Three days in!

Well, three days into a new year, and I’ve been mostly tired, due to not sleeping, and stuck, trying to get the short stories organised. It’s not going so well! It’s hard to think of ways of bringing some of the myths into the modern world because their settings are so very specific, or because some of them are so similar. So I’ve been having a break and working on Children of the Shadow instead, while my excellent web designer fiddles with our payment system so that I can offer discounts with vouchers and things like that :)

And now this:

http://thesuspendedcoffees.wordpress.com/

I love coffee. And as a writer, I drink a fair bit. This idea, buying a hot drink for someone in need, rather than giving them cash they might use on booze or drugs, is lovely. So I’m sharing it. :)

And hopefully when I’ve dared to go outside in the cold and the wind, and jogged my brain, I’ll be able to share another short story, or the completion of the collection. As I’ve already planned my reward for doing so, I really should mush! :)

New year: resolutions and whatnot

Ah, new year approaches so it’s that time to make plans for what we want to do in the New Year, and then never do them.

Mine, pretty much the same as last year.

1. Lose weight. But this year I’m doing it for charity. I’ve set myself 6 months to lose what I can, sponsored for every half stone, by anyone who cares (my mum mostly!) and then in 6 months, I’ll do it for another charity. There are just so many charities that I support, that this way I can give something to lots of them. And hopefully, doing it for charity, will guilt me into continuing. We shall see. I have a lot of weight to lose, so everyone should get something :)

2. Finish book 3. Have had this one for two years now, but it’s been difficult getting the start right, knowing what I want to say, whether what i want to do is actually the right thing for the book, for the characters. I still have no idea, but I want to finish the rough of this by July. (6 months, same as the weight loss thing) So i can get one with the other book i have in my head.

3. Finish my short story Greek Myth collections. I wanted to do it by the end of December, but have run into problems setting the scenes and working out how to deal with the last 4 of the myths i have. These are: Dryope (woman becomes a tree) Hecuba (woman kills the man who killed her son, for money) Cassandra (woman foresees her and her lover’s death) Echo (woman fades into nothing)

4. Read more. For the first time I have a to be read pile. This includes some horror, some fantasy, and a nonfiction book about women’s experiences in mental asylums! I want to read these, and then read more :) At least a book a month :)

5. Keep the house tidy. I’m such a slob! Be nice to have a house I can bring guests into :)

So we shall see. These are my plans, and hopefully I can do them. They’re not too hard.

I also hope to spend the year happy, with my cats and my friends :)

A short story taster

Well, I tried to write a flash fiction, which can be anything under 1000 words, depending on who you talk to. I wanted to keep it under 500, but it’s 569, so, close but no banana. Here it is, all the same. A rough flash fiction (my first) part of my Greek myth rewrite collection. This is based on the story of Circe.

A NICE CUP OF TEA

She was singing in the kitchen downstairs. Tony could hear her from the bathroom above, as he worked to fix the broken boiler. It was a sweet sounding song, with a catchy tune, but no matter how hard he tried to make it out, the words would just slip out of his mind. But he found himself humming along, all the same, as he changed the pump and slurped the hot, sweet tea she’d brought him.

Then he dropped the pump. It just fell out of his fingers, disappearing beneath the sink. He swore and dropped to his knees, reaching out to get it, but his fingers were thick and clumsy and he couldn’t seem to get a grip. He swore again and stretched a little further, until a painful spasm forced him to snatch his arm back. He rubbed at it until another spasm seized his calves and then his stomach, causing him to cry out and bend double.

It was the last thing he remembered. After that there was just pain, burning cramps in every single muscle in his body, spasms as those same muscles twitched and contracted, a pounding in his skull and the taste of blood on his lips. He couldn’t see. His vision was all blurred shapes and bright, dazzling stars. But he knew that his eyes were open. Somewhere, in all the pain, he knew that at least.

