Winter overlaps Spring

Go read the post “Little Deaths” by Terri Windling. It’s a voyage through the end of winter, drawn from two separate climates, dry desert and damp Devon.

Her themes include the death of the Sacred King, Le Roi Sacré, at the end of Winter – a theme strongly linked to the underlying mythos of my novels THE LAST RHINEMAIDEN and SHADOWBOX.

Skull small

Another snippet, this time a quote from Ellen Kushner referenced in the post:

“Does fantasy demand that you stay in your adolescence forever?”

Again, in The Last Rhinemaiden, the character of Louis Beauregard is at the end of his life, an elderly man, not frail but aware that his time must come. About as far from adolescence as any man can get.

His aim in the novel is to end in sacrifice, as he knows he must. But he’ll fight it all the way.

“I don’t want to die. But I have to be killed.”

There are young characters in each novel, but Louis is the one who fascinates me. I’m intrigued by his position, by what it would do to someone’s behaviour, his outlook, his friendships. There’s a space of almost sixty years between the novels and perhaps I’ve taken the wrong route between them both, writing the old man before I asked what would make him so.

Writing the end before the beginning; winter overlaps spring.

I found writing the character more fascinating as an old man than the young rascal he is in Shadowbox. (When I’ve finished writing the current series of Petticoat Katie novels, I can see me taking you on a mid-life crisis with no-longer-young Mr Beauregard, one step ahead of his fencing-master and his old Russian nemesis.)

And then who knows?

Another link, this last week, was Dean Wesley Smith on “My Best Work“:

“What happens if your most acclaimed book, the one history will remember you for, is going to be your sixty-third book written? And you only manage to write ten? Or thirty?”

So, to the work then, and let posterity be the judge. None of us will ever know – unlike Louis Beauregard – whether we’ll endure. We must simply travel through time, ever forward, through each little death of the seasons, towards the future.

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on Winter overlaps Spring  
Tags: , , ,

The road goes ever on and on…

After a few false starts, the next Petticoat Katie novel is underway. Phew!

At the end of December, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a good post about how to tackle the year ahead – getting knocked off a goal – which includes some great advice on how to start writing again when you’ve stopped, for whatever reason.

He details four handy tricks to get back into the groove:

1. Plan what project you’ll work on;

2. Have a backup project;

3. Set a backup “time for writing”;

4. Set up a “buddy” to report into.

The key for me is knowing there are stories I want to get to, further along my project list, which I can’t start until I’ve written the ones before.

After the satisfaction of writing SHADOWBOX, I have a hankering to write another big historical fantasy. I have a couple of Petticoat Katie novels after the one I’ve just started, which still need noodling time. And there are more to come, none of which I’ve discovered yet, waiting for me to learn the lessons I’ll need to make them great.

The voice which drags me back to the writing desk when there’s other fun to be had is a reader who wants me to succeed, one who I’ll never meet, one who wants to travel a wondrous road with me and find herself back at her own front door, guided safe by my words.

First steps.

“Little by little, one travels far” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunset over mountains (c) Lee McAulay

Published in: on January 21, 2015 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on The road goes ever on and on…  
Tags: ,

A Hundred Tales of Kanban for Writers

Way back when Dean Wesley Smith started his 2011 Writing Challenge, I threw myself into writing a bunch of short stories, mostly to back up my Cuckoo Club novels.

I was reminded of this recently by a post over on The Daring Novelist, when Camille LaGuire blogged about What’s Next on her writing schedule as part of a ROW80 update. Once I’d started my reply I realised it would be unbecoming of me to take over her comments section with the details and decided it really ought to be a blog post of its own.

Blogging’s like that. So here’s my words on the subject of writing a bundle of short stories.

I began to build a list of possible short stories by filling a page with titles – hand-written, very small, one per line and I think I stopped at a hundred. I did it in my spare spare time – waiting for a takeaway, or in a cafe while waiting for a friend to arrive for coffee, or while my PC booted up. Any five minutes or so when I couldn’t dig out inspiration much beyond a handful of words.

The titles which appealed especially I transferred to a five-by-ten table and began to work out which theme the title suggested. This involved coloured pencils and subtitles and lots of footnotes. Lots of fun.

Those that REALLY appealed got written.

Out of that exercise I got the stories I’ve written as Vita Tugwell – including the novels – and about a dozen of the Tales from the Cuckoo Club Archives.

