Tag Archives: writing

New Books on the way

Exciting news as I have signed a new contract with Bookouture for a further two books. Both of these will be standalones and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you.

The first book is out in March next year, with the second to follow in September.

They are both a little different and both stories that I have wanted to write for ages. Real books of the heart. Also the first, which I refer to as Foxfield, is a cautionary tale on never giving up on a book you love. I wrote a version of it a few years ago but the market was not there for it at the time. It was a young adult book, on the younger end of the age range. When I spoke to my lovely editor Ellen about it she saw the possibilities and the rewrite is underway as we speak, no longer young adult and with a darker, more adult tone.

It always pays to remember in publishing it only takes one yes, and some books take just that little bit longer, and perhaps a few adjustments, to find its place.

I’m so happy to be able to say that Foxfield is going to finally make its way out into the world in a new and even more exciting form.

Bookouture re-sign Thorne and Josselsohn

Reading and writing and musing

I am not well-read. Not in the traditional sense. I have an English literature degree. I love to read. I take pleasure in books of all kind from their physical form to the wonders inside. But I am not well-read.

As a writer, one must read. There are so many reasons of this but for me it’s a case of getting the ideas moving — the giant fan stirring up the words like tokens in the Dome at the end of the Crystal Maze TV show so you can plunge in and try to grab the gold tokens from the air, while avoiding the silver ones which have negative value. In a sense, that is writing to me, madly whirling around in a place full of fluttering glittering ideas and trying desperately to grab the good ones.

Ideas come from everywhere, it’s true. They are all around us every day. But more than anything else, ideas come from other books. Carl Sagan said that when you open a book and begin to read another voice is whispering to you, from across centuries, across boundaries of nationality, race, gender and experience. We’re hearing the words of another, words carefully thought out and crafted, telling you a story, passing on a message. Sharing.

To be well-read, I always imagine, is to be the person who scores highly on those “100 books you must read lists”, who knows who won the Hob-nob prize in 1992 (yes I made that up. At lease I hope I did), who wafts through a bookshop picking up only the best, the most prestigious, the “important” books.

Oh, this is so not me.

I read what I love. I read the things that grab me and won’t let go. I read the books that don’t seem like a chore (I did enough of that in college), that make me ignore TV, or hunger, or anything else really. The books that keep me up at night going “just one more paragraph, one more page, one more chapter”. I read the books that make my family look to see how many pages I have left before trying to interrupt. Luckily I have a family who understand that “I’ve only 20 pages to go!” is a valid reason for making anyone wait. They do it too, of course. It’s hereditary.

And I want to write those books too. I think all writers should. Write what you love. Write what you need to read. Write the book that will not leave you alone, that wakes you up just as you’re falling asleep to say “I have this amazing idea!”

Reading is a superpower, the ability to bring words on paper to life in your mind, to get so emotionally embroiled in a story that it takes over. Writing is the same, because if you aren’t obsessed with this story, with these characters, how can you expect that magic to work on someone else? It’s hard work, but so rewarding, especially when you seek out the stories that you need to tell, that you ache to write.

And I find them by reading.

I am not well-read, but I read what I love.

I Aten’t dead

So I’m writing again. Very very slowly. I’m not sure why (apart from a lot of non-writerly things going on in real life at the moment, which to be honest probably account for both this and the level of exhaustion I’m combatting). But BUT I am writing, there are words going onto the page and they are (mostly) moving forward. Except for that one day when I wrote 600 and deleted about 1000. šŸ™ Those days happen too.

At the moment I am aiming for 500 words a day. It isn’t very much but I’m working on the theory that any number of words is a positive thing and if I go over the 500 that’s extra-amazing. I’m also working on getting the feel of the book and the characters right.

I have tried plotting. And I keep my “plot” as an overall guideline but basically I know the beginning and the end, maybe a couple of things I want to include and the characters. Everything else is a grey area. Anything can happen. I think I know what I want to happen next but on the other hand it’s entirely possible the characters will turn around and go “Nah, I’m off to do this instead.” It has happened before and I know without a doubt that it will happen again. This is what writers mean when they talk about the voices in their heads or the characters feeling real to them. The subconscious storyteller often heads off in more interesting directions.

Another thing about this story is that it is the second in a series, the first being “A Crack in Everything” which is coming out next year, so part of the process is to reread that first. It has been a while and it’s becoming something of a voyage of discovery, reintroducing myself to these characters who I adore. While at the same time they frustrate me, defy me, talk back to me and generally sass each other.

