Author Fail

The last few weeks have been more turbulent than average for me. This has led to two problems. On one hand, I’ve found less time for writing. On the other hand, I’m getting distracted and I am far too easily distracted at the best of times. It’s not a great combination.

Today I should be sharing Invitation Accepted Chapter Seven as well as the collection of short stories Whisper in the Shadows. Neither are ready and I sincerely apologise. However I am tidying up the last bits of both of them and they should both be ready in the next few days. Chaos is still continuing here, but I can see my way through it. I hate failing the wonderful people who are kind enough to read my work. I will share my work as soon as it’s in a fit state to be seen, and hopefully soon.

Meanwhile I’d like to share one of my favourite poems. I copied it out and pinned it to the wall when I was a teenager and the delight of it has never left me.

I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today –

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro,

And a rainbow held out its shining hand –

So what could I do but laugh and go?

Richard le Gallienne

A Writer’s Life 8th March 2023

It’s nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m actually feeling quite energised. I have to give some credit to Joshua Pantalleresco and his wonderful encouragement when I was on his podcast (you can find it here). I also feel restless, which is never a good sign. I fragment with too many ideas if I don’t keep myself in check.

I am going to take a massive risk and share plans. Anyone who knows me is probably either wincing or sniggering because my conversion rate of plans is pretty low, but I want to give a heads up on a few things.

You may have noticed that I have new covers for Forgotten Village and Digging up the Past from the amazing people at Getcovers.com. I re-edited and re-formatted both of them and actually put in chapters. This is a giant leap forward in my ability to format. In the next few months I plan to go through all of my self-published books to tidy them up and get decent covers. Some of them may finally get into paperback form. As a part of this, on 30th April I will be taking down Under Dark Hills and Dark Picture from my blog, tidying them up, smoothing them into a novel and giving them lovely new covers before publishing as an ebook and paperback a few months later, probably both in the same volume, possibly bound with Across a Misty Bridge.

Later this month I will be publishing a collection of slightly darker short stories called A Whisper in the Shadows. Some have been previously posted on this blog, but I’ve taken down so that they can be part of the collection. There’s some new material as well, of course, to make it fair. That will also be available in ebook and paperback form, but the paperback could be delayed because I am technically inept.

I am having a blast writing Invitation Accepted and the plan is that the story will also eventually end up as an ebook and paperback, but we will see how that goes.

I’m working on my productivity, so watch this space for hopefully plenty of new stories. As I have the attention span of a concussed duckling, I have no idea where my next stories are going, but I hope that you will be able to enjoy wherever they lead. I’d love to hear what you think.

Hugs and good vibes to all.

Getting On With Things

I have finally got The Forgotten Village published as a paperback. I feel like I should do a lap of honour around the study. The novel was first published as an ebook in 2012 and was my first attempt at self publishing. I recently had an awful review of it, which I read and thought that, well, it’s a fair one, so I’ve edited the book, divided it up into chapters and found a way to get it into paperback. I’d like to give a shoutout to Getcovers.com who have been amazingly tolerant of my requests while creating this awesome cover.

To celebrate this, the new updated version of the ebook will be free on Amazon between 24th February 2023 and 28th February 2023, calculated midnight to midnight PST time. I hope that you’ll be able to enjoy it in its new form and now would be a great chance to update any old copies of this that you have.

It’s been a strange start to the year for me. I have been inundated with ideas for books, which I’m working on, I’ve done two podcasts, the first with Hidden Bookshelf about writing in general and the second with The Pajama People, who invited me to discuss horror movies and we talked about The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp. It felt very odd listening to them. The sequel to King’s Silver is with the editor as we speak and will hopefully be released in August – watch this space!

I have also finished the equally overdue editing of Digging up the Past and I’ve commissioned a new cover for that as well. I’ll share when that goes live. I have also almost (but not quite) finished the new material that goes with the collection of horror and supernatural stories that I’ve taken from my blog. Invitation Accepted – Chapters One, Two and Three will almost certainly end up as part of a novel that will eventually move to Amazon, and I can’t wait to work out how on earth I define the cover for it!

I would love to hear what you think and what you would like to more of. I think that Kane needs his own novel, and I think that there are a few characters from the White Hart that may turn up again, but I would be interested to know what’s important to you.

