Thursday, 25 August 2016

Creepy Fin

Sitting here with a nice cold beer.

Just completed the first draft of my Hookland novel, Creeper's Cottage, weighing in at 106, 443. I predicted a post or two ago that it'd come in at around 106,000 - surprised I guessed to close.

I have to say, it was a hard one to finish.

As I say every time, I'm not so sure how good it is. I'm past the point of objectivity. I'd be disappointed if this is a third bottom-drawerer, but I'm prepared to accept if it is.

Going to take a holiday in the real world and start editing in a week or two, then it'll go off to Martine and RauirĂ­, my close friends who act as occasional beta readers.

I'll take their advice and work towards a cleaner second draft for submissions.

I've spent the past six months playing in Hookland, so it's going to be sad to say goodbye, but due to the creative commons nature of David Southwell's creation, I know that I will probably return.

I'm revved up for my next project, a retelling of Red Riding Hood, probably novella-length (40-60,000). I need a break. Novels are a long slog.

I've also been battling distractions lately. I met Dionysus over drinks one night and I've had my head turned ever since. Too busy daydreaming to form a coherent sentence of any sort.

It's like that episode of Spaced where Brian, an artist who paints 'Anger, pain, fear, aggression,' falls for Twist and finds he can no longer paint.

Friday, 19 August 2016


Well, that's the state of my brain. How's everyone else doing this week?

This post was supposed to read Creepy Fin, but it doesn't, obvs. 

Had a slightly off week. 

Well, off - good.

A very dear friend left the country, and we had a big goodbye celebration, starting at her place and ending with tequila at 3 a.m. in a slightly seedy bar in Nyabugogo (the place you don't go-go after dark). Got home at half-four in the morning after a wobbly ride across the city on a public motorbike. 

This'll come as no surprise to anyone who isn't me, but I really can't drink like I could when I was in my twenties. It took me three days to claw back a sense of self.

Needless to say, this threw my writing routine into total disarray. I'm having a hard time wrapping up Creeper's as it is. Saturated in doubt and struggling to tie things together. I just couldn't face it. I bottled.

I haven't been completely unproductive, though. Managed to submit a fairly decent (in the eye of the beholder) science fiction piece to a magazine. I'm trying to make at least one submission to paying mags a month, using the weekend to work on those. 

We had a glorious thunder storm a couple of nights back. Rwanda's coming towards the end of our long dry season at the moment. This is an average week:

We haven't really seen rain in three months, so when the sky lit up and the clouds rolled in, it felt like a real celebration.

I feel sorry for people back in the UK who never truly get to experience the joy of rain in quite the same way.

Anyway, along with the rains I caught a dose of spring fever, so my mind is all over the place. Need to reel it back in and finish this sodding novel. I'm with R. R. Martin on the 'I enjoy having written' trip. Actually writing is fairly hard work most of the time. It's especially annoying because I can see the end, I just need to get there.

No more drinking for me - ever.

Ever, ever.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Creepy 100

Blimey, what a week.

Had a bit of a marathon session yesterday. Went to a conference on Thursday, so only managed 1,000 of my 2k a day, which left three to complete on Friday. Thought I was doing good at 10k a week until Emma Newman tweeted she does double that. That's exhausting just to contemplate.

Anyway, looks like next week will be the last. Approaching the end, just tipped the 100,000 word count. I'm putting in a bet at 106,000 pre-edit. I have no idea if I've done a good thing or not. Could be looking at a third bottom-drawerer, but hoping it'll stand up.

This is the third time I've cracked the 100,000 mark in eight novels, five published. It's true what they say, writing long is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it starts to get, but in truth I prefer short and sweet. It's a time risk tackling longer work on spec.

I'm actually pretty geared up for the next novel, working title Wolfish, which I'm hoping to turn into a novella-length distortion of Red Riding Hood. A return to the poetic prose of Rosy Hours and Children of Lir (which I'm assuming is likely to be a 2017 release, haven't heard yet).

I'm always hugely uncertain about my contemporary attempts. Both bottom-drawer misses have been those, but I'm not yet ready to accept that I can only sell books when I embrace eloquence in the past tense.

I always get a bit jittery towards the end of every novel.

Just have to wrap it up and wait to see if it has wings.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Living for Literature

Interesting couple of articles recently.

“When readers were compared to non-readers at 80% mortality (the time it takes 20% of a group to die), non-book readers lived 85 months (7.08 years), whereas book readers lived 108 months (9.00 years) after baseline,” write the researchers. “Thus, reading books provided a 23-month survival advantage.”

And it does appear to be fiction, rather than factual journals, that make the difference, helping us to enter a state of deep reading. This is the point at which books can bend our brains and contribute to evolutionary processes.

As the article goes on to say:

The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them. 

The other article I thought was interesting: The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby.

This gaping hole in the record of our lives has been frustrating parents and baffling psychologists, neuroscientists and linguists for decades. It was a minor obsession of the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, who coined the phrase ‘infant amnesia’ over 100 years ago.

I explore this issue in one of my earlier novels, Lucid:

When a parent dies, you don’t just lose them, you lose part of who you are. Other people come and go through your life. Most of them you don’t meet until halfway through. But parents are there from the very beginning. They were there through all of the things you can’t remember. They were there even before you had memory. It’s all those conversations beginning with ‘do you remember...’ that die with them. There are parts of your life, of who you are, of what made you you, that cannot be accessed alone; that need someone else to return you to that moment in time.

It’s scary how little of life we remember, and how much relevance we place on those precious fragments that we do. They become our anchor in this void of transient oblivion.

What did you have for breakfast this day two years ago? If you don’t remember, does that mean it never happened?

The answer might be ‘because it’s unimportant’, but isn’t it funny the things that are important. Little moments of childhood, the tone of somebody’s voice, the look in someone’s eye, an experience, a heated exchange, and, in between all of those muddy remembrances, the half-imagined things which leave us with only a sense of something having happened.

I was having a conversation with my friend Jo the other day. I asked whether she was worried that all of the places she visits with her daughter are going to be forgotten, and Jo said something very interesting. She feels that her daughter will remember more of her childhood than you or me, because of the digital age in which we live. Photographs and video clips act as external memory. When we see them, we often remember so much more about the time and place they were taken than we would if there was no visual prompt. She says her daughter already looks at photographs and recalls who was there at the time and what they were doing.

Memory is such a fascinating subject.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Creative Kigali

Just confirmed.

I'll be teaching an Introduction to Writing Fiction course in Kigali from 29 September 2016.

The idea is to go one step beyond creative writing to help nurture adults looking to develop their fiction writing skills.

It's a six-week course at Casa Keza, near Kacyiru SOS.

More details on the Creative Kigali website.

Very much looking forward to this.

If you'd like more info on Creative Kigali, you can also find it on Twitter, Facebook, and join the Facebook group for Rwandan writers.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Endangered Names

Whilst researching for Creeper's recently, I stumbled across a site listing 10 Rare English Surnames About to Go Extinct. Quite surprising to see some famous ones on there: Mirren, Nighy and Bonneville.