And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the pain stopped, his vision cleared and everything was still.
Except . . . except he couldn’t feel anything. His whole body had gone numb, as though it had fallen asleep. Desperately he struggled to move, to wake his body, but to no avail. He was stuck.

Footsteps and then a pair of sandals and the hem of a pink dress appeared in front of him. Tony tried to open his mouth, to say something, to beg for help, to make a sound, anything! But he couldn’t. Nothing would come. Tears burned his eyes.

“Oh,” a voice said, the woman’s voice, sounding delighted. “You’re a pig! I don’t have any pigs.” Hands gripped him and, incredibly, he felt himself being lifted, held, carried, gently out of the bathroom and down the stairs. “You never know what people will become. I thought that it reflected their inner self, at first, but then I ended up with a two-headed snail and who is a two-headed snail on the inside?” She laughed, as she opened a door, and Tony was hit by the smell of fresh air and the brightness of the sun, before the ground rushed towards him, so fast it left him dizzy, as she set him down. “There! You look great and I’m sure you’ll be very happy here in your new home and you won’t be lonely. Here’s Mr Frog and Mr Badger to keep you company.” She moved backwards so that he could see the frog and badger garden ornaments, hidden behind her skirt.

A foot high, the two creatures were painted in ugly colours, reds and blues and greens, like cartoon characters in a circus. But their eyes were normal, a brown and a blue pair, both looking at him, both shimmering with tears.

And then the brown pair blinked and Tony knew what she had meant by them keeping him company.
Inside, he started to scream.

Hope people like it! :)

December already!

Somehow we have reached the final month. No idea how that happened! But I have set myself a target, 1k a day, at least, until the end of the month, and then I should have my short story collection at 40k and all finished and ready to go to publishers in the new year. I have three done now, Hylas and the nymphs, Lamia and my Orpheus story and am working on Circe. The collection will probably be about 12 stories long, which is certainly more short stories than I have ever written in my life, let alone in such a short space of time. Of course it helps that the myths are already written, I know the beginning, middle and end, I just have to put them into a modern setting.

On the selling front, my short story collection, Rules of War, does really well at face to face things, so hopefully the horror greek myth collection will too! It doesn’t do so well online though, but that’s where marketing and promoting comes in and I SUCK at that sort of thing. Give me a table I can sit behind, with my books out in front, and I’m happy. But targeting people online is hard. You can’t be too pushy, you have to find the right audience and it takes up so much time when I could be doing something else. I do worry, though, with every sale, that people will hate it. I guess because I’m not a fan myself of at least two of the stories in the collection. But different people like different things, and a magazine liked them well enough to publish them, so that’s what I have to keep telling myself.

Oh well, year almost done, no more selling occasions until 2014, I guess I better mush with the writing. :)
Have a good xmas and New year, if I don’t write anything again before Jan. :)

A day in the life of a child eater.

I have a title for my Greek myth collection retelling.  ‘A day in the life of a child eater’ which will be my story of Lamia, a woman whose children were killed by a jealous Hera and who was driven to kill, and eat, other children in her madness, only in a modern setting. It will probably be a lighter tale than some of the others. Dark humor, I guess.

Along with Lamia I will be writing stories based on:

Orpheus (almost finished)
Medea
The Harpies (another humorous type tale)
Hylas

And a couple of others, I’m not totally sure of yet. They have to be convertible to a modern setting, which isn’t easy for some of them, where the characters become swans, or trees.

Also not sure how my sense of humor will translate into stories, but that’s part of the fun, right? :)

Myths and their retellings.

For National Novel Writing Month I decided to write a collection of short stories, rewrites of the Greek Myths, but in a modern setting. Not really a novel, but I write novels all the time and wanted a challenge. With a sick cat, I am way behind words, but I have nearly finished the first of the story collection, my retelling of Orpheus and I thought I’d post the beginning.

ONE LAST SONG

This isn’t what I expected,” I said, taking a seat in the over stuffed, floral sofa.