I Need to Sleep

I’m having trouble sleeping at the moment. I have a lot going on and as soon as I shut my eyes I have all the thoughts whirling around. It’s just as bad when I’m driving. I have nearly missed so many turns because I’m trying to concentrate on a plot. I forget more than I pick up at a supermarket and I have a habit of forgetting things are running. Last night’s thoughts went something like this…

Okay, time to go to sleep. I’m warm and comfy and tired.

I didn’t put a wash in before I went to bed. I think everyone has clean shirts. Well I’m not bothering with it now. I’ll sort it out in the morning.

I should put down some notes about that idea for a vampire story. I can do that in the morning as well.

I wonder if vampires worry about having a clean shirt? I mean, the vampires in this story I’m planning wouldn’t but the ones in that story would. Do vampires sweat? I suppose underarm stains would be the least of their worries. Blood is tricky to get out. The best way to get stains out is to hang them in sunshine, but that could be a problem. And Victorian vampires would presumably send them to the laundry. Would they get questions about the stains? Would they be charged extra? I would charge a fortune if I had to deal with all that bloodstained velvet.

Never mind the laundry – go to sleep!

I wonder about the location of the next fantasy story. I suppose I could move some stuff around. I’ll need to make some notes on that tomorrow but I need to get some sleep first.

I just can’t imagine a vampire with a washing machine. And I really can’t imagine Dracula looking along the shelves for laundry bleach. Would he use laundry bleach? There must be Victorian stain removal guides. No, I am not going to look them up now. I’m going to sleep.

I bet werewolves would do laundry. They’d have to go with the unscented stuff, though. I don’t think I’ve seen a ‘lamppost’ scented laundry softener. Mind you, that’s putting werewolves with dogs. Perhaps they’d like a nice scent on their clothes and they’d be able to tell the difference between brands, like those old fashioned adverts. I really need to get to sleep. I’ve got the school run in the morning.

Okay, tomorrow I need to do the school run, pick up fruit, write up notes about the vampire arc and the ideas of the fantasy setting. I wonder if vampires get the werewolves to do the laundry? I mean, at least the werewolves could hang stuff out in the sun.

Forget about the laundry! I need to sleep. Tomorrow I need to drop off at school, pick up fruit, make notes and I need to check on the meter reading.

That’s another thing about vampiric laundry. All the crypts and tombs are short on things like washing machine points. They’d have to send the laundry out.

How about medieval vampires? They have servants and everything so they could just have their laundry done. Mind you, I bet it would have been a problem to get blood stains out then. I am not looking up medieval bloodstain recipes at this time of night. My search history is peculiar enough as it is.

Perhaps I could have a chase through a steampunk laundry. I bet that would be atmospheric. There were huge boilers and lots of racks of clothing. Mind you that might be better for something like a ghost story. I should make some notes about that tomorrow. With the vampire notes and the fantasy notes.

Now that I’ve got the sequel to King’s Silver to the editor, I should get cracking on the sequel to Under the Bright Saharan Sky. Where did I put the notes. I need to add them to the notes I’m making tomorrow. I wonder if I can get an aether-powered, steampunk, subterranean laundry into that plot. I don’t know why it should be subterranean, but it feels right.

Goodnight.

Christmas Memories

This is a stock pic of a chicken from Unsplash taken by Claudio Schwarz and nothing like the Godzilla of the avian world that we faced at Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Instead of the flash fiction that I normally post on Mondays, I thought that I would share some memories of Christmas which not only explain why I can get very tense around this time of year but also perhaps explain a little of how I came to see the stories in the world.

My parents divorced when I was quite young, and it was quite unusual in that part of the world at that time. I was the only child in the school with divorced parents. Nowadays there is a sort of rhythm in shared parenting when both parents try their best as people have an idea what to expect. My poor parents just made it up as they went along.

Me and my brothers were still quite young and fully believing in the magic of Christmas. My mother did her best on a very tight budget and had a few tricks to keep us happy. One of which was that we didn’t decorate until Christmas Eve, and that we had to make a lot of the decorations ourselves. She had hoarded shiny paper and eggboxes for months and they all came out, and after a lot of effort, running around and glitter, we were exhausted and collapsed into bed early enough to get a good sleep. Mother wanted us out of the way for the last of the wrapping and the stockings and she wanted an early night.

Father doted on us as kids and was desperate to see us open our presents, so he would come around on Christmas Eve, sleep on the sofa and then be there when we clattered down the stairs at 8am (mother really had us trained on this!). Every year he promised that he wouldn’t be late, he would be there at 9pm – 9.30pm at the latest and everyone could have a nice early night. Every year my mother pretended to believe him. Every year he was late.