For example I wrote about 500 words yesterday of a brother winding up a sister while eating a steak sandwich with extra mustard. Will it stay in the book? Probably not. But it was important for me, as the writer, because I was right in the minds of those two characters, could see what made them tick, how they felt about each other and most of all his sense of humour. I’m not even sure it will be important in the long run – they aren’t major characters – but it was fun.

Writing is about exploration of character as much as storytelling. It’s about getting yourself right inside the mind of another being and having a look around. But you arent’ some kind of puppet-master. If I try to make my characters do something they don’t want to, they come out dull and flat. If I let them show me what they want to do, if I go along for the ride, then I learn a whole lot more.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Still here.

To quote Granny Weatherwax….


Writing Process: Beginning

Once upon a time a twitter friend asked me to blogĀ  about my process. And I went… err… okay…

Because, seriously, I don’t really think much about process. I have these crazy ideas and I write them down. Sometimes they aren’t ready to be turned into full stories, sometimes they are part of other stories and sometimes they just torment me until I do something with them.

It goes something like this. I have an idea (a plot bunny) of something cool, interesting, exciting or a particular character, or even a voice in my head. (Yes, I know how that sounds). The first thing is, while cool, the idea has to be persistent. Really persistent. I have a brain like a sieve at the best of time, and tend to keep notebooks around to jot things down, but still, if I’m too sleepy, in the shower, or driving the car on a motorway (true story), unless the idea is a really powerful one, I will forget it. Sometimes in the moments it takes me to find pen and paper.

I do tend to work on the ideas stage on paper with a pen. And yes, I am very fussy about which paper and which pen. It’s the way I learned to tease out ideas, to work out puzzles and if I’m stuck, no matter how far through a book I might be, I turn back to pen and paper, for that tactile, slow experience of creating words. Ideas fill the notebook. I start following up on some of these ideas, which leads me into research.

Oh how I love my research. Because once you get into the research phase, other ideas start to crop up, like links in a chain. Connections in other stories, history, mythology. So many things that start to interconnect (especially when writing The Treachery of Beautiful Things), and from those connections the story starts to grow.

The other thing that is vital is character, and the voice of the character (s). This is something that for me just has to come. I can’t force their voices and until I have it in my head, the story isn’t going to work. Different point of view characters will have different voices so I can end up with a hero and no idea about his heroine. Or a heroine with a silent hero. Sometimes its the first thing to arrive. The other night I found a teenage girl in my head, giving out about her mother giving her a stupid name. I wrote a page of A4 before it paused. I’ve no idea what she’s doing, why, or where she is, but she is jotted down now, so hopefully her story will turn up soon. Then other characters will turn up. Quite often they want different things from the first voice, which is great, because that’s a conflict. And Conflict drives stories.

Jack’s voice in The Treachery of Beautiful Things was a difficult one to capture until I was well into the book. Jenny on the other hand… like my teenage future-heroine of the other night, Jenny was a voice, a character and a scene all in one flash. But I know what Jack wanted the moment he met Jenny–he wanted to get her to leave the Realm. There were other temptations, but honestly, all he could think of was getting her home to safety. The complete opposite of what Jenny wanted.

Perhaps the main thing I find about beginning stories is to just go with it, to tease out the ideas, to follow the voice, to make the connections where they appear and leave the others for a later date. It’s a very fluid time in my writing process, the time when anything is possible and the story is all potential, waiting to be unveiled.

I don’t write into the mist, as it were. I tend to know where I want to go eventually but not how I will get there. Once I know the voice, the character and maybe a few scenes I try to think about where the resolution lies. It is a journey, not just going walkabout, so it needs an ultimate destination. What would be the strangest place for this/these characters to end up? What would challenge and change them the most? What would be the most amazing showdown I can think of?

So there we go – the beginning of my writing process. Possibly slightly insane.

What about you guys? Do you have a preferred way of writing if you write? Do you notice things as you read? Do you follow research like a puzzle box? What are your favorite voices?

To plan or not to plan

That is the question, to paraphrase a certain Danish Prince of questionable sanity.

I’m not what you would call a plotter. (Not when it comes to writing anyway). And yet on occassion I will do it. It all depends on the story I am sitting down to write. So yes, this is a writing post. Otherwise known as a Ruth meanders through a blog post hopefully, eventually reaching some sort of conclusion before she gets bored and wanders away.

Whether you are a plotter or a pantser(1)Ā  is one of those questions that always seems to come up when writers get into conversations. Most people have an opinion on it, some of them quite vehement. I’ve seen Pantsers turn white at the mention of 3 act structure and Characters sheets. I’ve seen Plotters cross themselves at the thought of setting out to write without doing all of this and more first(2).