Let me guess, Harry said, as he flopped down into the arm chair opposite me. “You were expecting black candles, skulls, cobwebs, perhaps a black cat, or two?”

Something like that,” I said.

Sorry to disappoint you, Oliver, but when you see all that, all the glitz, the . . . fur coat and no knickers, as it were, then you’re probably dealing with a fake, with someone who has to try hard to look the part. I don’t have to do that. I can do what I claim and I can help Ellie.”

Ellie. Just the mention of her name brought a lump to my throat. My wife, my childhood sweetheart, just twenty-four years old, and lying like a living corpse in a hospital bed after being hit by a car. A coma, they said, and they didn’t know if she would ever wake. I visited every day, pushing past the press that had gathered outside, all desperate to catch a shot of Oliver McKenzie, singer, in all his misery. And spent that day, morning until night, sitting beside Ellie’s bed, waiting, hoping, watching, as she grew thinner, paler, frailer. The woman she had been was fading in front of my eyes but I refused to let her go. I had consulted experts, the best that money could buy, and when they could tell me nothing new, I had turned elsewhere. Alternative therapists, new age healers, witches, whatever they wanted to call themselves, I had asked them all for help, and gotten no where, until one of them had mentioned Harry. A rather large ‘gift’ and a phone call later and here I was, sitting opposite a blond man who looked barely out of school, trying not to get my hopes up and failing.

So, how does this work?” I asked at last.

It’s fairly simple. I’ll make you up something to drink, it tastes like crap, I’m afraid, and it will put you under. Then you just have to find Ellie and bring her back.”

Put me under?”

He nodded. “Ellie is in a coma, that means she’s stuck, neither here nor there, alive nor dead, in limbo. You have to go and bring her back, back to her body, back to life.”

Right,” I said, a slow drawl of doubt and disbelief. “That sounds easy enough.”

That’s the one thing that it isn’t,” Harry replied, his smile gone. “There are all sorts of nasty buggers in that place, Oliver. They will know that you’re not meant to be there and will be attracted to that. You have to be careful. If you see them, don’t acknowledge them, don’t look at them, don’t let them see you noticing them, because they will follow you back.”

Now I had to laugh. “These ‘creatures’ will follow me back? To what?”

To whatever they can find, Oliver. Any vessel that is nearby, that they can access.”

This is starting to sound like something from some sort of dodgy horror film, you do know that, don’t you?”

Harry grinned easily. “Oh yes. I know how it sounds. Just as I knew how it sounded when I said that I could see and speak to the dead and that some of my dreams came true. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.” He yawned. “So, that’s it, Oliver. You can give this a go or you can cling to what you believe you know is true of the world and hope that Ellie recovers on her own. What’s it to be?”

Put like that, the answer was simple. “I’ll take the chance,” I said.

Writing urban fantasy is actually a fair bit of fun, when you get into it, and stop worrying about how nuts it all sounds. You can make references to things that you know and love, use slang and modern terms, and the rules of the world already exist, for the most part, so no world building to worry about. For me, part of the challenge, and part of the fun, is sticking to the main elements of the myth. Some are certainly easier than others, Orpheus and Medea are easier than the Harpies and Lamia, but we shall see what we can make of them. The good thing about Greek Myths is there are plenty to chose from.

On writing horror.

Sunday Mum and I went to Scardiff, a new horror convention in Cardiff. And it was excellent. People dressed up and there were all sorts of things to buy, handmade jewellery, dragons, dolls, zombie bears, and, of course, lots of authors selling their wares. I got talking to one, who I had met the day before at Bristol Con, and hopefully will be selling books with her at conventions to come. And one of the things I hope to have done, and be selling, is my horror short story collection, inspired by the greek myths.