Back in those days, if a pub or bar wanted to keep their licence then they had to close at 10.30pm, and it was strongly enforced by police who didn’t want more fuss than necessary on a night that they didn’t want to work anyway. However a lot of the working men’s clubs would informally have a ‘lock in’. That is, they would lock the doors to the general public but the bar manager, staff and their favourite customers would stay after hours and have a few drinks extra. Father was a very social person. He was a member of the clubs for all the political parties in the town plus a few clubs affiliated with businesses that he had never worked for as well as all the social clubs. He was great company, a happy drunk and always willing to buy a bartender a drink. He could take his pick of lock ins and he frequently did. He usually rolled up at our house around 1am, happy and swaying because he had to celebrate Christmas and it would have been bad manners to leave.

Father’s favourite tipple, image from Unsplash, taken by Anders Nord

When my brothers and I dashed down on Christmas morning we would find father perched on the sofa and looking fragile while holding a cup of tea in both hands. Mother would be banging in the kitchen. They did their best to keep a brave face on as we fell on our presents (mainly books), but there was a lack of Christmas cheer. Father was desperately hungover and mother, due to waiting up for father, had barely got enough sleep to get the sheets warm before she had to crawl back down stairs to sort out Christmas dinner. And that was also father’s fault.

It wasn’t exactly father’s fault, but that didn’t stop mother. Mother cooked Christmas dinner for all of us, including her ex-husband, and in return father donated the voucher that his work gave him as a Christmas bonus together with the turkey. The voucher wasn’t huge and was for the local small supermarket, but it covered stuff like potatoes, sprouts and stuffing, and mother was grateful as, like I mentioned, money was tight. She didn’t have such a charitable attitude to the turkey.

You see, father had an uncle and later a cousin who had a farm locally and they ran a few turkeys. I never visited but I could almost hear them thinking, ‘we can’t let our kid have a small turkey’. I remember mother pleading with father to get a little one, or even just a turkey crown, or a chicken. There were five of us (three small kids, father who had a normal appetite and mother who ate like a bird) sitting down to Christmas dinner, so it didn’t need to be too big. It was no use. I think the smallest one was 18lb (just over 8kgs) to 23lbs (around 10.5kgs). We only had a small electric oven. More than once my mother had to take out the oven shelves, line the bottom with foil and grease the sides. Turkey is supposed to cook for 20 minutes per pound and twenty minutes over. A 23lb turkey would take 8 hours, and mother would never be able to rest if the oven was on, so she was somewhat sleep deprived and tetchy. At least it had turned up plucked and dressed, though I believe it was a close call a few times.

Much daintier than the roast potatoes we had, image from Unsplash, taken by Jonathan Farber

Along with my brothers, I would quickly lose myself in one of the books that Father Christmas had left. I would still be aware that after at least two more cups of tea, father would go to offer help in the kitchen. There would be more banging.

Then we would all sit down to the feast. Mother firmly believed that you should only put what you could eat on your plate. There were plenty of goodies dished up, but a reasonable portion, and we could go back for more if we wanted to. Father believed that the world would end if you could see the tiniest bit of plate exposed under Christmas dinner. There would be mounds of potato, barricades of turkey and a lake of sprouts dammed with stuffing. He would eat about a third. Mother would mutter darkly as she handed around the Christmas pudding. Father wouldn’t feel it was Christmas if he didn’t have a good helping of Christmas pudding with extra brandy butter, brandy cream and rum sauce. He ate about a third of that as well.

Then we would be faced by the remains of the turkey. Even with father’s best efforts, we would barely make a dent. Father would take a huge box home with him for Christmas supper. It would probably last him over a week as he had a very poor idea of food hygiene and a notoriously iffy stomach. Mother stuck rigorously to keeping cooked poultry for no more than three days, perhaps stretching it to four in desperation. Our freezer was tiny so there was no chance of freezing any leftovers, and I suspect that after three days mother couldn’t look it in the wishbone. And with everyone in the UK having turkey, we couldn’t give the damned stuff away. We always finished up with a glorious turkey scouse which was the food of the gods and far better than Christmas dinner (and father usually turned up for that as well).

And then, with a certain amount of relief, things were over for another year. I can genuinely see the point of view of both of my parents, and they both did their best to bring magic to their kids for Christmas Day. It got better over the years, but it sort of stuck with me and I learned from it. This year, me, my husband and my son had steak for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. It may not be tranditional, but it doesn’t take 8 hours to cook.

