Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shara Returns

It's been 18 months since I finished the third draft of the second Shara Summers novel, entitled DEAD COOL. I haven't touched it since then.

Why? I got discouraged. Feedback I had from beta readers suggested there was a lot of work still to do on it. So much so, I didn't know where to begin.

Some writers refuse to listen to criticism. Sometimes I think I have the opposite problem. I listen to too much criticism. Someone says to me, "I don't think this plot is working", I look at it and think, "they're probably right". But then I have no ideas for a new plot so I just stop working on the story. I have had a few people say, "I don't like your amateur sleuth; she's not a strong enough character to take through a series". This triggers a little voice in my head that insists there's no point in carrying on with any more books about this character because no one likes her.

All this effectively meant I got so discouraged about writing about Shara I couldn't carry on with the series. A book I got three drafts into has been languishing on the PC ever since.

Two significant things happened since then. First, my NetBook died about a week after the crit session I had for this manuscript. I had been using said NetBook to make copious notes about what my critiquers were saying. I didn't back this up anywhere. When the NetBook died, this file was lost in the ether forever. Given that this was some time ago, I no longer have a clear memory of what I was told I needed to fix.

Second, I have recently had feedback from someone else I gave the manuscript to - a retired copper who used to work for the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad. I gave him the manuscript because I wanted to know if I was making any glaring errors in the police procedural bits.

He came back to me recently and told me how much he enjoyed it. It was a good holiday read, he said - the sort of story he'd probably take to the beach to enjoy while relaxing in the sun. And he had no problem with any of my procedural scenes (except apparently they don't draw chalk lines around bodies anymore). He also didn't have a problem with my amateur sleuth taking advantage of the fact that one of the investigating police officers fancies her, and using that to get information about him about the case. My writing group critiquers had a problem with that. It's highly unethical for a police officer to have any kind of relationship with someone who should be a suspect, they said.

It might be unethical, but as my copper friend pointed out, policemen are as human as anyone else. They might well engage in unwise relationships with someone they encounter on a case. In fact, he'd come across such things happening in his career.

The strange thing is, encouraging comments from just one person who enjoyed the book have inspired me to finish it. And maybe the fact I no longer have my crit session notes is not such a bad thing. There's a balance to be had between ignoring all criticism and heeding every negative comment. Sometimes, you have to trust your instincts.  With the Shara books, the fact that I enjoy writing about her should be enough to keep me coming back to her.

And that small voice inside? That's the voice of self sabotage. That's the voice that tells me to listen to all the criticism. And I think maybe I need to learn to ignore her every once in a while.

Shara Summers will be back very soon. And if you haven't been introduced to her yet and are curious about my actress amateur sleuth, DEATH SCENE is available for the Kindle for a mere £2.59. American readers can find the US link here.

In the meantime, I am working on the fourth and hopefully the final draft of DEAD COOL. And you know what? It's not nearly as bad as I thought it was.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I'm a bit remiss about posting this, but I recently signed a contract with my publisher, Lyrical Press, for an urban fantasy M/M romance, Exterminating Angel.

It's been a long journey with Zaphkiel and company. For at least two years, I jokingly referred to the story as "The Zaphkiel Project." I've lost track of how many times I changed the opening or, indeed, the plot. But the core premise always remained the same. An archangel unwittingly summons a demon, and requires Lucifer's help to destroy it.

Funny thing, people I pitched the story to wanted to read it. Horror writer John Everson told me to "go for it." Those three words were all I needed. For over two years, I wrote and rewrote, pushing my characters as far as I could without them revolting and killing me. Although, to be fair, there were times I wanted to push them off the proverbial cliff. (I love my characters and all, but damn, sometimes...) And then there was Raziel, who hinted he wanted a separate story. (I'm still debating that.)

I didn't know what to expect when I submitted Exterminating Angel to Lyrical. And the title? That came  from brainstorming and listening to Blutengel. Now, for me, titles either come easily ("Death by Fresh Air") or it's like digging through ten feet of solid concrete with a teaspoon. Not going to happen. And this was a teaspoon moment. Oh, I tried to come up with titles, A Discordant Melody being one. Sounds science-fiction, right? So I brainstormed. I wrote everything possible connected to the book, including songs I listened to, and one of them was "Oxidising Angel" by Blutengel.

For some reason, that led to "Exterminating Angel," which is a film by Bunuel. But it fit. I'd found my title. (Btw, I've seen a couple of Bunuel's films: Un Chien Andalou and Viridiana.) To say I was relieved I had a title was an understatement.

That said, I'm awaiting pre-edits from my new content editor, and I'm as nervous as a kitten in a rocking chair factory. I'm grateful and humbled Lyrical accepted my strange, dark, twisted little story. Lyrical was my first choice, and I appreciate their willingness to take a chance on an unknown author.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

End of the Pity Party

I've been rather neglecting this blog of late. I don't really have any excuses to offer - I've been off my game but that's not an excuse.

Since the end of December I've had a lingering persistent mystery virus that's left me feeling permanently under the weather. It's been an unusually long cold winter in the UK. Generally by March we can expect temperatures to be rising into double figures.  March this year we were still getting snow. In fact we were still getting snow in April. Now we're into May, and it's more like March - cold and wet.

These things have all contributed to a general feeling of malaise that has gripped me since the beginning of the year. The upshot is, I haven't done nearly enough writing. When I'm not feeling happy I don't sleep. When I don't sleep it's harder to get out of bed early, and I spend the day feeling fatigued. And this leads to not being able to concentrate.

These are all pathetic excuses. The facts are, I have two WIPs on the go (actually three, since I've decided to get back to the second Shara Summers book - but more about that at a later date) and I've not done any work on any of them for weeks.

In the meantime, my last new release was over a year ago, I have no new books out in the foreseeable future and the book-buying public has a very short memory. Sitting about feeling sorry for myself will not get any books finished. It's time to give myself a kick up the backside.

There are no more excuses. Writing is about discipline, about getting it done, about putting in the hours for word counts and the promotion. I'm leaving this pity party now. I've got books to write.