So what is the difference? Well, for me (because as always I can only answer for myself) I actually do a bit of both. I think it comes down to whether you are a writer who likes to mull over a story in detail before actually writing, to let it ferment and grown in your mind, let those various plotbunnies join together and do their thing, or the type of writer who likes to work all this out in a more structured way – putting it down on paper (or in pixels(3)) beforehand and mapping it out.

Here is my theory. You can repeat it, copy it, whatever – Both these type of writers are DOING THE SAME THING. But while one of them is doing it on paper, the other is doing it in their head. (my inner 10 year old is smirking).

When a Pantser talks about a character that won’t tell her why he’s doing the dasterdly thing he is no doubt doing, it isn’t actually because the voices in her head are laughing at her(4) but rather because she hasn’t yet made the mental link between the character and his motivation. At the same time, elsewhere in the city, a plotter is staring at a stubborn character sheet trying to work out how to link those two scenes in a way that follows narrative logic.


Once again we’re back to the idea that there are many rules when it comes to writing. Take the ones that work, throw the rest away. If you like to write it all down, do it. If you like to wander around muttering to yourself, get some professional advice that’s fine too.

I plant. Not in the garden. Ok, in the garden as well, but not for writing purposes. I both plot and pants it. The process runs something like this. I am mugged by a plotbunny. I write it down in my notebook. Another one joins it, then a few more and they have a party in my head. I write all this down. Some time later I go back to it and discover it isn’t entirely crazy(5). I start to sketch out ideas. I walk away. I read. I research. I mull things over. I have ideas. Because I have a brain like a sieve, I must write these ideas down or they will be GONE FOREVER. There is nothing worse than that perfect, shining, beautiful idea which occurs at 3am or in the shower, when you cannot write it down. There are notebooks everywhere in my house. I am slightly obsessed with them.

And then, because if I poke an idea for too long without doing anything it loses its lustre, I start writing. I might not get very far. But at this point I need to get to know these people, need to explore their world as they see it. I need to immerse myself in the story. In doing so I will probably (usually) stray far away from the original plan, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not really a plot. It’s more like guidelines.

Then I’ll gradually run out of steam. And return to the notes. I’ll rewrite them. Maybe just a scene or two to come, maybe the whole thing. Every book is different. But once I know where I’m going again, I’ll set off once more. Slowly, we edge towards the end. But we do get there. (6)

So when looking at different ways to write remember that there is no one or the other. You can be both a plotter and a pantser, you can mingle the two if needs be. And just because one story works that way, doesn’t mean the next one will. Let the story guide you. Allow yourself the flexibility to try new things. And always, ALWAYS, have fun with it.

Just to remind everyone this is the last day to enter the 100 day giveaway for an ARC of THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS. I’ll be picking a winner tonight!

And now I’m off to have fun.


1. Pantser – one who writes by the seat of their pants, i.e. makes it up as they go along

2. Not really.

3. Pixels always make me think of pixies. I have an interesting mental image of the inner workings of a computer.

4. Well, probably not…

5. Notice, I qualified that.

6. “We” are the characters and I. We are now best friends. Best friends I torture, drown and chop up. It’s a unique relationship.

Ticking over & the Tyranny of Story

Well, recovery is one thing, but the website is all recovered from the nasty hacking (that was my most unfun thing possibly forever and totally ruined my watching of Endeavour, not to mention a couple weeks afterwards) and I’ve been something of a naughty author not updating my blog very much. Alternately, I’ve been a very good writer because I have been writing. Continue reading Ticking over & the Tyranny of Story

So, where am I? – a waffly post of waffle

Well, at home on the sofa to be honest.

With the writing? Well, that’s a different story.

THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS is all finished. Another full manuscript is making its way out into the world shortly, plus a proposal. And my lovely agent has something else.

So I am writing new things. Without totally focusing on just one. Where’s the fun in that? I currently have:

The Library Book – I’ve been talking about this one for a long time and it’s finally coming together, for now.Ā  I wouldn’t have the greatest belief that this will continue. This one is elusive.

The Brittany Book – I got the idea for this one on last year’s holiday and this year it went ballistic while I was over there. Loads of ideas, a plot, various scenes. Nothing that coherent though. I’ve jotted it all down longhand and (probably next year when I go again) it’s many plotbunnies will ambush me again.

The Space Opera – there’s quite a bit of this, but it has stalled for the moment. Still ticking away in the background though. It does that.

