A Walk in The Woods – Writing Excerpt

Very late post today! Sorry about that! Today, in keeping with my resolutions post, have a short excerpt from my novel Through the Black, first book of the Twyned Earth series currently with its second round of beta readers.

 

Enjoy!

 


 
Tony and I were surrounded by the vibrant, lush wilds, shrouded by elegant trees and bathed in dappled mid-afternoon sunlight as it breached the thick canopy above us. The air was crisp and clear, a breeze rustling the branches gently. It. Was. Awful. I cursed aloud as I stumbled over another bloody tree root, ignoring as Tony laughed and ejected himself from my shoulder. I’d already lost enough drinking and moping time to this sodding safari as it was. The trail just seemed to go on and on. And, in all this time, I hadn’t found a single thing to drink. I was seriously questioning how anyone could consider this fun.

 
I’d lost track of how far we’d gone. The path was an unruly mass of green mess that had lots of features like waterfalls and rocks and other such things I was sure someone found interesting. Shame they weren’t the one writing this article. Fortunately writing bullshit was one of my talents. I could actually sound interested in the great outdoors on paper. Though maybe not without whiskey.

 
In the past twenty minutes or so, the path had become significantly thicker and rougher, as though we were trekking through uncharted territory. Honestly, who did this for fun? Certainly not me and probably not Tony. He glared around as he hovered in front of me. I didn’t know a lot about Aigorshuck, the city of the fairies, but Tony had left for a reason. Maybe trees were that reason.

 
“We’re lost,” he grumbled. “Hang here for a sec. I’m gonna fly ahead and see if we’re actually going somewhere.”

 
“Hey, now wait a second-”

 
He was already gone, disappearing off over the bushes. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, he may have been right. We’d definitely started in the right place. The walk was long and winding though. It was possible we came off somewhere when it became particularly overgrown. My face fashioned a grim scowl as I considered just who the hell asked for a review of a walk that doesn’t even get maintained. The glimmer of Tony’s wings caught my attention as he reappeared from deep within the thicket.

 
“Okay, fine, we might be lost-”

 
“Screw that,” he exclaimed. “Come on!”

 
Not the answer I had been expecting.

 
Tony looped over himself and disappeared back the way he came. I hurried after him as best I could, wrestling through the bushes, thorns and branches clawing at me. It was like wading through treacle. Spiky, spiky treacle. There were times, I was begrudged to admit, when being a fairy might have been handy.

 
What lay beyond must have been good – Tony hadn’t stopped to gloat about me admitting defeat. Now that was worrying. Hissing as a branch of thorns scraped my face, I managed to free myself from the leafy trap and emerge on the other side only to stumble to a halt.

 
“What’s that?” I asked, staring dumbfounded into the clearing.

 
“What does it look like?” Tony asked as though I were a child.

 
I furrowed my brow and tilted my head to the side. “It… It sort of looks like… Well… A bomb.”

 
Before us was a plain circle of land cleared down to the soil. A perfect circle. With no tracks of vehicles and no piles of refuse. Dead centre there was a box with some wires poking out of the top and into the side. Some of the wires disappeared down into the dirt but didn’t lead anywhere else.

 
“I can’t say I’m too happy about being stood here, Tony,” I said, heart beating just a hair faster than normal.

 
“This isn’t right,” he said, sounding distracted. “It’s all way too neat.”

 
“I’m more worried about it becoming un-neat very rapidly,” I insisted. “Let’s g-”

The Difference of Four Years

One of the problems with letting a draft sit on the shelf for four years is that a lot can change in that time. If you’re writing a novel set even partially in the real world, this can be an issue. A completely surreal twist of fate can mean that suddenly your fiction is a whole lot more relevant. Also a whole lot harder to write.

Work has started on the editing of The Fairy Godfather, the original draft of which I started working on in 2012 and the political climate has changed quite a bit since then. It’s changed so much in fact that there are huge parts of The Fairy Godfather that are exceptionally difficult right now.

This novel has a lot of neo-Nazis in it.

That isn’t to say that neo-Nazis are ever fun or easy to write about. It’s just that in 2012 they weren’t undergoing their renaissance. They’ve stopped being a quiet undercurrent of western society that likes to keep swept under the carpet and are instead holding office. It’s pretty awkward considering that 2012 me thought “hey, imagine if all these people who are different appeared and the Nazis made a resurgence!” and 2016 just came and fly-kicked me in the gut.

