Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying Goodbye

(Cross-posted from Darkling Delights)

Many bloggers will probably talk about saying goodbye to 2013, and reminiscence on what they've accomplished or wanted to accomplish over the last twelve months.

I'm saying goodbye, too, but not for the same reason. This past week, I turned in what would be my final round of content edits for Exterminating Angel. Now all I'm waiting for are the line edits and the galley.

Non-writers may not understand what it's like to say goodbye to characters we've spent months or even years with. For over two years, Zaphkiel and Company were part of my life. I came to know their fears, desires, what made them angry, their regrets, and other nuances that make characters unique. I can't tell you how many different beginnings I wrote. Characters that appeared in one version were excised in the next. Certain scenes, even entire chapters, hit the chopping block. But through it all, the premise remained the same:

"An archangel who unwittingly unleashes a demon upon the city must enlist the help of  Lucifer to stop it."

For me, Zaphkiel is an archangel who truly believed in what he was doing, but didn't realize the repercussions of such actions. He isn't perfect. Hard-smoking and hard-drinking, he's lived with a lot of regrets over the centuries. His closest, perhaps only, friend, Raziel, a fellow Throne angel, does his best to support him, but understands there are some issues Zaphkiel needs to deal with alone, including the death of his lover, Caliel.

But is Caliel really dead? Or is he reincarnated in a young man, Sean, who not only looks like Caliel, but has many of his mannerisms?

It was fun writing Lucifer, who worked on a need-to-know basis, although he often drove the other characters crazy. The only character he confided in was Raziel, although he shared a sobering truth with Zaphkiel.

Even though I'm saying goodbye to these characters, there's still a chance they might appear in other stories, although I've no plans for a series. So I guess I'm not really saying "goodbye" but "later."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Home for Shara Summers

I'm very pleased to be able to announce that the second novel in my amateur sleuth series has found a home with MuseItUp Publishing.

The first book the series, DEATH SCENE, introduced my amateur sleuth - Canadian actress Shara Summers, summoned back to England because of a family crisis.  One of the things I wanted to explore in the series was the concept of cultural alienation.  Shara makes observations throughout about things that are different in England, compared to her home in Toronto.

It proved a tough sell.  One of the most common reason for rejection for both books was the fact that my contemporary amateur sleuth was not based in America.  I got told many times over that such things do not sell in America, and therefore there was no market for the book.  Americans like books set in America, apparently, or historical English mysteries featuring people like Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes.

When Lyrical Press took the first book I started writing the second.  Officially titled DEAD COOL, my working title for it was "The Case of the Defenestrated Rock Star".  Mostly because "defenestrated" is such a great word, and how often do you get the opportunity to use it in a sentence?
However, by the time LPI released DEATH SCENE, they'd stopped taking mysteries and were focusing on romance and erotica, so I knew there was no market with them for the sequel.  And so Shara Summers was adrift, without a publisher.

Not to mention that by the time I finished the third draft of the second book, I'd developed some serious insecurities about it.  You know how it goes.  It's rubbish.  It's full of plot holes that can't be fixed.  Why am I deluding myself that I'm trying to be writer?  I crawled into a hole with the book and didn't want to come out again.

Then on holiday in France a couple of years ago, I met a retired London Metropolitan Police copper who used to be on the Murder Squad, and I asked him if he would read my crime book, to pick up any glaring procedural errors.  He agreed.  When he came back to me, he told me he'd really enjoyed it.  It was a good holiday read, he said.  And he hadn't picked up any major problems with my procedurals.

Which is exactly what I need to hear, and it gave me the confidence to finish the book.  Said retired copper will be getting a mention in the credits, but I owe him a lot more than that.

Now I am delighted that my Canadian amateur sleuth has come home to Canadian publishers.  No release date has yet been set, but it is likely to be the latter half of 2014.

I am very much looking forward to working with my new publishers, on Shara's continuing journey.  I hope you will come along with me for the ride.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Writing Lessons # 18 - Starbucks and Inspiration

It's been a while since I blogged in this series of posts, but I'd like to pick it up again.

In the last post (some time ago now so here's a reminder) I talked about the importance of routine.  Part of my writing routine is a couple of early-morning sessions in Starbucks with the NetBook, before I go to work.  It seems to work for me.

The strange this is, this is now so much a part of my routine that I actually get more done in that hour before work than I do when I have the day off and I endeavour to spend the day writing.  On average, I get 1,000 words written in that hour.  On a really good day, it might be 1,800.

But it has to be Starbucks.  I am never quite as productive if I sit in some other coffee shop.  I can't really explain why.  Part of it might be that I generally don't like coffee, unless it's Starbucks.  And even then it has to be a single shot, with sweetener (or syrup) or I can't drink it.  Here in the UK, we have Continental coffee chains as well as American ones.  Europeans generally like their coffee far stronger than Americans do.  I can't drink coffee from other coffee shop chains - I find it too strong and bitter.  But Starbucks soya lattes, I like.  I also like their muffins.  My favourite ones were the ginger ones, which sadly are no longer available here.  But I've recently developed a fondness for their new chocolate hazelnut muffins.

So I sit there at 7:30am with my NetBook, my soya latte and a muffin, and as I eat the muffin and wait for the NetBook to boot up, I start thinking about where my characters are and what comes next.  By the time I finish eating, I'm generally ready to start.  Maybe it's the sugar rush from the muffin, combined with unaccustomed caffeine (I'm generally a tea drinker).  Maybe the fatigue has something to do with it.  Because I have to get out of bed at 5:30am for my writing mornings, I generally start them somewhat sleep-deprived.  I have discovered that this seems to be fairly good for my creativity, particularly when I'm working on a first draft - because I'm writing before the 'internal editor' has woken up.

Or maybe it's just that I'm a creature of habit.  Because these early-morning writing sessions are now an integral part of my routine, when I sit down in Starbucks with my NetBook and my coffee, I expect to write, and I do.

Whatever the reason, it seems to be working for me.  So I shall carry on crawling out of bed in what feels like the middle of the night in order to keep up my early morning Starbucks writing sessions.  The word count is testament to their effectiveness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Riding the Contest Wave

I've recently entered four contests, with plans to enter another one before the end of the year.

Am I expecting to win? It'd be nice, but I can't expect the same success I had with EPIC. Except for two contests, the others were for screenplays. If I even semi-final in one, it'll be an achievement.

In one contest, a friend and I are competing in the same category. We've already accepted we don't stand a chance in hell of winning, and this particular contest only has one winner in each category. But it's not so much about winning as getting our names out there.

But why contests? After all, they cost money, there's no guarantee of winning, and you're competing with thousands of people around the world.

Yeah, those odds suck. And one can't enter every contest. Two I've entered are also part of film/screenwriting festivals that I hope to attend. And the other is an opportunity to get my book noticed and possibly adapted. It's a gamble, but not doing anything assures failure.

One of my goals is to turn some of my short novels and short stories into screenplays, and vice versa. Make them do double duty. If I'm lucky enough to get a work optioned, that would be awesome.

Hey, no one said I couldn't do it. :-)