The thing is when I write it isn’t a start middle finish sort of thing. Never has been. It comes in fits and starts, I get ideas out of order and jumbled up. Sometimes I have to write longhand to get hold of the story, sometimes that’s just too slow.Ā  The old cliche is that books are like children, and in a sense they are. In that no two children are ever the same, nor is exactly the same approach correct for every one. And no matter what they put you through, you keep at them. Sometimes it just takes a bit more time.

Life has been getting rather hectic again, but I’m trying to put some things in place to deal with that. I’m involved with Irish Pen (not on any great level, but I’m there). There are lots of family things going on (dentists! Lots of visits to dentists! The horror.) and of course I’m still working full time. Octocon is coming up fast (15 days or so – *SQUEE* – if you’re there, say Hi!). Before that there’s an awesome Writing for Children night run by Irish Pen in the Irish Writers’ Centre. After that (when we’ve recovered) we’re off to Ashford Castle for a Harry Potter Night. All very exciting. And tiring.

But writing has to fit in around this. What’s the point in writing if you don’t have a life? But equally I’d be a basket case if I couldn’t write. So evenings and weekends have to adapt, and notebooks have to be carried around.

Speaking of notebooks – this is my 12th wedding anniversary present. Just right for notes on the Library Book, don’t you think?

So, that’s where I am, in a general, spiritual and bibliographical sense. Busy, but happy, determined to write more, and trying not to think about submissions. In a nutshell, business as usual. šŸ™‚

Fairytales in fiction

Claire Hennesy has a thought provoking post up today about Retellings, where writers take well known and established stories like fairytales and folklore and use them as a base for their own stories, building on them, changing their slant or reworking them into something new. I started to reply there, but given the fact that I LOVE this subject, my reply started to get long, which is a little unfair on someone else’s blog. So I thought I’d put it here instead. You should of course read Claire’s post first! (but be warned, I now have MORE books to add to my neverending TBR pile).

For me, it seems to work the other way. Quite often I start out telling my own story and find that the fairy tale or mythic elements bleed through as the characters take on those ghostly archetypes that linger in the background of our cultural life. They are still my stories, my characters, still in their own stories but rather than deliberately drawing on archetypes I find they filter into the story in a subtle way (a hopefully subtle way). Because those fairytales are powerful things. They’re beguiling and whimsical. On the surface. But then you go deeper. And deeper. They tell raw and compelling stories when you whittle them down to their purest form. They have darker versions of themselves hidden away in the shadows behind our polished up 21st century versions.

So if I show you an image of a single glass slipper on a staircase, your mind fills in the rest and you go Ah-HA! If there’s blood on the slipper, or if the slipper shatters into a million pieces, your mind is both startled and intrigued. How has the story been changed? Or has it? Is there some older, darker version you haven’t heard before.

I think it’s part of the way writers often feel that stories tell themselves. That they run away with us clinging on for dear life via the pen.

So in my case a fantasy quest novel takes on elements of folklore and fairytales harking back to those older legends and the place of blood and sacrifice they came from. Or an urban fantasy set in modern day Dublin becomes a reimagining of the Percival legend with Celtic overtones and a heroine skirting to the wrong side of divine law.

Myths and folktales lend resonance to our stories and give a sense of a far deeper pool of storytelling behind them. It’s an exciting and abundant area in which to play.

In which I talk… with my hands…

At Pcon I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Cheryl Morgan for Salon Futura, and that interview went live today.

It’s very funny to listen to myself, let alone watch myself talk. I use my hands. Let me rephrase that… I use my hands A LOT.

We covered a wide range of subjects in my 20 minutes – my library day job, old books, paranormal romance, erotica (err… yes… *blush* I think you can actually see the blushing in the video), Soul Fire, The Scroll Thief, my Holtlands stories, Young Adult fiction and May Queen. Wiiiiiiiiiiiide range of subjects.

So a huge thank you to Cheryl. May we meet again very soon.

Here’s the video.


Lots to do

So, I’ve been slacking off a lot of late and I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things from now on.

The plan is to get some new words every day. What I usually do is aim to write 500 a day and more if I can and track it. I’ve recenly started a new project involving magicians (untitled as yet) so I’m going to focus on that. I also have edits to do on 2 projects but no deadlines for them as such. So if IĀ get stuck I’ll probably switch to rewriting. Or if a deadline emerges of course. But IĀ really want to write something new at the moment.

So, here we go.

Oh, and IĀ just spotted the actor Andrew Lee Potts from Primeval and Alice – just as IĀ imagined Jack in May Queen. Like the living image! Uncanny.