The Longest Night

I love the idea of solstices and equinoxes. I love the idea of the wheel of the year turning and four times during that year there is a sense of balance. I love the feel of the rhythm of it.

I love the markers of the passing year. I always notice when the forsythia first comes out in spring and watch for the first dandelions. They always look so sunny and are one of the first wild plants out and welcoming bees. I love the rhythm as Palm Sunday and Holy Week lead to Eater, followed by the schools having fits in the run up to exams, and the caravans and motorhomes coming out for Late May Bank Holiday. I love the progression from FA Cup, to Wimbledon, to Charity Shield, to school uniform shopping, then gearing up to that time at the autumn equinox when the day and night are the same length, then the year slides down through Halloween and Bonfire night to the first storms and the first frosts and the longest night of the year.

It is rarely the coldest night here. The solstice, like Christmas, feels like it ought to be the middle of winter, but for me it’s the start. September, October and November have been spent winding down after summer. If I was any sort of gardener it would be about getting in the last of the harvest and preserving it. Then it’s time to get the big blankets out and the warm sweaters and make sure that the heating, of whatever type, is working properly.

The real winter starts, for me, in January. It’s usually getting colder then and the last traces of leaves have gone from the trees. It’s a hard slog through the grey days, past Valentine’s Day with all the artificial pink and red, and into Lent and spring again. Where I live I am statistically more likely to see snow at Easter than Christmas. This longest night is more like the start of a sleep, where you snuggle down in a warm bed and dream. Then the days slowly start getting longer and you see the first green hints of growth and you are back into the sunny rollercoaster of growing things.

This dark, long night is like a pause. We’ve journeyed down into the dark of the year, but now we pause and gather our strength to climb back up towards summer. Perhaps for me it is a better time for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a standing time, where nothing is moving and it’s a chance to look back at the last year and gather our resources for the next one. It is a moment of soft quiet between the tinsel and the parties.

As a writer, it feels like a time for stories. When it is bright and sunny, I feel like I ought to be up and doing, out and about and generally being active. As the nights grow longer and colder, it feels more like a time for telling tales by the fireside. So I will taking the quiet moments in the next week or so, between all the fun and family, to take stock of my stories and get ready for the upswing into the New Year.

A Writer’s Life and Me

I’m never quite sure that I’m a proper writer. I write a lot, but I don’t feel like an author. Authors are Bohemian and charming and incredibly well informed and wise. I’m an older middle aged housewife who is incredibly conventional and I don’t feel wise at all. I know all sorts of little bits and pieces and I collect useless information like fluffy sweaters collect lint, but I always feel that real authors know the secrets of the universe. I’m still working out the secrets of my smartphone.

I was comfortable with this until I went on the school run immediately after writing an incredibly assertive character. I was not in the mood to dither, I got in that car and zoomed off.

It’s not that long since I passed my driving test, and I wouldn’t say I was a confident driver. I’m more sensible than speedy. That day was different. I may not have gone over the speed limit or through any red lights, but I took those blind corners with assurance. I didn’t dither at the roundabout. (Mind you, at that particularly roundabout, anyone who dithers is toast.) I sailed up the steep climb before the cross roads in third gear and the car purred. I didn’t notice until I was waiting for my son in the supermarket carpark and realised that I had swept though the school run. I decided that if I finally get up the courage to go on a motorway, I’m writing someone prickly and resilient before I even attempt the slip road.

It was something of a revelation. Until now, I’ve always approved artistic temperament in other people, but not me. Writing about something sad shouldn’t make me sad. I can understand and sympathise with other writers, but I never felt that I had the right to that myself. But now I know that if I write a vengeful woman, I drive like a vengeful woman and perhaps I should embrace my inner diva – within reason of course!

So this is the first in what I hope is a fun series of me finding out about being a writer and sharing it. I published my first book in 2012. It’s time that I embraced what it means to me.

And speaking of my first book, The Forgotten Village, I’m armpit deep in revising it, re-editing it, hopefully dividing it into chapters (not my strong point) and getting it into paperback as well as ebook, so watch this space for updates.

I love hearing from you, so let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

LM x

NaNoWriMo and Me

I use purple pen a lot because there was a box of purple pens on sale.

NaNoWriMo is awesome. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, people sign up to write 50,000 words in thirty days. In the run up to NaNoWriMo, writers can plan their ideas, organise their time and sign up to the site. The site for National Novel Writing Month is here and it’s amazing.

