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Journal

Writing Update April 2013

An update, I’ve been busy- I’ve completed the final draft of a new unpublished novel, Staccato House; I’ve written about 60% of another new novel and I’ve completed the final draft of a new novella. I’ve also completed a new collection of short stories, entitled Echoes and Exiles. A few of the stories intended for this have already been published online and in magazines; others are in the progression-stage of making it to publication- that purgatory waiting-room of literary judgement. Once all works have been submitted and found a suitable home, I’ll make the rest of the material publicly available as I think its deserving to be read- so I’m guessing that Echoes and Exiles will (hopefully) be ready to buy/read on various formats by the end of 2013…

Favourite short stories (2)

The Shadow-Cage by Philippa Pearce

Philippa Pearce was a children’s writer from Cambridgeshire, and she is most famous for her children’s novel Tom’s Midnight Garden.

‘The Shadow-Cage’ is a supernatural story about witchcraft and I particularly like the rural setting for the story. It obviously has a Cambridgeshire setting, which is similar to the area where I myself grew up in South Lincolnshire. Ned Challis is a farmer, who finds an ancient glass bottle with a stopper when he is ploughing a field. He allows his daughter Lisa to keep the bottle, before remembering only later that he found it near the site of an old witch’s house that burnt down. His daughter Lisa takes it to school, where her cousin Kevin wants the bottle and takes it from her. After a…

Thoughts on reading- George R R Martin

Like his hordes of fans, I’m absorbed in George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of epic fantasy novels (many people may be more aware of the TV dramatisation Game of Thrones, the title of which is taken from the first book in the series) I have just finished reading Dance of Dragons and like many I will be waiting patiently for the final two novels in the series, Winds of Winter and Dream of Spring. There are a lot of people commenting on these books and publishing their thoughts; I thought I would share some of mine.

The Song of Ice and Fire is epic dark fantasy, with obvious inspiration from varied sources such as Shakespearean tragedy; the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s historical fiction, most notably The White Company; J.R.R…

Thoughts on reading- Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker is most famous as the author of Dracula, the Victorian horror novel which took the vampire myth and centred it within the modern popular consciousness through the medium of literature and cinema. It’s a classic obviously- I also own and have read The Jewel of Seven Stars, which is an excellent, spine-tingling supernatural tale by Stoker based around Egyptian mythology. I decided to download and read two lesser known works by Bram Stoker, The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm.

I discovered that they were lesser known for a good reason. The Lady of the Shroud is written in the same epistolary form as Dracula, advancing the narrative from different point-of-view perspectives, but this structure doesn’t quite work for this novel.

The mystery of ‘T…

Favourite short stories (1)

“Sredni Vashtar” by Saki (H.H Munro)

I thought that I would start a series of articles discussing my favourite short stories, as the technique of short fiction writing is something that I have been exploring for the past two or three years.

The first short story that I would like to draw attention to is “Sredni Vashtar” by the Edwardian British writer Saki -the pseudonym of Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916)
This story is about a young boy, Conradin, who is the unhappy ward of his older female cousin, Mrs De Ropp. Conradin’s immersion in a secret world, focusing on the pet animals of which he knows his guardian would disapprove, draws attention to the conflict between the almost pagan-like religion which Conradin invents and values for its sense of escapism, and th…

The Author's Craft: Plot Devices

There are numerous plot devices which authors of fiction employ which are known by specific terms, some more light-hearted than others. Here is a discussion of a small selection of these tropes: the Sampo, the Big Dumb Object, the MacGuffin, Alien Space Bats, Chekhov’s Gun, the Red Herring, and Deus Ex Machina.

The first of these is the Sampo. The Sampo is a term derived from Finnish mythology, specifically the tale ‘Sampo the Magic Mill’. To digress, the tale is about two brothers. Vainamoinen is a musician, and Ilmarinen is a blacksmith. They attempt to court the same woman, Aino- the daughter of the powerful and apparently fiendishly evil Queen Louhi of Pohjala. The two brothers are set magical tasks to win Aino’s hand in marriage while the Queen attempts to thw…

Essay on Fiction

My occasional reviews of writers and their works tend to be masterpieces of brevity despite my love of fiction. I don’t particularly enjoy analysing fiction. I often wrote critical essays mechanically during my academic past-life. They were dry, functional assessments formulated with the purpose of attaining a certain level or grade of achievement. By definition, they were simply a means to an end.

From the point of view of the creative writer, the practise of analysing and dissecting fiction is almost akin to explaining how a magician performs a trick or illusion, to the minutest detail. It is fascinating for those who wish to attempt to write fiction; to open up the clockwork doll and explore its innermost workings. To the casual reader, there is the inherent danger that all sense…

Tanith Lee

Many years ago, as a small child, I discovered a wonderful book in our village’s local library. The book was ‘East of Midnight’ by Tanith Lee. It was a book for children/young adults, and was fantasy-adventure-romance fiction.

The narrative concerned a sorcerer-king named Zaister, who was the Royal Consort to a sorcerer-queen in a world where women are the dominant gender. Women are the Daughters of Night, men are the sons of the Sun. Women wear all-black and dye their hair black unless naturally dark-haired, while men are only allowed to wear reds, yellows, and orange clothes. The Royal marriages are arranged, but the bloodline passes down through the women. The Queen will marry her first consort at sixteen, when he is also sixteen. After a period of five years, the Con…

Runaway Writings

I’ve started writing and submitting stories for the website ‘Runaway Writings’, which reviews and showcases comic book, fantasy, horror and science fiction. They are currently running my story ‘Epiphany’, which you can find here:

http://runawaywritings.wordpress.com/2012/02/10...

Meanwhile, only today I was just reading about this quite bizarre-sounding football story. It was written by Robin Chambers in the 1970s and is about an Iceland national football (soccer) team that win the 1998 World Cup. It’s available in his book ‘The Ice Warrior and other Stories’:

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/9780140310139/Ice-War...

“The all-conquering, efficient Iceland meet bare-footed and mercurial Zair…

Staccato House completion and preview

Coffee and energy drinks have been a valuable aid in helping me to finish my third novel this week. I am still basking in the warm glow of reaching 102,000 words after my latest editing and re-drafting. The final version has been entered into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel competition in time for the opening of submissions this week so I will wait and see how it does in that.

I had a vague idea for “Staccato House” back in 2001 when it began life as a short story concept; it eventually evolved after a considerable passing of time into a novella of 40,000 words length which was entered into a competition last year and did reasonably well; I’ve been working on extending the novella into a novel for the past eight or nine months. I am really pleased with it from the pers…

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