier in the week I chose the story I wanted to read. It was one I had recently entered into a competition and was quite pleased with. I practiced reading it out loud. Eek. How come I hadn't spotted the repeated words, the clunky sentences, the dodgy dialogue. All fixable and I did alot of editing before I read it in the pub, but I really wish I'd done it before entering it into the comp.

Ah well, lesson learned. In future I am going to make reading aloud a compulsory part of my editing (might even progress to taping myself and playing it back - gulp!)

Second thing was The Novel. Still Novel #1 although Novel #2 does exist in a skeletal form.

Quick catch up - wrote novel in 2008-9, March 2009 started sending out initial chapters and synopsis. Throughout 2009 I received 6 rejections - but all with positive feedback- and one request for the full manuscript. Nothing (not even a rejection) has resulted from the request for the full ms despite me sending a follow up enquiry.

Anyway I sort of decided to shelve novel #1 and get on with #novel 2. But novel #1 wouldn't stay quiet. It's a story I really want to tell, and has a central character who just won't stay quiet. So, I got out my rejection letters and tried to work out exactly what they were saying. Turns out they were all saying pretty much the same thing, they loved the concept, they even said they loved the writing BUT they didn't 'fall in love' with the book.

I re-read my novel.

I didn't fall in love with it either, and with the benfit of a six month absence from it I saw the glaringly obvious - no bloomin' conflict. At least not enough of it, not of the immediate and necessary kind anyway. All my conflict was in the past and my characters were just dealing with the repercussions . One of the knock on effetcs of this was that most of my characters were pretty flat. I wasn't showing them at their fictional best ie when they were under real pressure and facing immediate conflicts. This is all basic 'how to write a novel' stuff that I'm theoretically well aware of and yet had somehow managed to miss out on in practice.

So. Major rewrite about to begin. I have gone through my ms with a pen and scribbled sweeping edits - 'drop this character', 'completely rewrite this scene', 'do I really need this chapter?', as well as a few ticks here and there for bits I'm happy with. It's almost like starting all over again.

I've got a month off work and I'm determined to finish this edit by Easter. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Yes I know I should be working or writing but...

The Guardian Book Blog is just too distracting and it was from there that I pinched this:

42 Essential Third Act Twists

I especially like 'Reverse Robot Reveal' and 'Dark Lord Reasonable'

Wonder if I'd get away with either of them in my act three...

Monday, 19 October 2009

My first ever book review

Apologies for the blog gap, all the usual excuses, plus I have been busy reading this

If there's anyone left out there who isn't aware of this new novel by the very talented Cally Taylor, then listen ye - its fab!

I'm not too hot on book reviews, in fact I've never written one before. I have that problem with non-fiction generally (except my blog but then I'm JG not SD so it's OK). And indeed my contributions to my monthly book club meet-ups are usually along the lines of "Sorry I didn't get round to reading it", "Yeah, it was good, erm yeah, I especially liked the bit, you know..." and "These crisps are great!" But here goes:

I read a whole lot of stuff across all sorts of genres (except horror cos I'm a scaredy cat) but this is my first 'supernatural chick-lit' and - I loved it. What makes it so good? - (I mean apart from the fact that I just bloomin' well enjoyed reading it and was torn between wanting to get to the end and not wanting it to finish).

OK, totally real main character. Lucy is someone I know, I mean she must be cos I feel I know her so well, she's 100% believable and rounded which is not a bad feat considering that she's dead. The supporting cast are fabulous too, all with enough personality for you to want to get to known them better (even smelly Brian). The premise of a 'wannabe ghost' (in fact a whole house full of the) is brilliant and the plot unfolds in a way that keeps you wanting to stick by Lucy through everything that the afterlife throws at her. The pace is page-turning and the dialogue and observation, witty and clever. Erm, what else - oh yes - wonderful ending, and I don't just mean the last very satisfying couple of pages but all the twists and turns that build up to it.

Yes Cally is a blog friend (and I've even once met her in the flesh!) but that wouldn't be enough for me to praise her novel, or to buy multiple copies for family and friends this Christmas (including hopefully one in Spanish - it's been translated into at least seven languages already) - but that is what I am doing.

So go and hound your local bookseller for it. It's already waiting for you in Waterstones and Borders and it's hit the charts at WHSmith. It's also flying into baskets like hot buttered scones over at Amazon. Look I've even provided the link