Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sneak Peek - PI4

This is the cover for PI4, so yes - now you know I am committed to writing it.  I was going to call it Risk, because there is a huge game of Risk involved - watch out for Al the Guardian Angel, I'm not sure he can be trusted to honour pacts.  It's new title is 'Into the Realm of the Fae' and I think you can guess from that what it might involve.  However, I intend to write something completely different before I move on to PI4, perhaps something historical which is my passion.  I love the past - perhaps that is why I made Leo a time traveller so I can live my time fantasies through her - should she ever master the skill that is.  Right - I can't hang around here all day, I have several chapters to attempt to finish.  Adieu.

Jane Austen

There is something very comforting about curling up and losing yourself in the world of Jane Austen.  I'm not one hundred per cent sure what it is: a bygone world of civility?  Stories where the good people always end up with the right outcomes?  A joyful romp through Regency England?  Whatever it is there are times where only Austen will do.  At the moment I am surrounded by boxes and bags as we pack up to move out of Leo's Cat Hill flat that has been our for three years.   It is not chaos, but it is not a comfortable environment at present.  Little wonder then I long to escape to the world of Miss Austen, the only question is which novel should I step into?  Old favourite Persuasion or perhaps one I am not so fond of, such as Mansfield Park?  Let me find my Kindle and choose...

Friday, 3 August 2012

The World of Paranormal Investigations (Cockfosters) - the Cat Hill Flat

Feline Court
As I am sure you know Leo lives in a tiny flat on Cat Hill in East Barnet.  I know this flat intimately because it's mine - at least it remains so for another sixteen days until I move out.  I have been on Cat Hill for three years and last November when I was looking for a fictional home for Leo it seemed the easiest thing to make mine her's - it saved on imagining a fictional place.  This is something I have done with almost all the settings in PI - they are all real and if you wanted to, you could do a little PI tour of Barnet and Cockfosters.

I chose my flat as the setting because I wrote PI1 for Nanowrimo last November; I was writing quickly and wanted to make my life as easy as possible in those thirty days.  There are aspects of my life in Leo's (although not all) and much of her background mirrors my own.
Trevor's culvert in the car park

It is a tiny flat and would be very crowded with all the strange visitors and family Leo has descend on her, so as I move it may also be time for Leo to move on.  I guess I'll just have to see how attached to the flat Leo is and whether I can make her part with it.  She has some money coming her way so it would be possible for her to move on - I just can't imagine her being anywhere without Bob across the hallway and that might be enough to make her stay as I move on.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The World of Paranormal Investigations (Cockfosters) - disused tube stations

This tube station is part of the Piccadilly Line (the royal blue one on the maps).  You can tell it's PL because the outside is 'oxblood' in colour.

Strand Station is actually called Aldwych, although when it opened in 1907 it had the former name for all of seven years.  It was never part of the main line, it was merely a spur from Holborn and when replacing the lifts proved too expensive the station was closed in 1994.

In 1908 the eastern tunnel was taken out of use due to lack of demand and in World War One it was used to store paintings from the National Gallery.

Between the wars it was often considered for closure because not enough people used the service, but it managed to hang in there until temporary closure between 1940 and 1946 when, during The Blitz, the tunnels and station were used to store works from art galleries and museums including the Elgin Marbles.  It was from this nugget of history I wrote into PI2 that there were still a few artifacts milling around down there, long forgotten.

I used this location as the home of the undead dead of London, in reality this would not be possible for, unlike most of the disused stations, Aldwych is not mustering away forgotten underground.  If you have seen a film featuring a London underground station - it was probably Aldwych starring as itself or pretending to be another station.  It featured in V for Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later, Atonement and even one of the Superman films!  A few days after I took these photos the station was even used by the emergency services for practice drills in preparation for the Olympics.

So, closed - but not forgotten and certainly not idle!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic Procrastination

I am great at finding excuses not to write and it seems these days there are so many reasons not to.  If I am in the midst of an exciting chapter I can't be torn away from it, but if I've had an enforced break (such as the workload for my day job becomes all consuming) and I am in a 'bridge' chapter it is really hard to get back into it.  