If you have ever wanted to write, this is a great chance. You have a fixed date, you have a structure of sorts and, if you sign up with the site, you have a wonderful, supportive place to go to. There are local meet-ups, online chats, Facebook and Twitter groups – all focused on the goal of writing 50,000 words in November and getting that novel out. They have badges! What is more, those badges encourage you to go further and write more.

The rules are quite simple. You start something new, you write the first draft and just get it out there. This is the first draft. You worry about punctuation, grammar, consistency and detail after 30th November. Then you can go back and tidy things up. After that amazing, exhausting and exhilarating start, before you know it, you have a novel.

I fail at NaNoWriMo. Part of the problem is that I was born to be contrary. If you tell me to go right then, no matter how much I want to be agreeable and helpful and conforming, I end up going left. It’s like the Fates hear me make a decision and snigger. And it’s absolutely not deliberate.

Last time I tried to do NaNoWriMo, I did something awful to my left shoulder and couldn’t move it for a fortnight. The time before that, my son, who was tiny then (I have avoided this for years), was really poorly for a few weeks. I think it was the year before that I had suspected heart failure (I’m fine). I’m not doing NaNoWriMo. Bad things happen. Besides, I have three novels started, each with over 20,000 words already, plus I’m working on a few collections of stories, so I cannot possibly justify starting something else. November is ‘tidy up the damned laptop and get the dratted things finished’ month for me.

I’m happy to encourage anyone else to go for it! Sitting down to write 50,000 words in a month is like being poised at the start of the roller coaster, just before you drop down the first incline. But making it official helps most people concentrate and push to finally write the story they had always wanted to write. And while you are wrestling with those words, you can encourage and be encouraged by the lovely people who are taking that crazy journey with you. You can keep going with people who understand the struggle to fit the writing around work and family. You will be keeping step with those who wonder whether it’s safe to make the hero blond instead of dark, whether the heroine drinks tea or coffee and how the heck to spell ‘surreptitious’.

If you have ever wanted to write, now is a great time to warn the family, set up a good writing space and plan your work. If you feel like a little research, I wrote an overview for the lovely Eric Lahti here and a series on research for Three Furies Press which starts here. Or, if you are like me, you can watch the clock tick down to the start of November and plunge straight in.

Go for it – and good luck!

Magna Carta

Today is the 807th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. A link to the Wikipedia article on the Magna Carta is here, but there are pieces all over the internet. It doesn’t always mean what people think it means, and a lot of it has been repealed, but it is still vitally important. Before this, a monarch could do what they wished, regardless. Afterwards, the ruler was brought under the rule of law. It made the king accountable and, as such, was almost immediately repealed. However, with the death of King John soon after and the long minority and turbulence of the reign of his son, Henry III, the Magna Carta was reinstated, amended, quoted, argued and somehow endured.

I’ve read a translation, and I found it very interesting. Most of it wasn’t about truth and freedom. It was more about money.

It went something like this – the king was supposed to fight wars. To fight any sort of war, a king needed soldiers. Back in the days of William the Conqueror, a lord got his land in return for a promise to fight for his king, usually bringing along some other knights and foot soldiers with him. This was a great theory for the time, but it fell down pretty quickly. The lord could be too old to fight, or sick or injured. He could have died and the heir would be too young to fight or, shockingly, a woman. So the lord paid up something called scutage or shield money, so that the king could hire someone to fight in his, or her, place.

When it comes to humans, theory and practice very rarely run along the same rails. As the theory of warfare evolved and changed, having the local squire turn up with his father’s sword and a few likely lads from the village wasn’t enough. The king now needed skilled archers and well trained cavalry. They needed people who spent their lives training for battle, like professional soldiers. In those days, that meant mercenaries, and good mercenaries were expensive. Kings started asking for scutage even if the local lord was willing to fight. It was much easier to pay regular soldiers than have someone turn up in second hand armour, serve for the regulation forty days and disappear again.

King John had managed to get bad blood between him and practically every noble around him. He took hostages and forced loans. He extorted every tiny corner of feudal custom to pull in every penny. He couldn’t rely on the barons to fight for him, as he had managed to annoy, insult or fine most of them, so he needed those expensive mercenaries.