The latest of these, Carter’s Loss, will be published as an ebook across all the usual resources (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, Xinxii, etc.) when I’ve given it the once-over and added a few zingy bits. Or maybe a McGuffin.

I’ve got nearly eighty titles left on the list.

Some of those, I suspect, will never be anything more than a neat title, and others will veer off into a new series of novels or novellas (hint: two at least, very promising conjectures both). Some of them were simply titles that provided a link to the next title in the list as I pulled them out of my imagination. They were cheesy, but essential, and the goal was to come up with a hundred titles for short stories.


And then…

I read a post over on InkPunks titled Getting a Handle on Your Short Story Queue.  The post talks about a technique called kanban, which I’d never heard of before – it’s a project management process for visualising progress of project tasks and phases.


I won’t go into it here, as the explanation over on InkPunks is so clear.

Kanban example from

Kanban example from

Anyhow, I transferred all my writing projects to a spreadsheet mock-up of the kanban process, with suitable phases and tasks according to my style of writing.

Now I can see how many of the hundred titles are lined up for actual word production, and how many stories will never get past the first assessment stage (i.e. I can’t see how or why I might write a story about That, whatever That might be).

Using the kanban process lets you see what’s next in the queue for writing – and move things around if you don’t feel ready to write a novel, right now, but might have the juice for a short horror story or a teeny paranormal romance novelette (no, I’m still waiting for the inspirational moonlight to strike me on that one too, hehehe).

It’s a good feeling of anticipation when you move a project into the Production phase.

And it’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you move that project – that novel, short story, novella, novelette or non-fiction volume – into the phase marked “Complete”.

So you can start on the next.

Momus & Faber Finds

Here I am, thundering through the first draft of a novel whose characters include 100 typing monkeys.

Momus’s copy of something by Umberto Eco, published by Faber Finds, and looking uncommonly like spiders on caffeine.

And over there, there’s Momus, noodling on the quixotic production of Faber Finds, which are new to me, and described thusly:

Faber Finds — there must be a couple of thousand of them by now — are titles which would otherwise be out of print, but whose unpopularity doesn’t warrant a full republishing. Print-runs can be as low as a single copy.

Now, the romantics amongst you might be thinking awww, how sweet, that a publisher might love such a book enough to keep it going by POD, and – yes! – doing so in an aesthetically appealing manner.

However, those of you who have been following the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and a whole host of other writers far more experienced and successful than I am (for now) might choose to believe that this sort of shenanigan is simply an excuse to hold onto print rights for a book which would otherwise revert to the writer.

And, while I agree that there is a certain attraction in the simple covers and quirky typeface, after looking at two or three I started to think the artist was being overly creative with the sort of short, curly hair many people have waxed off…

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 10:15 am  Comments Off on Momus & Faber Finds  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Joy of Bloggy Relics

When I find a new blog I like, one of the activities I enjoy most is going back to the earliest postings and reading the whole thing through, up to the most recent.

From the start of Joe Konrath‘s blog, you read about his efforts to push his books to bookshops across the USA. He documents the details and the sheer hard work he put in to make this happen, and then there’s the subtle shift… He finds ebooks.

There’s Dean Wesley Smith, writing his sensible advice back in 2008, cautious about the new technology that is starting to gain traction.

Luann Udell, whose posts go back ten years on the trials and tribulations of making a living at your art (in her case, little Stone Age horse figurines).

My newest discovery, Grumpy Old Bookman, whose blog posts from 2004 onwards are an online archive of the development of publishing in the UK, including the rise of ebooks and indie publishing. I’ve been looking for a source of information with a UK perspective since finding Dean Wesley Smith two years ago. This is one of those sources, and I prefer it to others.

Nicola Morgan, the Crabbit Old Bat, is a great read and another UK perspective on publishing, including ebooks and especially non-fiction.

Terri Windling, whose lovely welcoming blog has lots of great illustrations used liberally, photos and words and links to folklore topics and a perspective from the editing side of the page. Plus, she has a very photogenic dog.

All of these – and more – filled with musings and developments. The gradual buildup of posts create a voice, a real sense of personality, and the best of them create a sense of being someone’s “home” on the web.

Each time I read a long-enduring blog, I’m reminded that the volume of posts takes time to create. One of the joys is seeing how situations change the writer, or the writer finds their niche or their specialism or their folly.

This inspires me.

Each blog post of my own is a marker on my own web history, the development of my work or the growth of my writing voice, what I choose to say with it.

The messages I send to the future.

And I know I’ve barely begun.

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on The Joy of Bloggy Relics  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,