Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Snow White and Rose Red (or Why Write a Novella)

Also titled Eating My Words.

I've finally, finally, finally got my new laptop back after a month-long fiasco with a dreadful computer shop in Kigali. The hard drive had a meltdown, leaving me with my faithful backup laptop. Unfortunately the backup didn't have a battery, so went down every time the power had a hiccup, and the keyboard's been typed to death, so I have to use a clunky 80s-style USB pug-in. Your brain rattles as you type. 

So, happy days! 

Yesterday was my first day writing in about five weeks. It's been like a missing limb. Well, maybe not quite as much like a missing limb as the time my hand was in bandages for three months, but really close to that.

Obviously, I'm back to writing Still Life. I was hoping to slay 2,000 but only managed 1,100. The research on this one is brutal. It's about an hour writing to every three hours reading Wiki, browsing Paul Townsend's pictures of Victorian Bristol and watching documentaries about The Great Exhibition.

Attempting to counteract some of this attention to detail, I've written the first 1,000 word of... a novella.

Yes, I do remember writing a post a couple of months back titled: Never, Ever Write a Novella.

I stand by that post. If you're a writer considering a novella in the hopes of finding a traditional publisher - don't do it. I swore I never would again.

I really meant it at the time. Then Ghostwoods read Wolfish and said they would like it, but... would I mind writing another one? After all, two novellas make a novel. 

I must admit, I really enjoyed writing Wolfish. As I said in my posts, it's so refreshing to write a story where you don't have to do any research at all. I did it with Secret Order. It was a bottom drawer novel, but it felt like cleansing my pallet between two full-on historicals (Rosy Hours and Children of Lir). It reminded me what fun writing can be when you don't have to think about it. Like the stories I wrote in primary school about animals that couldn't possibly live in Africa, but  I included them in my story about the savanna because I liked tigers. Why can't a cheetah and a polar bear be friends?

Perhaps my adult fairytales have a bit more plot to them, but it's that giddy sense of spinning on the spot. I can have a forest where any plant in the world can grow. I can have a character wearing anything they damn well please without having to Google 19th century fashion first. Nobody can tell me kettles hadn't been invented. It's delightful.

Originally, I said I'd get through Still Life first, because I didn't think I'd have focus enough for two, but I was so elated at getting my laptop fixed that I'm going for the double whammy. I wrote parts of Wolfish and Creeper's Cottage simultaneously, so it's doable. As with those, this is a split between first person and third, so you have to recalibrate your brain when switching.

I've decided to go with a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. I think most of my stories begin with character-driven imagery. This one whispers to me like Red Riding Hood did and I think it would run complimentary to Wolfish

Neither of us know which of us came first, but the midwife told my mother we were holding hands, our fingers interlaced like a single length of cloth. “Cut from the same fine fabric,” she whispered, as she sliced our cords with her sharp knife.

In my dream, the sun was just broaching the horizon. Those ancient hills rolled like waves of tar against its brilliant crown. But that was the thing, see. As I came towards the light, propelled forward into day, my sister fell backwards into night. They say we were born at the same hour on the same day, but a single day holds both sun and stars.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Beautiful Book Art

I popped into Nakumatt in Kigali the other day. Saw this whilst passing the book section and had to stop. Could it be...? Yes, it must! One of my all-time favourite artists has done a book cover. The unmistakable imaginings of Ray Caesar.

Friday, 21 April 2017


Just saw this nice article on the BBC about Armenia. Many years back, I did a short stint out there with a charity, popping over a couple of times. It wasn't somewhere I'd ever really thought about. I couldn't even place it on a map before booking the tickets. 

Having been, I would absolutely recommend it. A beautiful country with so much to see. The first country to turn Christian in 301 AD, but also home to the last remaining Pagan temple in Transcaucasia.

On my days off, I managed to get round most of the things mentioned in the article:

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Lynnea Glasser

My publisher, Ghostwoods Books, has been letting their authors take over their Twitter feed recently. I spent a couple of hours talking about my own work last week, and this week I was in time to catch a fascinating lady, Lynnea Glasser.

I've spoken in the past of my love of text-based roleplay. How books like Fighting Fantasy and the world of MUDs helped shape me as a writer. 

Well, as well as contributing The Star that is Not a Star to Ghostwoods's Cthulhu Lies Dreaming anthology, Glasser is also an avid text-game author. You can find her work over on her website Made Real Stories. She is best known for the award-winning Coloratura:

Coloratura was a fun way for me to combine three of my favorite passions: science, music, and horror into something truly novel and exciting. It also was a great exercise in game design and planning. It won first place in the 2013 Interactive Fiction Competition and the "Best Game" award in the 2013 XYZZY awards, along with several other rewards. - from blog

You can play and download all of her games via her website. It's so wonderful to see text-based gaming alive and well in this age of gratuitous graphics.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Piano Addict

I've just written an article for Piano Addict about the Kigali Keys project

We're almost at £1,000 after just one week. Apparently if we can reach 20% funded, we stand an 80% chance of reaching our total. I've posted an update on the project page explaining how you can help us get there.

Don't forget, you can also follow the project through our blog, Facebook page and Twitter.

Help us to build pianos in Rwanda.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Piano Love

Sorry guys, you're not getting anything about writing out of me for a couple of months. Not unless you support the crowdfunder. I promise, building pianos won't mean no more writing - it'll just mean writing and music.

Here's an old piano I found in a field several summers back. Left over from a festival.

I was reminded of this after seeing a very cool article on public pianos around the world. I think we need one in Kigali.

I put my newly acquired piano mending skills to use yesterday. A few weeks back I got a call from the Korean church in Kinyinya, not far from where I live. Someone had accidentally managed (still not sure how) to cut five of the bass strings. I helped identify what they needed and the new strings arrived yesterday. Everything's back in working order and sounding great.

A couple of other fun piano-related things I found online: two screen pianos, one operated by mouse, the other by keyboard. Simple, but cute.

Then there's this wonderful online piano museum. The website is made out like an actual place you can walk around. Lots of pianos from throughout history to ogle at.

Finally, back to the crowdfunder. Any help spreading the word, and of course, any donations, hugely appreciated.