I call a 'bridge' chapter one that doesn't tell much story in itself, but it is an important bridge to other parts of the story.  It is sometimes hard to find the word count and I often doubt the worth of the book at these points.

Today there is another option for procrastination to join the usual (Facebook, Twitter, doing the laundry, washing up, writing a blog, etc, etc) - the Olympics!  Last night my sleepy eyes were glued to the Opening Ceremony and today I just cannot tear myself away from the rowing and swimming heats and the cycling road race.  How is it possible for a human being to cycle 156 miles and still manage a sprint finish?  Amazing.

So now I shall get back to pretending to write whilst most of my attention is given to these amazing athletes of London 2012.  I wonder how long it is before some unconscious aspect of the Olympics slips into PI3?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Fforde Ffiesta

I can't remember if I've told you about the Fforde Ffiesta before. If I haven't it's quite hard to explain. I'm there now - with a rare moment of 'down time' in amongst the chaos of celebrating the works of best selling author Jasper Fforde. If you haven't read his books you reall aren't going to understand why fully bearded men dress in grey wigs and black dresses as clones of Mrs Danvers from Rebecca - heck even if you are au fait with Jasper's books it takes some understanding!

Every year we gather in Swindon because that is where Jasper's first book featuring Thursday Next (The Eyre Affair) was set. Books aren't often set in places like Swindon which makes it all the more amusing. Our location is the De Veree Village Hotel and since we are annual visitors they have gotten used to the more odd aspects of our stay. Lobsters are scattered about the hotel, dodos can be seen (often themselves dressed as Mrs Danvers) as can sane adults dressed in a variety of guises. Last night we had a Grammarsite, Moose Havisham, a mime field and a gingerbread lady. These costumes are often worn in and out of the hotel, I spotted a dragon in the local Asda yesterday.

Yesterday evening Jasper gave us a sneak peek of Thursday Next 7, a book not published for a few months. This is an exclusive Jasper saves for the Ffiesta every year as he is one of those writers who churn out more than one work over the space of a year. That was followed by 'royal angst' poetry inspired by Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. In the best tradition of the Ffiesta most of these were made up on the spot. My particular favourite was the one about wheth the queen should fart or hold it in. My contribution has to be read with a Prince Charles voice:

Being a royal
Is not all It's cracked up to be
Being a royal
Is bloody hard work you see

Being a Tampax
Threats of anthrax
Talking to plants
And drunken old aunts

Popular young wife
Gave me no end of strife
Two strapping young lads
I think I'm one of their dads

My dear old mum
'll live to 101
By then it's said
I'll probably be dead

Being a royal
Is not all It's cracked up to be
Being a royal
Is bloody hard work you see.

My highlight of the weekend is the auction. There is always a good amount of Jasper Fforde collectibles to bid for, although I still haven't managed to get a first edition Eyre Affair. This year he is auctioning off the desk he wrote most of his books on. I hope someone arrived in a van as it's a substantial sized desk.

Right, there is lots more I could tell you about the Ffiesta, but I just don't have time - you'll have to join us here next year.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

That Tricky Third Book

So - books one and two complete, about time to start work on the third then?  To be fair, I think starting a new book and plotting it's intricacies is always difficult - I just forget how labourous the task was previously because I have a shiny, finished book to show for it. 
Each time I start a new book I have enough ideas for maybe three chapters and some idea of the 'big events' including the ending.  It's scary starting off like that - without much idea of where things are going, but I have found in the past if I plot in too much detail I have 'told' the story and am already bored of it by the time I get to writing and all my interest fades.  So - to counter this - I note a few things down that I don't want to forget but then allow the story to take me off where it wills.  In book two of PI a character who was only ever meant to be a voice on the phone muscled her way into the action and built up her part.  Likewise a throwaway character from PI1 decided he wanted a larger part and became rather vital to several aspects of PI2 and his shadow threatens to cast itself over the whole series.  On the other hand a character I thought would be more obvious was little more than a shadow across the PI world.
Well, this procrastination here with you has been lovely, but it's not going to get book three written so I'd best be off.
The rough mock up of the PI3 cover

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pretentious writer - moi?