King John exploited every loophole. Under feudal law, he had control of those too young to manage their lands, and he plundered those lands, leaving them a shell. He married off those he could to his mercenaries as a way of payment. He also married off wealthy widows, forcing them to wed the man of his choice who would be anyone who could bribe the king. It was an easy way to pay his important mercenaries but it made him even less popular. Rich barons did not like seeing well born ladies married to thugs for their dowries. They may have had eyes on those dowries themselves, but there was also a sense that forcing someone to marry ‘beneath them’ was a step too far. The first clause of the Magna Carta was to give freedom to the English Church, but the next eleven clauses are concerned with protecting those vulnerable to extortion and financial abuse by the king under feudal law and clauses six and eight are protections from forced marriage in this context. The often quoted habeus corpus or freedom from imprisonment without due process is down at clause 39.

I’ve often wondered what it was like for the great ladies, perhaps mourning their first husband, who were bundled swiftly into marriage with someone who had been born little more than a peasant. There must have been times when the gulf was wide. And the sort of man that could rise from being nothing to a place where a king marries you to a great heiress may not have made a comfortable husband.

One of those mercenaries was Falkes de Bréauté or Fawkes de Bréauté. He married the recently widowed Margaret Redvers, and got control of a lot of land, plus control of her son, the heir to the Earl of Devon. According to Wikipedia, he was not of noble birth and could well have been born a peasant. It doesn’t sound like it was a happy marriage – Margaret tried for a divorce later on and fought to regain control of her lands. Fawkes may not have been a good husband but he was, however, very loyal to John and his son, Henry III. Looking over the Wikipedia entry it sounds like his life was complicated but not boring!

Part of the property that Fawkes got through marrying Margaret was a manor in London, south of the Thames, which became known as ‘Fawkes’ Hall’ which became ‘Fox Hall’ which then became ‘Vauxhall’. This became the site of the Vauxhall Motor Company. So the name that started as a forced marriage between a high born lady and a low born mercenary became the name of a competitively priced British car. History can be quirky like that.

The clauses that prevented widows being forced into a marriage or wards being married to someone below their station have been repealed and replaced with more suitable legislation. I wonder, though, about the stories behind these clauses. I wonder about men and women struggling to deal with that forced relationship and whether they flourished or failed. I wonder if they managed to be happy, regardless.

For me, the Magna Carta isn’t a dusty document. It is a point in time which shows the stresses and strains and perhaps utter desperation of real people. It shows how rights and liberties come from pushing back against injustice and unfairness. It may have been a privileged class pushing back against a king, but that first step to make a government accountable to law started on a path that led to freedoms that we take for granted. And I am grateful for it.

Chat: Take Three Words…

I write Flash Fiction every Monday (or try to) as a way of going to the writing gym. The plan is to shake some ideas free, wake me up and get me looking at writing from a different angle. Sometimes it really works, and sometimes it’s an epic fail.

The last few months seem to have been filled with fiction that links to other projects. There’s been a lot of fiction that went with King’s Silver and the latest Grumpy Old Gods anthology. I also felt that my writing was sounding a little dark. I needed to change things up.

My usual source of inspiration is wandering around a supermarket, washing up, driving or generally minding my own business and letting my thoughts wander. Sometimes I worry about where my imagination takes me. It feels like my train of thought has left the station and I’m left behind, picking daisies on the railway tracks and then suddenly an idea about magic creeping into a Medieval fantasy world ambushes me (King’s Silver). Or what happens if someone uses the steampunk power to create a monster in the East End of London (Out of the London Mist). This time I was drawing a blank, so I thought, what the heck, and googled writing prompts. I had a little rummage and found this – Writing Exercises which has a load of great ways to start ideas. I went for the ‘Take Three Nouns’ prompt. My prompt was ‘Attic, Bookcase, Forgiveness’ and I wanted to write something completely new.

(I’ve just clicked on it again and it came up with ‘Adventure, Castle, Necklace’ and how can you not write a story about that. ‘Thrill, Clown, Butterfly is more of a challenge. I can see me going back there.)

So I sat down with the three words in my mind and thought about the ideas that they sparked in me. I really wanted to do something different, and definitely not something spooky. Which is why, of course, I wrote a piece that belongs with the ongoing story of Kane and has a strong supernatural slant. Completely not different and utterly spooky. You can find the story here and the background with Kane here.

I quite like writing the gentle little snippets, like I Never Knew Her Name’, but there seems to be something deep inside me that says that it isn’t a proper story if it’s entirely in the real world. That stories should have a hint of magic and wonder about them.

I suppose that I ought to try more prosaic subjects. After all, it’s supposed to be an exercise to keep my writing fresh. On the other hand, no matter what I try, spooky keeps creeping in. I’m working on the principle – if it’s fun to write, then I should go for it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to leave a comment.