But I have never written horror before. Dark fantasy, yes. But not horror horror. Horror is different from fantasy, because it is set in this world, and that is what I think makes it harder. Fantasyh is other world, a world of magic, so demons, dragons, zombies, ghosts, they can all exist because reality as we know it is already suspended. But horror is in this world and it is the supernatural, the other world, co exisiting with the one that we know. And that’s what makes it difficult. Getting my own brain to let go of the idea that zombies are silly, that witches can’t really raise the dead, that ghosts aren’t real, and believing that, for a while, they can be, because if I can believe it, I cna hopefully ghet the reader to believe it too.

ANd that’s before I even tackle mood, descriptions of the creatures, setting, characters, and all the rest of it.

But today is Halloween, a day of ghosts and monsters, so in that spirit I say sod it. Sod reality. Sod my over obsessive brain. I shall just do it and see what happens.

First, Orpheus, the singer torn apart by followers of Dionysyus.

And then, Medea.

And then, who knows! :)

Happy Halloween :)

Out and about

Well, some how it’s October and that means Bristol Con. This year it’s October 26, but at the same place, so if you’re there, come along and say hello. Everyone is very friendly. And this might actually be my last one, perhaps for just a while, perhaps for good, I’m not really sure. It depends on how well sales go, and there are lots of other conventions out there that I would like to attend, some which do clash, and with money woes, I can’t afford to do all of them each year, so have to pick and chose. Speaking of Bristol Con, tho. At my very first one I sold four copies of the Shadow Seer, one to a woman who promised to review it. Two years passed, no review, so I thought she must have hated it, as she said if she did she wouldn’t write a review at all. And then yesterday I found that she had written a review and she loved it. You can read the review here: I am chuffed, I have to say. She says nice things about me AND the book. But, of course, with that chuffed feeling is the self doubt. Is the rest of the series as good? Have i lost my skill? Is it a mistake to set Candale aside for a bit to work on something else? God alone knows! All i can do is feel pleased that I have at least one good book, that someone loves and carry on!

As for being ‘out and about.’ I’m doing another Pagan Market in Dec and next year I plan to do the Cardiff Comic Expo again, and perhaps a convention in Bath. We will have to see. For now, on with the Forest of Ghosts. Let’s see if I can finish it this year . . .

 

New project

I have a masters degree in Ancient History, but I’ve never really done much with it. I would have loved to get a Phd, teach women and magic and greek tragedies, but it wasn’t to be.

But, with a friend, I will at least put that masters to use. We’re going to do a short story collection of ancient myths. Not the ones that everyone knows, not Troy, and Odysseus, but others, Medea, Arachne, that sort of thing. My friend will be setting hers in the ancient world, but mine will be in the modern world, in places that I know. We have yet to decide on the eight that will be done, but I already can see problems in that most of my favourite myths seems to involve revenge and child killing/eating. Clearly my four stories will be horror! But I like the idea of doing something different, and yet familiar. I haven’t written horror horror before, or many stories set in the modern world, so this will be an exciting sort of challenge, and dealing with things that I loved best about my degree and masters, women, magic and tragedy.

Now just have to work out what myths to do, and how to do them.

 

A matter of taste

Tomorrow I’m off to sell at a pagan market here in Swansea. I have my Shadow Seer books, part 1 and 2, and the new short story collection, Rules of War. I love selling, but I’m a bit nervous about my short story collection. I worry that there aren’t enough stories. I worry that the stories (except two) aren’t good enough. I worry that it will put people off reading the rest of my work, when the main idea was to interest people in it. I worry that people think the price is too high for such a small collection. I worry and worry.

And it’s daft. My cover artist just reviewed the collection for me. She liked, best of all, the story Homecoming, that I thought was the weakest of the lot! One I almost didn’t include. So there you are, you can’t tell what someone is going to like, or hate .If there aren’t enough stories, or the price is too high, I’m sure someone will tell me. It’s stupid to worry. The book is done. Some people will like it, some won’t, but that’s the same with anything.

And even if the entire world does hate every story in it, at least one person didn’t and that’s ok. :)