Since I stopped trying to be pretentious I have found it a lot easier to write.  Now, I don't blame anyone but myself for becoming one of those writers with literary pretentions but I can see where it started.  You see, in 2001 I began an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.  This was a wonderful experience, taught me a lot and I met some really wonderful people - some of whom are enjoying a good publishing career like Bethan Roberts.  However, the one thing these courses teach you is to aspire to more than popular fiction, literary fiction being the only 'respectable' outcome of your efforts.  Now some 'literary fiction' I enjoy, but some of it is just bunkum - seriously, have you tried to read Wolf Hall?  I gave up when I could no longer tell which character's point of view I was meant to be with.
So, since giving up pretentions and just writing something I find enjoyable, that I would wish to read, I have found writing a whole lot easier.  And you know what?  It's just more fun!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Another one bites the dust

Well, after several months Paranormal Investigations two (will work for biscuits) is finished and uploaded on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. I have also prepared the paperback and received the first copy from Lulu - it looks good and I definitely did a better job formatting this one.

Now I have to choose my next project, although when I will get time to write I am not sure as work has been mad. PI3 wants writing but the Wolf Book needs a good edit. And I also have to catch up ony reading - my kindle is fit to burst.

Two weeks until the Easter holidays - hooray!

Saturday, 18 February 2012


If you want to write and have a finished book to show for it this is my advice: don't stop!

I recently took a month off and this month ended up being six weeks long.  After writing daily since November 1st I was in danger of burn out. In two months I had written one and a half novels and needed a break.  January came and I had a delightful time not writing.  I didn't feel tied to the laptop, I didn't feel guilty if I spent my spare time doing something other than writing.  When February came I just couldn't get back into it.  Nothing motivated me to finish my novel.  Then I made myself start and it wasn't very good - I'm sure the resulting chapter is one I will have to go back and polish another time.  I couldn't remember what had already happened and who was called what.  I couldn't remember who put cookies in Tupperware and who used tins.

Last night I stopped writing and re-read the book so far, editing out errors as I found them.  I corrected the Tupperware for tins and checked I hadn't already given Colin Maitland another name.  I was relieved, as well, that it wasn't too shoddy.

So my advice to you is to write everyday until the work is done.  This is the advice I shall be following myself in future and maybe my breaks will be between novels, not in the middle of them.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

What the Dickens!

I like reading about the places I live in, particularly the history of said places. I've lived in Barnet for five years now so am still getting to know the place. The most famous bit of Barnet history is of course the Battle of Barnet from the Wars of the Roses, or the Cousins War as it was known as then. It was a significant battle because the Earl of Warwick was slain there. Lots of the roads in New Barnet are named after the main families of the war: Plantagenet, Woodville, Leicester, Warwick etc.
The main road through Barnet is the Great North Road and the title really speaks for itself, although part of it was rerouted in the Victorian times. Chipping Barnet (High Barnet technically only applies to the tube station) was the last stopping point before London, ten miles to the south. To serve this purpose it was a town full of coaching inns, as Dickens wrote in Oliver Twist "every other building was an inn". Of course that legacy vanished with train travel, but you can still see parts of the olds inns in Barnet. The Red Lion still stands, now a Toby Cavery. This inn hosted Samuel Pepys when he came to take the waters on the site where the hospital is now and also Charles Dickens ate there before rushing off when notified his wife was giving birth to a daughter. Perhaps it was this experience that encouraged Dickens to make Barnet the place where Oliver Twist encounters the Artful Dodger, as he uses the town briefly as the location for this scene.
Now I have added to the literary canon of Barnet as it is the location of my Paranormal Investigations books.
A place rich in history Barnet is also rich in possibility, although I doubt out really hosts the amount of supernatural beings I give it. You can never be certain though...