Especially hard is reading many people’s real life accounts of how they are going about interacting with friends and family who either hold such views or have voted in favour of people who do. As you can imagine, many of these accounts are harrowing and upsetting and the worst part of it all is that they are real. In one scene of The Fairy Godfather a character actually has to explain to another, an elf who prides himself on helping bring an end to the Second World War, that certain elven ideals are scarily close to those of Nazi Germany. It was a very difficult scene to write four years ago. Re-reading it today is painful.

This was certainly an unexpected danger of writing and editing this novel is probably going to be a lot more emotionally exhausting than I had originally planned for. I won’t let it hold me back though. All I can do now is keep going, take extra care dealing with difficult issues and do my best not to harm those being hurt by the current climate.

That, and try to enjoy the little things. Like writing about lots of Nazis getting beat by a gang of fairies.

The Resolutions Post, 2017

So I’m a few days late but here is the resolutions post to keep me accountable for the year. I’m expecting a lot more upheaval just over halfway through 2017 so I’m not going to try and set myself too much and just focus on dealing with life a little better than I did last year.

 

1.) Submit short stories – So, this was a resolution for last year that I managed to keep up with. This year I’m going to set myself a higher goal for submissions and try and hit that, to slowly work up to being consistent with submitting work. After all, the only way it’s going to get accepted is if it gets submitted!

2.) Get author logo and website banner – So last year I attended the fabulous Jill Marcotte’s author branding workshop, during which ideas for these two things were brainstormed. With Through the Black ready for its second round of betas it’s time to start getting things sorted out.

3.) Put writing samples on website – Another action coming direct from the workshop, we discussed the importance of having samples of one’s writing on one’s author website. Eeep! As a direct result of this I have this (tiny) page here with a couple of links but resolution number three is to flesh this section out a little more with some samples from novels and maybe some short stories!

4.) Put all relevant info from Through the Black into my Twyned Earth World Building encyclopedia – So some of you may remember this post where I realized I hadn’t written down half the things I thought I had and that the vast majority of my delicate world building was precariously stored in the worst of places – my head. That is rather like trying to ask my dear cat Pandy to protect that block of cheese. So while I’ve been working through things, most of my world building doesn’t actually appear in Through the Black. (Writers, right?) So what I want to do is make sure I’ve noted all things relevant to book one to ensure consistency as I work on book two.

5.) Art more – I’m constantly lamenting that I don’t have time among everything to keep up practicing art, because like writing it’s one of those things that you really have to work at. I used to not be too bad but I haven’t had time to practice consistently since I was in school so since then I’ve really gone downhill. I’d like to work slowly towards getting it back, even if I’m not doing more than a sketch a week just to get in the habit.

 

As for what I’m going to be working on, novel-wise, last year the main project was Through the Black (insert Nick Cage face here) with The Deconstructor as my ‘official’ side project. Well I got the first done, got Deconstructor to a couple of readers and even managed to finally finish the rough draft of One Dead Prince!

This year the main project will be Twyned Earth book 2 The Fairy Godfather with my official side project being The Fishperer. We’re already eleven days in so time to get cracking!

Resolutions Roundup 2016

Happy 2017!

I meant to have this all posted before the turn of the new year but the holidays are a busy, busy time so sorry about that! Right at the start of 2016 I posted up my resolutions for the year so here is the roundup of how I did!

 

  1. Diversify my reading – This went well! While I didn’t read as much in general as I would have liked last year (and I blame the curse of 2016 for that one!), at least 50% of the books I read had diverse main characters written by diverse authors. I found some absolute gems that I would have missed if I hadn’t gone on the hunt for them specifically. This highlighted part of the problem as well – at times I struggled to find reads within the genres I was looking for. In future I’m going to continue putting more effort into hunting out these novels – and yelling about them on Goodreads!
  1. Start leaving short reviews on Goodreads again – Not quite a success unfortunately. I didn’t manage one a month like I had planned (the second half of the year really was an event and a half) but I got more than half of my goal done which is something. I think I’ll aim for one a month again this year, though it won’t be an official resolution, to try and help me keep a more critical eye as I read—and learn—from books.
  1. Lose weight – Finally an actual success! I not only hit the numerical value I was aiming for half way through the year, but I ended the year on it too. Huzzah!
  1. Finish next draft of Through the Black This is the big one! And a success! Excitingly, this shiny revised draft is completed! Which also means I need to send it to people again soon! Eeeep! I’m currently doing a last final read through and then I will be compiling a list of beta readers. If you’d like to be on it, drop me a line!
  1. Get tattoo – Tah daaaaaaaah!

Tattoo

  1. Move in with partner – Another success! And the shiny beacon in an otherwise awful year.
  1. Submit more short stories – Success! I hit my set submission goal and got what had to be one of the quickest rejections in history (it took them less than half an hour) but if you don’t submit you can’t succeed. Considering how long a year is, it wasn’t a huge number of submissions but it’s a start. I’m building up to getting things sent out relatively regularly.

 

So I didn’t do too bad, all things considered. Now it’s time to start working on those 2017 goals, which you’ll see next time! How did you do on your goals for last year? And Happy New Year all!

It Is Done

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It is done.

The draft. All that is left is a read through and then Through the Black will once again be beta ready. It fills me with overwhelming excitement, relief and fear. I don’t know when I’ll send it out but probably not immediately. I might wait until January when the holidays and whatnot are out of the way. Still, it’ll be a huge load off my shoulders to have it completed.

I think once I’ve done the read through I’ll be taking a little break from writing. That isn’t to say I won’t be writing at all, I just won’t start any serious work on anything. Poking and prodding at whatever takes my fancy. Because let me tell you, as much as I adore writing and my WIPs, this year has been utterly exhausting. Being a bit more casual for a while is definitely on the cards.

That said, I’ve already picked out my two main projects for next year because my brain doesn’t know what down time is. Though I will need to distract myself from the fact that beta readers have my novel.

So what will I be working on? First up as my “main” main project will be Through the Black sequel The Fairy Godfather. The concepts and events of book one are now solid enough that I feel I can start some proper work on it – the poor thing’s still in very rough shape from when it was my first official NaNoWriMo novel. It needs about 30k added to make it novel length and interesting, but considering I had a whole gang of shallow disposable bad guys who were never dealt with in the first draft I’m certain that’ll fill up quick.

Next year’s official side project will be The Fishperer, because it’s too much fun to ignore (and not a behemoth like certain other side novels who shall remain nameless). It’s a short stand-alone which will be nice to work on for a change. It’s also set on the back of a whale, which is a huge draw for me.

I hope your writing progress is going well and if you’re not keeping track then I hope you’re just having a good time with it!

NaNo Reflections

winner

Another NaNo down! And I won (just) for my fifth consecutive year. This was the closest I’ve cut it that I recall but I made it in the end. And, as I was doing a rewrite of the very project that got me into writing again after my long, university induced hiatus, there was a lot of cringing along the way. Really.

On the positive side, it let me see that I’ve improved a huge amount at writing over the past five years. I already mentioned just how many words I was cutting in my progress post and that trend continued. At least six full scenes got completely binned, as well as others getting merged and whole paragraphs of absolutely nothing being skipped as well. There was so much superfluous, unnecessary and boring guff in there. There’s also the prose itself which is, in my opinion, miles better than the original even in its NaNo-form. If I ever get to the stage where I can edit this it might even become readable!

Practice really is the key to anything. I’m so much happier with my writing now than I ever have been – and I know there’s still massive space for improvement. I still don’t consider myself “good” (but will I ever?) but I’ve come leaps and bounds. It makes me so glad that I’ve stuck with it, even through the low moments. It’s like with art – I would love to improve at it but I always get disheartened when I try. Things never work out the way I’d like. I stumble and struggle and eventually end up taking long, substantial breaks from it and every time I do I end up back at square one. It needs a lot of time and a lot of practice. Unfortunately time isn’t something I have in abundance.

The only difference with writing is that I’ve stuck with it even through the hard times. From scenes I just couldn’t write, things that sounded awful, bad plots all the way to crushing beta feedback and rejections. Time and practice has brought me to where I am today. And I’m happy with where that is, even though I hope to keep improving as I go. If you love something and want to get good at it, stick with it. No matter the setbacks. Keep at it. Some people say you need to write every day but I don’t think that’s true. Just keep it regular and don’t let your skills slide.

Now if only I had more time for art too!

Chilly Inspirations

Writing has been hard this week. There’s been a lot going on in the world and it isn’t the sort of stuff that can be tuned out when you need to be productive. So, today I thought I’d share some pictures I took this morning to inspire myself and my settings. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop and look under our own feet when we need some time out.

So, I hope you enjoy some chilly photos from Scotland!

sdr

The morning was so still that the canal was a perfect mirror. A few of the trees were clinging to their last traces of green for the year, soon to turn into skeletons for the winter.

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The sun spilling through the trees as it rises over the hills and the last of the mist is burnt off.

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A shadowy spot behind the denser trees, the sun beckoning me forward.

cof

The camera doesn’t do the icy leaves justice. The colours here are warm but the air certainly wasn’t.

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A coot disturbs the water but hides from my camera in the shadows of the bank.

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Frozen nettles for some iced tea? They stood out undisturbed on an otherwise trampled path.

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And finally, a curious swan who seemed to be on a mission. I’m still wondering what it was.

Happy writing, everyone! And wrap up warm.